The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Henry Clay (Schooner), capsized, 26 Jul 1831


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Another Dreadful Shipwreck On Lake Ontario
A new Schooner, named the Henry Clay, on her first voyage, from Oswego on her way to Cleveland in Ohio, was upset in a squall off Niagara on Wednesday the 20th July, and immediately sunk. She was laden with upwards of 600 barrels of Salt, and had on board 9 persons crew and passengers - three only of whom were saved; and these only by the extraordinary exertions of Capt. Richardson, of the Steam Packet Canada. We are indebted for the particulars of this melancholy affair to the following extracts of a letter received in this town from a gentleman who was a passenger.
      On Board the CANADA, Wednesday, 20th July, 1831
Between 10 and 11 o'clock this morning, when the Canada was approaching Niagara, she encountered a very violent squall, a short time after having passed the Schooner Henry Clay, of Oswego, on her way to Cleveland on Lake Erie, by the Welland Canal. Seeing this vessel upset by the wind, Capt. Richardson, with that humanity and feeling, for which he has been so much distinguished on several other occasions of a similar nature, immediately put about, and steered in the direction of the lost vessel, in the hopes of saving the lives of some of the crew. In this he was, happily successful, three men having been thus rescued from a watery grave, though the vessel had gone down immediately, and the Canada must have been nearly two miles distant from her, when the accident happened.
Too much praise cannot be given to Capt. Richardson for his skill and exertions, as well as to the Boat's crew employed by him, on this melancholy occasion, the Lake being extremely rough, and to persons less acquainted with navigation, the attempt seemed most hazardous. To them it must ever be a source of great satisfaction to reflect that under divine Providence, they have been the instruments of saving three brother sailors from such a sudden and unexpected call to another world.
The Henry Clay was of about 70 tons burthen. She left Oswego on Wednesday last, loaded with 618 barrels of Salt, being her first voyage, as she has lately been built for the express purpose of passing between the two lakes by the Welland Canal. Unfortunately, the anxiety of some of persons connected with her to make a profitable voyage, induced them, it is said, to put 300 barrels on deck, in consequence of which, she was of course top heavy, and in such a violent squall, she would probably have gone over, even if she had not had some of her sails set. This is the opinion of the man at the helm, who is one of the persons saved, as he says that the Captain had let go the main sail and most of the other sails before the accident happened.
It is hoped that this unfortunate occurrence will operate as a warning to all persons concerned with vessels of this description in future, as all the numerous accidents which have happened on this lake this year, have been caused by neglect or unskillful management.
Those persons who have thus so narrowly escaped the untimely fate of their companions, for which possibly some of them may have been ill prepared, are thus reminded of the uncertainty of this life, and they are particularly called upon to reflect on the great importance of being always prepared for eternity. And this remark most especially applies to mariners. If like too many of their brother sailors, they have been leading a wicked course of life, they are reminded that this solemn warning to them may never again be repeated, and if they do not make a proper use of it, it will only increase their condemnation. But if it should be the means of leading them to turn to God, to examine their past lives, to repent and ask pardon of their sins, through the merits of Jesus Christ, they may look back to this eventful day with melancholy satisfaction, and remember with gratitude to their all merciful creator, how narrowly they have escaped destruction.
P.S. There were 6 persons lost - viz.; the Captain, one of the crew, and four passengers - two of them, a man and his wife from Ireland a boy, son of Capt. E. Trowbridge, of Oswego, and a young man going to Cleveland to take charge of a mill.
A subscription was immediately set on foot among the passengers in the Canada, and $24 was collected, of which Capt. Richardson gave five.
A letter was written to Captain Richardson of which the following is a copy:
The undersigned, passengers on board of the Steam Packet Canada, cannot refrain from expressing their admiration and praise at the perseverance and skill evinced by Capt. Richardson this day (Wednesday,) in rescuing from a watery grave three of the crew of the Schooner, Henry Clay, of Oswego, which vessel was unfortunately capsized in a violent squall a short time after passing the Canada on her way to the Welland Canal. From the violence of the gale, and consequent roughness of the Lake, the saving of these persons was attended with extreme difficulty, and had it not been for the very great exertions and perseverance of Capt. R. and the sailors employed by him on this occasion under the blessing of Divine Providence not a single individual could have been saved. Signed by
      Geo. Philpott, H. Sheppard
      Capt. R. Engineers H. Hotham
      Josiah T. Marshall Thomas Philips
      R.W. Prentice Francis G. Stanton
      Robt. Arnold Joshua G. Dix
      Henry Laverty Salturn Givins
      Carleton Lynde Daniel Griffin
We are sure that every humane person will concur in the sentiment expressed by the Gentlemen from whose letter the above account is taken, that "too much praise cannot be given to Captain Richardson" and his brave crew, for their hazardous exertions in behalf of their perishing fellow creatures upon this occasion; and we are equally sure that the inhabitants of this Town will also concur with us in the opinion, that it is due to Captain Richardson that some public testimonial should be presented him of the grateful feelings, which we know are entertained in this neighborhood towards himself and his crew, for the exertions which at the hazard of their own lives, they have so frequently and so successfully made, to save their fellow creatures from a watery grave. [York Courier]
      Upper Canada Herald
      July 27, 1831, p. 3

