The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
R. R. Johnson (Schooner), sunk, 4 Dec 1854

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JOHNSON, R.R. Schooner, foundered off and above Fairport, all hands, eight, with vessel and cargo lost. Property loss $28,000
      Buffalo Democracy
      Feb. 28, 1855 (casualty list)

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VESSEL LOST.---We learn from a captain, who came down last evening, from Fairport, that a large schooner, supposed to be the R.R.JOHNSON, from Milwaukee to this port with a cargo of wheat, went on the bar off Fairport, on Monday. Several persons went out in a life boat to take off the crew, but before they could reach the vessel, a heavy sea lifted her from the bar, and carried her towards shore. At this point, her masts went by the board, splitting her completely open, and she immediately sunk, together with all on board. One of the vessels boats was washed ashore. It was painted black, and from the fact that all of the JOHNSON's boats were of a lighter color, it was thought it might be some other vessel.
      The Democracy, Buffalo
      Wednesday, December 6, 1854

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The schooner JOHNSON was driven ashore at Fairport on Monday night by the gale. All hands were lost, numbering nine persons. The breakers made a clean breach over her. Some of the crew clung to the rigging for a time, but were swept off by the terrible surf and storm. We could not learn further particulars.
Painesville, Dec. 4. -- A vessel is hard on the bar about a third of a mile out, and about a mile above the harbor. The vessel is under water and is evidently going to pieces, as wheat is constantly coming ashore from her hold. It is supposed that the vessel is probably the JOHNSON of Oswego. Nothing has been seen of her crew; they were doubtless lost during the severe storm of last night. Efforts were made this morning to get out with a lifeboat to rescue a man who was in the rigging. The boat could not be got off. The report is that the man is gone; he probably became so numbed with the cold that he was compelled to release his hold, and was drowned in the lake. The JOHNSON was only two years old, built at Fairport, owned in part and sailed by Capt. Calvin Snell.
      Cleveland Morning leader
      Wednesday, December 6, 1854

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Capt. Blue, of the brig JULIA DEAN, arrived last evening, from Fairport, and informs us that the vessel that was lost with all hands, on Monday, at that port, was the schooner R.R. JOHNSON, Capt. Snell.
      The Democracy, Buffalo
      Thursday, December 7, 1854

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AN AWFUL SCENE. - The following account of the loss of the schooner R.R. JOHNSON, which is taken from the Cleveland Plaindealer is one of the most thrilling and mournful narratives we have ever seen: At Chicago whence the ill-fated vessel last sailed, Capt. Snell, her owner and commander, put her in charge of the mate, who was his brother, and left her to make her way down the lake, while he took the railroad for the purpose of getting a special insurance upon her in Buffalo. She weathered the storms, passed over the Flats, and beat her way down on to this lake, when the big North-wester of Sunday caught her this side the islands. The next seen of her was at daylight Monday morning, about two miles west of Fairport and twenty rods from shore, beached, and the men hanging in the rigging. She lay broad side to, and every sea careened her over so as to bring her masts under water, and of course immerse the poor fellows clinging there for life. She was first discovered by a family of farmers living opposite on the bluff which overlooked the wreck. They immediately despatched a messenger to the harbor for a life-boat. They watched the sufferers on the wreck until one by one they were washed off, so that when the life-boat started for their relief, there were but three remaining.
Intensely excited did they becon the boat on, which for two miles was rowed amid the surges and breakers that hid one-half the time the rescuers from view. Two more of the sufferers are washed off by the sea and yet the boat has some half mile to row. One, and probably the most hardy and robust of them all, remains. He seems lashed to the rigging and rises and falls with it to nearly a perpendicular. The boat is almost to him, when suddenly the mast disappears again, and he rises no more! All on board, nine in number, have been lost, and none left to tell the tale of their sufferings. Portions of the wreck coming ashore, revealed the fact that it was the schooner R.R. JOHNSON. The farmer's house we have described was the very home of the mate, and the family on shore who had sent after the life-boat was the family of the mate. In all probability the man who hung so long in the rigging was the mate himself, as he was a very resolute and robust man. Thus, in sight of his family and home he died a martyr to a mysterious fate, his wife unconsciously a spectator to the terrible scene.
There is probably not on record a coincidence so strange, where a wife at her own home should witness the wreck of her husband at sea.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      Saturday, December 9, 1854

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: sunk
Lives: 9
Freight: wheat
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ohio, United States
    Latitude: 41.75004 Longitude: -81.27399
William R. McNeil
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R. R. Johnson (Schooner), sunk, 4 Dec 1854