The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Chicago Inter-Ocean (Chicago, IL), Tuesday, November 12, 1878

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Details at Last of the Terrible Disaster to the Schooner J. P. MARCH.

Young Morey, the son of Mrs. Morey, cook on the J. P. MARCH, was well educated, his his mother spending all her hard-earned wages to push him forward. He was about 18 years of age, and a very promising young man. He was his mother's pride and hope, and when he died in her arms on board the wreck it is not to be wondered at that the heart-broken women gave up and died too. Both their bodies were swept overboard, but afterward recovered.

The particulars of the disaster are as following:

The MARCH, which had been lying for refuge in the harbor of Beaver Island, weighed anchor and made sail on the morning of the 30th of October, the storm having mainly subsided, and the wind being from the southwest. When within fourteen or fifteen miles of the North Manitons the wind shifted to northwest and began to blow a gale. Captain Debbage concluded to make South Manitou harbor. It began to snow and the weather became very thick and cold, with darkness approaching. In this condition of things the captain mistook the mainland for the Manitou and struck about a mile and a half above Their's dock near Good Harbor. At that point the water is quite deep, and with the sea then running the vessel lay some forty rods from the shore, and in a very uneasy position, being apparently on a bearing of some sort about amidship.

At daylight Captain Debbage took two fenders as a sort of float, with a view of reaching land and getting help, the shore being uninhabited except by a couple of fishermen two miles north of the vessel. As the captain struck the water, the sea setting around the stern of the vessel, which lay broadside to the beach formed a sort of current, and carried him under. He sunk and rose twice, and the third time when he came up the fenders were on top of him, and he went down and was seen no more.

The fishermen spoken of above, having got knowledge of the wreck, took their pond boat about 11 a. m. and hauled it up, with a team, to the wreck, not knowing then that any lives had been lost, seeing four men in the rigging, they launched their boat and went out to the vessel, where they found the following in the rigging: Second Mate Moses Mason and seamen Ed McKevitt, James McFie, and Albert Pegger. These they rescued, though McFie and McKevitt were almost gone, and could have survived but a few minutes. From the survivors they learned the thrilling story of what had passed.

Mary Moray, the cook, and her son, James Morey, after the death of the captain, died from exposure while the rescuing party was approaching. Their strength having given out, they laid down on the deck, near the bow, with their arms locked about each other. McFie tried to cheer the woman on and said to her: "Mary, cheer up, here is help." At this the boy turned his eyes on McFie, raised up a little and fell over into his mother's arms, dead. The poor woman cried out: "My hope is lost; I might as well go too!" She fainted, and a swell swept the deck and washed them both into the sea.

Ole Anderson, the mate, then made up his mind to make an effort to reach the shore, He stripped off all but his trousers and underclothes, and, walking along the rail several times, jumped into the water and disappeared.

Having landed the survivors the two fishermen commenced to search for the bodies. The mate and captain were first found. The cook was found by two boys, who dragged her ashore. Her neck was broken and she had a cut on her forehead. Toward evening of this day, the 31st, the sea ran down considerably. The bodies of Captain Debbage and the mate were removed to Justice Koch's house, about two miles from the wreck. He then sent his team down after the body of the cook, but, it being late and getting dark, it could not be found. The men, however, found the body of young Moray half buried in the sand on the beach. At 5 o'clock next morning Mr. Koch again sent his team out and the woman's body was found, and all were taken to Mr. Koch's house.

Justice Koch summoned a jury and held an inquest on the four bodies. The storm having destroyed all telegraph communication, and justice Koch being unable to get any word to or from Captain Debbage's friends, on Sunday, Nov. 3. he had them buried in a private graveyard adjoining his garden. The Rev. George Thompson, of the village of Leland, performed the service.

Captain Debbage's body has since been raised and taken to his late home in Oswego, Justice Koch accompanying it. The bodies of the others will remain where they are.

Second mate, Mason and the other survivors, at last accounts, were still in Good Harbor looking after the wreck, their expenses being paid by Messrs. Burton & Pierce of Chicago, the owners of the vessel.

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Tuesday, November 12, 1878
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William R. McNeil
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
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Chicago Inter-Ocean (Chicago, IL), Tuesday, November 12, 1878