      . . . . .

      SHIPWRECK.- We learn from a gentleman who came passenger in the PEACOCK on Thursday night last, that the schooner HENRY CLAY, loaded with salt and bound from Oswego to Cleveland, was capsized in a squall near Port Dalhousie o n Lake Ontario. Six persons on board, including the captain and his son, as we are told, were drowned, and three others were picked up by the Steam-boat which happened to be within hail, and were saved. The schooner, we understand, was new, and had on board 700 barrels of salt. ---- Buffalo Bulletin
      Cleveland Weekly Herald
      Thursday, July 28, 1831 p. 3 col. 3

      . . . . .
     
SHIPWRECK ON LAKE ONTARIO. -- The HENRY CLAY, on her first voyage from Oswego to Cleveland, in Ohio, was upset in a squall off Niagara on the 20th. July and immediately sunk. She had 600 barrels of salt as cargo; of nine persons on board -- three only were saved; and those solely by the exertions of Capt. Richardson of the steam packet CANADA. The passengers of the CANADA, by a just and involuntary call upon their admiration and praise at the perseverance and skill he evinced in rescuing these individuals; which from the violence of the gale, and the roughness of the lake, nothing short of his humane and resolute activity, and that of his brave crew, could have accomplished.
      Kingston Chronicle
      July 30, 1831
      . . . . .

