Loss of the Ford
No Light at Port Maitland - A Night of Horror and Distress - The Bodies of the Lost found Frozen to the Cabin Deck - Fullest Particulars of the Disaster.
Captain W.W. Williams of this city who left here Tuesday evening for Port Maitland, to bring home the bodies of Captain Pease, Charles E. Hurd and Lizzie Sullivan of the schooner Augustus Ford, reached Dunnville, Ontario, Wednesday morning, and taking a tug proceeded to Port Maitland and arrived there about 9 A.M. He prepared to forward the bodies by the first train, and consequently had little time to learn the particulars of the disaster. Bigelow, the mate, was at the vessel, but Captain Williams saw John Mack of Oswego, seaman, who told him the thrilling story.
The Ford left Detroit Saturday, and when she encountered the gale, Captain Pease made up his mind to run for Long Point and put the vessel on that course, but ran below the Point too far to get up and run in. He then ran for Port Maitland and arrived off that harbor about 6 o"clock Monday evening, driving down before a terrible sea - one of the worst ever known on the lakes. the captain could not make out Port Maitland light, but after straining his eyes in that direction, discovered a faint glimmer, the only light to be seen, which he concluded must be the Maitland light. Immediately he discovered that he was about 400 yards east of the piers, and then he knew that he must go ashore. he let go his anchors which caught and dragged and caught again, when the schooner swung around and went broadside on about 100 rods from the main land. The crew made out cries attract attention, and after awhile people came down to the shore, but there being no life boat, no one dared to breast the terrible sea, and all home of rescue was given up.
Every sea struck the vessel as she lay broadside to it, swept clean over her, and soon her cabin filled with water. Capt. Pease, Hurd, Lizzie Sullivan, the cook and Thomas Brown, seaman, got upon the cabin deck; Daniel Bigelow, mate, sheltered himself behind the mainmast, and John Mack, who narrates this account, went aloft and wrapped the foretopsail about him. he found that this afforded good protection from the wind, and begged the others to come up, but, he says, "they didn't seem to care to." After awhile he saw Capt. Pease fall off from the cabin deck; the Captain crawled feebly back on to the trunk of the cabin, put his hand up to the side of his head and fell dead; Hurd died a few minutes after; Lizzie Sullivan died next, and Brown last. It was about a quarter past six when they struck and the Captain died about ten o'clock.
The mate sheltered himself behind the mainmast all night, taking advantage of momentary lulls in the storm to walk back and forth a few feet from his place of refuge, and thus kept from freezing to death.
The sight that met the eyes of the survivors when daylight broke upon the voracious sea and the stranded vessel, can never be forgotten! From the cabin deck a big jagged heap of ice glared upon them, which they knew covered the frozen bodies of Capt. Pease, Hurd, Lizzie Sullivan and Brown.
At daylight a rescuing party prepared to save the living and remove the dead, which they accomplished, though they had great difficulty saving the mate who was almost fatally chilled and exhausted. The rescuing party found it necessary to chop away the ice before they could release the bodies which were frozen in and covered to the depth of three or four inches.
Captain Williams could not distinguish the bodies when he arrived, because they were so firmly encased in ice, and they were only identified by size and bits of clothing which could be seen through their icy shrouds.
Captain Williams arrived here with the remains at 9 o'clock, Wednesday night. Capt. Pease's body was taken to Nicholson's undertaking rooms, Hurd to Perham's rooms , and Lizzie Sullivan to Mrs. Moore's on Water street. Brown's body was buried at Port Maitland, his place of residence being unknown. Capt. Williams furnished money to afford a decent burial.
When the bodies reached here, they were still frozen start and encased in ice, so no features could be seen. Capt. Peace lay stretched out with his hand to the side of his head as described by Mack when he says he (the captain) fell. Hurd lay with one arm under his head, pillow-like, and neither the positions or expressions as seen since they became recognizable indicate pain, except in the case of the cook who seems to have suffered agony. We shall not soon be able to efface from recollection the woeful take of danger, disaster and death suggested by the appearance of these bodies.
The following is a list of the crew of the Ford: Joseph C. Peace, captain, Oswego' Daniel Bigelow, mate, Oswego; Charles E. Hurd and John Mack, seamen, Oswego; Thomas Brown, seaman, residence unknown; Charles Barer, seaman, residence unknown.
Capt. Williams was so much hurried that he did not learn how Barer protected himself during the night of the wreck, but he is known to have been saved.
It appears that the Port Maitland light was not lighted when the Ford went ashore nor during that dreadful night. The light keeper's house at the light was warmed and lighted, but he did not appear and fulfill his duty. The only explanation offered is that the light keeper is a one legged man and did not dare to face the storm. There is no doubt here nor anywhere, but that Captain Pease would have made Port Maitland safely had the light been burning; the false light he saw was from a window in the town. If these are the facts, a terrible responsibility rests on the keeper and the authority which has kept him there at the peril of life and property on the lakes. We understand that he is condemned in Port Maitland without qualification.
The body of Captain Pease was buried at 2 P.M. today. Hurd's funeral will occur tomorrow at 2 P.M. Lizzie Sullivan was buried at 10 A.M. today.
Captain Williams informs us that the prospects were good for getting the Ford off, and it is probably that she has reached Buffalo by this time.
On Friday, the day before the Ford sailed, Ald. Wheeler of this city saw Capt. Pease in Detroit and had a long talk with him; told him about the anxiety of his family, friends and Oswego seamen about him when he lay so long under Long Point on the up trip. Capt. Pease replied, "you didn't feel uneasy, did you Capt. Wheeler," and remarked that he had a good vessel with new sails, that he knew the lakes perfectly and should never go ashore while anything held together.