Final Chapter? The Lestage Family

It seems that I always have a final chapter on Our Ancestors.

But I keep reuniting descendants with their ancestors. The woman above is Phoebe Alexander. Her real name is Philomène Alexandre.

Back in 2009 she was only an unknown woman in Bristol, Connecticut around the 1890s. Then someone came along with this old photo.

Aunt Phoebe was on the left with her sister Aunt Myra Alexander.

Phoebe was also on this photo in the same collection as the first one.

I just had to find more about Phoebe. It was like an obsession just like an obsession to find out more about young Myra.

I know this is not the final chapter since I always have a few readers who enjoy my obsession for old photos.

This unknown young lady could be Agnes Alexandre, Phoebe and Myra’s sister. I am still not sure she is Agnes and I am still looking for someone to find Our Ancestors and confirm she is.

Which brings me to Phoebe’s daughter Lucille who was 16 on this photo.

Lucille Lestage was only an old photograph in 2010…

Lucille left no descendants to look for her.

To be continued…

Sunday Morning – That description fits this picture to a “T”

Earlier I had posted many cabinets cards on Our Ancestors. There was one cabinet card I first thought was Charles Lestage.

picture of a young man - New York

Could this young man be instead Bertram Lestage, son of Flavie Alexandre and Charles Lestage? Third cousin Mary had posted this comment on Ancestry three months ago and I never got a notice from Ancestry.

I found this description on a military card for Bertram…

Weight: 140

Complexion: Ruddy

Eye Color: Brown

Hair Color: Brown

Height: 5 4

That description fits this picture to a “T”.

I think Mary might have found Bertram Lestage whose sister was “Sweet Sixteen” Lucille Lestage…

Mary might have found a whole lot more…

Bertram’s descendants through DNA testing!

Now the original post…

I was planning to publish this post later in April, but then, out of the blue, came a message on Ancestry about Pauline Chagnon. What was strange was that Pauline Bernadette Chagnon was the last person I had looked for while checking people who could be related to the cabinet cards I had posted.

So without further ado here is what I had intended to post later in April…

There are still too many unknown people in the collection of my third cousin Joe from Plainville, Connecticut…

These cabinet cards were scanned in 2012. With this first cabinet card I will have to ask Joe for this one. I think it’s his father.

boy Terrien

This second cabinet card I know is Isabelle Marie his father’s sister.

Isabelle Marie Terrien (1896-1921)

Third cabinet card… No idea who is this little boy… or is it a girl?

baby Smith Photographer

Fourth cabinet card: Joe’s maternal grandparents are in front. The young woman in the back is the sister of his maternal grandmother.

Hennessey sisters

Fifth cabinet card: Joe’s maternal grandparents.

Katherine Elizabeth Hennessy and her husband Patrick Shea

Sixth cabinet card: unknown young woman who was most probably living in Bennington, Vermont where some Bleaus were living in the 1880s. It could be Amelia, Olivine or Marie Rose Bleau.

Bennington woman

Seventh cabinet card: unknown baby who was most probably living in South Omaha, related to Joe’s maternal grandparents.

baby South Omaha

Eighth cabinet card: Jean-Baptiste Alexandre, son of Jean-Baptiste Alexandre and Philomene Lagasse. He is the brother of Philomene, Agnes, Myra, Elmire, Flavie, and Helen Alexandre.

Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Junior, son of Philomene Lagasse

Ninth cabinet card: unknown man living in Adams, Massachusetts, Parsons photographer. He could well be related to the Malloys or to the Chagnons.

Parsons photographer - a man - Adams, Massachusetts

Tenth cabinet card: Joe’s paternal grandparents

Joseph Terrien and his wife Exilda Grégoire

Eleventh cabinet card: Joe’s paternal grandfather

Joseph Terrien

Twelfth Flavie Alexandre, sister of Philomene, Helene, Agnes, Myra, Elmire

Phoebe Alexandre, daughter of Philomene Lagasse

Thirteenth cabinet card: No idea…

unknown young man - Bristol, Connecticut (seen with new wife on another picture)

Fourteenth cabinet card:

unknown young married couple - Bristol, Connecticut

Fifteenth cabinet card: No idea…

woman New York

Sixteenth cabinet card: unknown woman living in Adams, Massachusetts, Parsons photographer. She could well be related to the Malloys or the Bleaus.

Parsons photographer - picture of a woman - Adams, Massachusetts

Seventeenth cabinet card: unknown woman living in Adams, Massachusetts, Parsons photographer. She could well be one of the Bleau sisters.

