The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Sept. 19, 1889

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W.B. Leslie (sic) Lesslie, who has the contract to raise the schr. Armstrong sunk near Brockville, has been unfortunate since he began the work. The means by which he undertook to float the steamer are new and his operations have been watched with unusual interest. To raise a large boat like the Armstrong with pontoons is no light matter, and Mr. Leslie expected that he could not escape meeting with accidents during the performance of his contract. But he did not think that he would meet with such a disastrous accident as that which occurred yesterday afternoon.

He was very hopeful yesterday morning that he would have the Armstrong afloat in a very short time, probably before the present week closed, but his hopes were shattered in a very quick way.

Yesterday about mid-day men were locating two pontoons on one side of the sunken steamer. Into one of the pontoons air was being pumped. Chains were being fastened tightly about the ends of the pontoons to keep them in their places. All this was being done a hundred feet below the surface. Suddenly something snapped and the water became clouded. One of the pontoons, like an arrow, shot upwards before the men could realize what was going on. With a force equal to over 200 tons the pontoon struck the old schooner Gaskin on the bottom and turned her half over. She came back again and received another thump and then the pontoon went into the air forty feet, leaving the Gaskin in a very bad condition. The water rushed through a large hole in her hold and she filled in a very short time.

This morning Captain Ryan, in charge of the schooner Gaskin, Mr. Leslie and G. Booth came to the city from Brockville on the tug McArthur. They were on the Gaskin at the time the pontoon struck her.

Mr. Leslie feels a little discouraged, but is determined to carry out his contract. Over $10,000 worth of material belonging to him went down on the schooner. Some of the diving apparatus was only purchased recently.

Capt. Ryan was seen at a hotel. He said: "I was captain of the ill-fated schooner Gaskin. A few minutes before the accident I was standing at the stern of the schooner. Men were working forward at the machines. Suddenly I felt a shock as if something had struck the boat. Then she partly turned over, and was pounded a second time on her bottom. She came back to her place, and the pontoon shot out of the water as fast as lightning. I looked into the hold to see what was the matter, and saw water rushing in in large volumes. I thought it was then time to get to the tug McArthur, which was close by. The other men got on to the tug, and then I raised the cook on. She was very much exhausted. I went back for my coat and just got it in time. When I was stepping off the rail of the schooner to the tug the unfortunate boat went down, sinking to the depth of over 100 feet."

George Booth said: " I was eating my dinner with the cook, when the pontoon bobbed up and threw us on the floor, with the table and its contents on top of us. I crawled from under the table, and found the cook in a very dangerous place. She was covered up with several articles of furniture. I released her and assisted her to the deck, so that she could get on the tug. She was badly injured about the body, and may not get over the shock for some time. For an instant I was not able to realize what was the matter."

Annie Lawless is the name of the cook. She lives on Alfred street, and was only hired on Saturday last.

It is supposed that the strain of the two pontoons was too much for the cable, which broke, letting them fly up with the result of sinking the Gaskin. The second pontoon sank again, but the first was secured. The other two are still alongside of the Armstrong. The men have lost all their clothes but the diver and his mate have gone down the river to pick up any thing that may have floated away. The loss will be very severe, all the engines and materials having been on board the barge. The drum of the air compressor has been saved but that is about all.

Capt. Leslie is not yet beaten, and says he will try again to raise the Armstrong, but it will be a considerable time before things can be got into working order again.


The steamer St. Lawrence is having her decks painted.

The schr. Gleniffer arrived this morning with grain from Chicago.

The schr. Robert Gaskin, which was sunk near the Armstrong yesterday, is over 25 years old.

John Dandy and E. Mulleen deny the report that they had been appointed shipping masters at this port.

Capt. John Donnelly has received the contract of raising the tug Myra, sunk near Prescott. He left this afternoon for that place.

The schr. Speedwell, from Toledo, is discharging coal at Toronto. Her rate is 95 cents per ton, a very great difference from the rates in 1872-3. The freight then was $3 per ton.

The underwriters of the steamer Rothesay have not as yet adjusted the claims and, therefore, nothing has been settled about raising her. She has settled nearly two feet in the mud since she was beached. The Rothesay is badly damaged, her bow being crushed in, and had it not been for a bulkhead forward it is doubtful if she could have reached shore.

The schr. S.H. Dunn, from Toledo, is discharging timber at Garden Island. It will bring one more cargo of timber to the Island from Toledo.


During the series of local races held under the Kingston yacht club each boat in the fleet has had the kind of day in which she was best. Yesterday the heavy weather boats had all they wanted, and the race was a good one from whatever standpoint one may choose to view it. The crews of the different boats felt confident that yesterday was their day and felt that they would win, consequently they were all "looking for blood," but more than one of them found water instead. There were fewer mishaps than usual, notwithstanding the big blow. One man fell overboard but never lost hold of the boat so he was pulled on board without any delay, and so far as we can learn this was the only accident. The boats crossed the line in the following order:

Gracie 2 54 45 4 18 15

Gerda 2 55 00 4 55 50

Norma 2 55 15 5 10 20

Heba 2 55 20 5 13 15

Garfield 2 56 00 4 48 30

Laura 2 59 25 5 01 10

After a close and most exciting race the boats crossed the line at the finish in the following order: Gracie, Garfield, Gerda, Laura, Norma, Hebe. The next race will occur on Friday afternoon.

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Sept. 19, 1889
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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), Sept. 19, 1889