The Papers:
   The Northern Voyage

The following article appeared in the Lewiston Journal upon the return of the Coronet to Portland, Maine in October of 1911 and Frank Sandford's trial for manslaughter later that fall.


Portland Evening Express December 9, 1911

Sandford Is Guilty

Jury Reports After Brief Deliberation

Dramatic Scene As Shiloh Head Makes Defense

Declares Deaths Were Due to Disobedience of God in Turning Back From Their Destination, Greenland.

Will Be Sentenced December 18

Seven Points Which Sandford Wished To Impress Upon Jury

Seven reasons which Sandford said the Jury should have in order to determine the truth of the situation.

1st. That the destination was known to every member of the crew.

2nd. That the destination was unchanged from the time of the wreck of the Kingdom off the coast of Africa until the Coronet was put about off Cape Race.

3rd. That they had been forbidden, by God, to visit any country over which they had prayed the previous year.

4th. That they fully expected to secure an abundance of food from the fishing fleet off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

5th. That they expected to get vegetables and fruit from Newfoundland.

6th. That the yacht Coronet has always been absolutely under the control of the will of God.

7th. That the troubles of the Coronet during the last 40 days of the cruise were due entirely to the fact that they disobeyed the will of God and turned about from their trip to Greenland and the Far North.

Within 30 minutes after they had left the court room, following a two hours statement by the Rev. Frank W. Sandford in his own behalf the only defense he had made during the entire trial, the jury reported a verdict of guilty against Sandford and the case has been continued until Dec. 18 for sentence.

The jury left the court room at 1:15, after the charge by Judge Clarence Hale, and returned at 1:45. When the jurors filed into the court room, after being absent only half an hour, Sandford arose and seemed very calm. When the verdict of guilty was given Sandford resumed his seat without the slightest signs of emotion. A few minutes later he left his seat and went to the bench and conferred with Judge Hale in a very low voice, presumably asking that the imposing of sentence be continuued, as immediately after Sandford left the bench Judge Hale announced that sentence would not be imposed until Dec. 18.

Late this afternoon Sandford arranged to give bail for the continuance for sentence and was expected to give bail for the same amount as when he was bound over following the preliminary hearing before Commissioner Bradley.

Declined Counsel

Without counsel and depending upon God for guidance and protection, Rev. Frank W. Sandford, leader of the Holy Ghost and Us Society at Shiloh, who was put on trial in the United States District Court yesterday, charged with causing the death of six members of his party on the recently completed 17 months' cruise for the soul salvation of the people of three continents, through failure to provide food and the necessities to sustain their lives, and keeping at sea four months today faced Judge Clarence Hale and made a short Statement.

The prosecution for the Government was concluded last night and Sandford was told he might call witnesses and offer evidence and arguments in his own defence. He declined to accept these rights and refused to employ counsel or accept the offer of the court to appoint counsel for him.

In announcing his intention to make a statement, Mr. Sandford said he would like to avoid cross-examination. Dictrict Attorney Robert T. Whitehouse stated that it would depend entirely upon what he said whether he would be cross-examined.

Remarkable Statement

The statement of Sandford the modern Elijah, delivered from the witness stand almost exactly as though he were speaking from his pulpit at the Shiloh hilltop, was one of the most remarkable ever produced in a Maine court room and held the undivided attention of court officials, jurors and a large audience of spectators throughout its recital.

The statement was preceded by an explanation of his motive in making it, which was, he said, simply and solely to give the officials light they ought to have in deciding the case.

After affirming that he would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, he took the stand and addressed the court and the jury, speaking and giving his attention principally to the jurymen.

He said he did not wish to call any man a liar or question his motive, but that he had good opportunity to do so yesterday when one of the witnesses said he had withheld meat from them when as a matter of fact he had been complaining at the lack of meat. He did not desire to enter into any controversy, and now for the first time broke his rule of 18 years' standing to keep silent, because he was forced to do so.

He declared that he had refused counsel and declined to examine witnesses and only once had he departed from that plan. That was was yesterday when he involuntarily and without any idea of what he was about to do, spoke up when a witness said he withheld meat.

