The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Sept. 19, 1832

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A Perilous Situation. - A correspondent of the Rochester Observer, relates the following account of a wonderful escape from almost certain destruction.

Mr. Editor: - I had just arrived at the Falls of Niagara on Monday, of last week, when a canal boat was discovered floating down in the center probably two miles above the cataract. It was soon discovered there were three persons aboard, who gave evidence of distress and alarm. The facts, as obtained by the writer from two of the persons on board were nearly as follows:

The boat belonged to the Welland Canal, and received its freight from the Canada shore, two or three miles above the falls, and was towed up by a horse on shore. the master of the boat Capt. Coon, was sick on board, and entirely unable to take any charge of her. The management was entrusted to another man, a boy seventeen years old, and a woman of the same age.

From some deficiency in attaching the tow rope to the horse it gave way, when the boat was about three miles above the falls. They soon discovered that they were not only floating fast from the shore but rapidly downwards. They could not reach the bottom with their setting poles, and had no means of making a successful effort to reach the shore.

Consternation seized the crew, as they saw on the one hand the American shore, at the distance of two miles, and on the other the Canada shore at the distance of one mile, fast receding; and a mile and a half below they saw the rising smoke of the dreadful cataract, which they of one accord had now concluded would form their common grave.

All was excitement - nothing was done or could be done, with hopes of success; till at last the man, the only efficient hand in the management of the boat, concluded to make one exertion to save himself - plunged overboard and swam for the Canada shore, 1 mile distant, taking a diagonal course downwards, hoping to land above the falls.

After he left the boat, the boy and the young woman concluded to make one more effort, which they did by raising a sail, hoping that the almost imperceptible breeze might float them so far towards the American shore, as to land them on Goat Island. Their mast consisted of their setting pole set into the stove pipe, to which they attached blankets for sails.

They floated so far towards the American shore that they were taken from the boat by six men who ventured in a small boat to their relief, although they were so near the falls that the water became very rough. The boat passed on the American side of Goat Island on the rocks, in the rapids, just above the falls, where it remained when the writer left on Wednesday.

The whole circumstances as related by the young man are most deeply interesting and affecting, and although too much affected when he told the story the next day, to give a connected chain of the events, yet he manifested during the transaction, a presence of mind in erecting sails, closing windows, &c.; which would have been creditable to riper years, and no doubt saved him from the destruction that awaited them below.

The boat had a horse on board, which they forced overboard during the time of their greatest peril, hoping he would reach the Canada shore; but the poor animal made his grave in the vortex below.

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Sept. 19, 1832
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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), Sept. 19, 1832