The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), May 19, 1890

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No accidents are reported on the south shore about Oswego.

The prop. Tecumseh and barges were weather bound yesterday at Port Dalhousie.

Capt. Beaupre who has been confined to his home by a bad attack of pneumonia is recovering.

While going to the wreck of the Jessie Breck yesterday the shaft of the steamyacht Mulberry was broken.

The old canaller North Star was sold at Chicago on Friday to George C. Finney for $300. A dozen creditors have claims against her.

The tug Bronson with four barges in tow arrived from Montreal this morning. She clears this evening with four barges loaded with grain for the same place.

An attempt having been suggested to remove Michael Conroy, superintendent of the Lachine Canal representations have been made to Ottawa against such a thing. The memorial is signed by all the forwarders and ship companies in Montreal.

Arrivals: str. Rosedale, Chicago, 40,000 bush corn; schr. J.G Worts, Duluth, 23,055 bush wheat; schr. Albacore, Duluth, 25,435 bush wheat; prop. Shickluna, Duluth, 16,000 bush wheat; schr. White Oak, Oswego, 357 tons coal.

The steam yacht H.R. Clark, Capt. Sleith, is in port. She came from Alexandria Bay last evening with H.R. Clark and Mr. Southgate, proprietor of the Thousand Island House. The yacht is four years old and can cover 11 miles per hour.

On Saturday at 9:00 the str. Haggart reached the city from Perth with 1,500 bushels of rye and a lot of merchandise. This is the first cargo that has arrived here from the basin of the new Tay Canal which runs into Perth 7 1/2 miles from the Rideau River. The canal contains two locks. The work in connection with it is not entirely completed. Dredging is still going on and when it is done the Haggart will make regular trips between the city and Perth. It is expected that a large business will be done by means of the canal. The Haggart is a tidy little craft and a steady sailor. She is owned by Seeley and Moffat, Perth.


Eight Souls Perish By the Capsizing Of a Vessel.

On Saturday the schr. Jessie Breck foundered off Nine Mile Point, and eight souls were undoubtedly lost within sight of home. The catastrophe was a most painful one and has created great sadness and sympathy for the families bereaved. The lost are:

Thomas Mackie, Captain.

Joseph Mackie, Mate.

Marian Mackie, Cook.

James Mackie, Sailor.

William Mullen, Sailor.

Frank George, Sailor.

John Mullen, Sailor.

Donald Macdonald, Sailor.

With the exception of Frank George, the crew belonged to Wolfe Island. The Whig reporters tell the story of the disaster with their accustomed vividness.

A Sail! A Sail!

The schr. Jessie Breck, capsized off Nine Mile Point on Saturday afternoon and eight souls undoubtedly found watery graves. The Breck was timber laden on her way from Toledo to Garden Island. The disaster occurred during a howling south-western gale. All morning the wind blew wildly, tossing the water in great billows over the city wharves. This is an unusual occurrence in the land locked harbor of Kingston, and as the mariners looked over the lake they shook their heads and predicted sad results should any vessels be out on the turbulent waters. Along about noon a sail was seen, and men along the lake shore watched the vessel as it hove in sight. A three-master was battling with the angry sea. The waves at times seemed to engulf her as they struck, and in a shower of mist and spray hid out all view of the distressed craft. With every blow the schooner careened, but would square herself again for the next. The boat was beating about the point and running in the trough of the sea. Her sails were set, and she was bravely fighting her way down. But soon a mighty wave was seen to strike the craft and the spray flew higher in the air before the gale than had been noticed before. Then when another view was had it was found that the vessel was lying on her side and she sank from sight rapidly. Charles Grass, living on the lake shore, was an eye-witness of the disaster. He hastened to Portsmouth and had messages sent to Kingston. The news created great alarm. But Mr. Grass was not alone in viewing the vessel. At one o'clock the vessel was sighted near Nine Mile lighthouse by men in Breck & Booth's yard. Telescopes revealed the ship, and many thought it was the schr. Jessie Breck. The men, confident the schooner they saw was the Breck, informed Capt. Booth, one of her owners. In half an hour they levelled their telescopes in the direction of the lighthouse again, but they were disappointed in not seeing the boat.

Then the tidings of the disaster were announced, and Capt. Booth grew pale as he thought that his ship and gallant crew were lost.