Parsons photographer - older woman - Adams, Massachusetts

Eighteenth cabinet card: unknown woman living in Adams, Massachusetts, Parsons photographer. She could well be related to the Malloys or the Bleaus.

Parsons photographer - older woman - Adams, Massachusetts

Nineteenth cabinet card: I think it’s a baby related to Joe.

picture of a young baby - Bristol, Connecticut

Twentieth cabinet card: No idea…

woman Pittsfield

Twenty-first cabinet card: Marguerite Alexandre, Joe’s paternal great-great-grandmother, and my paternal great-grandmother Henriette Alexandre

Marguerite Alexandre, sister of Henriette Alexandre and Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Senior

Twenty-second cabinet card: This baby could be related to the Bleaus or the Chagnons.

picture of a young child - North Adams, Massachusetts

Twenty-third cabinet card: unknown baby living in Adams, Massachusetts, Parsons photographer. He could well be related to the Malloys.

Parsons photographer - a young child - Adams, Massachusetts

Twenty-fourth cabinet card: unknown man living in New York, Massachusetts. He could well be the father of Lucille Lestage, the daughter of Flavie Alexandre.

picture of a young man - New York

Twenty-fifth cabinet card: Possibly Agnes Alexandre, sister of Philomene, Helene, Flavie, Myra, and Elmire.

still not sure who this young lady is - Bristol, Connecticut (Agnes Alexandre?)

Twenty-sixth cabinet card: Again this baby girl could be related to the Bleaus or the Chagnons.

picture of a young child - North Adams, Massachusetts

Twenty-seventh cabinet card: Myra Alexandre sister of Philomene, Helene, Agnes, Flavie, and Elmire

young Myra Alexandre daughter of Philomene Lagasse and Jean-Baptiste Alexandre

Twenty-eighth cabinet card: Unknown woman living in Adams, Massachusetts, Parsons photographer. She could well be related to the Malloys. She could be Ada Pendelbury or one of the Bleau sisters.

Parsons photographer - picture of a young woman - North Adams, Massachusetts

Twenty-ninth cabinet card: My new found grandaunt’s photo, Malvina Lagacé (Lagasse)

Gale photographer - young woman Bristol

Thirtieth cabinet card: unknown woman living in Adams, Massachusetts, Parsons photographer. She could be related to the Bleaus or the Malloys.

Parsons photographer - a young woman - Adams Massachusetts

In search of… Edgar Lestage

Mary wrote this comment about her search for her grandfather Edgar whom everyone thought had died in a mining accident.

I knew about Mary’s search but I did not want to write about it.

The only info I have was passed down by my paternal Grandmother, Vera Fleming, and by my father Edward LeStage.

I can say that Edgar’s abandonment of his newborn son and young wife most likely led to a chain of events for him that were not desirable…things tend to happen that way…one poor decision leads to another and so on.

I was amazed to find Edgar LeStage’s name on a list of survivors of a ship that was torpedoed during WWll…and this after being told he was killed in a mining accident in Nevada…they never found his body or the body of his friend who went on the “lamb” with him…

I told my Grandma in 2000 that I found him when I was researching my family tree. She admitted that Michael, Edgar’s Dad, suspected as much when it happened. He had hoped that the marriage and birth of his son would help him settle down and straighten out…not so much I guess.

I am glad Flavie was not alive to witness the travesty her son inflicted upon her grandchild.

Anyway, there will always be a spot in my heart that wants to gather him in as my Grandpa…so many precious moments that could have been but were squandered through selfishness.

I want to look into those eyes that my father never got a chance to look into…even if it is only a picture.

My dad died in 1988 and he never knew the story… Maybe that was for the best…

The story of the ship is here.

SS Arriaga

I think Edgar is the one smiling, front row in the center…but then I could be mistaking.


Auke Visser’s Other Esso Related Tankers

Arriaga – (1940-1942)


MS Arriaga


April 2, 1942 and reconditioned, the Arriaga sailed from Baltimore on June 3, in convoy, bound for Aruba. On this maiden voyage under her new owners, the Lago Petroleum Corporation, the vessel was torpedoed and sunk on June 23, 1942.

Briefly stated, this was the short life history of the Arriaga as a unit of the Lago fleet.

The loss of four tankers in the Maracaibo-Aruba service as the result of enemy action was so serious that, in addition to contracting for the construction of seven lake tankers, Lago Petroleum Corporation purchased the Petroheat, ex Dolomite 3, from the Dolomite 3 Corporation, a subsidiary of Petroleum Heat & Power Company, at Baltimore, and renamed her the Arriaga.

