With his debts mounting, Thomas O’Neil—captain of the British frigate Annie C. Maguire—was in legal trouble in December 1886. Portland’s sheriff had asked the keeper of the Portland Head Light, Joshua Strout, to keep an eye out for the frigate, which the sheriff intended to seize on behalf of American creditors. Bound from Buenos Aires to Quebec, O'Neil lost his bearings along the shoreline near Portland and crashed the ship into the rocks at Portland Head, right in front of the keeper’s house.
The creditors did not find much left to claim. The ship was destroyed and a satchel with ship documents and cash was discovered missing, presumably lost in the wreck. The captain later learned that his wife had hidden the money and papers in a hatbox that she carried ashore when she left the beleaguered boat.