The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego County Whig (Oswego, NY), Wed., July 25, 1838

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[From the Watertown Jeffersonian]

Shipwreck. - The lives of but few persons furnish incidents as appalling as that given below. The account may be in some of the particulars incorrect, as it was penned in a hurried manner, from the lips of one of the sufferers. The new schooner, William L. Marcy, Captain Miner, belonging to Messrs. S. & H. Cook, of Ellisburgh, on her trip from Ellis' village to Oswego, was on the evening of the 10th inst. capsized in a gale of wind, off Mexico Bay.

The gale was preceded by a dead calm. Upon the first appearance of the storm, every precaution was made use of, to prepare the vessel for its encounter. It is here proper to state that she was without ballast. The progress of the storm could be distinctly traced upon the smooth surface of the water as it came with apparently slow but terrific violence. Its low sepulchral moanings seemed to say to the lookers on, "I soon will chaunt your requiem."

It passed on. With masts perpendicular in the water, and keel in the air, the vessel now dashed to and fro, among the billows. Samuel Cook, (owner) Capt. Miner, and two hands were on deck. William C. Wells, Esq. merchant of Mannsville, John Tift, of Ellisburgh, Miss Eliza Van Allstine of Scriba, Oswego co. and a son of Mr. Cook, about 12 years of age, were in the cabin.

Those on deck were swept from it as quick as thought; but by such exertions as can only be put forth at such a crisis as this, they all succeeded in gaining the heel, to which they hung from sunset until near midnight, with every sea dashing over them, with tremendous violence.

The cabin filled with water as far as the confined air would permit; the scene which was there enacted beggars description. Within this narrow 8 by 10 room were four human beings, rolling and tumbling among the loose furniture and baggage, alternately under and out of the water, as the vessel rose and sunk with each succeeding sea.

They however sustained themselves somewhat by holding on to the inverted berths. After remaining in this situation about two hours with the water gradually gaining upon them, so that but about a foot of space remained between the surface of the water and the top of the cabin, they found to their indescribable horror, that the vital principle of the air was well nigh exhausted.

Death now seemed inevitable. But with a desperation attendant only upon the last effort of the dying Mr. Wells after three or four attempts, by diving down broke out the sky light window and tore out with his hands the iron rods which were placed outside to protect it, through which they thrust as much of the loose rubbish as possible, thereby allowing them room and air, as the water had now free ingress from below. But they still experienced great difficulty in breathing, and must have perished were it not for two feather beds which were inflated with air.

Ever and anon, they thrust these into the water, from which globules of air would rise and burst, thus furnishing a scanty supply of the sustained element. Mr. Tift fainted and sunk but was again brought to the surface of the water by Mr. Wells. The young lady also fainted. The boy sustained himself remarkably. When all hope of relief had fled Mr. Wells with his pocket knife, with no other light than an occasional gleam of lightning reflected by the water, commenced cutting for the purpose of getting a hole through the ship; and had cut through the inner finishings of the cabin and far into the hard timber when his knife came in contact with a spike which dulled it, as to render it useless.

About this time, voices were heard from the outside of the vessel, this being the first sound that had come to their ears, save the howling of the storm, and the peltings of hail upon the bottom of the vessel. the schooner Pulaski, Capt. Mathewson, having discovered the wreck, after four hours beating, came alongside and took from the keel the well nigh exhausted sufferers.

But in what way to proceed to rescue those in the cabin, they knew not. While calculating upon the uncertainty of success, Capt. Mathewson formed a quick resolve, and carried into execution the plan which resulted in saving them, and which entitles him not only to their lasting gratitude, but ranks him high on the list of the humanely brave.

With a rope around his body, the waves running fearfully high at the time, he dove under the vessel, and with his feet up felt for the sky light, into which he thrust them, to which they one by one, dove down, caught and were drawn out, with the exception of the boy who was unable to dive as low as the Captain's feet. A hole was immediately cut through the bottom of the vessel, through which he was taken out.

When the hole was cut the discharge of confined air, resembled he letting off of steam, from an engine. No blame is attached to Capt. Miner, he having used every precaution necessary, save a supply of ballast previous to sailing.

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Wed., July 25, 1838
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Oswego County Whig (Oswego, NY), Wed., July 25, 1838