"I believe there are two courts in session today, and if not today, there will be two courts sometime in the near future," he said. He quoted from the Bible in support of his assertion.

He declared that high Heaven was watching the scene at that very moment, watching to see that a fair trial was being given and he felt it was due each official to give a frank statement of the voyage from his standpoint. This he then proceeded to do, at times breaking in with an argument of some point. During the first half hour, at least, he had not been interrupted by either the court or District Attorney Whitehouse.

Seven Facts

Seven facts he believed were essential to a correct understanding of the voyage of the Coronet and he recited each and dwelt upon it at some length.

The first was that the destination of the Coronet was well known and determined before the wreck of the Kingdom took place. They had talked over the matter, He said, as they made their way South and discussed it very fully as they do all matters of such importance. He then traced on the chart the voyage up to last Spring, when they were about to sail for the Arctic regions.

It was well known to all on board that they expected to sail for the North, to Hudson Bay, Greenland, etc., he said, and all were greatly disappointed at the loss of the Kingdom on Mud Island, off the coast of Africa.

The destination of the Coronet was unchanged by the wreck of the Kingdom. This he stated as the second fact. Filled with earnestness and apparent sincerity, Sandford told of his instructions from Gof to continue.

He said:

'I said: "Father, what next? What next, now that we have this company on board?"

God Said, "Continue."

"I received this answer, and I make this statement advisedly, knowing what I am doing. I received this answer:


He said two lawyer friends of his had told him not to go on the stand and make such a statement as this, that it would "mean a certain thing." But he said he should do it, knowing he was in the right.

"The word was 'CONTINUE.' We understood its meaning to be to go on with the work. It was thoroughly discussed on board at the meetings and finally it was decided to go on with the work which took us to the North.

"We are disciples of God," declared Mr. Sandford. "If we have not won that medal in the past 18 years I don't know who has."

"I am talking before a God who listens and knows when I commit perjury and will deal with me on high, no matter what may result in this court."

He then declared that all knew what they were to do and that was the time for them to get away if any cared so to do, but not a protest was raised, not a soul left the yacht.

Prayed Over Decision

Mr. Sandford then explained that the destination of the yacht Coronet was always thoroughly discussed by members of the crew, men and women and frequently the children's opinions were asked. They prayed over the decision for hours and days and sometimes it was weeks before it finally was reached. He added that this was true of all undertakings by his followers. He declared dramatically, smiting the rail of the witness stand, that if he had nothing else left for his 18 years'service for God, it was his consciousness of the Almighty and that he had been true to the Lord.

Again he told the court and the jury in a voice which broke with emotion that he was before two tribunals, the tribunal of man and the tribunal of God, and His tribunal will try me and punish me if I commit perjury today to save myself the consequences of any act.

His third fact, which he contended was essential the jury should know, was that he had been forbidden by God to visit the countries over which he prayed last year and that was why he did not wish to return to the United States. In connection with this third fact, Mr. Sandford became much affected, his voice was choked and the tears glistened in his eyes when he told of the faithfulness of his wife during the 18 years of his service for the Lord in his present manner.

Tells of Marriage

"When I started out," said he, "18 years ago and resigned my pastorage, I was living in a brownstone front and had just married a young lady who came of a good family, whose father was worth $700,000.  It meant much to her to change and follow this life and I said to her 'How would you like to live depending upon God; with no salary, no contribution box; not to preach a sermon and then stick a contribution box into the face of the man who had heard it?' and she said to me, "I think it would be perfectly lovely."

Last night I asked her if she was sorry of the decision, and she replied:

" 'Certainly not,' and she laughed when she said it."

He declared that if he had been seeking financial gain he would never have taken up this course of life. He declared with much emphasis that whatever had been said of him no one had accused him of being a coward. Commenting on evidence introduced to show that he had said he would sail the Coronet into Hell if God said so, he explained that it was simply a figure of speech used to show how thoroughly he believed in obedience to God.

Expected Food

In setting forth his fourth reason or fact he expressed his appreciation of the privilege shown him by the court officials and the authorities generally, adding that he considered himself a prisoner of God rather than man. His fourth reason was that they expected to receive an abundance of food from the fishing fleets of the Grand Banks and in this connection he told of great catches of fish made by the crew of the Coronet on the west coast of Africa.

