The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Dec. 4, 1886


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Salad For Saturday

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"I delight in telling what I think - I shall go on just as before, seeing whatever I can, and telling what I see." - Emerson

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I never tire of talking of sailors and I am sure Oswego people never tire reading about them, especially at this time of the year when they are exposed to so much danger and hardship. If we could follow a lake vessel on one trip during the Fall, when heavy gales are blowing almost continually, we would see many graphic and thrilling pictures. When a vessel leaves port after the middle of November to go any distance worth speaking of, every man on board knows that he takes his life in his hands and that the vessel is certain to be storm lashed. Gales follow one another in quick succession and their violence at times is almost beyond comprehension.

The next time you come near a schooner just take a good look at the strong, heavy masts - hewn from the best of timber. Look at the strong rope and wire rigging that stays them on either side, fastened with heavy bars and bolts of iron. Both your arms would not reach more than half way around those masts at the bottom, while as for the heavy wire shrouds, it would be difficult to conceive of any human agency that could pull them asunder.

Try and imagine then the mighty forces of nature that took three huge spars out of the schooner Comanche the night before Thanksgiving, stripped her of everything in the shape of canvas and rigging and left her drifting a complete and hopeless wreck.

And by the way, there are some peculiar features about that storm or whirlwind, that are quite interesting. The schooners Blazing Star, F.D. Barker and the unfortunate Comanche were within two or three miles of each other before the squall struck them. The night was fearfully dark, a brisk wind was blowing that drove all three vessels along towards home at a speed that assured the sailors would eat their Thanksgiving dinner with their families. But how rudely were they disappointed.

Sailors, as is well known, are superstitious mortals and many of them believe that they are always forewarned when threatened with disaster. They were certainly warned of impending danger on this occasion and the warning saved two of the vessels from disaster and probably death to their crews. The warning came in the form of a quick, sharp flash of lightning - a very unusual occurrence at this season of the year. It was not more than three or four minutes after the flash that the storm burst upon them with all the fury of a whirlwind, but in that shore space of time the vessels had prepared to meet the attack.

Captain Griffin of the Blazing Star had gone into the cabin, it being his watch below. He had taken off his coat preparatory to "turning in" when he started to go on deck for something. Just as he poked his head through the cabin doors he saw the electric flash in the storm cloud. he knew that something was wrong, and hastily donning his coat again he dashed on deck and shouted his orders to let the vessel "come up in the wind," and take in all sail. The vessel came up quickly, the jibs were hauled down and the mainsail and mizzen were "let go by the run." The foresail was part way down when the squall came.

The force of the wind was terrific and with a little piece of sail up the vessel was forced over so far on her side that several loose planks were washed off the deck. Had the vessel met the storm with all her canvas up, the chances are that she would not be resting quietly on the bottom of the lake. so much for the experiences of the "Blazer."

Captain Scott of the schooner F.D. Barker, ever alert for danger, also saw the warning flash and at once set about shortening sail. While the crew were still at work the squall struck the vessel with awful force. Captain Scott says it was one of the hottest squalls he ever saw. The vessel was forced on her beam ends and for a time a part of her cabin was completely underwater. The water rushed down the stove pipe hole and was soon knee deep in the cabin.

Imagine a big staunch vessel drawing ten or more feet of water, forced over in that condition by a wind that could only use its force on a small portion of her ordinary allotment of canvas, and it will readily be seen with what terrible fury these lake squalls rush along. Nothing but prompt action and the best of management kept the Barker afloat. Sailors have calculated that that storm traveled 80 miles in thirty minutes that night or at the rate of 160 miles an hour.

They do it in this way: The tug Navagh, Captain William Scott, was standing guard at the mouth of the harbor to assist any vessels into port that might come along. The captain happened to be looking up the lake with his glass at the moment the heavens spit forth that warning electric flash. Now, the vessels spoken of in the foregoing, were at least 80 miles from Oswego at the time and the storm cloud was in their immediate vicinity. In just thirty minutes from the time the tug captain saw the flash the storm struck the harbor, showing that it had traveled eighty miles in thirty minutes.

There is also a peculiar coincidence associated with the storm. At the time of the dreadful Carlyon disaster a few years ago it was the same kind of storm that blew the box cars from the siding of the main track. It also dismasted a black three-masted vessel directly opposite the place where the accident occurred. The storm of a week ago Wednesday night blew some empty cars from a siding into the main track of the same railroad, a collision occurred in the same manner as at Carlyon, though not with fatal effect, and the same storm distasted a black three-masted vessel off in the lake - the Comanche.

I was going to say something else about sailors but have concluded instead to talk a moment about reporters. Some people have an idea that the life of the news gatherer is full of adventure and frolic - that they always go everywhere, see everything and have plenty of money to spend. Thursday night a Palladium reporter was detailed to go to the wreck of the schooner Ariadne, four miles this side of Stony Point.

