Murder On The High Sea
by John L. Carpenter

Related Pages located on Long Island Genealogy:

Ship Building in Suffolk County
Ship Building in Setauket
Long Island Shipwrecks
The United States Life-Saving Service
The Schooner C. C. Colgate
Raynor Rock Smith Hero Life Saver of the Wreck "Mexico"

    Sunday morning came as any other morning to this small sailing community. It was November 21,1886 and the community was preparing for the thanksgiving holiday. Glen Cove, New York is located on the north coast of Long Island situated near the mouth of Hempstead Harbor. On this particular sunday morning, Mr. C.L.Perkins was taking a morning stroll along the beach front when he noticed a schooner with all sails set. Mr.Perkins called out several times and received no reply. Upon further exploration he found that things were scattered about the cabin and there appeared to be blood stains on the deck and other areas. Mr. Perkins notified the local police.
    After investigating the police concluded that the schooner was the "Long Island" owned by James S. Carpenter & Sons. It had been sailed by Mr. Carpenter's nephew Thomas Dunham Carpenter of Sea Cliff, New York. It was determined that the stains on the schooner deck and other areas were blood, and signs of a struggle had taken place. Also there was a small amount of money left in the cabin area. The captain's trunk was not tampered with. The schooner could not have run ashore on its own at the place it did because of all the rocks about. The captain was missing. There was no doubt that he set sail from New York City on sunday afternoon, November 20, 1886. Its was not known if he was alone. The captain was last seen off Sands Point, about five miles west of where the schooner was found, by Capt. Peters of the tug boat "Glen Cove". Capt. Peters stated he saw the captain at the wheel and had not noticed anyone else about. Also missing was the boatman (1st-mate) Henry Francke. He had only been employed for the last two months. After Brooklyn police were notified they brought Mr. Francke to their 55th Street Station House for questioning. He had been staying at his mother's house at 611 Humboldt St. At the arraignment he gave the following statement: "I shipped with Capt. Carpenter two months ago. We two managed the schooner. I had a disagreement with Capt. Carpenter about my pay when we left Glen Cove for New York City on thursday last. I told him that I would leave him unless I get more pay. I received my months wages after we arrived in New York City, then I left the schooner. On Saturday I went to Jay Street Pier where the schooner was lying to see if the captain would give me more pay. He wouldn't so I went away. He then took the schooner out alone. I went off to my sister's house and slept the Saturday night there and to my mothers on sunday. I know nothing of what has come of Captain Carpenter." Mr. Francke was transferred to Glen Cove lockup for further questioning and arraignment before Justice Frost at Glen Cove. This transfer has caused some questions as well as controversy in brooklyn and by the Queens County authorities. It is believed, by Queens County authorities that the taking of the prisoner, Henry Francke, to Glen Cove was not approved by the queens county authorities. It is also uncertain that Glen Cove police actually have jurisdiction of this case, there being no actual proof to the locality of this crime. it would have been better, Brooklyn residents felt, if the investigation took place in brooklyn, where there is a trained detective force. the follow up on clues could have been done in a more professional manner. mr. Francke could have obtained the attendance of witnesses' At small expense if he was innocent.
    On friday, November 26,1886 Mr. Francke was brought before Justice Frost in Glen Cove. Mr. Flemming was district attorney prosecuting the case. as a result Mr. Francke was discharged because of insufficient evidence against him. Afterward he was held as a witness and privately examined . The results were not made public. Of course at this time there is no positive proof that Capt. Carpenter had been murdered and no body found. It is assumed by authorities that the captain was murdered, robbed, and thrown overboard. Then the perpetrators took the schooner to shore, where they made their escape, after putting out the fire in the forward cabin by pouring water over the coals. Some New York City authorities believe that river pirates could have committed this crime. A $50.00 reward is offered for the recovery of the body of Capt. Thomas D. Carpenter's body. He was 48 years old five feet eight inches tall, weighing one hundred and eighty pounds, with gray hair and a mustach.

Capt. Carpenter's Body Found

    The mystery of the disappearance of Capt. Thomas D. Carpenter of the schooner "Long Island" was put to a end this day (May 28,1887) local fisherman were walking to their fishing spot at Matinecock on the northern shore of Glen Cove wheRe they came across a body that had apparently washed ashore. Local police were called to the scene. upon investigation of the body it was determined ,that the body had seven bullet holes and one leg and one arm missing; presumed eaten away by fish. There was evidence that the body had been anchored down by the murderer(s). Also there was a one dollar bill found in his pocket. He was later identified as the missing schooner Captain, Thomas Carpenter. A private funeral was held and the remains were interred in the family plot in Sea Cliff, Long Island, N.Y.


    Thomas Dunham Carpenter was born August 20 , 1838. His parents were Coles and Martha (Tuttle) Carpenter. Thomas was born on the old Carpenter homestead in Glen Cove, Long Island, New York. The homestead is the village of Sea Cliff now. Thomas was brought up with the sea. His father and uncle were ship owners the sailing community as were their ancestors as far back as 1740's. Thomas helped his dad and his uncle on their schooners As a teenager, in Sept. 1862, he enlisted in the Union Armies 5th Heavy Artillery Co. "C" at a New York rally along with his brother George. Thomas was discharged in Sept. 1863. Thomas was afflicted with chronic kidney ailment and rheumatism which was made worse by several overnight details in the rain. Shortly after his return he began working in coastal ship operations for his uncle James S. Carpenter. It was abound this time that he married Elizabeth Velsor at Syosset Long Island and returned home to live. He worked up seniority and became senior skipper of his uncle's ship the "Long Island." In September 1865 his daughter Aida died at 8 months of age. In 1866 Elizabeth died of consumption. In 1868, he married Hannah Strong at New York City. After a short time Thomas learned of her unfaithfulness to him and applied for a divorce. Finally on January 16, 1876 a divorce was granted. Thomas married Christina Nielson. She was 16 years old, he was now 28 years old. Their marriage was rough. They lived at Christina's parents home in Brooklyn New York. There was financial difficulties plus Thomas was out to sea frequently or down to the piers with his friends drinking heavily. After several years of difficulties, Christina and Thomas separated in 1884. Thomas lived most of the time on his Uncle's ship. It was his dream to some day own his own ship and have his own business but this dream came abruptly to a end on November 20, 1886. He is survived by his parents, 3 brothers, 4 sisters, and his wife Christina.


It has been reported that Henry Francke who was long suspected of murdering Captain Thomas Carpenter, confessed on his death bed of the murder. He stated he was long haunted by what he described as the dead captain's ghost. Perhaps Mr. Francke was fearful of retaliation in the after life? Other details of his confession were not readily known.


"A Mysterious Affair," The Sea Cliff News, Sea Cliff,
New York November 27,1886

"Blood Stained Schooner" The Roslyn News ,Roslyn, New York
November 27, 1886.

"Capt. Carpenter's Body Found ,The Roslyn News, Roslyn, New York, May 28,1887

Carpenter, Daniel H., History & Genealogy Of The Carpenter Family, From The Settlement At
Providence, Rhode Island, The

Marion Press, Jamaica, New York, 1901.
"River Pirates", The Brooklyn Eagle, Brooklyn New York November 24,1886

Smith, Cecilia Mrs., family bible records, Glenwood
Landing, New York, 1989

Weidman, Bettes. & Martin, Linda b. ,Nassau County ,Long
Island In Early Photographs, 1869-1940, Dover
Publications, New York, 1981.

Union Pension Records of Christina Carpenters application in 1925.

Return to Long Island Genealogy Home Page