His fifth reason, as set forth, was that they expectd to secure an abundant supply of vegetables and fruits in Newfoundland, but were disappointed, and also that he had make a mistake in his calculations of the location of the Grand Banks and sailed past them without getting the food supply.  It was then that the discontent among the crew began to manifest itself. He prayed to God and in the end the decision was reached to disobey God and turn back. But before this he prayed for Greenland and he assured the jury that it was his honest conviction, as he believed that his name was Frank W. Sandford, that that prayer was heard and that every resident of the northland who was susceptible to the influence of Jesus Christ was benefited.

That the yacht Coronet has been characterized as having been absolutely obedient to the will of God was his sixth reason. This he said was different from the spirit which prevailed on the yacht Kingdom. On that yacht, the spirit of satisfying animal pleasure had prevailed, while on the Coronet the spirit had been the "white light of eternity."

He then declared that he had visited every ocean except the Arctic ocean and every sea in the world. He described briefly the experiences of the Coronet in rounding Cape Horn and said the only thing that brought them safely through was the heeding of their prayers by the Almighty.

Disobeyed God

In his seventh fact he asserted that the whole cause and explanation of the hardships which came to the Coronet and her crew in the last 40 days of the voyage was disobedience to God's will in turning back from the voyage to the far North. This disobedience he attributed to the spirit which had been brought aboard by the survivors of the Kingdom.

He then quoted Captain Whittom as having said that he could not express his feelings at the thought of turning back and that the Lord would severely punish those who had brought about the acts of disobedience to God.

In beginning his closing he read excerpts from the 26th chapter of Leviticus and said that this expressed and told the story of his act. He then said that on the west coast of Africa they had had the greatest manifestation of the goodness of God which modern men had received. It had satisfied him of the greatness of God's mercy. It was when the African fever afflicted them. Of the 10(?) members of the party who were afflicted with this disease all were healed. In some cases it was instantly, others a matter of hours or days, but God had always heeded their prayers.

"My little girl was afflicted with it and I prayed and prayed for her and the Lord healed her, and I say to you gentlemen of the jury, that if there is a man on God's earth who loves his child, it is the man talking to you."

"I wish that the most eminent physicians in the world could have been there with their thermometers in their hands and taken the temperature of these sufferers before the prayer, during the prayer and after. They would have been convinced of the greatness of God as I was."

"May God bless you," Sandford said was the worst thing he had to say to anyman who had spoken against him. He said he wanted to be considered a man who was true to his convictions. He then thanked the court for listening to him.

"Gentlemen," he said to the jury, "there will be no squealing from me. I am here for the rough and ready of the foot ball game."

Whitehouse's Argument

District Attorney Whitehouse then made the closing argument for the Government.

"It is necessary," he said, "to come back from the vagaries of religious fanatacism to the cold facts that must govern the court."

The district attorney reviewed the evidence at length and asked that Sandford be found guilty on all six counts "in order," he said, "that this danger spot may be removed from the community."

The Holy Ghost Colony at Shiloh, he characterized as "a Mausoleum of wrecked lives." He declared that Sandford was "a greater menace to the community than an ordinary criminal."

Judge Hale then charged the jury. He explained the points of law, saying that the jury could return a verdict on each count or a general verdict on all six counts. He said it was necessary to show that the offence was committed on the high seas and on the yacht Coronet, but that it was not necessary to show malicious intent to kill anyone on the part of the defendant. He said that even if the defendant's acts were caused by what he considered commands from God this did not clear him of guilt.

On Six Counts

Guilty of all six counts for causing the death of six of his followers was the verdict found. The penalty for each of the offenses is a fine not exceeding $10,000 and imprisonment for not exceeding 10 years. If imprisoned, he will be sent to Atlanta. Sandford was released on $10,000 bail. The jury was out about 40 minutes.

The Shiloh leader had no comment to make on the verdict, but simply said it was all right and expressed his appreciation of the way he had been used by Judge Hale, District Attorney Whitehouse and others.

Portland Evening Express December 8. 1911



Willful Neglect to Provide Proper Sustenance Is One of Charges.


