The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Montcalm (Schooner), U16343, aground, 15 Nov 1871

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Schooner MONTCALM, ashore at Girard, Lake Erie; got off.
      Marine Disasters on the Western
      Lakes during 1871, Capt. J.W. Hall

      . . . . .

THE SCHOONER MONTCALM STRANDED. - We learn from the Erie Dispatch that the schooner MONTCALM is on the beach near the little village of Fairview, about three miles from Girard. She was discovered early Wednesday morning, about 500 rods from shore, flying a signal of distress. No boat was in the neighborhood, and word was sent to Erie. A boat and crew from the U.S. steamer MICHIGAN was sent by rail to the scene of the disaster. The shore is very bluff, and it was impossible to launch the boat with any hope of success. By this time the MONTCALM had worked within 300 feet of the shore, and her foremast had gone by the board. A line was floated ashore from the schooner in the hope of towing the yawl backwards and forwards by its aid. But the yawl filled immediately, and night closed in upon the scene without anything parctical having been accomplished. There appeared to be about ten persons on board, including a woman and child. Strong hopes were entertained that she would hold together through the night, in which event the crew has been saved.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Friday, November 17, 1871

      . . . . .

      The reports of the disaster to our lake marine in the recent storm are coming in thick and fast. In the marine column of this issue will be found the particulars of several serious accidents, some of which were attended with loss of life. But we fear that all the disasters have not yet been made known.
      On Lake Erie the storm raged with terrible fury for nearly forty-eight hours. The vessels that were caught near the south shore must have fared badly, unless they succeeded in making some port before the gale reached its height. At the present writing, the fate of twn persons on board of the stranded schooner MONTCALM is not known here. This vessel was discovered early Wednesday morning, about 500 rods from the shore, near Girard, flying a flag of distress. There being no boats in that vicinity, word was sent to Erie, and a boat and eight men were sent from the U. S. Steamer MICHIGAN, by rail to Girard, to assist in the rescue. But the shore near the scene of the disaster is very rocky and abrupt, and consequently the rescueing boat could not be launched. By this time the vessel had worked within 500 feet of the beach, and her foremast had gone by the board. A line was floated ashore from the vessel in the hope of working the yawl by its aid. The yawl, however, immediately filled on touching the water. Thus the day was spent in futile attempts to rescue the crew of the stranded vessel, and night set in with no hope of help until next morning. The storm continued to rage all night, with bitter cold weather, but whether the vessel hung together until the morning dawned we are not yet informed.
      Directly across the lake, another shipwrecked crew were at the same time battling with the waves for their lives. The fine bark P.C. SHERMAN, of this port, loaded with corn, while flying before the storm, struck some object near Long Point and went down very soon after. The crew took to the boats, and, after suffering great hardships, mad a safe landing on the south shore, near Brocton. The scow WILLIAMS, in attempting to make the port of Cleveland during the storm, struck the pier and sunk, taking down with her a wonam cook. On Long Point several vessels are reported ashore. One of these is supposed to be the propeller EVERGREEN CITY, of this port. Similar reports reach us from Lake Ontario, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. In the latter case it is feared several lives have been lost.
      The effects of this storm have been widespread and very disastrous. The loss to the shipping on the seaboard, and on the other side of the Atlantic, has also been very great. At the present it is impossible to estimate the full amount of damage that has been done.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      November 17, 1871

      . . . . .
In Yesterday's paper we published an account of the wreck of the schooner MONTCALM, near Girard, Pa., taken from the Erie Dispatch. Today we give the sequel to the story, and the particulars of the rescue of the crew of the schooner, as reported in the same paper, as follows:
      The news that the crew of the schooner MONTCALM had been rescued alive and well was gladly received in the city yesterday, and the interest felt in their safety was plainly observable. As was stated in yesterday's paper, she still lay in distress at night-fall, about three hundred and fifty feet from shore, with a part of citizens on guard with a cheering light. At early morning, before light, Captain Ottinger, Captain Pettibone, Masters Mate Cronin and the MICHIGAN men betook themselves to the spot to renew their efforts, and as the wind had subsided to a great degree during the night, the prospect was good, if the sufferers were alive, of a rescue being made without much delay. A large crowd of citizens gathered, and every one showing the greatest willingness to do or dare anything for the relief of those in danger.
      The sea ran even higher than the night before, and the possibility of floating over the yawl was small, so a large mud scow, lying a mile or two away was obtained and towed down by willing hands. The rope which the night before had connected the vessel to land was still whole, and this was made fast to the scow, and she was floated over safely to the wreck. Two of the seamen sprang aboard and were towed over without any interruption.
      They were joyfully received, and being half famished and exhausted with cold were taken in charge by people living near by, and provided with all that hospitality could offer. The woman and six of the crew were still in the vessel, and Master Cronin called for volunteers to run over the scow and rescue them. Nearly every person present claimed the privilege of going, but seamen Breen and Painter were the first hands aboard, and they, with Mr. Cronin, manned the craft and came alongside without difficulty. The woman and the first mate were taken on, and the scow returned to land with her freight. A hearty cheer arose from the bystanders and the sufferers were hurried to a warm house near by. Again and again these trips were repeated, till the lat man was on dry land alive and well, when the party dispersed, satisfied with the good deed they had done. The story of the survivors was a pitiful one. They reported that after shifting her cargo on the morning of Wednesday, she jibed her foresail, which brought her on the other tack, righting her again. There they kept her before the wind, till a heavy sea struck her astern carrying away her boat. She struck bottom about half past five and soon after ran hard aground near the present position. Fortunately she lay headed in, for had she swung broad side to the sea there would have been no living on her decks, and the crew would have had to take to the rigging. The sea washed over her stern, fiercely breaking through her windows, putting out the fire, and filling the cabin with water. The people aboard took refuge on and in the forecastle, the upper bunks being dry, and remained there from the morning of Wednesday until they were rescued. The cold was almost insufferable, and had it not been for a little food which was recovered from the cabin, the fate of death would have been certain. The party expressed indescribable joy at such fortunate deliverance, and their gratitude to their rescuers was touchingly and heartily shown. The greatest praise should be given to Captain Ottinger, Captain Pettibone, Master's mate Cronin, for their prompt and heroic endeavors, as well as to many citizens of Girard, whose hospitality and kindness will long be remembered by the suffering crew.
      The schooner is owned by E.J. Merrick & Co., of Detroit, Captain Tracy, Master, and
was bound for Buffalo with a cargo of wheat. She lies in a very favorable position and it is
thought she can be gotten off without difficulty. There is probably four or five feet of water in her hold, and the lower portion of her load is damaged. A tug and lighters are now on their way from Detroit, and she will in all probability be afloat without much further delay.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Saturday, November 18, 1871

Schooner MONTCALM. U. S. No. 16343. Of 297.24 tons gross; 282.38 tons net. Built Clayton, N.Y. 18667. Home port, Rochester, N.Y. 137.5 x 26.1 x 11.5
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1891

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: aground
Lives: nil
Freight: grain
Remarks: Got off
Date of Original:
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Pennsylvania, United States
    Latitude: 42.00033 Longitude: -80.31812
William R. McNeil
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Montcalm (Schooner), U16343, aground, 15 Nov 1871