The Long Life Of Nellie H

By Ann Dermody
Published: August/September 2013

A century may have passed, but the boat still sails, and a family still treasures the memories that held four generations together .

Photo of the Nellie H on the water in a bygone day

Photo of a woman from the early 1900's on the Nellie H

It is the Summer of 1914. The same summer an archduke and heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand, is assassinated in Sarajevo, sparking the beginning of World War I. In just weeks the Panama Canal will officially open after 10 years of U.S. construction, and the world's first red and green electric traffic light will be installed in Cleveland, Ohio. Unemployment is at 7.9 percent; the Boston Braves win the World Series; and the cost of a first-class stamp is two cents.

Photo of the Nellie H on the water

Photo of the Nellie H in a good wind
Ken Cotter's mother, Joan Brush Heymann, up front on the bow.

Photo of A.J. Sammis giving his grandnephew a turn at the wheelOwner A.J. Sammis gives his grandnephew Jim Albert a turn at the wheel.

Photo of a woman at the wheel of the Nellie H

The world is changing, but for the eight young heads, bobbing in the water off a dock in Huntington, Long Island, time is centered on the here and now. On long hot summer days on Nellie H, the 38-foot oyster sloop owned by A.J. Sammis, the father of Kathleen, Erma, and Gwen Sammis, the three young ladies pictured in swim caps (left to right) below.

Photo of Kathleen Sammis, sisters and friends bobbing in the waterBobbing In The Water: Ken Cotter's grandmother, Kathleen Sammis, sisters and friends from Bedford Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn cool off at "Puppy's Hole," a creek off Huntington Harbor. Nellie H is in the background, circa 1914.

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Every picture tells a story: Thanks to Ken Cotter for sending in this photo of his grandmother, her sisters, and their friends for our Photo Contest earlier this year. Do you have a great photo that also tells a story? Email it to us with an explanation to


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