The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Monday, Nov. 15, 1886

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The Wreck Of The Belle Wilson.
A Thrilling Story by Captain Collier - Thirty-Six Hours Drifting on the Lake.

Early yesterday morning word was received at this city that the steam barge Belle Wilson was ashore on the beach inside Ford's Shoal about four miles west of this city. The sea was very heavy and it was impossible to do anything to relieve her. The crew consisting of Captain Collier and seven men and the female cook reached shore in the yawl.

A Palladium reported visited the scene of the wreck this morning. The captain and crew, with the exception of the cook, were aboard preparing dinner. The boat lies with her bows about twenty five feet from the shore. A long line has been made fast to a tree and over this has been rigged a sling by means of which the Palladium reporter was hauled on board the barge. Captain Collier made the following statement:

We left Desoronto at 1 o'clock P.M. Friday. The wind was blowing fresh from the nor'east, but the weather was clear and we saw no sign of snow. About 9:30 while between the Ducks and Galloups, the rudder post twisted off below the decks in the casing. We immediately set the foresail to help her off and got her before the sea. We had just begun to move off nicely when a blinding snow storm set in, the gale increasing to a hurricane and in an hour and a half after the foresail was set it was hanging in tatters from the gaff.

We then bent and set a jib with the hope to get her before the sea. She would not steer and we took a seven and a half inch hawser, six hundred feet long, to the end of which we tied a big log of wood, and passed it through the after shock block, with which we endeavored to steer her. The engines were kept constantly working just enough to keep her head to the sea. Several times during Friday night she got into the trough of the sea and she rolled and pitched terribly.

I never experienced such a night, and never want to again. The snow was falling very thick and soon the decks and rigging were covered with ice. To add to our hardship the exhaust pipe and whistle pipe on the boiler broke off filling the cabin with steam. I don't know where we were at daylight Saturday morning. About 11 o'clock we got the around and headed her for about where we thought Oswego ought to be. About three o'clock the snow cleared away for a minute and we picked up land above Sheldon's Point.

We could see trees and a large wind mill. I could not tell whether we were on the east or west side of the river. We were pretty well pretty well in, and I gave orders to point her up the lake and try and keep her off the shore. It was useless trying to fetch the harbor in our condition and I thought if we could keep her off the shore it would be a much as we could do. About five o'clock Saturday afternoon I let go the big anchor about six miles west of where we went ashore.

About 10 P.M. the wind shifted around to the northwest and was blowing fully thirty-five miles an hour. We kept the engines constantly working to ease up the chain, but it was no use and about three o'clock the chain parted. We could see the light at Oswego plainly and I thought I would try and get near the harbor. We worked her down until about three miles out and a little west of the harbor when in trying to get her around she took the wrong cant and was going for the shore.

I managed to get her head around into the sea and worked her up to about two miles off the shoals. The whistle was kept constantly blowing for assistance but even if it had been heard no tug could have lived in the sea that was running. About 4 a.m. yesterday morning the line with which we had been trying to steer got foul of the wheel and the engines had to be stopped. The second anchor was then dropped, but held for only a minute or two, when the chain parted and we were carried helplessly along towards the shoals which we struck about 5 a.m.

As she struck the shoals the the seas washed over her and smashed in the bulwarks on the starboard side, and tore the doors off the engine room, filling the fire place. After she struck she came side towards the beach and we launched the yawl on the lee side and got ashore, the barge following quickly after. The crew were worn out with work and had they not gone ashore when they did the could not have weathered the storm but a short time longer, as the fuel was nearly gone.

The captain and mate speak of the highest terms of the engineer, Charles Goyette of Kingston. The crew had not eaten a mouthful from the time they left Deseronto until they breakfasted yesterday morning at Fruit Valley.

The Wilson is owned by Capt. Collier, James Gillespie, Walter Ross and Stewart Wilson of Picton. She was valued at $10,000 and was uninsured. The cargo consisted of 11,800 bushels of barley consigned to Gaylord, Downey & Co. of this city. it was insured. The Wilson is lying easy today and Capt. Collier thinks she can be got off when the wind goes down.

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Monday, Nov. 15, 1886
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Richard Palmer
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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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Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Monday, Nov. 15, 1886