Capt. Booth at once endeavored to get a tug to go to the rescue. He asked every tug owner in the city, but it was impossible to get a boat, as they were all away. About three o'clock, when the captain found he could not get a boat in the city, he telegraphed to Garden Island for the steamer Hiram A. Calvin. She was all ready to start with a tow down the river and had full steam up. She was also loaded deep with wood, which made her rather awkward in a heavy sea. Her services were quickly given to Capt. Booth, and she came to Kingston in a short time. There was a large crowd at the wharf to see her go out, but Capt. Booth, with a few friends, were only allowed to go on her. She steamed up the lake at a fast rate. When Simcoe Island was reached a call was made there to see if any person had heard about the boat. The only information ascertained was that there were two boats near the head of the Island. It was then thought that the two boats must be the schooners Jessie Breck and Grantham. After leaving Simcoe Island a short distance signs of a disaster became apparent. A number of oak timber sticks were seen floating in Batteau channel. This about settled the point that the foundered craft was the Jessie Breck. Near Horse Shoe Island the sea was very high, and the wind was blowing a hurricane. It would have been impossible for any yawl boat to stand the storm, and no men could have held on to the timber for ten minutes.

When some distance up the channel a man went up the rigging of the Calvin and noticed a vessel floating about three miles off Horseshoe Island. No one could be seen on her. The waves were washing over her and tossing her about. The schr. Grantham was seen at this point. This was gratifying to the people on the Calvin, as it had been reported she was ashore on Horseshoe Island and going to pieces. She was all right. On getting near the wrecked Breck it was seen she was on her broadside. At times her name, the Jessie Breck, could be plainly seen on her stern. Her masts were under the water. She had her full sails up at the time of the accident. Her spars were pointing to Simcoe Island and she seemed to be drifting in. Her rudder was out of water. At times her spars would bob out of the water from the action of the waves and then splash down again. The force with which they went down would have knocked any man off. The sails were torn in strips. A lot of the cargo was floating. Her bulwarks had been knocked off. There was no sign of the yawl. The davits were broken off, likely by the heavy timber striking them before she capsized.

Capt. Booth, after going around the Jessie Breck to make sure there was no one on board, had the Calvin go up about two miles to see if the yawl could be found, but there was no signs of it. On Horseshoe Island three men were seen but it was soon learned that they were not of the crew. The Calvin was then turned round for home, arriving in the city about eight o'clock.

The Ill-fated Crew.

Thomas Mackie, captain, married, was of Wolfe Island, 35 years of age.

Joseph Mackie, mate, married, of Wolfe Island, 30 years of age.

Marian Mackie, cook, single, of Wolfe Island, 28 years of age.

James Mackie, sailor, single, of Wolfe Island, 24 years of age.

William Mullens, sailor, married, of Wolfe Island, of Wolfe Island, 60 years of age.

John Mullens, sailor, single, of Wolfe Island, 20 years of age.

Donald McDonald, sailor, single, of Wolfe Island, 20 years of age.

Frank George, sailor, single, of Kingston, 30 years of age.

A Whig reporter spent yesterday afternoon on Wolfe Island, the home of the crew, soliciting additional facts about the disaster. A deep gloom rested upon the Islanders and the residents are extending their sincerest sympathy to the bereaved friends. After walking a short distance up the main street of Marysville, Burt Grimshaw and Felix ( Oberndorffer ?) were met. These two lads, with H. Grimshaw, who telegraphed the Whig on Saturday, had been eye witnesses from the shore at the head of Wolfe Island to the catastrophe. From their story the boat had, without doubt, foundered. The vessel was sighted some distance in the lake by Burt's father who drew the boy's attention to it, remarking at the same time that she appeared to be struggling very hard. The more they watched her the more dangerous her position appeared to grow. Their eyes were rivetted on the sight. She came plowing down under full sail climbing the mountainous seas in a manner that experienced sailors alone could make her do. When she came closer it was evident that she was waterlogged and that the crew were having a hard time to keep her from overturning. The captain was trying to make for the channel between Horseshoe and Simcoe Islands, but ran too far out, however. He then headed for the opening leading to the Batteau channel. A bar was opposite to where she was running and the boys were under the impression that the captain was making for it. Every few minutes she gave a lurch and each time they thought she would not redeem herself, but she did. The jib and mainsail were lowered and a minute after she foundered. She went down like a stone and nothing, that would indicate that a disaster had occurred, was visible for hours afterwards, not even her spars being noticeable. The boys stood on the shore for three or four hours looking in the direction of the vessel, but all they could see was the raging white caps. Mr. Grimshaw hitched up his horse and drove as quickly as possible to the ferry and spread the report that a vessel had foundered above Horseshoe Island. Many laughed at him. His despatches (one to the Whig) were sent all right and shortly afterwards one of Calvin's tugs went out. A row boat could not be used in going to the rescue for it would not have lived a minute. The provision box with the initials J.B. went ashore during the night. Other articles were also found, including Marian Mackie's trunk.