Charles E. Holland, Second in Authority at Hilltop, and George McKay, Mate on Yacht Kingdom, Among Witnesses Called by the Government.

Rev. Frank W. Sandford, leader of the Holy Ghost and Us Society, is on trial today before Judge Hale in the United States District Court, following the report of the Grand Jury this morning when the leader of the famous religious cult was indicted on six counts alleging that he caused the death of six of his followers during the recent ocean voyage of the schooner yacht Coronet. The indictment alleges that Sandford unlawfully, knowingly and wilfully caused and allowed the yacht Coronet to proceed and continue upon a voyage without suitable and sufficient food to supply the necessities and sustain the life of George Hughey and the officers, crew and the passengers on board the yacht Coronet; that Sandford was actually in command of the yacht as executive officer and president of the corporation, and that he kept the yacht at sea from July 27, 1911, until October 16, 1911. In the indictment it is alleged that Sandford caused the death of George Hughey, Charles Hughey, Ralph Merrill, Stewart Wolf, John Bolster and John Adamson.

The Hughey brothers died and were buried at sea as were Ralph Merrill and Stewart Wolf. John Bolster, who served as missionary in the Holy Land for a number of years, and John Adamson, who was only 20 years of age, died at the Marine Hospital from scurvy and starvation after the yacht had arrived in this port at the end of her eventful trip to Africa, West Indies, and wanderings about the North Atlantic ocean.

Pleads Not Guilty

Since he was given his liberty under $10,000 bail, Sandford has been resting quietly at one of the small farms near Shiloh in the town of Durham, and when he appeared in court this morning he seemed to be in far better physical condition than when he appeared before Commissioner William M. Bradley a few weeks ago. Following the reading of the indictment, Sandford pleaded not guilty to the charges in a calm, even voice.

Despite the fact that Sandford's trial was called within an hour after the Grand Jury had reported, a large number of people occupied seats in the court room and Captain Austin K. Perry and a number of Shilohites were interested spectators.

Although it had been reported that a plea of insanity might be entered in Sandford's behalf, the leader of the Holy Ghost and Us Society was not represented by counsel in court today and he retained a sphinx like pose as he sat near a large table facing Judge Hale. Sandford did not appear interested to any great extent and he did not turn his head to right nor left.

Ask No Questions

When the jurors were sworn Sandford was asked by the court if he wished to ask any questions of the jurors. He replied that he did not have any questions to ask and resumed his seat.

While the Indictment does not say that Sandford is being tried on the charge of manslaughter, District Attorney Robert Treat Whitehouse said that Sandford was being tried on that charge.

Before Sandford had entered his plea of not guilty Judge Hale asked him if he had any counsel, and the reply was that he had not.

"Do you want the court to appoint counsel for you?"

"No sir."

"Do you understand that you have the privilege of having an attorney appointed by the court to conduct your defense?"

"Yes sir."

The indictment was then read by Clerk of Courts Hewey and at the conclusion of the reading, the usual question was asked, "Are you guilty or not guilty?"

Mr. Sandford replied, "I am not guilty."

United States District Attorney Robert T. Whitehouse then asked that the jury be sworn and each juror as his name was called and before taking the oath was asked questions as to whether he had any connection with the society at Shiloh known as the Holy Ghost and Us Society and whether he had any relation who had ever been so connected, or whether he had any prejudice, religious or otherwise, for or against the respondent or the society that would prevent him from rendering a just verdict.

Sandford was asked after the questions by the Government of [the] juryman. If he had any questions to ask or whether he wished to challenge any of the jurymen and his reply was "I have none, sir."

Judge Hale explained to Sandford his right to peremptory challenge, but Sandford said that he had none to make.

Mr. Whitehouse said that the jury was acceptable to the Government and Mr. Sandford was asked if it was so to him. And he replied that it was. Judge Hale then appointed Peleg W. Benton of Parsonsfield as foreman of the jury. And the indictment was read to the jury.

