The first three ships were safely docked in Boston by December 2 but the fourth Boston-bound tea ship, the William, ran into horrific trouble as it approached its destination. A dreadful gale ran the vessel upon the rocks off Cape Cod and, the next day, a second storm sealed its doom. The crew was forced to cut anchor, and the ship was lodged firmly onshore near Provincetown. Its cargo of 58 chests of tea, also consigned to the Boston Clarke family, was stored in the soggy hold alongside 300 new street lights destined for the City of Boston.
On December 17, the day after the Boston Harbor rebellion, Samuel Adam’s Committee of Correspondence dispatched letters to Cape Cod urging residents there to destroy the tea from the stranded ship William as well. But Richard Clarke’s son Jonathan was already racing from Boston to the Cape in order to salvage what he could of his family’s tea consignment. Along the way, he recruited Justice of the Peace John Greenough to gather men and haul the tea into Truro and, eventually, Provincetown for safe-keeping.
No shipmaster on Cape Cod would accept the task of taking the salvaged tea to Clarke’s Boston warehouse. Finally, a schooner from Salem was employed to ferry the tea, and 51 tea chests from the William were moved to Boston’s Castle Island, where Governor Hutchinson had it stored at the fort’s barracks for safekeeping, while the Sons of Liberty did their best to keep an eye on the landed tea in order to make sure none of it reached merchants onshore.