The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Ann Bellchambers (Schooner), aground, 30 Oct 1873

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      Toronto, Oct. 31 - Another of those sad occurrences, of which there has been so many on Lake Ontario during the past season, happened on Thursday morning of the western point of the Island, in the wreck of the schooner ANN BELL CHAMBERS and the loss by drowning of the captain's son and one of the crew. The schooner was owned by Mr. Bell Chambers, of Frenchman's Bay and was sailed by Captain Edwards. She was laden with cordwood and was on her was from Frenchman's Bay to Toronto. The schooner arrived off the Eastern Gap early on Wednesday night, when one of the hands on board, named Thomas Namfield, was sent off in the schooners boat to find the channel from the lake into the Bay. The wind, which had up to this time been blowing a strong gale, now rose to such a violence that the vessel was driven westward outside the Island, whilst the man who had been sent off in the boat got safe across the Bay to the city. The schooner on rounding the Western Point was driven by the force of the wind and waves on to the shore, nearly opposite the Lighthouse, where she was washed and tossed by the billows throughout the night.
      About 7 o'clock yesterday morning Charles Colman, who was working with two other men, named John McMahon and James McKnight on the steam dredge in the bay near the western point of the Island, noticed the schooner in the position above described. The three at once set off to render what assistance was in their power. On arriving near the vessel, which was on her beam ends about 100 yards from shore, they saw a man and a boy lashed in the main rigging. The three men entered the water and waded out to the vessel which, after some difficulty, they boarded. Colman went up the rigging and found the captain of the vessel with the dead body of his son, a lad about 15 years old, in his arms, the Captain,
William Edwards was bound to the rigging and in an insensible condition. The two were then cut away from the rigging and taken ashore. The captain was take to the Lighthouse keeper's cottage and restoratives were applied to his inanimate form and the corpse of the boy was brought over to the city "Dead House." After an hours exertion by the rescuers, Captain Edwards recovered consciousness, and then stated that another of the crew, named Peter Young had been washed overboard and drowned before the vessel struck.
      Charles Colman states that he was working on the steam-dredge on the outside of the Island yesterday morning, a little before 8 o'clock, when his attention was directed by John McMahon, another man working on the dredge, to the schooner which was lying on her beam ends, about 100 yards from shore, and rolling heavily.
      He said, " That vessel's ashore; lets see if we can save some of the people." They both started, accompanied by a man named James McKnight, towards the lighthouse.
      On their way they saw a man and a boy lashed to the main rigging of the vessel, he (Colman) called out to them to pay out a rope and lash themselves to it, so they could haul them ashore. The only reply the got was a wave of a hand from the man. They then went to John Ward's, near the Point to get a boat, but they could not find one fit to go in. They went back, and by this time the schooner had drifted nearer the shore.
Colman took off his superfluous clothing and waded out to the vessel, and getting hold of the main boom guy pennant had hauled himself partly up when a sea broke over the vessel and he lost his hold. He regained his position and got on board. He was followed by McKnight, McMahon and a stranger from Mead's Hotel who had joined them. Colman got into the main rigging with McMahon and found an old man lashed to the rigging with a boy in his lap, dead. The old man was speechless. They cut him loose, and McMahon taking the boy in his arms, had descended to the main deck when a heavy sea broke over the vessel and carried him and the boy down the hatchway, which was filled nearly to the top, with wood. The vessel had by this time been washed nearer the shore. The four men having got the old man safely to shore, got a line around the corpse of the boy and hauled it to land. The old man, who proved to be the captain, was carried to the Lighthouse and restoratives applied, which had the effect of bringing him to consciousness in about an hour. The corpse of the boy was sent over to the city Dead House.
      Mr. Thomas Tinning stated that the schooner was blown ashore about 3 o'clock yesterday morning, at the Western Point of the Island, off the new filtering basin, and lay capsized there with her masts out of the water, but righted when part of her cargo had been washed overboard. The captain, whose name is Edwards, was found lashed to the rigging, alive but unconscious with his son, about 14 or 15, dead in his arms. The Captain was conveyed to Durnan, the Lighthouse Keeper's house, and recovered consciousness in about an hour. Mr. George Durnam and John First saw the schooner at 7 o'clock, about 300 yards from shore. They put off with a boat to the rescue, but the water was so rough that they could not reach the vessel. They saw two men on board when they were making the attempt to reach the schooner, but one of the men waved his hand and fell into the water, they being unable to help him. One of the two must have been the captain. They rowed over to Mr. Thomas Tinning's, and withhim and two others in his lifeboat went back to the vessel. By this time she was beached, and two men from the dredge had walked to her and took the captain and the boy off. The corpse of the boy was taken to the Dead House and the Captain was taken to Mr. Durnan's.
      Mr. Tinning further states that he had also seen the schooner in distress and a man in the rigging, and endeavoured for an hour to get a crew, but could not persuade any of the men belonging to the vessels at the wharf's to accompany him.
      Esplanade Constable Williams indends going over to the wreck this morning to search for the body of the man who was washed overboard.
      Coroner Riddell has delayed the holding of an inquest on the boy until the Captain of the schooner has sufficiently recovered to give evidence. The inquest will probably be held today.
      The Toronto Mail
      Friday, October 31, 1873