Government Opens

Assistant United States District Attorney Arthur Chapman addressed the jury with the opening of the government's case. After reading the section of the Federal statutes which define the crimes alleged in the indictment and the punishment prescribed, Mr. Chapman recited the story of the voyages of the Coronet and Kingdom and ending with the sicknesses and death of the members of the colony on board the vessels, the wreck of the Kingdom and the final coming back to port of the Coronet with all the miseries of those on board, the result as the Government claims, of the criminal neglect of Sandford. With the aid of a large chart Mr. Chapman outlined the course of the vessels and the various points they touched on their voyage until the Kingdom was lost and the voyage of the Coronet from July last until she arrived in Chesapeake Bay.

Some of the men wanted to go ashore and get supplies, but Sandford objected, as he said that he had a message from God that he shouldn't land in any part of the United States or Canada. It was finally decided to send a boat ashore, but the men were instructed not to mention the scarcity of provisions on board the yacht and to keep clear of customs officials. They proceeded next to Nova Scotia with the provisions getting lower and lower.

During Mr. Chapman's recital, Sandford seemed to take the first interest that he had in the proceedings. Reaching forward and taking a geography from the table of the district attorney, he began studying a map and appeared to be following the course of the vessel as shown by Mr. Chapman.

At the conclusion of Mr. Chapman's opening, Judge Hale ordered a recess of 15 minutes.

It was about 11:45 when court came in again and District Attorney Whitehouse called the witnesses who will testify for the Government. These were Edward S. Knight, Jane Seward Dart, Charles E. Holland, George McKay, mate on the Kingdom, Roland Whittom and Deputy United States Marshal Ferd E. Stevens.

"Moses" Holland

The first witness called to the stand was Charles E. Holland, who is known as "Moses" by the Shilohites and who is second in authority under Sandford at the Hilltop.

Certified copies of the record of incorporation of the companies known as The Kingdom and of the Kingdom Yacht Club were then read to the jury and the first questions asked Mr. Holland were relating to the organization of these two corporations. The witness read from the corporation records such parts as asked for by the district attorney, which were to show that Rev. Frank W. Sandfod was the head and prime mover of the colony and in authority as leader of the Shilohites at Durham and during the various voyages of the Kingdom and the Coronet. The records showed that Frank W. Sandford was president and Charles E. Hollarnd, secretary and treasurer of the two corporations.

Before the witness began his testimony Judge Hale again informed Mr. Sandford of his rights during the trial. The Court told Mr. Sandford that he had the privilege of objecting to any of the evidence offered by the Government and also of his right to cross examine any of the witnesses.

The reading of the records by Mr. Holland which included the minutes of all the meeting of the two corporations and also those of the directors' meeting consumed considerable time and at its conclusion the records were offered in evidence by Mr. Whitehouse.

Q "Has Mr. Sandford actually held these positions and performed the duties during all this time?" asked Mr. Whitehouse.

A "Yes," replied the witness.

Q "Did this society have an existence before the incorporation?"

A "Yes."

Q "Who started the society, Mr. Sandford?"

A "Yes."

Q With the same doctrines and beliefs as later when incorporated?

A "Yes."

Q Has Mr. Sandford preached the tenets of the belief at Shiloh?

A "Yes."

Q Did he announce these words that he received from God to you members of the Society?

A "Yes."

Q Were they obeyed as the word of God?

A "Yes."

Q Was there a written statement of belief or creed drawn up when the society first started?

A "No, at a later time."

Q Was this subscribed by members of the society?

A "Yes."

Q Have you that original creed?

A "Yes."

Creed of Society Read.

The creed of the society was then produced by the witness and read to the jury by Mr. Whitehouse. The witness was then asked as to whether various people whose names were read were members of the society and then the witness was asked further about the creed and belief of the society.

Q Did you accept Mr. Sandford as the represistative of God in his character of Elijah?

A "Yes."

Q What is your belief if some member does not obey the command given by Sandford?

A "No special belief. There have been cases where some member of the colony has not obeyed the commands of God," went on Mr. Holland.

Q Has he been disfellowshipped?

A "Yes."

Q Who announces this or decides disfellowship?

A "It is generally done by the church."

Q Ever by Sandford?

A "At times."

Q What does this disfellowship involve?

A "That the member is not in relation with the society and not in standing."

Q Disqualified from attending the meetings of the society?

A "From some of the meetings."