Had Operated Gulf-North Atlantic Ports

This small oil carrier had been engaged in the coastwise transportation of bulk petroleum products between Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic ports. She was built in 1940 at Rochester, N. Y., by the Dolomite Marine Corporation.

A twin-screw vessel of 3,450 deadweight tons capacity on international summer draft of 17 feet, 1 inch, the Arriaga had an overall length of 300 feet, 5 inches, a length between perpendiculars of 291 feet, 3 inches, a moulded breadth of 43 feet, 4 inches, and a depth moulded of 23 feet.

With a cargo carrying capacity of 28,225 barrels, she had an assigned pumping rate of 1,750 barrels an hour. Her Diesel engines developed 1,440 brake horsepower and gave her an average speed, loaded, of 8 knots.

Captain Gunnar Gjertsen took command of the Arriaga at Baltimore, with Chief Engineer Harry L. Hovland in charge of her engine room. With a total complement of 25, the vessel had an American merchant crew of 23 officers and men and 2 U. S. Navy gunners to man, with assistance, her 6-pounder on the stern and a 30-caliber machine gun on each wing of the bridge. A degaussing system had been installed during the reconditioning process to protect the Arriaga against magnetic mines. She flew the Panamanian flag.

To quote the report of Captain Gjertsen:

“We sailed from Chesapeake Bay on June 7, 1942, at about 5 a.m., in ballast, with, however, about 88 tons of stores and 3,100 tons of fresh water destined for Aruba, N. W. I.

“In accordance with instructions received from U. S. Navy authorities at Baltimore, we proceeded in company with 14 other vessels. The convoy had adequate escort protection and all ships were entirely blacked out at night.

“On June 14 most of the vessels proceeded into the Gulf as we headed for the Yucatan Channel with four other ships and one escort.

“About midnight, June 15-16, a plane was heard over us and a powerful flare was dropped which lighted up the whole convoy for four minutes. An hour or so later another flare was dropped 5 or 6 miles ahead of us, lighting up the entire horizon but keeping the convoy in the dark.

“On June 18 our escort left us and we proceeded east toward our destination.

“On June 23, at 12:35 p.m., the Arriaga was suddenly struck by a torpedo on the port side, in way of the bunker fuel oil tank.

Torpedoed Colombian Coast

“The ship’s position was then Latitude 13°08” North, Longitude 72° 16′ West, or about 150 miles west of Aruba and 50 miles off the coast of Colombia. We were steering 100° and making about 5 to 6 knots. The weather was clear with a moderate breeze; the sea was moderate to rough.

“I was in the chart room and ran out to the bridge as soon as I heard the explosion. Second Mate Robert Kingston was on watch on the bridge, with Able Seaman Spurgeon S. Suttle at the wheel and Ordinary Seaman Robert C. Arnott on lookout. No one had seen the wake of the torpedo and no submarine was. visible at that time.

“The explosion put the steering gear out of order, destroyed the port lifeboat, tore down the radio antenna, and opened up the bulkhead to the engine-room, which started to fill up quickly. The engines stopped immediately and the ship rapidly lost headway. Radio Operator Earle J. Schlarb tried to send out a message, but without avail, as the wireless had been put out of order by the explosion.

“The only fire in connection with the attack was a small one which occurred in the galley; it was extinguished by the inflow of water. The vessel sank in 10 minutes, but the crew, with the exception of Chief Engineer Hovland, fortunately found it possible to escape in one lifeboat.

There were two boats on the vessel, but one of them had been destroyed by the explosion. There was only one torpedo and no shelling.

“The crew proceeded to the starboard lifeboat, which was lowered; two rafts were also released. I went aft and joined the U. S. Navy gunners, who remained at their stations and were trying to locate the submarine.

“Suddenly a submarine was sighted as it was surfacing, about 300 feet astern. We immediately fired a shot which, unfortunately, missed it by only 2 or 3 feet to the right. The submarine made a crash dive before we had time to fire a second shot, and as the Arriaga was rapidly settling by the stern, we had to abandon the vessel. I joined the crew in the only lifeboat available. Four men got on one of the rafts.

Chief Engineer Killed

“Chief Engineer Harry L. Hovland was missing. Third Assistant Engineer Paul Tremblay reported that he had found him dead in his room, which was right over the place where the torpedo struck the vessel. He apparently had been killed instantly by the explosion.