A fierce storm was raging and the assignment was by no means a pleasant one. On the way to the train a friend remarked to him: "I wish I was going down with you, You newspaper men have fine times, don't you?" Now we wish very much that our friend could have accompanied us on that trip. It would have speedily shaken an erroneous impression out of his mind and for his benefit and others who may think as he does, I want him to take that trip on paper with me, just as it was.

We left here at 6:30 P.M., and after several narrow escapes from being stalled in big snow drifts between Mexico and Sand Hill, arrived in Richland at 8 o'clock. The train for Pierrepont Manor was an hour or more late. We finally arrived at the station designated at 9:30 o'clock. There we found the mercury away down in the thermometer, a nipping cold wind blowing and the snow drifting badly.

A rig and driver were secured and the twelve mile drive to the scene of the wreck, in the face of the storm, was begun. The first four miles to Ellisburg was accomplished without incident except the freezing of one eye shut. Here both reporter and driver were willing to stop to get warm and to exchange our light overshoes for heavy ones. After a fifteen minute stop we were off again. The wind blew through our heavy overcoat as though they were made of cheese cloth and our hands became numb with the cold in our endeavor to keep the ice off our noses. We concluded to make a stop at Woodville, halfway to the wreck, but we found the little town fast asleep. We finally roused up a sleepy landlord and he loaned us the side of his bar-room stove for fifteen minutes.

Then we began the last six miles of the ride. After leaving Woodville we began to find occasional snow drifts and they grew larger as we progressed. The horse was allowed to pick his own way. Suddenly he plunged into a snow drift six feet deep and comes to a dead stop. We get out, boost him along, and fill our trousers legs with snow. Now the horse sees another drift. He turns to avoid it, one side of the cutter goes down and the driver goes out headfirst into the top of a clump of bushes.

We gather ourselves up, dig out, and start again. It is impossible to see the way, the horse becomes confused and we find him astride a stone wall. We take new bearings and a fresh start. Are we cold? Oh not! It was not a bit cold in that country that night! How the reporter longed for his friend! While he is trying to ascertain whether his cheek is frozen as stiff as sole-leather or only coated with ice, he takes a side somersault into a bank of the beautiful and the heaviest part of the bulky driver lands on top of him. He wiggles out minus a mitten.

The poor horse,coated with white frost and puffing like a Pougkeepsie ferry boat, looks over his shoulder and says "suppose we take a rest." But a rest means a freeze. We break a path for the horse, pull him to his feet, brush the snow out of the cutter and on we go. We turn into a meadow to avoid a trip ground and the horse actually trots! But there is a big stone. Do we hit it? Well, gently. What's the result? The scribe is on top of the driver and the driver is in close communion with the ground.

Another start. The horse trots again. A sudden stop, a snort from the horse, and the occupants of the cutter are thrown violently against the front end. What's up now? Don't know. The horse is afraid to move forward, but the driver is sure he is in the road and uses his whip. Jump, jump goes the horse. Craunch, craunch, crack, crack, goes something under his feet. It's ice and there is water under it! The horse is stopped and an investigation made.

We discover that a creek which crosses the road has overflowed its banks and flooded the highway. We make a guess where the road ought to be and fortunately escape getting into the stream. We are too numb to mind the cold now and the last mile is begun.

One o'clock finds us at our destination. The horse put out, we enter the farmer's house. There is a pound and a half of ice on our eyelids, and the chunks of frozen snow and ice on our moustache refused to be pulled off peaceably. A dish of warm water is brought into use and the ice disappears. A good fire is burning, but holy Moses! How we begin to ache. We are not frozen, but chilled to the marrow. We help take care of the shipwrecked sailors but cannot get ride of the "shivers." By five o'clock we are pretty thoroughly warmed and set out on foot to visit the scene of the wreck a mile away.

Returning to the house, the sailors are interviewed, their awful story is put on paper, we take a cup of coffee and a "bite" and begin the last half of our 24 hour drive. We can see the road now, but daylight doesn't drive the cold away. The cold wind pierces to the bone, but we make only one stop. Half past ten sees us at Pierrepont Manor again and ten minutes later we are on the train.

We try to write our report on the cars but get too near the stove and fall asleep. Shortly after noon the reporter is at the office and for the first time since leaving home the night previous removes his overcoat and rakes his jumbled ideas together. The Palladium readers got the story at 4 P.M. Is there any fun or glory in that? Well I should say not.

En Paisant.

Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Date of Original:
Dec. 4, 1886
Local identifier:
GLN.3261
Language of Item:
English
Donor:
Richard Palmer
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
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Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Dec. 4, 1886