The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Nov. 10, 1880

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p.2 "Man the Life-Boat!" - The storm, of whose curious freaks and terrible devastations we have given our reader full and detailed accounts, was certainly one of the most violent that has swept over the country for years. The destruction of property has been immense, but the loss of life is of course incomparibly more deplorable. That of the sch. Sheridan, of Toronto, with all the crew, save one survivor, is one of the most harrowing casualties of the gale. The account states that the men perished within sight of over a hundred horror-stricken onlookers on shore, who were unable, for want of a life-boat, to render the needed succour to the drowning men. From this the lesson should surely be learnt of providing every harbour with a life-boat and its complete equipment. Had there been such a thing available we will warrant there would have been many brave hearts ready to man her and to go out to the rescue of the perishing. Even in a city of the size and importance of Toronto many lives have been lost for want of something of this kind, while, as a Toronto paper has put it, more than enough money is spent each year in corporation junkettings and similar foolishness to more than buy a craft for the salvation of human life. Of course money is never so thrown away by the prudent municipal fathers of the Limestone City, but something should be done to provide against disasters of this fatal sort which may happen during any storm in or near our harbour. From the nautical portion of our population we are sure relays of strong-armed and stout-hearted volunteers could be had to man the "life-saving ark," and the least the landsmen can do in such a case is to display public spirit and humanity enough to provide the boat. Whether this is the duty of the people in their private capacity, or whether the civic authorities, assisted to some extent by the Government, should assume and discharge this responsibility, we shall not undertake to decide; but certainly it is the duty of one or the other to look after this important matter and the lives that are lost for want of it should constitute an efficient and unanswerable appeal against longer delays.

Vessel Equipment.

To the editor of the British Whig;

Dear Sir - I would like to make a few remarks about the loss of life on the lakes. Steamers are compelled to carry life-preservers, but with vessels it is different. On them there is nothing whatever to save life. There are no life-preservers and some of the small boats are not fit to be hanging to their sterns. It is no wonder that the poor sailors are lost. There is an odd vessel that carries a life-preserver abaft of the cabin, in order that the man at the wheel may throw it to any-one who may accidently fall overboard. The public at large, or the Government, should compel vessels to carry a life-preserver for every soul on board, and then there would be some chance for saving life.

Yours, C.W. Crowley, Pres. Sailors Union


Perishing Seamen.

When the sch. Oriental arrived on Sunday afternoon, considerably damaged by the fearful gale through which it passed, her capt. reported that the sch. Norway should be close at hand, she having been before the Oriental, to windward, and heading for the same destination, Garden Island. Hours passed, and yet no tidings were received of the craft, respecting which grave apprehensions were entertained. The crew of the Oriental stated that when they last saw the missing schooner she was making so far to the south that it was probable she would have to tack in order to clear Nine Mile Point, and to attempt such a thing in the gale would be suicidal. Yesterday's news confirmed previous suspicions. The loss of the crew, so near home, is a very distressing event, and the relatives of those who were drowned could not be more prostrated than Mr. D.D. Calvin, whose depressing thoughts were not of the vessel, but of the unfortunate men. The sch. Norway was in good trim and under the command of skilful and careful men; but what did good management amount to when the vessel was disabled in a blow the like of which has not been experienced on the lakes within the memory of the oldest navigator. Some years ago, shortly after the Norway was built, she was struck by a squall and upset on Lake Huron. The cook was confined in the cabin, and would have been drowned had not Capt. George Malone, now master of the sch. Bismarck, dove down, broken the cabin windows, and rescued her.

A Reasonable Conjecture - The sch. Norway left Garden Island some 3 weeks ago for Toledo, where she loaded timber, and in due time started for Garden Island. There are many surmises regarding the accident. One gentleman, of long experience in the shipping business, says it is evident that the sch. was struck suddenly by the squall, which blew the sails away and took the masts out of her. Even in the harbour some vessels were in danger of losing their spars, and those that had sails set had them torn and blown to pieces as quickly as if they were made of paper. It was no light wind dismasted the Norway, for as a matter of fact no vessels on the lakes are kept in better trim than those owned by Messr. Calvin & Son. Every precaution is taken by the firm to keep the schooners in perfect working order. Men are employed, after each trip, to thoroughly inspect them and have necessary repairs made. Only competent men are employed at this work. Even had the crew taken to the yawl, far from shore, at the nearest 7 or 8 miles, it was impossible for the boat to ride out the sea.

