The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Tuesday, Aug. 14, 1888

Full Text
Odd Marine Disaster.
A Big Schooner Nearly Cuts Through The Lower Bridge
Driven at Racing Speed Before a Furious Gale it Was Impossible to Stop Her and She Dragged a Tug Into Shoal Water - The Damage

The most singular marine disaster that ever happened at this port was that which occurred yesterday afternoon when the large three and aft schooner Lady MacDonald crashed into the lower bridge, cutting half way through the iron structure. The accident was witnessed by a large crowd of people who had gathered on the bridge to see the Lady MacDonald enter the harbor.

The heavy back swell from the new harbor caught her just at the entrance and it was feared that she would strike the East pier and go ashore. She pitched heavily in the back seas from the new harbor which struck the vessel on the quarter and forced her over against the East pier. Being light, the heavy seas kept her rudder out of the water nearly half the time and she was at the mercy of the waves, ready to sheer one way or the other.

Every man on the vessel thought for a few moments that she was going to strike the East pier, and each was preparing to lose no opportunity of getting ashore. Within fifty feet of the pier a tremendous sea rolling in from the lake struck the MacDonald on the quarter, and in a few minutes more she was inside the pier, having just escaped striking it. After entering the harbor, the tug M.J. Cummings, which had been laying back of the beacon light, went to pick her up. The schooner had the peak of her foresail up and her staysail and jib set.She came up the river like a race yacht, with the tug Cummings chasing her.

Two or three men were at work trying to get the foresail down, but the peak halliards were foul in the rigging, and the sail refused to come down. Opposite the Merchant's elevator the Cummings got a line to the flying vessel. For a minute the vessel was checked, but her speed was so great that she dragged the tug up the river into the shoal water. Some one on the tug called out to cast off the line but no attention was paid to the command and the line was let go from the tug.

The crowd on the bridge had increased and they stood along the railing watching the approaching vessel until she was within fifty feet of the bridge, when they broke and ran in all directions. The vessel hit the bridge 150 feet from the East end and just West of the abutment that rests on the wall dividing the canal basin and river. The jibboom struck the bridge first, crashing through the heavy oak timbers as if they were lath, and breaking off short at the bowsprit. The heavy iron trusses and braces upon which the woodwork of the bridge rests were, at the place where the accident occurred, twisted into all shapes and the heavy cast iron braces were snapped off like pipe stems.

The vessel's bows were right in between the broken iron and timber, being tangled up with the rigging of the vessel, held her fast. Large crowds flocked out on the bridge and half a dozen hats went sailing up the river, having been whipped from the heads of the curious by the heavy wind. The police were promptly on hand and the crowd was kept back, as it was thought the bridge was liable to go down. A gang of sailors were soon at work on the tangled rigging, and with the aid of the little tug Frost the schooner was released and towed to the Merchant's elevator.

The Lady MacDonald is owned by Captain Hargrove who is also sailing master. To a Palladium reporter who talked with him this morning he said they left Toronto between seven and eight o'clock Saturday night and had a pleasant run until about 1:30 o'clock Sunday morning when they were struck by a squall while off Oak Orchard. The mizzen-sail was blown away and in a little while there was a big rent made in the foresail. The weather was thick and the rain came down in torrents.

About daylight one of the jibs was blown to ribbons and the men were set to work bending a new mizzen-sail which fortunately was aboard. A reef was taken in the mainsail and thus the schooner came down the lake. "I have been sailing since I was twelve years old," said Captain Hargrove, "but I have never encountered such a gale of wind as that of Sunday night. The vessel was light and she pitched violently. Both anchors had to be lashed down to keep them from rolling in upon the decks and that is the reason we did not let them go before we struck the bridge - they were lashed down and it was impossible to get them loose."

"Do you blame the tug for the accident?" he was asked.

"No, I can't say that I blame the tug. The Captain told me that she was bumping against the rocks on the bottom and that he had to let go to save his boat," was the reply.

"Do you think that if the tug had held on you would have not run into the bridge?"

"I think that unless the line parted the accident might have been avoided if the tug had not let go of us." Captain Hargrove said that if his vessel was liable for the accident the city might take her just as quickly as they pleased. he said he had worked hard since he was 12 years old, and the MacDonald represented all his savings. As yet no action has been taken to place the blame where it belongs. Superintendent Curtis was at the work on the bridge this morning with a gang of men. It is impossible for teams to cross and foot passengers can only use the South walk.

The iron braces are badly bent and twisted and some of the heavy cast iron supports are broken. It will be a number of days before the bridge is in condition for travel and it is estimated that the repairs will cost in the neighborhood of $1,000. The damage to the MacDonald will amount to about three hundred dollars which is covered by insurance.

This morning the schooner Lady MacDonald was libeled by the city for $2,500 and the vessel is now in the hands of the Sheriff.

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Tuesday, Aug. 14, 1888
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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), Tuesday, Aug. 14, 1888