The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Belle Atkins (Schooner), freshet, 10 Feb 1857

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Schooner BELLE ATKINS, drifted out of Oswego Harbor in a freshet. Total loss.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      January 28, 1858 (1857 casualty list)

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The thaw that dry in Thursday and continued till yesterday, melted the snow very rapidly and has raised the water in the river considerably, causing a very rapid current some distance below and above the bridge. About four o¹clock on Sunday morning the current became so strong on the west side of the river near the bridge, owing to the coffer dams under the middle of the bridge, that some ten vessels, and a canal boat with a man, his wife and boy on board, and the tug Bloore were forced from their moorings near the bridge and set adrift. Six of the vessels, BELLE SHERIDAN, TITAN, BELL ADKINS, WIDE AWAKE, and THOMAS KINGSFORD, with the canal boat, were carried into the Lake, and have not been recovered. The other vessels and the tug were recovered and are safe. The L.B. CROCKER lies athwart-ships above the Island, safe, and the CANTON is aground on the old coffer dam near the bridge.
The City Hall bell rung the alarm, and early in the morning Capts. Kimball and Fitzgerald, with two large yawl boats and a crew of seven men each, and sails, lines, &c., put out in pursuit of the vessels, with the intention of bringing them back by sail, if found. They have not returned or been heard of at this writing, late Sunday afternoon. The steam tugs of Captain Dobbie, the PAGE and REED, were put in readiness by adjusting the machinery, &c., and fired up, and started in pursuit in ten hours from the occurrence, about five o¹clock in the afternoon.
The wind, which has been southerly for three days, chopped around to the northwest, in the afternoon and blew quite fresh, accompanied with snow, and serious apprehensions are felt for the safety of the men out in the Lake as well as the vessels.
The vessels were moored in a dangerous location, the worst current in the river, and fears were expressed for their safety on Saturday.
      Oswego Daily Palladium
      Monday, February 9, 1857
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A Great Freshet. - The long continue thaw (now happily brought to a termination) had the effect to raise the waters of the river, and yesterday morning at about five o¹clock a large mass of ice which had piled up against the coffer dam above the bridge, gave way with a tremendous crash, and six vessels and a canal boat which had been very unwisely been moored near the bridge, a place where it had never before bee, thought prudent to fasten them, broke their cables and passed down river into the lake. The tug Bloore, the schooner Canton and one or two other vessels which were struck by those that broke loose, were lodge on rather perilous positions, but were shortly after recovered safe.
The names of the vessels that went into the lake are Belle Sheridan, Titan, Belle Adkins, Wide Awake, Thomas Kingsford, and Virginia. The wind at the time was blowing strongly from the South, and the ships soon passed out of sight. it so happened that there was not a tug or propeller in the harbor in working order at the time, their machinery having been taken out. Had it been otherwise the vessels could very easily have been recovered.
Between nine and ten o'clock in the forenoon, Captains Fitzgerald and Kimball manned two large yawl boats with a crew of seven men each, and provided with sails, lines, and provisions, started in pursuit of the vessels, with the intention of working them into port. It is probable that they reached the ships though at this writing they have not been heard from. The steam tugs Page and Read were put in working order as speedily as possible, and this morning left in pursuit of the vessels.
The rumor that the canal boat had a family on board, we believe to be entirely without foundation.
The result we presume will at least have the effect to prevent the mooring of any vessels in the dangerous current running near the bridge. Vessels below this point, on the opposite side of the river, and in the cove, lie securely unaffected by winds or freshets, but the point near the bridge is an unsafe position which should be avoided henceforth. The present accident was predicted by many when the thaw commenced. The primary cause undoubtedly was the neglect to take away the coffer dam; had that been removed the vessels might have remained in safety, though even then it would have been dangerous.
The public are under obligations to the police for the promptness with which they gave the alarm by ringing the City Hall bell. The whole city was shortly aroused, and everything that could be done to recover the vessels was speedily put in motion.
Later . - Since the above was in type, a telegraphic despatch has been received from Pulaski, by D.C. Abbey, part owner of the Kingsford and Belle Adkins, stating that the former vessel is at anchor off Port Ontario, with the two boats' crews that went in search of them on board. The Belle Adkins is stated to be between the ice and the Titan, with her planks pounding off stern under water, and upper works all gone. The steam-tug Page had just come in sight when the despatch was sent.
From this it appears that all the men who went out are safe, and there is a probability that the vessels will all be brought back and save, though more or less disabled.
      Oswego Daily Times
      Monday, February 9, 1857
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The Escaped Vessels Secured. - The steam tugs Page and Reed left here early yesterday morning, and found the six vessels that were carried out of the harbor Sunday morning, at Port Ontario. They were all safe and uninjured except the Belle Adkins, which had rolled out her masts, had all her upper works carried away, and was in a leaking condition.
The Thos. Kingsford dragged her anchor all the way. The men who went in pursuit with boats were all on board the latter vessel safe. The tugs started with five of the vessels in tow yesterday afternoon and will be safe in port this morning. The Virginia is the only vessel left, and she lay in safety some four miles from the others.
      Oswego Daily Palladium
      Tuesday, February 10, 1857
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      The Boat Crews Who Went In Pursuit Of The Vessels - Fate Of The Vessels.
The following are the names of the Captains and men, who left this port on Sunday morning in pursuit of the fugitive vessels, which were carried out by the current: Capts. Fitzgeralds and Kimball, Samuel Fitzgeralds, Amasa Stowell, James Ferguson, Wm. Wilson, James Bailey, C. Lutes, B. Lock, F. Miles, W. Waters, - Mitchell, Wm. Wheeler, T. Mallery.
They were divided with rigging, provisions, &c. They pulled away some eight miles, when they came up to the canal boat; but finding no one on board, left her and continued in pursuit of the vessels. They at length came up to the Wide Awake, Belle Adkins, and Thos. Kingsford, which were lying nearly abreast, the wind blowing heavy from the northwest and snow flying thick, so that it was impossible to tell where they were.
They boarded the vessels, divided the men upon them, and attempted to spread the sails so as to hold all three vessels, but they soon parted, and part of the sail went into the Lake, and there was not strength enough on either vessel to haul it aboard. They then drifted away until the anchor was cast from the Kingsford, and she brought up near the shore, where she remained till the tugs reached her.
Five of the vessels were taken in tow, two of them, the Wide Awake and Belle Adkins leaking badly, and they had settled so deep before reaching the harbor, that they grounded at its mouth, and the tugs were forced to let them go and moor the others. They arrived here about 12 o¹clock Monday night. The Belle Adkins lies on the bottom in the jaws of the piers made fast, and the Wide Awake was swept out again by the heavy gale yesterday, and carried on the breakers under the fort, and will be a total loss.
The brave sailors had a cold and perilous time of it, but they are all home safe. The Virginia was left behind, and this last gale has probably destroyed her. So that three vessels have been lost by the mishap.
      Oswego Daily Palladium
      Wednesday, February 11, 1857

