The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), June 20, 1888

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The three-masted schooner Willie Keeler, laden with 16,800 bushels of corn, for Midland and Kingston, was run into by the steamship Robert Mills, on Friday night, twelve miles on the East shore, and about midway between the Little and Great Au Sables. Ten minutes after the crash the schooner had gone to the bottom. Captain Pritchard, his wife, Mate Hughes, and the cook barely had time to save their lives.

The Mills arrived in Chicago shortly after 7 o'clock, and was towed up to Hedstrom's. Captain Rice volunteered the information that the rescued crew had all gone ashore and could not be seen. The first man met, however, after Rice had been thanked and left was Mate Hughes. He readily consented to tell the story.

"We were scudding on a four-mile gait, before a southerly wind in a thick fog, on Friday night. The lake was as smooth as glass, and the wind showed a disposition to veer around to the east. We had been in heavy weather all day, and our fog horn was kept agoing. When off the two Sables I heard the whistle of a steamer. Presently I heard it again, but the last blast had barely died away when I was lifted bodily off my feet. I was standing aft on the taff rail and was almost knocked down the companion-way. The crash I heard, as I was being hurled to the deck, I shall never forget. I got up hastily and saw that immediate action was necessary. I ordered my men to lower the yawl, which was hanging over the stern on the davits. The crew were panic stricken and could do nothing. The two women, who were below, rushed up on deck in their night clothes. The big black bow of the steamer rose up like a mountain on our port directly after the crash, and I knew at once that we had been run into. As the men were scared they fouled their rising lashes, and there they hung, refusing to rise or lower. I whipped out my jack knife and with one slash severed the rising lashe. We helped the two women in first, and then Captain Pritchard, the men, and myself hustled into the boat as best we could. We pulled off a yard or two, when I noticed the big mastiff standing on the port rail amidships. "Jump! Jerry!" I cried, but he refused to budge, sending up instead a wail which was most pitiful. I repeated the cry, and sculled the yawl up to the vessel's side, alongside of the dog. Reaching out my arms for the poor brute I endeavored to catch hold of him. With a snarl, which appeared to say, "I won't desert the ship," Jerry sprang to the deck of the rapidly sinking schooner and ran up forward. The vessel had already settled, her stern rising out of the sea, and her head under water. It was dangerous to wait longer. She was settled heavily, and I knew from past experience that we would be dragged down by the suction if she ever made a plunge. We pulled away. The Mills in the meantime had stopped and backed strong. We were hoisted aboard. I had barely gotten over the sides of the steamer when the Keller gave a forward lurch, filled up, and with a mighty roar headed into the sea." Captain Pritchard lost everything he had, including nearly $400 in freight money, a valuable gold watch, and his own as well as his wife's wardrobe. The cook managed to save nothing but an old dress. Mate Hughes and the men before the mast were equally unfortunate. They were all brought to Chicago. The Keller had a rating of B 1 in the Inland Lloyds, was built in Oswego in 1871, and owned by Pritchard & Martin, of Oswego.

The Kathleen Launched.

Last fall Mr. W. Bajus sold his interest in the steamer Rideau Belle to Capt. Noonan, and soon after began the building of a new steamer on the property adjoining Anglin's saw mill. Work progressed rapidly until the boat was ready for launching a week ago. She was to have been let off her ways on Saturday, but owing to low water the event did not occur. On Monday it was thought she could be safely launched, but it was discovered that she drew twelve inches more water than was at the foot of the ways. Upon further examination yesterday it was found that the water had risen and that there was only six inches less water at the stern than she would draw. They determined to push her off, calulating that she would go down the ways with sufficient force to enable her to reach deep water. The men were right in their supposition and a more satisfactory launch could not have been witnessed. The steamer did not start until 3:30 p.m. Long before this time a large audience of citizens gathered in the vicinity of the saw-mill. The men were not long in getting the boat ready. Before she moved Mr. Bajus lifted his little girl Kathleen, after whom the boat is called, upon the woodwork near the bow. A blue ribbon tied to a bottle of wine held by Kathleen, was suspended over the boat, and when she slipped away, Kathleen christened her by breaking the bottle on the woodwork. At the foot of the ways the boat laboured a little owing to low water, but got over the difficulty satisfactorily. A hearty cheer was given by the spectators and workmen when it was seen that she was safely off the ways. She sits proudly in the water and looks staunch. She is a composite boat, made partly of steel and wood, 109 feet long in length and 28 feet beam, and will be driven by a triple expansion engine designed by H.W. Granger, of Detroit, and manufactured by the Kingston locomotive works company. Her boilers were built in the same place. The Kathleen will run on the Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal route. She will have twenty-four staterooms and sufficient saloon accommodation for passengers. Her commandant will be Mr. W. Bajus assisted by Capt. L. Depencier; her first engineer T. Milne; her purser W.H. Storey. She is expected to travel fourteen miles an hour. The work on her has been well done and gives the owner satisfaction. The ship-carpentry work was executed under M. Clayton as foreman; the joiner work by D. Earl; the caulking by E. Arundell. On the outside of the hull there is steel plate from the covering board and to the depth of twenty-four inches, and under the deck beams inside there there are nine staunchions rivetted to the frames. The boat has to receive her machinery yet and be painted inside. She will not be ready for service before July 1st.