Mrs. Capt. Mackie was visited. She was at the residence of Alexander Darragh, her brother in law, and was in great distress. The young woman had been informed of the fate of her husband's vessel on Saturday afternoon about four o'clock. She said: "My husband was about thirty-five years of age and has followed the occupation of sailor for years. He was in Neelon's employ for ten years, and for the past twelve years had acted as mate. Last year he was first mate of the Breck. He passed an examination early this year and secured captain's papers, when he was given command of the boat. He was in charge of the vessel for two and a half months, having assisted in the raising of the Armstrong. It was his first trip as captain. It is just four weeks since he left Collinsby. We have been married thirteen years and have no children."

Joseph Mackie, mate, brother of the captain, was also a married man. He lived on the head of Wolfe Island, close to the farm of his parents, where his wife (formerly Miss Kemp) and a six year old girl still reside. He was about thirty years of age and an experienced sailor. This was his maiden trip as mate.

James Mackie, sailor, was another brother of the captain's. He was twenty-four years of age and had been a sailor for several seasons. He was a single man.

Marian Mackie, sister of the captain, was cook. She had been sailing for two seasons. She was twenty-eight years of age.

A Great Bereavement.

Mrs. William Mullens and the remaining members of her family, three daughters and a son, were called upon. They were bitterly mourning the loss of a kind husband and father and a loving son and brother. Mrs. Mullens said: "My husband left home just five weeks ago. He was sixty years of age and Johnny, my son, was twenty years. The poor boy had made but one trip in his life before, and my husband had not sailed any in three seasons before till this year." The sight at the home was a sad one. Sympathizing friends sat around the house consoling Mrs. Mullens and her family - the youngest a child of two years. Mrs. Mullens is a daughter of Mr. Bryant, an old resident on the island. She was born and had lived there almost all her life.

Donald McDonald was but twenty years of age. He has had several rough experiences and two or three narrow escapes. When the schr. Bavaria was lost, less than a year ago, he was on board the Norway. He was also on the Clara White when she was burned down the river.

Frank George was fifty years of age. Perhaps no other sailor on the lakes was better known. By the majority of followers of the water, as well as those on land, he was familiarly called "Monkey Frank" and this name he answered to quicker than to George. He was a good natured, jovial fellow, fond of telling stories and especially about all the "old boxes," as he termed them, on which he had sailed. Of his early life little was known. He arrived in Kingston over eighteen years ago and here he has made his winter home almost every year since. He boarded at Mrs. Lafrainer's on Ontario street. A reporter called there yesterday. Frank, that lady thought, was an Italian, although he disowned the land and said he was French. She thought that he had come to this country as a "marine" and when the steamship landed in Quebec he deserted her, coming direct to the limestone city. At one time he was in the saloon business in Chicago.

Capt. Thomas Mackie's wife is a daughter of Lebair Turcott, who resides on Plum street in this city. The shock to her was a terrible one, as she was preparing to go to Garden Island to meet her husband when she heard of the vessel foundering almost within sight of her home. This fact makes the accident even more sad. Anxious hearts, all along the island, watched the raging waters from their windows, expecting every minute to see a three and after make her appearance from behind Simcoe Island. She had been reported as having passed the canal, and was due at the island Saturday about noon. At three o'clock, when she had not hove in sight, wives, mothers, sisters and brothers, besides numerous friends, began to show a feeling of anxiety. The loss of the Bavaria, on the 26th May, flashed upon their minds, and they feared their loved ones would meet a similar fate. The storm was wild, and in the estimation of old sailors far worse than when the Bavaria drifted about at the mercy of the waves. Still they did not lose hope, and consoled themselves that the commander might have taken precautions and ran into a place of safety till the storm had abated. When the report reached Marysville that a craft had been lost off the head of the island the Breck was the first and only boat named. The anxious ones became frantic with grief. Their cries were pitiful. There was one last hope, and this soothed them, the crew were within a mile of shore and might have reached it in small boats. Late in the evening a bright light, resembling that of a house on fire, was seen on Snake Island, opposite the Four Mile light. Those who saw it thought it was a signal from some one in distress. As soon as a boat could be sent one went over and persons searched the island revealing nothing. Neither was there any sign of a fire having burned. Crowds searched the shores of Horseshoe, Simcoe and Wolfe Islands and they failed to discover anything that would give encouragement to the afflicted families that their loved ones were saved. The yawl was found Sunday morning and then the last thread of hope was cut.

Capt. George Mackie, of the prop. Dominion, is a brother of the Mackies drowned . Another sister is on the prop. Persia and one teaches school on the island. The tidings of the loss of the Mackies was kept from their aged parents as long as possible. Then the news was imparted to the father, who is almost heartbroken with sorrow, but is bravely maintaining his courage. The mother has not yet heard of the sad deaths of her children.

A Lighthouse-Keeper's Story.