Q What has Sandford taught in the colony about a member leaving the society?

A "Such a member is in disfavor with God."

Q What effect does this have on the salvation of the member's soul?

A "Their souls will not be saved if they don't get right with God."

Q In his relation with the members of the society on both land and sea has he exercised the position of leader?

A "Yes, sir."

Purchase of Vessels.

Mr. Holland then told of the purchase of the vessels that made up the Kingdom Yacht Club.

Q "When the Coronet sailed in 1910, was there any vote taken by the society in relation to this voyage or was it planned by Mr. Sandford?"

A "No, a vote was taken. Mr. Sandford selected who would go with him on the vessel."

Q As treasurer of the corporation did you have a deposit in the Shawmut National Bank of Boston?

A "Yes."

Q Did Sandford have a check book and draw from this fund.

A "Yes, sir."

Q Will you state in a general way as to the condition of this fund between July, 1911, and October last. Was there sufficient funds to have allowed the purchase of supplies by Sandford?"

A "There was up within a few weeks."

This concluded the direct examination of Mr. Holland and Mr. Sandford was asked if he had any questions to ask.

Without raising his eyes Mr. Sandford replied, "No questions."

Court then suspended until this afternoon.



The cruise of the Coronet was begun in May, 1910, and ended on October 21 last in Portland harbor. During those 17 months Sandford and 55 of his faithful followers cruised along the shores of three continents and offered up prayers for the soul salvation of the people of those countries, the voyage taking them over 15,000 miles of turbulent seas and bringing them into touch with the untutored savage. The purpose was entirely in the religious interests of the various countries visited as explained by the leader, who is recognized by his people as the modern Elijah.

In a narrative of his voyage given The Associated Press soon after his return, Mr. Sandford divided them into five groups. The first occupied the period from June until November, 1910, and took them from Cape Hatteras to Belle Island, north of Newfoundland. The second voyage was begun in December and lasted until February, 1911, during which they left the shores of their native country and cruised across tempestuous seas to the coast of Africa from Cape Juby to Isle de Los, which was reached in April. The fourth cruise was during the months of May and June, and brought the Coronet's party and that of the wrecked barkentine Kingdom, which was lost in Africa, back across the ocean to Panama, cruising along the South American shores. The fifth voyage lasting form July until October was from the vicinity of Panama to the Arctic regions, south of Greenland, and back to the home port.

The last four months of the cruise the Coronet struggled at ... the elements as she beat her way up the coast, but never once did her commander ask for aid. It was alleged, his only requests from passing vessels being for food for the crew and passengers.

Terrible Experiences.

Terrible experiences were encountered during the six weeks after they reached a point 600 miles south of Greenland - it having been planned to pass the winter in missionary work in Greenland - and found that because of the lateness of the season they must turn back. Contrary winds for a month retarded their progress south to less than 400 miles and, as Mr. Sandford described it, they found themselves in the grip of a power superior to themselves and were appalled at the situation. During the last week of October they had four violent storms which left their craft a hopeless derelict, rolling in the trouth of seas that struck the vessel with gigantic violence. During the gales the men were forced to pump incessantly, night and day, and to add to their troubles their lack of food obliged them to go on short rations for many days and scurvy began to break out.

Pumped for Lives.

Day after day and week after week they were obliged to pump for their very lives and it was a weary and sorrowful but profoundly grateful company that finally dropped anchor after working their vessel to this port under two little storm tri-sails.

Four of the men died of scurvy and starvation, it is alleged, within a few days of their arrival in port. Two others had been drowned off Chesapeake Bay and a child had died in southern waters.

In the larder of the Coronet there was not a loaf of bread and there had been no fresh meat for many days. So exhausted and weakened were the crew and passengers that it is doubtful if they could have kept the frail craft afloat much longer. All the men, including Mr. Sandford who took his turn with the others the latter part of the voyage, had worked at the pumps as long as they could stand.

The surviving members of the expedition proceeded to the large settlement of the society at Durham. Mr. Sandford was immediately arrested on a civil suit for damages brought in behalf of former members of his flock, and was released on bail only to be arrested a few days later by federal officers for the death of Charles Hughey.