“Our lifeboat drifted astern and suddenly the submarine appeared again and signaled us to pull alongside of her. She was of medium size, with a heavy 4-inch gun forward and a long anti-aircraft gun on the after deck. She also had two heavy machine guns on the conning tower. She was painted gray and some of our crew members reported that she had a black clover or ace of clubs painted on the side of the conning tower.

The shape of the tower was oval. Sam J. Hudgins, A.B., who was formerly in the Navy, stated that her type was very similar to what he called the American ‘O’ class submarine.

Injured Gunner Treated by Sub’s Surgeon

“As we came alongside, the commander asked us in fairly good English, but with a strong German accent, ‘What is the name of your ship and where was she bound?’ I replied that she was the Arriaga, coming from Baltimore and bound for Aruba. He then took out a book which he and another officer consulted, but obviously they could not find the name we had quoted and the commander asked us several times to repeat the name.

“He then inquired if we had any injured men. One of the U. S. Navy gunners, suffering from a strained back and also from oil in his eyes, was helped aboard the submarine and treated in the conning tower by her surgeon. A few minutes later he was helped back into our boat and the commander bade us farewell and wished us good luck. Before that he had given us five packs of German cigarettes and ten boxes of French matches. He told me the course and distance to the nearest shore.

“We proceeded to the raft, which had drifted astern of the Arriaga, and picked up the four men aboard it. By this time the Arriaga’s bow was protruding straight out of the water. She remained in this position for a little while, then went down at 1 p.m. Third Mate Derrill V. Wintenburg had his camera and took pictures of the sinking; a whole set of these pictures was later given to the U. S. Navy authorities.

“We then set sail for the nearest land; our lifeboat had no outboard motor or portable radio set, but it was well supplied with all the necessary provisions.

“The sea was rough and the boat was constantly shipping water, forcing us to bail all the time. After two days of sailing we reached the Colombian coast at Rio Hacha. We reported to the United States Consul, who supplied us with clothes and everything else we needed. He took us to Barranquilla and arranged for our prompt and safe repatriation.

“The ship’s secret documents and papers were left aboard the Arriaga and went down with the ship.”

To quote the statement of Third Assistant Engineer Tremblay:

“As soon as the explosion occurred the ship began to take water and sink. I reported immediately to the starboard lifeboat. We noted that Chief Engineer Hovland was missing. Second Assistant Engineer Elmer S. Hopkins and I went below to find him. I looked into his room and found that he had been killed by the explosion.”

Radio Operator Schlarb, in an interview for this history, told the story of his experience and of incidents he witnessed on the Arriaga and in the lifeboat.

“At 11:55 a.m.,” he said, “I finished dinner and went up to the radio room to get a wartime schedule, due at 12 noon, ship’s time. The radio room on the Arriaga was off the wheelhouse. She was a small ship and we were to deliver her at Aruba to replace one of the mosquito fleet which had been sunk by a sub some time previously.

Ship “Jumped into Air”

“I tuned in and listened to the list of ships and areas for which messages were intended. There was a code message for our area, also a couple of reports of submarines. I copied the message and started to decode it – rather a complicated procedure. At about 12:30 p.m. I had to steady myself by grasping the edge of the operating desk. The Arriaga had been in rough seas for six days; having a flat bottom, besides being small, she rolled and pitched considerably. The day before, we had made 59 miles, and the day before that, 51, but we were doing better and might have raised Aruba on June 24. At noon of the 23rd we had about 150 miles to go.

“Suddenly the Arriaga jumped into the air. The drawer of my table shot into my stomach; books and loose objects tumbled about. I had no doubt of what had happened; the Arriaga had staggered often in the past few days from heavy seas, but this was different – a torpedo hit. The lights conked and a glance at the line voltmeter told me that the ship’s power was gone. I flipped in the switches for the emergency transmitter while sweeping the desktop clear of papers and gear with the other hand. The ship’s position, clipped to the emergency transmitter was within easy reach.

“I pressed the transmitter key and tuned the set. The radiation was only two amperes – very low. I sent ‘SSSS de (from) HPZY (call letters, Arriaga); our position; torpedoed.’ Then I repeated and listened for an answer. My receiver was silent. I thought perhaps the main antenna was damaged, so I threw in the emergency antenna switch and again sent my message. Radiation was still two amperes and the receiver was silent except for my own signal blasting through. I was suspicious of that two amperes’ radiation on both antennae, but sent my message twice more before investigating.

“Second Mate Kingston, running through the wheelhouse, paused at the door and shouted: ‘She is going fast! You had better come along!’ I ran out through the wheelhouse, looked aft, and saw that the mainmast was bent like a question mark. The main antenna was down across the emergency antenna – hence the two amperes on both antennae, as the main had grounded on the emergency when it came down.