      . . . . .

      Yesterday forenoon the schooner ANNA BELL CHAMBERS, bound from Frenchman's Bay to Toronto, laden with cordwood, whilst rounding the Island near the Lighthouse, went ashore. The accident was noticed by two men, John McMahon and Christopher Coleman, who were aboard a tug, they immediately went to the assistance of the stranded vessel, and on going on board they found the captain, named Edwards, laying insensable on the deck, and his son, a youth, about 15 years of age lashed to the rigging, quite dead. Another of the crew, a man named Young, aged about 45 years, was washed overboard and drowned.
      The dead body of the boy, Edwards, was brought ashore and deposited in the dead-house. An inquest will be held by Coroner Riddell today, the captain was taken ashore to William's Hotel, where he soon recovered from his unconscious state, it is believed the cause of the schooner going ashore, was owing to some of her canvas being blown away, through which the captain could not keep her far enought westward of the Island, the schooner was owned by Mr. Wm. Bell Chambers of Frenchman's Bay.
      Toronto Globe
      October 31, 1873
      . . . . .

      Inquest On The Body Of Joseph Edwards.
Yesterday morning an inquest was held at William's Hotel, West Market Street on the body of Joseph Edwards, who died through exposure in the rigging of the ANN BELL CHAMBERS, the schooner that was wrecked on the Island last Thursday morning. The following evidence was given: -
      Wm. Edwards, Captain of the schooner ANN BELL CHAMBERS, sworn, said: -
We left Frenchman's Bay about 5 o'clock on the afternoon of Wednesday last, with a load of cordwood for Toronto. There were on board Peter Young and Thomas Mansfield, sailors, and my son, the deceased, and myself. When we arrived outside the Gap on the Island, it was dark. I sent Thomas Mansfield out in a boat to find the buoys, telling him to hang a red lamp on one of them so that we might enter the harbour. We did not see the light he was to have placed on the buoys, and he now says he could not find them. While we were waiting for Mansfield to place a light on the buoys, the wind freshened, blowing from the southeast, and we sailed up the lake with the intention of entering the harbour by the Queen's Wharf. When we were about half-way up the Island, the waves were washing into the vessel and she filled and settled over on her beam ends.
Seeing our condition I let go the anchor with a view of keeping her out in the lake, but we had not chain enough. We put out the anchor before she turned over. The only chance we had to save ourselves was to lay hold of the rigging.
      Finding a piece of line floating about, I lashed myself to the rigging, and tied my son, who was 14 years of age, to my body. This was about 3 o'clock in the morning of Thursday. We were pretty wet, every sea going over us. I became unconscious soon after. Before I lost my senses, my son asked me if I was afraid to die, saying that he was not, and that he knew he was going to die, as he was so cold. I do not know whether my son was dead before I lost my senses or not, and did not know of his death till 5 o'clock last night. I have no recollection of being taken off the rigging. When I became conscious I found myself in Mr. Durnan's at the Lighthouse. The vessel now lies quite close in-shore. She is all broken up.
I suppose the loss of the vessel was caused by her being waterlogged. As soon as I saw her filling, I threw over the wood.
The last time I saw Young he was lashed to the rigging just above me. He had been washed off twice before that. We had plenty of chain on board, but could not pay it out owing to the vessel turning so suddenly on her beam ends. We had a reef hauled out of the mainsail, but when we found the vessel was filling, we squatted the foresail half way down.
      Charles Colman, sailor, but at present working on the dredge, employed in excavating the channel on the Island, for the water pipes, sworn, said: -