The Schooner's Officers - From a gentleman intimate with all on board the Norway we learn the following particulars:

Capt. William O'Brien, was the son of the present head teamster on Garden Island. He was a young man of 23 years. From his boyhood he had been sailing. From before the mast he worked upwards until he became mate of the sch. Siberia, the captaincy of which was held by his brother George. Last spring he was made captain of the Norway and by his careful and painstaking endeavours to fill that position won the confidence of his employers. He was proud of the honour of being a Captain, and well he might, for it is a post to which many young men aspire.

"A better man never sailed a vessel than Capt. Frederick Jolliffe," was the certificate of an old mariner who had known Mr. Jolliffe for 40 years. Mr. Jolliffe was born on the Isle of Wight in 1819 or 1820. He was apprenticed to a merchant ship, after which, in company with his father and brother, he emigrated to Canada, settling near Toronto. He pursued the calling of a sailor. About 1840 he was married in this city, in St. George's Cathedral, to Miss Mary Wright. They settled in Kingston living on Wellington Street for a number of years. Subsequently they removed to Wolfe Island, where they had since resided. Mr. Jolliffe was a most careful commander, in fact too careful. No neater or trimmer vessel than his sailed on the lakes. He commanded vessels owned by the late Capt. Gaskin. One of the oldest vessels sailed by him was the sch. Despatch now plying between Buffalo and Detroit. The other schrs. which he commanded were the Mary Merritt, Jessie Drummond, Jessie H. Breck, Bismarck, and last year the Annandale, now sailed by Capt. Dandy. For 25 years Capt. Jolliffe did duty for Messrs. Calvin & Breck. During the whole course of Capt. Jolliffe's career he lost but one vessel. This was in the fall of 1847. The captain was a jolly, whole-souled fellow, who bore his age well. He was robust and hearty. He expressed himself as not desirous of going on the last trip. The Captain had a large family but only one daughter and his wife survive him. The Captain has a brother at St. Catharines, one sister at Lockport, N.Y. and another at Toronto. His brother Joseph was drowned in Western Ontario not too many years ago. Capt. Jolliffe was also an uncle of Mrs. W.H. Godwin. All who knew the late Captain regret his untimely death and sympathize with his sorrowing relatives. A telegram, received last evening from St. Catharines, reports that Capt. Jolliffe was sick abed when the Norway passed through the Welland Canal.

Remainder of the Crew - William P. Crosby, 2nd mate, leaves a mother and father on the Island. His mother was a domestic in Mr. I.A. Breck's family previous to her marriage, and it was with moistened eyes that that gentleman last evening spoke of the young man's death. He was much respected on the Island. He was advancing and no doubt expected promotion in a short time.

Francis Quinn lived with his sister, Miss Quinn, the present assistant teacher on Garden Island. He was a brother of the noted diver John Quinn, now of Detroit. Another brother, Terrance, lives at Port Dalhousie.

The most heavily bereaved family on the Island is that of Mr. Snell, both of whose sons, Thomas & William, have been drowned. The loss will be the more deeply felt as the boys were the support of a crippled father.

Sarah Cottenden, the cook, was a domestic in Mr. I.A. Breck's house on the Island. On his removal to Kingston she boarded the vessel, and her sister now lives with Mr. Breck. Deceased was an industrious person, amiable and kind. Her parents reside on Garden Island.

The Kingston Boys - Joseph Bissonette was known to many in this city. He leaves a wife and 2 children, who reside near Mortonwood. They are left in very unfortunate circumstances.

Peter Burns, who was believed to be on board, lived in Little's Lane, off Barrie Street. A Whig reporter visited the widowed mother last night. He learned that Peter was the eldest of a large family. He had been ill during the summer, but had recovered sufficiently to resume work. Bissonette got him the position on the Norway. He was seen by a young man named Hussey while the vessel was passing through the canal on Thursday last. The mother has hoped that he had got off somewhere, but the chances are against the supposition. Mr. Burns was about 28 years of age.

Our readers will sympathize with the friends of those who, by this terrible accident, met an unhappy death. That the brave fellows met it unflinchingly we have no doubt. It would have been a source of comfort to many persons had there been even one survivor to tell the harrowing story accurately. This accident, following so soon after the loss of the Olive Branch, has caused a profound sensation in the city.

Marine Notes.

Seamens wages at Chicago have advanced to $4 a day.

The sch. Jessie Macdonald has gone to Bath to load barley for Buffalo at 4 cents.