Catwalk Looked Like Roller Coaster

“The poop deck was alive with men working on the starboard lifeboat. We carried two boats and the port boat, I could see, was smashed. The torpedo-had hit just forward of the engine room and the catwalk running from the mid-ship house to the after boat deck was flung up like a roller coaster track. I ran back into the radio room and tried to send my message again, but the antenna ammeter still had two amperes as I sent, and I heard no signals from my receiver other than my own.

“A lurch of the ship started me for the door, but I wanted my briefcase, which contained a carton of cigarettes and my papers. The briefcase was beyond my chair and debris was piled in front of it. Leaning across the chair, I could barely reach the handle. I stuffed in the ship’s papers and anything else that looked important. My pipe and tobacco pouch followed – though why, I don’t know, as there was; certainly no time to linger over such trifles.

“Leaving the radio room I ran through the wheelhouse and down the ladder to the boat deck. Starting over the catwalk I had covered a quarter of the distance aft when I saw I would not be able to make it unless I went on deck. The walk could not be used. Below it a conglomeration of pipes, valves, and tank tops prevented jumping. I lost time going back half the distance to where the deck was clearer, dropped my case, and jumped, landing unhurt.

“Then I dashed along the deck, dodging around a fissure that looked like a giant mole’s furrow. Climbing up to the boat deck, I saw that the compartment which housed the gun crew had collapsed. The Navy gunners were in the gun tub, over their knees in water. The tub was waist high and the explosion had blown it full of water; the scuppers were not large enough to carry the water away. The gunners were looking seaward, straining their eyes for the submarine while the men on the boat deck had the lifeboat partly swung out.

“A handle was missing from one of the davits and an oil drum, lifted by the explosion, had come down on the line leading from the after falls to the coiled spool. A seaman was tugging and straining, trying to get the line free, as otherwise the boat could not be lowered. Someone was counting heads and I noticed that Chief Engineer Hovland was missing. The captain sent the third assistant below to find him. Suddenly a shot rang out and all eyes turned to the gun. They had spotted the sub about a half mile astern and let go. As I watched I saw the shell land. Too high! A little lower would do it.

“However, a sudden list of the Arriaga prevented any further action. The gun was now useless at the rakish angle of the ship. The sub dived.

Chief Engineer Killed

“Third Assistant Engineer Tremblay appeared on deck and informed Captain Gjertsen that the chief engineer was dead. The captain asked, ‘Are you sure he is dead or just unconscious?’ Second Assistant Engineer Hopkins appeared and verified the third assistant’s report.

“All hands were busy with the lifeboat and keeping a weather eye open for the submarine. I expected shellfire at any moment. The sub had been fired on and might retaliate. At last the boat was in the water and men were going down the lines and falls. I saw Third Mate Wintenburg, who was handling the after fall, swinging precariously as he held on to the lower block. When he had released it, the rise and descent of the boat had jerked him off balance. I expected him to tumble between the ship and the lifeboat and be smashed, but he righted himself by extreme effort.

“Someone forward in the lifeboat was yelling to the men on deck and in the boat to keep it backing; the torpedo had gone clear through the ship, blowing a hole in the starboard side, and jagged plates were menacing the lifeboat. I grabbed a line and swung for the boat. Just at this moment a wave lifted the lifeboat away from the side of the ship and left me hanging on to the slippery rope. As the ship rolled, I went under water. It seemed ages before the lifeboat could be brought back into position and in that time I had gone under water several times. Finally I settled myself in the boat, dripping wet, and with oil in one eye that burned like fire.

“Several men had reached one of the rafts and were maneuvering it alongside the ship. The captain and two or three other men were still on board the Arriaga. First Assistant Engineer Homer J. Alien, who first came on deck in his pajamas, had gone below to put on his pants. He now appeared, and as the last of the men were in the boat and we were backing away, he was told to jump. Alien dived overboard and swam to the raft. All hands in the boat leaned to the oars. When we were about 50 yards from the ship, the stern end of the stricken vessel slowly settled. A fire that had started when the galley stove overturned was extinguished by the water.