      Yesterday morning about half past seven or eight o'clock, a young man named John McMahon, dip tender on the dredge, called my attention to a vessel rolling on her beam ends off the Island opposite the Lighthouse. I said, its a schooner ashore, let us go and see if we can save the people, if there are any. Our captain, Capt. Baker, told McMahon, James McKnight, and me to go. We took the small skiff and rowed up to the outside of the Island as far as we could go, and walked over to the shore opposite the vessel. She was some distance from land. Seeing a man lashed to the rigging and a boy lashed to him, I called out to veer a line away and we would haul them ashore. I went down to the Lighthouse, asked if they had any means of saving lives, that there were people perishing in the vessel's rigging. They had no boat to lend us. I then went to Mr. Ward, who saw the boat would not stand the sea, which was true. I then went back and seeing the main boom of the vessel had got adrift and that she was drifting nearer the shore, I said to my mates, "let me get my wind and we can save them yet," I then took my monkey jacket off and waded in, getting hold of the guy pennant, and cut the tackle and hauled myself partly on to the main boom when a sea came and knocked me off; I got a fresh hold, and climbing up got on to the boom, I then made my way to the man in the rigging. When I got to him he pointed to the boy and tried to speak. The vessel kept working up in towards the land. James McKnight, John McMahon and George Smith, then made their way on board. They cut the boy loose. Just then a sea came, knocking me down on the deck and John McMahon into the hold with the boy in his arms. Seeing the boy was dead, we released the captain, tied a rope to him, put him over the side, and got him ashore by hauling him through the surf. We took the captain to the Lighthouse, where he was attended to, and recovered consciousness in the afternoon, and the boys body was brought to town in the lifeboat, on board of which was Mr. Tinning.
      Mr. Mead and his bartender rendered every assistance in aiding to rescue and resuscitate the captain, the bartender going up to his neck in the water.
      James McKnight, Labourer, corroborated the above testimony.
      The jury returned a verdict " that the said Joseph Edwards, on the 30th. day of October, in the rigging of the schooner ANN BELL CHAMBERS off the Island, came to his death through exposure to the inclemency of the weather." The jury further presented that Messrs. Chas. Colman, James McKnight, John McMahon, George Smith, and the bartender at Mead's Hotel deserve every commendation for their efforts in rescuing the body of the deceased and saving the life of Captain Edwards.
      The body of Peter Young, the sailor who lost his life last Thursday morning by being washed off the ANN BELL CHAMBERS, has not yet been recovered, although diligent search has been made near the scene of the disaster.
      The Toronto Mail
      Saturday, November 1, 1873

      . . . . .

      The schr. ANNABELLA CHAMERS, with wood was wrecked on the western point of the island at Toronto, Lake Ontario, Thursday morning. Capt. Edwards was rescued having the dead body of his son in his arms. One sailor named Young was washed overboard and drowned.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      November 3, 1873 3-6

      . . . . .

      MARY TAYLOR, Schooner of 40 tons, built at Port Credit (no date) Owned by Chambers. Port of hail, Toronto. Valued at $700. Class B. 1.
      Remarks -- Called BELLE CHAMBERS
      Association of Canadian Lake Underwriters
      Lake Vessel register, 1866

      . . . . .
      MARY TAYLOR, Fore and Aft schooner of 50 tons (British) Port of Hail, Oakville. Classed as A 1. Rebuilt at Oakville in 1850. Valued at 400 Pounds.
      Register of British Shipping, 1854

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: aground
Lives: 2
Freight: cordwood
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.634444 Longitude: -79.370833
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Ann Bellchambers (Schooner), aground, 30 Oct 1873