Mr. Dunlop, keeper of the Nine Mile lighthouse, was watching the vessel and saw her go down. He says that he saw the vessel making for the bar. It would only have taken the boat ten minutes to have reached it, and then they would have been safe. Four men were pumping as hard as they could and there was one man at the mainsail, and another at the jib, besides a man at the wheel. Mr. Dunlop could see them very plain. While he was looking at her the mainsail dropped and the vessel went under like a stone. He kept a lookout for her but she did not come up for about a minute and a half. When she did come up she was on her side. Mr. Dunlop thinks that there must have been a leak in the vessel as the men were working very hard at the pumps. The sailors on board knew their work well. They knew that if they could have reached the bar their lives would be saved. Mr. Dunlop says she went down so quick had not time to do anything. They were all working at the time. As Mr. Dunlop was the nearest to her and could see everything his version of the disaster is likely the right one.

Mrs. Dunlop, wife of Franklin Dunlop, lighthouse keeper, saw more of the disaster than perhaps any other person. When her husband levelled his marine glasses upon the vessel he observed men clinging to the wreck. He turned to his wife and giving her the glasses told her to keep sight of them till he could have a message sent for help. She could see the men on the vessel after it turned over. There were three or four holding on to the railing of the boat and there was another in the rigging. The vessel disappeared from sight but a minute or so and then came to the surface. Three men ran along the side towards the cabin of the boat and the man in the rigging kept waving his hat to those on shore. They held bravely on for fully three quarters of an hour then began to be washed off one at a time, the man in the rigging being the last to disappear. Mrs. Dunlop had the best opportunity of seeing the vessel through the trough of the sea. Those on shore were looking against the waves, hence the supposition that she foundered outright. Had a life-saving crew been stationed at the Point at Nine Mile light, as the Whig has repeatedly advised, it would not be necessary in this issue to chronicle the loss of so many lives. Fifteen minutes would have brought such a crew to the side of the Breck and those clinging to the wreck would have been saved. The government has a surplus of which they seem more willing to lavish on unnecessary canal and other improvements and show a cold heart in the matter of saving the lives of those who have to follow the lakes for a livelihood. True there are many good life-saving crews in existence but not half enough for the protection of the brave fellows who face the storms.

A Sketch of the Vessel.

The schooner Jessie Breck was owned by Breck and Booth of Kingston. She was built at Port Colborne in 1873 for her present owners. She was classed A1 1/2 and was considered a strong and substantial boat. Two years ago she was caught in a heavy gale and had her masts taken out of her. None of her crew were lost. This is the first serious accident she has met. She never lost a man before. She was valued at $6,000 and was not insured. She was kept in excellent repairs, her owners having spent $2,200 on her last season. It is a remarkable fact that the Breck makes the third vessel out of the four which were engaged at the wreck of the str. Armstrong to have met with a disaster. The schooner Gaskin was sunk at Brockville by a pontoon running through her bottom; the steamer McArthur was burned to the water's edge at Collinsby and now the Jessie Breck is a wreck near Simcoe Island. It will cost between $2000 and $3000 to put the Breck in seaworthy condition again. It is reported that her deck is burst open and the cabin swept away.

The Latest Notes.

A report was circulated this morning that Frank George had left the vessel at the canal as she was leaking badly. A letter has been received stating that the crew who left Kingston shipped on her from Toledo.

It is probable that the deck load, as it was washed overboard, swept away the yawl with it. The Breck was making her first round trip since her release from aiding in lifting the steamer Armstrong.

The news of the disaster created much excitement in the city, and the bulletins put out at the Whig office were read with eagerness by great crowds on Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday morning the steamer Calvin went to tow the Breck to Garden Island, but the schooner's anchor had caught hold of something at the bottom making it impossible to move her. A diver was sent to loosen the anchor. The tug Johnson is engaged in gathering up the floating timber.

It has been said that the barge Bavaria was wrecked near the same spot. This is incorrect. The Bavaria was wrecked off Long Point.

Capt. and Mate Mackie, before starting, had their lives insured in the A.O.U.W., the fate of Capt. John Marshall and the crew of the Bavaria causing them to take the precaution.

The prop. Niagara left here Friday, and got caught in the gale. She managed to get within eight miles of Charlotte when she had to put about and run back to Kingston. The coal was exhausted when she reached here. She had a hard battle for fifteen hours.

The tugs Chieftain and Hiram A. Calvin went to the wreck this morning and at noon managed to get the Breck free from her anchors. Both tugs took hold of her, and it is expected she will be at Garden Island by nine o'clock this evening.

General Paragraphs - The fire on Snake Island on Saturday night was the destruction of a fisherman's cabin, occupied by Mr. McCaugherty and another, who remained on the island until after the storm was over, and then made for Portsmouth.

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Date of Original:
May 19, 1890
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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), May 19, 1890