Ace of Clubs on Conning Tower

“Someone suddenly shouted and the enemy sub was seen to emerge, cruising in a wide half circle around the boat. She hove to and one of the half dozen officers and men in her conning tower motioned us to come alongside. After much maneuvering the lifeboat scraped the sub. In the tower was the commander, a bearded man about 35 years of age, nonchalantly smoking a cigarette and leaning on the railing. About him were five or six young men between the ages of 18 and 25, clad only in brown shorts and deeply suntanned. The sub was painted the color of surf and had an ace of clubs painted on her conning tower. She mounted a 4-inch gun forward, a li/g-inch aft, and a machine gun of what appeared to be about 50-caliber inside the conning tower. A section of the conning tower was down and the gun was manned and trained on the lifeboat as we approached. One of the men was giving us a sharp lookover with a pair of binoculars and another was taking pictures of us as we drew alongside. Two men with binoculars constantly scanned the horizon.

“In English with a strong German accent the sub commander shouted ‘What ship?’ Upon being told, he asked her destination and cargo. Meanwhile an officer appeared through the conning tower with a large book, and after scanning it rapidly, also yelled, ‘What ship?’ They didn’t seem to believe we had given the right name and were apparently unaware that the Arriaga, until recently, had been named the Petroheat.

“Next Time!”

“A young German stepped to the side with a pencil and paper and asked in fairly good English to have the name written down. The commander asked ‘Why did you shoot?’ and shook his finger at us in admonition. A young fellow standing beside him turned his thumbs down and said menacingly ‘Next time . ..!’ Meanwhile the sub’s commander asked us if anyone required medical attention; when answered in the affirmative he told one of the Navy gunners, whose back was hurt and who had oil in his eyes, to come aboard. A fellow with a tommy gun under his arm watched us intently. “When the commander inquired if anything else was wanted, the reply was ‘Cigarettes and matches!’ He passed over several packs of German cigarettes and some French matches, told us not to forget the men on the raft, and asked if we had used our wireless. We answered in the negative, believing he had been submerged at the time and couldn’t have received our signals even if I had succeeded in sending them. The Navy gunner was helped back to the lifeboat and we rowed off. The sub commander pointed in the direction we should go and told us how far land was and what course to steer. The U-boat then started to move away and the commander lifted his arm in the Nazi salute.

Lost of the “Arriaga”

“Meanwhile the 5 had settled by the stern and was submerged to about the midship house; her bow pointed almost straight up. Every little while a bulkhead collapsed and she slid down a bit lower in the water. When only the foc’sle head was showing then hung for some 15 minutes and then slipped quietly below. The sea was filled with flotsam and we picked up a coil of rope that floated by. We had to be constantly on the alert to dodge oil drums and other heavy objects that might smash the boat. A six-foot sea was running as we maneuvered alongside the life raft and took the men off, together with all the food we could salvage. There were now 24 men in the boat and space was at a premium; the second assistant and I slid up in the bow and hugged the gunwales. We set sail and started oft. The seas were steadily increasing in size and were running at right angles to the course we had to steer to reach the nearest land. We steered as near to the beam sea as we could make it without capsizing.

As stated by Third Mate Wintenburg in an interview for this history:

“The sea was at its roughest when we were getting away from the ship and for some time afterward. In my opinion, the splendid seamanship of Captain Gjertsen and Chief Mate Einar Skolem contributed materially to saving our lives. The lifeboat was constantly in danger of being swamped and only their skill and expert handling enabled us to reach the coast.

“The only other alternative would have been to heave to with the sea anchor and run considerable risk of capsizing while drifting a long distance away from land.”

To continue the radio operator’s story:

“The evening and night that followed seemed a hellish nightmare. The sea rose higher and towered over the little boat, threatening to swamp her. Immediately after a wave had passed, the tiller was rendered useless by the swirling water under the stern; if another wave had followed close on, we would have been helpless to ride it. Bailing was almost constant, as waves and spray came over at regular intervals. Those in the fore part of the boat suffered most, the stern being comparatively dry. The second assistant and I huddled in the bow, cringing when a wave rolled over us; rivulets of water ran down our backs and into our shoes.

Boat Nearly Swamped

“Somehow the night passed

Many of us had not expected to live through it. On one occasion a wave more violent than most struck when the boat was beam on and came over the port gunwale, a two-foot wall of green water. The starboard gunwale was almost even with the surface. Everyone thought his time had come.

“With the first light of dawn spirits revived somewhat; although the seas were still high, a definite decrease was noticed. Now, however, a shark was spied riding atop the combers, his wicked looking fin cutting the surface of the water.

“The sun, which beat down so pitilessly the day before, came out only fitfully through the clouds and all hands shivered in their wet clothing. I took off my shirt and partly dried it. A few seconds later, after I put it on, a bucket of spray wet me to the skin again; after several similar attempts at drying out, I gave up.