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The Wrecks. - The schooner Belle Adkins which grounded between the piers while being towed into the harbor Monday night, was again driven out in the lake, by the gale and heavy sea on Tuesday. She now lies on the beach a short distance below the east pier, and will probably prove a total loss, with the exception of a portion of the rigging, which may be recovered in a damaged state.
The Adkins was a large new vessel, built last season. The Wide Awake also went ashore in the same vicinity, and laying on her beams and must have went to pieces in the gale on Tuesday night. She was a large first class vessel and nearly new. Nothing has reached us in regard to the Virginia since the gale. She lay close on to the shore near Port Ontario, and has probably gone to pieces. All three vessels were well insured and the loss to the owners will be comparatively small.
      Oswego Daily Palladium
      Thursday, February 12, 1857

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      A Card.
The undersigned, Captains of the two boats' crews, who went in pursuit of the vessels escaped from the harbor, on the morning of Sunday, the 8th inst., take this method of expressing for themselves and companions, their heartfelt thanks to the owners of the schooner Thomas Kingsford, Messrs. John Collins and C.C. Abbey, for the prompt and generous manner in which they have made compensation for our services and that of the crews.
      J.L.D. KIMBALL,
      Albert Fitzgeralds.
      Captains. Oswego, Feb. 13, 1857
The amount paid to the heroic sailors, we understand, was $540, which was distributed among them pro rata. This was an act of generous liberality on the part of the gentlemanly owners, and does honor to their reputation as enterprising business men. We hope their generosity may be rewarded by uninterrupted good fortune and prosperity in the future. They will ever be remembered by the generous sailors, we have no doubt, and have their best wishes.
      Oswego Daily Palladium
      Saturday, February 14, 1857

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A Crash In Prospect. - The immense fields of ice above the first and second dams, started down stream yesterday and moved about ten rods, when it brought up above the first dam, completely blocking up the river. The lock house was taken off and a large portion of the towpath on the east side is destroyed by the ice.
The canal bridge above the dam was also carried away, and the river is filled with old canal boats, trees, timber and logs piled up in the ice. The boat yards in that vicinity have been swept away, and the ice is tacked up clear into the road. When this mass gives away, a general rush may reasonably be expected, and should come down stream in a body, serious damage would be the consequences. One of the temporary supports of the upper bridge, erected last fall, has been carried away, and several of the main abutments are in a precarious condition, and must inevitably give out when the ice above comes down stream.
      Oswego Daily Palladium
      Thursday, February 19, 1857
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Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: freshet
Lives: nil
Hull damage: $16,000
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.45535 Longitude: -76.5105
William R. McNeil
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Belle Atkins (Schooner), freshet, 10 Feb 1857