Historical Sites

South River Shipwreck Site

A sunken ship approximately 70 feet long is located here with keel and ribs sometimes in view. Local lore claims it to be either a rum runner or a WWI sub chaser. The location, between Hen Island and the foot of Fourth Cliff, is known as the Hanover Flats. Water access only.


This land is within the region of the Massachuseuk (or Massachusett) Native American tribe.

Longtime Marshfield resident W. Ray Freden describes the South River shipwreck as follows. “It was there before 1927. A large square box-like structure was built in the middle, like living quarters. A line of windows could be seen from Central Ave. During the summer, two or three dories or skiffs would be tied to the rear porch, built on the back (stern) of the boat. There was a tall flagpole near the center. I remember it as being grey natural wood with little paint. Many times I passed the remains of the mysterious wreck to go clamming in the area. The ribs stuck up maybe three feet with some planking still attached. One shaft lay in the middle for years.”

There have always been conflicting stories about the history of the mysterious wreck on the Hanover Flats. In Edward Rowe Snow’s story about the Submarine Chaser S-241, published in the Patriot Ledger on 12/11/67, he wrote, “First I was informed that the craft was a rum runner which was trapped during prohibition days under heavy gunfire at half tide on Hanover Flats, after which it was abandoned. . . Then I was told it was . . . a rum chaser which, after a successful career, ended her days on the edge of the North River and went ashore at the Hanover Flats in a gale.” Snow explains that it was actually a submarine chaser that had been converted into a rum runner during Prohibition and operated in the Marshfield-Scituate area for three years, during which time its owner buried hundreds of cases of liquor at various places on the marsh.

What follows is Freden’s detailed description of the ship and its history.

The New York Launch and Engine Company at Morris Heights, New York built the SC 241 in 1918. Commissioned April 8 1918, and captained by Ensign Robert L. Mills, she was 110 feet long, beam 14’9”, and draft 5’8′. Her speed was 18 kns, powered by three 220 hp gasoline engines, with three props, endurance 1000 nm. Her armament included a 3” gun, two 30 cal. machine guns and one Y gun. The origin of the Submarine Chaser (SC) traces back to World War I and the SC-1 class, wooden hulled, “Splinter Fleet.” The SC was designed for off shore patrols and anti-submarine warfare.

The SC 241 left New London, Connecticut, on May 13,1918, after being outfitted with submarine detectors and wireless telephones. She arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, five days later. On July 11, 1918, in the company of SC 247, she sighted a U-boat on her starboard side in a thick fog. At 3:40 p.m., she sighted a torpedo heading for a freight ship, which managed to avoid the torpedo. Pursuing the U-boat, she was able to get less than 35 yards away and then fired depth charges from the “Y” gun. One charge landed 10 yards in front of the periscope, which immediately disappeared. Five seconds later, a terrific explosion followed. It is not known whether the U-boat she destroyed was ever identified.

After the war, the SC 241 was struck from the naval registry. She was sold for scrap on May 11, 1921, to the C.P. Comerford Co. of Lowell, Massachusetts, and stripped of guns, engines and all hardware. Sometime later she was sold to a John F. Smith, and towed by a tug to the South River, where she was then anchored. The Smith family painted the interior in various colors. The SC 241 came with a pilot house and a crow’s nest.

A storm in November 1925 caused the SC 241 to break away from her mooring. Blown across the marsh, she became stranded on the Hanover Flats. The Smith family dug a trench in the marsh and settled the sub-chaser into the south side of the flats. The family added a five-room structure, a rear porch, and a landing on the stern, which faced south. The family used the SC 241 as a summer home for many years. During World War II, the history-making SC 241 was used less, and without care, began to deteriorate. Torched by vandals, she burned to the water line as fire companies watched helplessly from Central Ave. in Humarock. I never heard that anyone was charged with the arson.

Habitats and Wildlife

The location of this shipwreck is also sometimes described as halfway between Ferry Hill and Fourth Cliff.

42.152123, -70.706018

Historic Site: Yes

Park: No

Beach: No

Boat Launch: No

Lifeguards: No

Hours: Dawn to Dusk

Parking: Water access only. No public parking.

Cost: Free

Trail Difficulty: No trails.

Dogs: No

Boat Ramp: No

ADA Access: No

Scenic Views: Yes

Waterbody/Watershed: South River

Other Things to Do at This Site