Derrill. V. Wintenburg, then Third Mate of the “Arriaga,” took this snapshot of survivors after their boat had been taken in tow by a fisherman.

“As darkness drew near an anxious eye was kept on the horizon and several times mountains were seen by the more imaginative. Night found us still out of sight of land, but with the seas much moderated. A constant wetting by spray was experienced by those in the fore part of the boat, which took the seas more abeam as the boat swung. Muscles were so cramped that the only thought was to stretch out. The rations of pemmican, malted milk tablets, and chocolate were passed around at intervals throughout the day.

“That night I huddled next to the mast/sharing my wet blanket with an A.B. who shivered constantly. As the night wore on, groans and curses told of unsuccessful attempts to be comfortable.

“1,000 Miles to Panama”

“During the night the wind died down and the sail flapped; the lifeboat drifted aimlessly to the west. It was 1,000 miles to Panama! The oars were put out for a time, but Captain Gjertsen soon ordered strength conserved and for several hours the boat drifted with the current. Just before dawn we saw a flash of light. After what seemed hours but was a matter of minutes, it proved to be a charcoal fire on a native fishing sloop.

“After much talking in Spanish the fisherman took a line and started to tow the boat toward the Colombian shore. Everyone felt perky; the sun was out and our clothes were drying fast. After an hour or so, land was sighted and before long people could be seen lining the beach; there were a few shacks in the background. The entire population of what proved to be the native village of Pajaro lined the beach. Most of the men were dressed non descriptly; some of them were clad in gee strings. The women, some streaked with paint like American Indians on the warpath, wore a single cotton garment. The children were not encumbered by clothes. Several fishing boats were anchored nearby.\

“Captain Gjertsen gave the skipper of the fishing sloop a twenty-dollar bill and we rowed the remaining distance, then dragged the lifeboat up on the beach. Several men, apparently officials, who were dressed in European garb, took charge. Some of us asked for food and water and a place to wash, while the captain arranged transportation to the nearest large port.

“The only drinking water we could find was a lagoon, in native parlance, which turned out to be a fresh water bog a short distance behind the houses. Several women were washing clothes in it at one end and pigs and goats drank and gamboled at the other. A tin can served as a drinking cup; a sip was all that could be stomached. We learned later on that all water must be boiled, but we felt no ill effects from our experiment.

“When we went back to the house where the captain and most of the men were gathered, food was brought out – goat’s milk cheese, coffee, and bread which tasted delicious; it was baked in huge Dutch-type ovens. A bottle of native ‘die-quick’ – sugar rum – was broken out and several of us took lusty swigs. I took a draught before I had eaten. The powerful rum boiled and sizzled in my empty stomach and shortly frothed back up.

“By this time we learned that the nearest town of any size was Rio Hacha, farther down the coast. The only means of transportation was by water; an old truck that was hopefully appraised proved deficient in spark plugs and gas. There were many long faces when it was learned that we would have to go back to the boat, even for a short period.

“On returning to the lifeboat we found it had been overrun by natives – even though a native guard had been stationed there by the local authorities. For one thing our oarlocks were missing, but at the time we thought little about this, as we were to be towed to Rio Hacha by a fishing sloop.

“Launching the boat, we took a tow and proceeded uneventfully through the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon to our next port of call. On arrival we were towed by the sloop as near as possible to a long pier and then cast adrift. As we had no rowlocks, we drifted helplessly and foolishly before the stares of the large crowd gathered on the pier. It was some time before our predicament was understood and a motor launch could be manned to warp us in. Several official looking gentlemen, a British missionary, and the British Consul took us in hand; we soon had clean clothing, food, and drink. Minor cuts, bruises, and salt sores were our only casualties.”

Long Trek Back

Third Mate Wintenburg described the journey from Pajaro to Barranquilla:

“It was a long trek, by truck, train, and paddle-wheel steamer. First we went by truck to Buena Vista, a Colombian Army camp in the mountains – the Sierras Nevadas de Santa Marta – where we spent the first night. The next morning we continued by truck to the railhead at Fundacion, where we stayed overnight. The next day, by train, we reached the small port of Cienaga, south of Santa Marta. From Cienaga we took a small paddlewheel steamer on a night trip to Barranquilla.”

The following officers went by plane from Barranquilla to Miami, Florida, on July 9, 1942:

Captain Gunnar Gjertsen,

Chief Mate Einar Skolem,

First Assistant Engineer Homer J. Alien,

Second Assistant Engineer Elmer S. Hopkins,

Third Assistant Engineer Paul Tremblay,


Radio Operator Earle J. Schlarb.