      From The York Courier.
      ANOTHER DREADFUL SHIPWRECK ON LAKE ONTARIO.
A new schooner, named the "HENRY CLAY," on her first voyage, from Oswego on her way to Cleveland in Ohio, was upset in a squall off Niagara on Wednesday the 20th. July and immediately sunk. She was laden with upwards of 600 barrels of salt, and had on board nine persons---crew and passengers---three only of whom were saved; and these only by the extraordinary exertions of Capt. Richardson of the steam packet CANADA. We are indebted for the particulars of this melancholy affair tot he following extracts of a letter received in this town from a gentleman who was a passenger.
      On board the CANADA, 20th, July, 1831.
      Between ten and eleven o'clock this morning, when the CANADA was approaching Niagara, she encountered a very violent squall a short time after having passed the schooner HENRY CLAY, of Oswego, on her way to Cleveland on Lake Erie, by the Welland Canal.
      Seeing this vessel upset by the wind, Capt. Richardson, with that humanity and feeling, for which he has been so much distinguished on several other occasions of a similar nature, immediately put about and steered in the direction of the lost vessel, in the hope of saving the lives of some of the crew. In this, he was happily, successful, three men having been thus rescued from a watery grave, though the vessel had gone down immediately, and the CANADA must have been two miles distant from her when the accident happened.
      Too much praise cannot be given to Capt. Richardson for his skill and exertions, as well as to the boat's crew employed by him, on this melancholy occasion, the lake being extremely rough, and to persons less acquainted with navigation, the attempt seemed most hazardous. To them it must ever be a source of great satisfaction to reflect that under divine providence, they had been the instruments of saving three brother sailors from such a sudden and unexpected call to another world.
      The HENRY CLAY, was about 70 tons burden. She left Oswego on Wednesday last, loaded with 618 barrels of salt, being her first voyage, as she had lately been built for the express purpose of passing between the two lakes by the Welland Canal. Unfortunately, the anxiety some persons connected with her, to make a profitable voyage, induced them, it is said, to put 300 barrels on deck, in consequence of which she was of course top heavy, and in such a violent squall, she would probably have gone over, even if she had not had some of her sails set. This is the opinion of the man at the helm, who is one of the persons saved, as he said that the captain had let go the main sail and most of the other sails before the accident happened.
      It is hoped that this unfortunate occurrence will operate as a warning to all persons concerned with vessels of this description in future, as all the numerous accidents which have happened on this lake, this year, have been caused by neglect or unskillful management.
      Those persons who have thus so narrowly escaped the ultimate fate of their companions, for which possibly some of them may have been ill prepared, are thus reminded of the uncertainty of this life, and they are particularly called upon to reflect on the great importance of being always prepared for eternity. And this remark most especially applies to mariners.
P. S. There were six persons lost---viz. the captain, one of the crew and four passengers --- two of them, a man and his wife, from Ireland---a boy, son of Capt. E. Trowbridge, of Oswego, and a young man going to Cleveland to take charge of a mill.
      A subscription was immediately set on foot among the passengers in the CANADA, and $24 were collected, of which Capt. Richardson gave five. A letter was written to Capt. Richardson, of which the following is a copy.
      The undersigned passengers on board the Steam Packet CANADA, cannot refrain from expressing their admiration and praise at the perseverance and skill evinced by Capt. Richardson this day (Wednesday) in rescuing from a watery grave, three of the crew of the schooner HENRY CLAY, of Oswego, which vessel was unfortunately capsized in a violent squall a short time after passing the CANADA on her way to the Welland Canal. From the violence of the gale, and consequence roughness of the lake, the saving of these persons was attended with extreme difficulty, and had it not been for the great exertions and perseverance of Capt. Richardson and the sailors employed by him on this occasion under the blessing of Divine Providence not a single person could be saved. (part of article)
      The Hallowell Free Press
      August 1, 1831

      . . . . .

      Capt. Campbell and one of the crew were lost with 4 passengers, 2 men, 1 female with her child, whose names we have not learned, except Mr. Trowbridge of Carthage in Monroe County.
      The steamer CANADA, Capt. Richardson kept his boat near the spot for about an hour but nothing was seen of the HENRY CLAY or the remainder of the unfortunate individuals who were aboard.
      The HENRY CLAY was bound for Cleveland, by way of the Welland Canal. She was freighted with 700 or 800 barrels of salt, 3 were on deck, which would account for the suddenness of sinking after capsizing.
      The approach of the squall had been perceived and preparation taken on board the schooner by taking in sail to meet it to prevent disaster.
      Anti-Mason Express
      August 9, 1831

      . . . . .

Shipwreck on Lake Ontario. - On Tuesday last, about 11 o¹clock A.M., the schooner HENRY CLAY, Capt. Campbell, of Oswego, when within 10 or 12 miles of the mouth of the Niagara river, was struck with a heavy squall, which capsized her instantly, and she sunk in a very few minutes. Capt. Campbell and one of the crew were lost, together with four passengers - two men and one female and her child - whose names we have not
learned. The steamboat CANADA was a short distance ahead of the HENRY CLAY when she went down, and was immediately put about by her commander, Capt. Richardson, who succeeded, after much exertion, in picking up three of the crew - one of whom saved himself by swimming, and another by seizing a plank. The helmsman cut loose the small boat, which was capsized, but he kept himself afloat by clinging to it. Capt.
Richardson kept his boat about an hour near the spot where the schooner went down, but nothing was seen of her, or the remainder of the unfortunate individuals who were aboard of her.
The HENRY CLAY was bound for Cleaveland (sic), Ohio, by way of the Welland canal; and was freighted with 7 to 800 barrels of salt, three tier of which were on deck, which will account for the suddenness with which she sunk after capsizing. The approach of the squall was perceived, and preparations were making on board the schooner, by taking in sail, to meet it, but too late to prevent the disaster. - [N. Cour.
      Anti-Masonic Enquirer, Rochester, NY.
      Tuesday, August 9, 1831

      . . . . .

