Perils Of the Lakes
Story of the Loss of the Schooners Olive Branch and Fearless, as told by Captain Preston
of the Former and Robert Short, Mate of the Latter.
The Toronto Globe has further particulars of the loss of the schooners Olive Branch and Fearless, and the drowning of Captain William Ferguson, the master of the latter, from which we glean the following:
Captain J.R. Preston, of the Olive Branch, says, "A gale began to blow on Saturday night about eight o'clock, and shortly afterwards it began to snow heavily. At eight o'clock Sunday morning we sighted land, and, while holding the vessel out, she got into the trough of the sea, which was rolling heavily at the time, and the mainmast broke, falling across the foresail, tearing it badly and ripping up the deck in places. I ordered sailcloth to be nailed over the holes made in the deck to keep her from making water, and in this condition we ran along for two hours, until i thought we were up as far as Toronto Point, when we saw breakers ahead, and immediately the sea broke over the vessel, carrying our boat away and sweeping the deck clear.
"After the next sea she grounded, and rolled considerably at every wave. This was about ten o'clock and we remained on board till about one o'clock, when we were rescued by Wm. Ward and other fishermen of the island. Our boat had been carried away, and out of the seven souls on board, including the woman cook, only another besides myself would have been able to reach the shore unaided.
"Too much credit cannot be given to the fishermen of the Island who so kindly assisted us with dry clothes and warmth. Previous to our leaving the vessel she had begun to break up badly. I would recommend to the authorities that the proper place for the proposed lifeboat station would be in the immediate vicinity of where we were wrecked."
Robert Short, mate of the Fearless, made the following statement: The Fearless left Oswego in company with the schooners Olive Branch and Duncan City, about four o'clock Saturday afternoon. The schooners were laden with coal. The Fearless had 307 tons on board. Everything went all right until about half past four on Sunday morning, when the foresail jibed and carried away the foresheet and jaws of fore boom.
Before we could get the boom in the foresail was torn. We then took a single reef in the foresail and stood in close to land. Sighted land which we took for Highlands. We afterwards jibed over, and stood for the lake. The mainsail soon after tore and the main sheet was carried away. A heavy sea was running, and after getting in the main boom, we again stood in for the north shore. The foresail being gone we could not jibe any more, so we had to run the vessel off all we could.
We fetched up again and soon afterwards sighted land, which we took for the land at the head of the lake. The snow storm at this time was so heavy that a man standing aft could not see another man on the forecastle. About eleven o'clock on Sunday a man was sent up to the foretop to try and see land. he said he could see land, which he thought was Burlington Beach. We then hauled up and let go both anchors in about three fathoms of water. The vessel hung for awhile, and then began dragging. Almost all the cable on board was paid out, but she still kept dragging until about four o'clock in afternoon when she struck.
The Captain immediately gave orders for the jolly boat to be lowered. The sea at the time was making a clean sweep of the decks and filling the cabin with water. The Captain told them to do the best they could, as he could not help them. He said he was sorry for the poor woman on board. He also spoke of his wife and children, and cried very much. The vessel all this while kept bumping heavily. The jolly boat was lowered and the captain wanted the crew to get into the boat. Some of the crew wanted to get into the boat, but the mate would not get in. The boat was allowed to drift under the stern of the vessel so that the crew might get in.
Some of the crew had hold of the boat's painter all this time, but directly they got her under the lee of the stern of the vessel a heavy sea struck her and the men had to let go the painter or else they would have gone overboard and the boat drifted ahead of the vessel, when a wave struck her and fetched her head on to the sea. The next wave that struck filled her, and the boat capsized and the last seen of Captain Ferguson he was holding up one hand with an oar in it.
The crew remained during the night in the cabin, which was half filled with water, until they were rescued by the crew of the life boat Monday morning. The mate further states that he has been sailing the lakes for the last sixteen years, but does not remember ever having seen such heavy weather before. He speaks in high terms of Captain Ferguson as being a skillful seaman.
Among those who assisted in rescuing the crew of the Olive Branch, in addition to those named yesterday, were Patrick Honen, Michael Leonard and James Foster. The names of the crew of the life boat are Thomas Tinning, James Simmons, Albert Medcalfe, Thomas Hastings, John Morley and William Montgomery. Those saved from the Fearless owe their lives to the daring men who, after several attempts to reach the vessel, remained on the beach until morning and the sea had partially subsided. The Fearless is a total loss, the beach being strewn with her wreck.