1856: Joseph Waterman, of Galveston, TX; died & buried at sea.
A Masonic Burial at Sea.
During the recent trip of the steamer Empire City from Havana to this port, an incident occurred which left a deep and permanent impression upon the minds of all who were on board. Death is at all times a fearful thing; but when the King of Terrors claims his own upon the sea, and rudely severs the associations which invariably connect those who journey together upon the great deep, a peculiar feeling is experienced that lingers upon the mind, and causes one to remember vividly for years, what would, under other circumstances, pass away like the summer breeze, leaving little or no trace upon the memory.
The same day the steamer left Havana, April 11th, it was reported to Capt. Windle that one of the cabin passengers, Mr. Jos. Waterman, formerly of Galveston, Texas, had died at three o’clock of consumption, and in accordance with the customary usages observed at sea, the remains were placed on a hammock and laid upon the quarter-deck, in order to be buried at sunset. The deceased was a Royal Arch Mason, formerly attached to a Lodge and Chapter of the Fraternity in the city of Galveston; and as there were several of the mystic tie on board the steamer, it was resolved that the deceased should be interred with Masonic honors according to the Order.
A formal demand was made upon Capt. Windle for the remains, who promptly acceded to the request, with that urbanity which is so marked a trait in his character as a gentleman; and as the sun was about sinking beneath the wave, they were placed in charge of such of the Fraternity as were on board, to be buried by them with the last sad rites peculiar to the institution.
The remains, which had been covered with the United States flag, were lain upon a plank at the stern of the steamer, and as the ship’s bell began to toll the intervals, the brethren formed a circle around the corpse, when the Masonic burial service was beautifully delivered by Past Master J.E. Elliott of New York, who presided as Master upon this occasion. The ceremony, beautifully impressive at all times, was remarkably so upon this occasion; and when the Worshipful Brother pronounced the words, “We, therefore, commit the body of our departed brother to the great deep; his memory shall remain engraven upon the tablets of our hearts, while his spirit shall return unto God who gave it,” a single plunge was heard, and the deceased had gone to his last long home, accompanied by the last fond words of “alas, my brother!” from those of the Fraternity who formed the broken chain upon the quarter-deck of the steamer.
It is of very rare occurrence that any member of the craft is buried with the honors of the Fraternity while at sea; but the character of the deceased was so well known as a “just and upright Mason,” that it was considered but a just tribute to his memory. It was a scene marked with more than ordinary degree of solemnity, and will not readily be forgotten by those who participated in the obsequies of the deceased. - N. O. Picayune.
Source: Federal Union, Milledgeville, Georgia, Tuesday, May 13, 1856; Pg. 2