The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), Sept. 13, 1879

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p.3 The Tolley Case - It is charged by some of the crew of the propeller Persia that the captain did not make sufficient efforts to save Mr. Tolley who was drowned on Saturday last, by the capsizing of his yacht.


Thrilling Experience Of A Detroit Girl

Lashed To The Bulwarks Of The Sinking Propeller Bertshcy

[Detroit Free Press]

Among the passengers who arrived on Saturday night from Lake Huron was Miss Belle Johnson, principal saleslady in the confectionary establishment of Thorpe, Hawley & Co., of this city. She was visited on Monday by a representative of the Free Press, to whom she gave the following description of her experience on the ill-fated Bertshcy:

"After leaving Bay City we had much heavy weather and had become rather accustomed to the tossing of the boat. Thursday night no change was observed and the lady passengers, myself among the number, collected in the after cabin to listen to the stories of several Southern ladies, refugees from the fever epidemic, who had chosen the lake as a safe resort. I was standing within three feet of my state-room when the conversation was ended by a terrible crash which threw me headlong across the cabin. The other ladies were crowed in a corner, not being able to speak. For some minutes no one moved, and I only heard an occasional prayer above the hoarse roar. One lady, like myself, had experience in similar emergencies, and we with difficulty gained the deck. The night was very dark, and nothing could be seen except the lighthouse beacon, several miles away. Our steam whistle had been sounding signals of distress, but as the water dashed over the engine fires they were put out, and the only signal on board gradually died to a moan, and then failed quite. We looked for torches, but there were none on board. Our lamps had been dashed out, and we were left groping about in the darkness. Captain McGregor had been sick in bed, but I could distinguish him on deck, giving directions for the launching of a boat which was to make an attempt at landing in order to secure assistance. The boat was in the water but a minute, and then I knew by the screams I heard that it had gone over.

We passed the night in this way, comforting each other, and assisting the crew as we could. The male passengers on board had secured their life preservers and sat with them on all night, but the women had given everything up, and I refused to put one on, thinking it would only prolong my suffering. Early on Friday morning the Steward came below and insisted upon buckling on the preserver. It seemed like getting into my coffin, for I had said my last prayer and was ready. After securing the belts we were led to the upper deck, and as the boat threatened to part every minute, we were lashed, one by one, to the outer bulwarks. Whenever the sea poured over me the ropes held me fast, and I sat tied there three hours looking into the water, and wishing I could go down and have it ended.

The captain passed by and with his glass I could see some of our men clinging to the foot of a perpendicular cliff about forty feet in height. They had drifted ashore the night before when the small boat was swamped. I also saw the life boat being launched, and the crowd of men hurrying up and down the shore as if bewildered. The life-saving boat could be seen an instant, then it would sink into the trough of the sea, and we thought it was lost. It gradually neared us, and a line was thrown out and secured by Captain Kish. Then two men (line unreadable) through the water toward our boat. It took them a long time, but they were at last on board, and knew how to direct our efforts for safety. Through their management the boats came near by, and we were hauled on board and then taken to land. Not until I stood on solid ground could I think that it was possible for me to escape death.

The greatest praise is due the men in the life boat. I visited their station on Saturday, and found the road over which they carried their boat rough and sandy. As it was five miles from the propeller's wreck, it seemed marvellous that they could reach her at all."


The following are the arrivals in the harbour since last Thursday:

M.T. Co. - schr. Fellowcraft, Toledo, 14,847 bush corn; Lydon, Toledo, 19,187 bush corn; Brooklyn, Toledo, 24,452 bush wheat; Annie Falconer, Toledo, 12,650 bush wheat; Cecelia, Detroit, 20,279 bush wheat; Prussia, Toledo, 24,000 bush wheat; Persia, Toledo, 11,700 bush wheat; Northman, Toledo, 18,800 bush wheat.

Chicago & St. Lawrence Company - schr. Antelope, Detroit, 22,400 bush corn; Queen of the Lakes, Toledo, 15,000 bush of wheat; Singapore, Detroit, 12,253 bush of wheat; Mary Anne, Toledo, 10,004 bush wheat.

Kingston & Montreal Company - schr. W.R. Taylor, Detroit, 25,207 bush wheat; J.G. Worts, Detroit, 23,000 bush wheat; Hyderabad, Chicago, 19,839 bush corn; prop. Sovereign, Chicago, 3,841 bush wheat, lightened; schr. I.H. Breck, Detroit, 22,000 bush wheat; Erie Belle, Detroit, 17,200 bush wheat.

p.4 Life Boats - a Washington despatch says six life boats being built for use on the lakes, 26' 8" x 7' 3 1/2" x 3' 8"; oak keel, mahogany planking; for Life-Saving service.

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Sept. 13, 1879
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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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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), Sept. 13, 1879