The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Oct. 5, 1887

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The Prop. California Founders.

The Loss of Life.

Mackinaw City, Mich., Oct. 4th - The propeller California left Chicago Saturday night bound for Montreal. She carried a crew of twenty-two persons, and besides three passengers. She encountered a heavy wind early Monday morning off the Beavers, and at 4 p.m. the sea had increased so that it was impossible to steer her, and three hundred barrels of pork were thrown overboard, but without helping her much. About eleven p.m., when just above St. Helena Island, the sea broke in the gangways and put out the fires. She then swung around in the trough of the sea and began breaking up. The captain ordered the boats lowered, but she was so badly listed that it was impossible to lower but one. The captain went into the cabin to get the passengers out, but when he returned found that the first mate and several men had left with the boat. The steamer now began rapidly breaking up, and soon all hands were struggling in the water. The captain and engineer succeeded in getting a boat loose from the wreck, and picked up the second engineer, cook, and one lady passenger. Their boat drifted down alongside the propeller A. Folsom, which was anchored under St. Helena, and was picked up and brought here. Another boat had succeeded in getting ashore near Point La Barbe. The steamer Faxton picked up one man who was drifting down the straits on some wreckage. Among the lost are George Foley, purser; Cornelius Connerton, of Detroit, a passenger; Ella Pappa, stewardess; Arthur Hazard, cabin boy; and Robert Grant. The shore for five miles above here is strewn with wreckage. Capt. Trowell says all were supplied with life preservers, and it is probable that all the bodies will be recovered.

Among those known to be saved are as following: Mrs. Richard Connerton, of Detroit, a passenger; James H. Ellis, first engineer; J.V. Trowell, captain; Samuel Mills, second engineer; Mrs. Blood, the cook; Peter Legault, first mate; Owen Rourke, of Kingston, wheelsman; A.G. Hawkins, of Belleville, Ont., watchman; Peter Nallis, of Montreal, deck hand; Joe Major, a Norwegian, deck hand; William Brown, of Scotland, deck hand; A.J. Ives, of Montreal, deck hand; Marcelan Charbote, of Montreal, deck hand.

Stories Of The Saved.

St. Ignace, Mich., Oct. 4th - Owen Rourke tells the following thrilling story: "At the Beavers the wind changed from the south-east to west and north-west, and blew a living gale. The boat was loaded with pork and corn, and the pork broke loose and the boat sprung a leak and shipped so much water that it put out the fires. She drifted with the wind at the mercy of the seas until midnight, the sea constantly breaking over her, carrying away everything loose. At about one o'clock all hope had been given up, and the passengers and crew gathered in the cabin and put on life preservers. I was standing aft when an immense sea struck her and threw her over on her side. When she came down she appeared to strike bottom and the whole cabin collapsed with a tremendous crash." Rourke says he pulled himself into a lifeboat and cut it loose. There were eight others in the boat with him. They drifted around the straits until five o'clock, the boat being full of water. A fireman and a passenger from Montreal, who were hanging on the side, were swept overboard. "We reached shore about 5 o'clock. Our cries aroused the settlers, and they helped us on land. We were so benumbed with cold we could not walk, and one man was insensible."

A.G. Hawkins, Belleville, says: "I was in the cabin when it collapsed, lying with the crew and passengers on the floor to keep warm. When the crash came I made a rush for the stairway with the rest. It was a perfect jam. Just as I got off it the railing gave and a dozen or more fell to the bottom. I reached a door and got out. Ives, a deckhand, and another man were badly cut with glass by crawling through windows."

Purser Foley placed all the boats' papers and money, $1,000 in bills, in his pocket before she struck. The wind is still blowing a gale, and it is thought that the bodies will come ashore near Mackinaw City. Harry, the young passenger from Montreal, showed great courage. When he saw that he could hold on no longer he threw up his hands, saying, "Poor mother is dead, so I might as well die also," and then sank.

George Foley, the purser, undoubtedly lost, is a son of Thomas Foley, tanner, Collingwood, and brother-in-law of James A. Dawson, advertising agent of the Monetary Times, Toronto. Foley was a printer.

The News In Kingston.

The propeller California was built in 1872 by Robertson Bros. of Hamilton, is rated A 2 and valued at $27,000. She was lengthened in 1883. E. Crangle & Co., Toronto, are the registered owners. Her tonnage was 900. During the season closing she plied between Montreal and Chicago, and this trip would have finished her trading for the year. She left Chicago at 6 o'clock on Saturday evening with 20,000 bushels of grain and 700 barrels of pork. Mariners in this city have discussed the disaster and are of the unanimous opinion that the boat's loss was due to overloading. Capt. Donnelly said he had always prophesied that the lengthened canalers would go down as the California has done. Capt. Gaskin says the Columbia, a sister ship, went to the bottom under similar circumstances. The propellers cannot stand the strain put upon them, and since the deepening of the canal the tendency is to load too deeply.

Mrs. Blood, one of the ladies' maids, was saved along with Capt. Trowell and three others. She was picked up and landed at Mackinaw City by the steamer Folsom. Mrs. Blood was a former Kingstonian, having at one time been housekeeper at the Burnett house. Her husband formerly conducted a summer resort at the Sand Banks, near Picton.

Owen Rourke, the wheelsman, a Kingstonian, worked in the locomotive works, but his health failing he quit there and was for a time engaged at Breck & Booth's yard. On the last trip of the California to Montreal he was engaged by Capt. Trowell.

The disaster brought sad tidings to one home in this city. Miss Ella Pappa, one of the lady's maids, being among the lost. There was a feeling of hope last night that she had been saved, but as no tidings came about her the conviction arose that she had perished. She was the eldest daughter of W.J. Pappa of this office, about nineteen years of age, and remarkable for her sprightliness and activity. The gloom created in her late home is such as to call forth the sincerest sympathy, and the family will be deeply commisserated with in their affliction.

Other Disasters Reported.

Alpena, Mich., Oct. 5th - The schooner Holmes, loaded with lumber, is reported ashore at Middle Island.

Glen Haven, Mich., Oct. 5th - The schr. Arctic is high and dry. She sprung a leak and the captain beached her. The schr. Pulaski, of Toledo, loaded with coal for Manitowac, is ashore in Good Harbor bay.

Clearances: schr. British Queen, Oswego, 117,796 feet lumber; schr. Annie Falconer, Oswego, 11,870 feet lumber, 415,250 shingles; schr. Annie M. Foster, Cape Vincent, 160 tons iron ore.



The sloop Idle Wild is receiving barley at Simcoe Island for this city.

The steambarge Tecumseh and tow cleared from Collinsby today for the canal.

The schr. A. Falconer cleared last night with lumber for Oswego.

The tug Thomspon and four barges, light, arrived from Montreal this morning.

The elevator Sparrow, owned by the Kingston and Montreal Forwarding Co., is receiving a general overhauling.

The steamer Khartoum, from Washburn, discharged 1,500 bushels of barley at Richardson's dock. The steamer will take coal to Brockville for Swift.

The steamer Ella Ross has been put into winter quarters at Smith's Falls and the members of her crew who reside in Kingston have returned home.

The schr. A. Foster left last evening for Cape Vincent with 160 tons of ore for New York. She will be unloaded under the superintendence of Capt. Sheeley, a resident at the Cape.

The schr. B.W. Folger has gone to Detroit to load barley for Oswego; and the schrs. Clara White and Gearing are loading barley at Wolfe Island for Oswego. The grain is owned by Richardson & Son.

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Date of Original:
Oct. 5, 1887
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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), Oct. 5, 1887