The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Aug. 17, 1838

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The lives but of few persons furnish accidents as appalling as that given below. The account may be in some of its particulars incorrect, as it was penned in a hurried manner, from the lips of one of the sufferers. The new schooner Wm. L. Marcy, Captain Miner, belonging to Messrs. S. & H. Cook, of Ellisburg, on her trip from Ellis' village to Oswego, was on the evening of the 10th instant capsized in a gale of wind off Mexico Bay. The gale was proceeded by a dead calm. Upon the first appearance of the storm every precaution was made use of to prepare the vessel for its encounter. It is here proper to state that she was without ballast. The progress of the storm could be distinctly traced upon the smooth surface of the water as it came with apparently slow but terrific violence. The schr. instantly capsized. With masts perpendicular in the water and keel in the air, the vessel now dashed to and fro, among the billows. Samuel Cook, owner; Capt. Miner, and two hands were on deck; Wm. C. Wells, Esq. merchant, of Mansville, John Tift, of Ellisburg, Miss Eliza Van Allstine, of Scriba, Oswego County, and a son of Mr. Cook, about 12 years of age, were in the cabin. Those on deck were swept from it as quick as thought; but by such exertions as can only be put forth at such a crisis as this they all succeeded in gaining the keel, to which they hung from sunset till near midnight with every sea dashing over them with tremendous violence.

The cabin filled with water as far as the confined air would permit; the scene which was there enacted beggars description. Within this narrow 8 X 10 room were four human beings, rolling and tumbling among the loose furniture and baggage, alternately under and out of the water, as the vessel rose and sunk with each succeeding sea. They however sustained themselves somewhat by holding on to the inverted berths. After remaining in this situation about two hours with the water gradually increasing upon them, so that but about a foot of space remaining between the surface of the water and the top of the cabin, they found to their horror that the vital principle of the air was well nigh exhausted. Death now seemed inevitable. But with a desperation attendant only upon the last effort of the dying, Mr. Wells, after three or four attempts, by diving down, broke out the sky light window, and tore with his hands the iron rods which were placed outside to protect it, through which they thrust as much loose rubbish as possible, thereby allowing them more room and air, as the water had now a free ingress from below. But they still experienced a great difficulty in breathing, and must have perished were it not for two feather beds that were inflated with air. - Ever and anon they thrust these into the water, from which globules of air would rise, and thus furnishing a scanty supply of the sustaining element. Mr. Tift fainted and sunk, but was again brought to the surface of the water by Mr. Wells; who with his pocket knife, with no other light than an occasional gleam of lightning reflected by the water, commenced cutting for the purpose of getting a hole through the ship; and had cut through the inner part of the cabin, and far into the hard timber when his knife came in contact with a spike, which so dulled it as to render it useless. About this time voices were heard from the outside of the vessel this being the first sound that had come to their ears save the howling of the storm, and the peltings of the hail upon the bottom of the vessel. The schooner Pulaski, Capt. Mathewson, having discovered the wreck, after four hours beating came alongside and took from the wreck the well nigh exhausted sufferers. But in what way to proceed to rescue those in the cabin they knew not. While calculating upon the uncertainty of success, Capt. Mathewson formed the quick resolve, and carried into execution the plan which resulted in saving them, and which entitles him not only to their lasting gratitude, but ranks him high on the list of the humanely brave. - With a rope round his body, the waves running fearfully high at the time, he drove under the vessel, with his feet felt for the sky-light, into which he thrust them, to which they one by one dove down and were drawn out, with the exception of the boy, who was unable to dive as low as the Captain's feet. - A hole was immediately cut through the bottom of the vessel through which he was taken out. - When the hole was cut the discharge of confined air resembled the letting off of steam from an engine. No blame is attached to Captain Miner, he having used every precaution necessary, save a supply of ballast previous to sailing. [Watertown Jeffersonian]

(* this later appeared in the Upper Canada Herald, Oct. 30th, 1838.)

p.2 Commodore Barrie brings down wounded of 32d Reg't, wounded at Pt. Pelee. [Chronicle]

p.3 Sir John Colborne arrived last night in the steam boat Queen Victoria in 16 hours from Niagara.... The Queen Victoria is a handsome new boat, sail-rigged, and was launched on the Coronation Day. There were 9 steam boats in harbor this morning. [Chronicle, Aug. 8th]

Fire - in wooden buildings used as a Washing house for the Lake steamboats.


Managers - Messrs. McPherson & Crane.


Aug. 5th - The barge Harriet - Consignees: J. Young, Niagara.

Aug. 7th - The barge Queen Victoria (consignees listed.)

