The Death of Captain Ferris
The End Came at His Home Early Yesterday Morning.
For Forty five Years He Had Commanded Tugs - Loved and Respected by a Large Number of Friends. A Brave Man Has Gone to His Reward.
Captain Charles W. Ferris, one of the best known tug captains on the chain of lakes, died at his home, 250 East Bridge street, early Sunday morning. The end, which had been looked for, came peacefully while Captain Ferris was surrounded by members of his family, to whom he was devotedly attached, and which consists of his widow, a son, Charles W., and two daughters, Miss Laura Ferris and Mrs. Thomas Lavere.
Charlie Ferris, as he was affectionately called, was born in St. Lawrence County sixty-seven years ago and came here with his family when a boy. He was big, strong and hearty, and like many others turned his attention to the then popular sphere of endeavor, the lakes, and became a sailor. He sailed in the Conquest, Barbarian, and was mate of the schooner Nelson under Captain Sam Patten. The latter was the last time he went in a sailing vessel.
Forty five or six years ago he took to tugboats. He was a daring and cool headed pilot, and many a poor fellow who expected to see his vessel piled high upon the rocks or stranded in the sand along shore, had been brought safe into the harbor by the coolness and nerve of Captain Ferris.
The Morgan was one of the first tugs he sailed. She was sold to Chicago and Captain Ferris took her there and was offered a big salary to remain and take charge of the line. he did remain for a few months, but didn't like it and came back to Oswego. He then commanded the Reed, Dane, Crusader, Tornado, Fred D. Wheeler and the Charley Ferris. In the last named boat he was financially interested and brought her out in 1883, remaining in command up to the past summer.
Many stories are told of Captain Ferris' daring in going out into the lake to save vessels and sailors from being wrecked upon the shore. Back in the late sixties - about 1867 - the brig Harvey was on her way down from Chicago to Oswego with a cargo of grain for this port. When she struck Lake Ontario she ran into a tremendous wind and snowstorm and in the latter she ran by this port and brought up in the sand in Mexico Bay. The crew was saved but the vessel and cargo was worth many thousand dollars and with lighters, pumps and tugs they went to the wreck of the brig.
Captain Ferris was in command of the Tornado and Captain Lon Tiffany was in the Franklin. While the wreckers worked a heavy storm of wind and snow came up and the tugs started to beat it for this port. The Franklin filled with water and beached near the Maize Products plant. Engineer James Kearney fastened a rope to his waist, swam ashore and thus the remainder of the crew saved themselves by aid of the line, the shore end of which had been fastened to a tree.
When night came and the tugs had not appeared, it was evident that the port lights were a poor beacon to steer by in a thick snowstorm, so a huge bonfire was built on the fort bank. Many thousand feet of lumber, besides barrels of pitch, were burned that night, but Charlie Ferris didn't know anything about it until afterwards. The seas were so heavy that they had broken in the windows in the wheelhouse and the latter had been boarded up tight. Then the seas began to freeze and with his compass on the seat and his back to the window he steered the Tornado safely into port.
Another gallant attempt at rescue was made in the Fall of 1878. One Sunday morning the little Canadian hooker, Wood Duck, showed up in a snow squall off this port. The tug F.D. Wheeler, Captain Ferris commanding, was on duty and three times went out in the seas and snow and got a line from the Wood Duck, but each time it parted and the last time an end got into the tug's wheel and left her powerless to give further assistance. The schooner went ashore, but Captain Scott, who was engineer of the Wheeler, managed to keep the engines moving until the tug was safely in the East Cove.
"Curley" Heagerty was decking on the Wheeler then. So enthusiastic were the sailors of the port over Captain Ferris' daring and courage that they presented him with a gold watch, , suitably inscribed, and a heavy gold chain, the present costing $225.
Instances might be multiplied of heroism and bravery displayed by Captain Ferris up to the very last days of his activities. Five years ago last Fall he left here with two barges beloning to the Hannan fleet for Cape Vincent. There was a heavy sea running in the lake and the steering gear of the last barge gave out and she was unmanageable, threatening the destruction of the other. Putting the tug alongside Captain Ferris called to the barge crew to keep cool, and then in the middle of the lake he shifted the barges, putting the cripple next to the tug and the other in the rear and took all safe to port.
On another occasion he found himself in Charlotte with the Ferris practically a new boat. The wind from the Northwest that day blew seventy-two miles an hour on the lake. It was in the Fall, bright and cold, and hundreds lined the lake banks and tops of elevators to see the tug come down the lake. It was a grand sight and when she entered the harbor Captain Ferris was more proud of his boat than ever.
While in Chicago he commanded the tugs Ajax, Mars and Maria Egan. he commanded the tug which towed the first crib into place set by the city of Chicago to get a water supply.