Arrival of the Rosedale.

This morning the steamship Rosedale arrived here from London, Eng., en route to Chicago. She is lying at the Montreal transportation company's dock, where she will reship a portion of her cargo of 5,000 barrels of Portland cement brought over on her. To secure passage through the St. Lawrence canals she had to lighten to nine feet draught. The Rosedale is the first steamer that ever reached the harbor on a like passage, and the event will mark a departure which is likely to add a new feature to the commerce of this port. The Rosedale left London May 23rd and reached Montreal about a week ago, where she was handed over by Capt. Robertson to the command of Capt. Ewert, formerly of the Cuba. The Rosedale has been purchased for and will be placed on the line of the Merchant's line of steamers plying between Chicago, Kingston, Montreal and intermediate points. She was built at Newcastle-on-Tyne for coastwise trade, but before she left the stock was purchased by Messrs. Geddes & Crandall, Toronto. The present voyage is the Rosedale's maiden trip. She is of steel, 660 tons register, length of keel 180 feet, 56 feet beam, 21 feet depth of hold from awning deck to top of water ballast. She is intended solely for freight, is straight in stem, fitted with triple expansion engine, and is capable of an average speed of 9 1/4 knots. Every modern improvement is to be found on board, and although the Rosedale is intended entirely for freight the officers' quarters are well fitted up. On her trial trip from her native place to London, she gave a speed of eleven knots an hour and every satisfaction.

After her cargo is unloaded in Chicago she will go into the grain trade, going first to Duluth, whence her trial trip on the fresh water seas will be made. It is the intention of her owners for the present to keep her on the lakes, but another vessel of the same class is being built and it is probable it will be out in time to handle grain of this year's crop. In the fall the Rosedale will be loaded with grain for an English port, returning in the spring to begin a regular series of trips between the old world and the heart of the new. That is what is contemplated at present and will be carried out if she proves successful, which the owners are very confident of. But if it should be found that the competition of the railroads and the regular lines is too severe the Rosedale will be confined to the lakes, in the grain trade. The experiment is an interesting one and will be watched eagerly on both sides of the Atlantic. If successful it will revolutionize the grain carrying trade of this continent, and may lead to the establishment of an inland fleet of international grain carriers.

Other Marine Items.

The schr. John R. Noyes, of Oswego, left Portsmouth this morning for Oswego light.

The prop. Armenia and schr. Denmark from Bay City with oak timber has reached Garden Island.

The schr. Lem Ellsworth, that ran on Plum Island shoal and sank, is in port. She was lightened of 175 tons of granite, which was put in the barge Ox. Then the steamer Maud pulled the schooner off and towed her to Kingston. The hole in her is forward and not large. She will be towed to Oswego for repairs. Her lighterage will be taken over on the schr. Julia. The cargo and vessel were insured.

Arrivals: prop. St. Magnus, Duluth, 35,000 bush. wheat; schr. Singapore, Oswego, 362 tons coal.

Clearances: prop. Reliance, Oswego, 174,000 feet lumber.

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Date of Original:
June 20, 1888
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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), June 20, 1888