Aug. 14th - The steamer Margaret, Ballentyne, with two barges in tow (consignees listed.)

Aug. 15th - The steamer Cataraqui, Drummond with 5 barges in tow (consignees for barges Traveller, Trader and Jane.)

Departures for Bytown & Grenville.

Aug. 12 - The steamer Margaret, Ballentyne.

Aug. 14 - The steamer Rideau, Moran.

Aug. 15 - The steamer Bytown, Hunter.

Aug. 16 - The steamer Cataraqui, Drummond.

Departures for Montreal via the St. Lawrence.

Aug. 3 - The barges Oswego and Clara Fisher.

Aug. 8 - The barge Queen Victoria.

Aug. 13 - The barge Mary.

Aug. 17 - The barges Jane, Traveller and Trader.

The Diary of a Master Loafer - Part II.

Aug. 13th - McArthur's Hotel, Bytown. - This day the Cataraqui reached Bytown, having completed the distance from Kingston in twenty nine hours, thus giving the lie, (as far as the passage to Bytown is concerned,) to the thousand and one falsehoods daily propagated by the enemies to the Company, and the friends to the St. Lawrence route.

Speaking of the Company reminds me of a duty I owe it as well as the public, and I hasten to avail myself of this fitting opportunity. The Ottawa & Rideau Forwarding Company was first formed about the year 1830, by several leading Montreal merchants, including some gentlemen who had become personally acquainted with the then state and future prospects of this part of the country, by having taken contracts on the Rideau Canal, then in a state of completion. A lock to overcome the St. Ann's Rapids was built about this time, by the late Mr. Andrew Drummond, between the isle Perrot and the Vaudrieul shore, and the steamers Shannon, Ottawa, and St. Andrews were either built or purchased, I forget which; but although the company then went into operation, yet it waited until the full completion of the Grenville & Rideau Canals, which happened in the spring of 1833, before the line to Kingston was formed, and the present name assumed. From that period the prosperity of the Company may be dated; for although it had the whole of the River Forwarders as enemies, yet the superior advantages it afforded the public, in the certain, cheap and safe transportation of freight, were such, that it gradually surmounted all its difficulties, until in the commencement of the present year, overtures were made by the River Forwarders, of such a nature, that it consented to tow its former enemies' barges by its own steamboats, and the River route being abandoned, the whole forwarding business became concentrated on the Rideau Canal, under the surveillance of that Company, the trade formerly affected to despise. For several years the Company superintended its own business by means of Agents in the several towns; but on the death of the late Emery Cushing, Esq. in the spring of 1837, an arrangement was made by which the business in future was to be conducted by Messrs. McPherson & Crane, the present managers.

The Ottawa & Rideau Company possesses at this time the following steamboats: on the Ottawa, the Shannon, Ottawa, the St. Andrews, the Endeavour and the Nonsuch, all of which, except the last, are employed in the route from Lachine to Bytown; while on the Rideau Canal, the Cataraqui, Bytown, Rideau, Margaret, and the new boat Hunter, are fully employed in the conveyance of passengers and the towing of barges between Kingston and Bytown. The Company also owns and employs nearly twenty large barges and durham boats, many of which are nearly of one hundred tons burthen, and all of them exceeding fifty. The people permanently engaged to man these vessels, amount nearly to 300 souls, besides upwards fifty individuals acting as Agents, Clerks, Warehousemen and Porters in the various offices and Warehouses. Whatever may be the extent of similar establishments in Europe I know not, but I think I am correct in saying, that the Ottawa & Rideau Forwarding Company is the greatest of its kind on the continent of America. The Managers, Messrs. McPherson & Crane, are men of great experience and thoroughly conversant in business. - The Montreal Branch is superintended by Mr. McPherson, Mr. Crane divides his time between Prescott and Kingston, Mr. J.P. Weir is the Agent at Bytown, while at Kingston, in the absence of Mr. Crane, Mr. William Craig assumes the responsibility* The masters of the various steamboats and barges, are men selected by the managers for their trust-worthiness, and strict attention to their duty, and the punctuality with which they perform that duty, entitles them to the confidence reposed in them. In short, although it is sometimes the fashion to rail against this Company as a monopoly, yet from all I have observed and I have seen a good deal, I should be inclined to say, that no establishment is more worthy the general approbation of the public at large....

*The Company has Agents also at Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara, London and Sandwich, but their names I cannot now call to mind.


A MEETING of the proprietors of the Steam Boat Sir James Kempt will be held at the office of the subscriber, on Tuesday the 14th inst. at 12 o'clock, Noon. A general attendance is requested.


Kingston, August 8th, 1838.

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Aug. 17, 1838
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), Aug. 17, 1838