The sch. Wavecrest on Sunday lost her anchor. She was towed here for repairs.

During Sunday's blow the sch. Gazelle dragged her anchor and drifted ashore.

Capt. Cuthbert expects to commence work in his shipyard at Belleville next week.

The Watertown went today to the rescue of the A.G. Ryan, ashore in Dawson's Bay.

The Belle Sheridan, lost at Consecon, was an old vessel, having been built at Oswego in 1852.

The sch. Siberia, timber-laden, passed through the Welland Canal yesterday for Kingston.

The steam barge Norman, for the safety of which there was so much anxiety, is at Mill Point.

The tug Sherwood has gone to Amherst Island to take the sch. John Wesley off the banks.

The sch. White Oak, laden with lumber, from Kingston to Oswego, safely reached the latter place last evening.

The Norway is expected to arrive here about 9 o'clock this evening. The captain of the Robb will, no doubt claim salvage.

Patrick McSherry arrived in Toronto today, having with him his young brother James, the sole survivor of the ill-fated Belle Sheridan.

Great dissatisfaction is expressed at the slow progress being made on the new canal. It is feared that it will not be open for navigation with 12 feet of water during 1881.

The weather was too severe for the Chieftain to lighten the T.C. Street, ashore at Wellington. "Probs" indicates another storm.

The sch. Adelia, at Sandhurst is loading barley for Oswego. Another 20,000 bushel vessel is chartered to carry a cargo of barley to Milwaukee from Bath.

After the damaged grain (purchased by Capt. Gaskin for 9 1/2 cents per bushel) had been taken out of the Lily Hamilton the pumps failed to keep her afloat. She filled with water, listed, and sank near the Portsmouth wharf. She will be raised at once and put on the ways for repairs.

Propellor Zealand.

Oswego Nov. 10th - Capt. Edward George, of the sch. Mary Taylor, which arrived at Oswego yesterday, reported that about 10 miles from Point Peter he passed through a great number of barrels of flour, among which was a yawl boat with its quarter stove in, and found it marked "Garden City, xxx Clarksville." The boat and flour are supposed to have been on the steamer Zealand, which left Toronto at 10 o'clock on Saturday night for Montreal with a deck load of flour.

Hamilton Nov. 10th - The following is the list, as far as can be ascertained, of those on board the prop. Zealand: Edward Zealand, Captain and Owner; Joseph Mullet, of Lachine, first mate; Thos. Dewly, of St. Catharines 1st engineer; Thos. Armstrong, of Hamilton, carpenter; rest of crew supposed to be Toronto men.

Port Hope Nov. 10th - Capt. Henning, of the sch. Marie Annette, just arrived, reports having seen a hawser box with "steamer Zealand" painted on it, with door frames and cabin material floating near it, bearing the appearance of the upper works of the wreck of a steamer, about 15 miles south of Long Point. He could see no signs of a vessel.

The propellor was full canal size, and being built by Mr. A. Robertson, of Hamilton, in 1874, was a comparatively new vessel. Her cost at that time was $32,000, and even at present, with the recent depression of ship property, she was valued at $25,000. Her machinery was taken from the propellor Chatham, burned a few years ago, Burlington Bay, and she had been kept in excellent repair, most of her woodwork being new. She was engaged in the lake trade between St. Catharines and Montreal, and had hitherto a successful season, meeting with no accident. On Saturday she was in the best shape to meet a storm, as she only drew 9 feet. At about half-past six o'clock that night she steamed out into the darkness, and has not since been seen.

Her crew numbered in all about 16 men. The cargo was valued at $15,500, and was insured for $14,000 in the Manhattan of New York and Greenwich of New York, each company holding one-half. The vessel was insured in the Phoenix, of Brooklyn.

We learn that the flour, (360 bbls) constituted her deck load, and that she carried, besides a cargo of wheat consigned to Messrs. A.W. Ogilvie & Co., of Montreal. Last Thursday the prop. was in this harbour, having discharged, at the M.T. Co.'s wharf, her grain to avoid running the river, the water in which is now very low; at the same time she unloaded a quantity of apples, which were forwarded to Montreal in a barge by the K. & M. Forwarding Co. The Zealand was owned and sailed by Capt. Zealand, an experienced mariner, a brother of the captain of Messrs. Calvin & Son's ocean vessel Garden Island.

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Nov. 10, 1880
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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), Nov. 10, 1880