They left Miami by train July 10 and arrived at New York July 12.

The remaining 16 members of the Arriaga’s merchant crew, including Second Mate Robert Kingston,

Third Mate Derrill V. Wintenburg,

Steward Duncan McDonald,


Pumpman Raymond W. McNally, were flown from Barranquilla to Aruba

These officers and men were repatriated on the SS Swivel, which left Aruba August 9, 1942.

One of five tankers sold to the United States, as announced on July 9, 1942, the Swivel, ex Italian tanker Bacicin Padre, had been requisitioned at Puerto Cabello by the Venezuelan Government; she was purchased from the Republic of Venezuela by the War Shipping Administration, which took delivery July 11. The W. S. A. then requested the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey to take her to Mobile, Alabama, for repairs. The vessel first proceeded from Puerto Cabello to Aruba for temporary repairs and was renamed the Swivel.

Under the Panamanian flag. Captain Harold I. Cook and an American crew of 19 – recruited mainly from the personnel of the Arriaga – took the Swivel from Aruba to Mobile by way of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. From Guantanamo, on their way to Mobile, they put in at three haven ports for security – Tampa, Panama City, and Pensacola, Fla. – and arrived at Mobile on September 10.

Leaving Mobile by train September 14, the 16 officers and men who were formerly on the Arriaga arrived in New York September 16.

During the journey from Mobile to New York, Ordinary Seaman Robert C. Arnott died of heart failure on September 15. His name is included, however, in the list of survivors of the Arriaga at the end of this chapter.

Captain Gunnar Gjertsen, who joined the Company as a third mate on June 13, 1925, has had continuous service as master since December 13, 1939. During the first World War, Captain Gjertsen was a lieutenant in the Norwegian Navy and served on minesweepers and patrol ships in the North Sea from 1914 to 1918.

Chief Engineer Harry L. Hovland entered the Company’s service as a fireman on December 31, 1927. He became a third assistant engineer on February 6, 1930, and was promoted to chief engineer on February 21, 1942.

Four survivors of the Arriaga were on other tankers lost or damaged by enemy action. Captain Gjertsen was master of the John Worthington when she was severely damaged by a torpedo on May 27, 1943. Radio Operator Schlarb and Oiler Porter C. Arney had survived the sinking of the E. M. Clark on March 18, 1942. Second Cook Bard N. Claar was on the Esso Providence when she was damaged in August, 1943.

Merchant Crew Lost on the “Arriaga” – June 23, 1942

Harry L. Hovland Ch. Engr.

Merchant Crew Survivors of the “Arriaga”

Gunnar GjertsenMaster

Edgar J. Lestage

Einar Skolem Ch. Mate

Dixon Babb

Robert Kingston 2nd Mate

Spurgeon S.

Suttle A.B.

Derrill V. Wintenburg 3rd Mate

Robert C. Arnott

Homer J. Alien 1st Asst.

James D. Bachmari

Elmer S. Hopkins 2nd Asst.

Kenneth L. Smith Oiler

Paul Tremblay 3rd Asst.

Porter C. Arney Oiler

Earle J. Schlarb Radio Op.

Lewis E. Schofield Oiler

Duncan McDonald Steward

Bard N. Claar 2nd Cook

Raymond W. McNally Pumpman\

Winfred S. Luck M.M.

Sam J. Hudgins A.B.

Leonard C. Hewes M.M.

U. S. Navy Armed Guard Survivors of the “Arriaga”

Murelain O. Hale

Calvin C. Patterson

Bertie who?

Updated 13 March 2021

This is Bertie (Bertram) Lestage, not his father Michel Charles Alexandre.

Original post

I will try to make this simple. Bertram “Bertie” Lestage was another child of Phoebe Alexandre and Michel Charles Lestage. This is who I think is a picture of Michel Charles Lestage.

This cabinet card was scanned by Robin in 2011. It was part of more than 100 old pictures she had scanned for me. It’s Robin’s husband who is related to the Combe, the Bleau and the Alexandre family. Most of the 100 old pictures were identified except this one.

I find a ressemblance with the photo of Lucille Lestage you saw in the previous post.

Lucille Lestage

The Lestage family once lived in the New York City area so it makes sense this could be a photo of Michel Charles Lestage.

So this bring us to Bertie who was a female in the 1920 US census, but a male in all the other censuses… 1900, 1910, 1915… I never got around to know if Bertie was a he or a she until last week when I got a call for help from Mary who got a DNA match with someone looking for her roots.