The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), Feb. 3, 1876

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p.4 Saved By A Lighthouse Keeper

It will perhaps be remembered by the Detroit Free Press that some time about Christmas several small sailing vessels started up Lake St. Clair after loads of wood, the weather being warm, and little or no ice in sight anywhere. They had fine sailing until three miles off the mouth of the Thames River, when they got stuck in a field of ice and dragged their anchors into Mitchell Bay, there being rather a brisk wind at the time, and their anchors not being heavy enough to withstand the heavy pressure of the ice forced on by a moderate sea.

When within the bay they felt quite secure, but their provisions soon gave out, and there were no signs of the ice either freezing hard enough to form a safe passage to the shore, or thawing sufficiently to allow them to work their small boats through without a certainty of being crushed by the constant dead swell. This being the case, they signalled for help, though scarce daring to hope for assistance, as none of them possessed the hardihood to even get out upon the nearest floating cake. The fleet consisted of the Cora Bell, Capt. Bryant; Wild Flower, Capt. Peter Lemond; Linda Bell, Capt. Forca. Daring hardy seamen all, but unaccustomed to that particular style of being cast away. Thomas Cartier, keeper of the lighthouse at the mouth of the river, set out on foot across that broken sea of ice to ascertain what assistance he could render. Capt. Bryant, from whom this intelligence was received, tells the remainder of the story as follows: "A braver man than Thomas Cartier never lived. He risked his life to save the lives of those three crews when not one of us dared make the attempt. We felt certain we could not get out until a hard freeze came, and the weather indications were not encouraging for that under a week or more, and we had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours. He jumped onto the ice when he saw our signal, and came running and jumping from one floating cake to another, and our eyes were strained hard with watching him. Presently down he went out of sight, and a shudder went up from us that you could hear from one deck to the other, but he came up again many feet from where he went down. He had actually swam under a number of small bits of ice, too little to hold his weight, and so far as he could see without any passages around the terrible channel. Then he came on most cautiously than before, but fell several times, never turning back once. When he got to us he did not appear tired nor cold, but asked what was the matter. We told him we were out of provisions and hungry, and had no boats that would stand that moving, broken ice. "All right," he said, and away he went back as he came, and with meat and bread cooked by his wife he came to us day after day for fifteen days and fed us, and finally, after working all night some nights, they got out our line, he and his wife, daughter and a neighbour, and at last we got it ashore and hove in with the capstan. And what do you think when we wanted to pay him? Not a cent would he take, not even for the provisions we had eaten. I tell you, sir, we shan't forget that man and his family right away."

The Linda Bell returned to this port, but the other boats got safe inside of the Thames, and are content to stay there the remainder of the winter. [Detroit Free Press]

Feb. 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 1876


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Feb. 3, 1876
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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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Daily News (Kingston, ON), Feb. 3, 1876