      SHIPWRECK ON LAKE ONTARIO. --- On Tuesday the 26th, ult., about 11 o'clock, A. M., the schooner HENRY CLAY, Capt. Campbell, of Oswego, when within 10 or 12 miles of the Niagara River, was struck with a heavy squall, which capsized her instantly, and she sunk in a few minutes. Capt. Campbell and one of the crew were lost, together with four passengers -- two men and one female and her child -- whose names, with the exception of a Mr. Trowbridge, of Carthage, Monroe county, we have not learned. The steamboat CANADA was at a short distance ahead of the HENRY CLAY when she went down, and was immediately put about by her commander, Capt. Richardson who succeeded, after much exertion, in picking up three of the crew -- one of whom saved himself by swimming, and another by seizing a plank. The helmsman cut loose the small boat, which was capsized, but he kept himself afloat by clinging to it. Capt. Richardson kept his boat about an hour near the spot where the schooner went down, but nothing was seen of her or the remainder of the unfortunate individuals who were aboard of her.
      The HENRY CLAY was bound to Cleveland by way of the Welland Canal, and was freighted with 7 or 800 barrels of salt, three tier of which were on deck, which will account for the suddenness of which she sunk after capsizing. The approach of the squall was perceived and preparations were making on board the schooner by taking in sail, to meet it, but too late to prevent the disaster. -- Niagara Courier.
      Buffalo Patriot
      August 9, 1831

      . . . . .

      Account of Wreck of the Henry Clay Discovered
      In 2000, the Rochester Museum & Science Center and the University of Rochester Press published a book entitled "An Englishman' s Journey along America's Easter Waterways - The 1831 Illustrated Journal of Herbert
Holtman's Travels," edited by Seymour I. Schwartz.
      Since the account of the discovery of the wreck of a schooner on Lake Ontario, possibly the "Henry Clay," was published in the last issue of Inland Seas, I found the following account given by Herbert Holtman in his book, "An Englishman's Journey along America's Eastern Waterways." The date of the entry Mr. Holtman's journal coincides exactly with the date of the sinking of the "Henry Clay."
      Holtman was aboard the steamboat "Great Britain" off Niagara, and wrote ( P. 102) "The morning fine but about 1/2 way across the lake a heavy mist came in which gradually condensed into the peculiar clouds which are the
forerunners of a squall we immediately took in all sail and prepared for a blow. - Interim a water spout had formed within a short distance of us, and all appearnces presaged a most violent storm. - Our attention was diverted
to a schooner at the distance of 3/4 of a mile from us. I perceived that there was not time for shortening sail and watched her struck by the squall with the most intense interest. The (P. 103) squall threw her on her beam
end and in 5 minutes she totally sunk. - The storm had now reached us - and to return for our own safety we were obliged to head the wind - In an hour after we tacked about and succeeded in picking up 3 men - one of whom had
swam the whole time, one had been on the boat which was turned upside down, another who could not swim had rested on some spar. There were six individuals drowned - the Captain - a little boy, an Irishman his wife and
another passenger and one hand. the last that was seen of the Captain was when he was swimming with one hand and supporting the child with the other - such was the disastrous affair. We collected $24 for the 3 survivors and
landed them at Niagara. At 4 P.M. the same day we set off in the Steam Boat Great Britain - a fine and commodious boat.
(P. 104) In our passage to Oswego, we sailed over the spot where the schooner went down but nothing save a few spars were visible..."
      Mail from Richard Palmer
     
      . . . . .

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Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Notes:
Reason: capsized
Lives: 6
Freight: salt
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
1831
Subject(s):
Local identifier:
McN.W.12998
Language of Item:
English
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.20011 Longitude: -79.26629
Donor:
William R. McNeil
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Henry Clay (Schooner), capsized, 26 Jul 1831