The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Jamaica (Schooner), capsized/sunk, 21 Jun 1872

Full Text

Oswego, June 21 - The schooner JAMAICA bound from Milwaukee to this port with wheat, capsized and sank in deep water on Lake Huron. Her crew, with the exception of the cook, a woman, were saved.
      The Toronto Mail
      Saturday, June 22, 1872
      . . . . .

LOSS OF THE JAMAICA AND ONE LIFE. - The circumstances attending the loss of this vessel were so unusual that we give the following statement of Capt. David Bothwell, who arrived here yesterday noon: The vessel sailed from Milwaukee on the 15th instant, with a cargo of eighteen thousand bushels of wheat, for Oswego. Fine weather, with light and variable winds, prevailed until Lake Huron was reached, and up to the moment of the accident there were not the slightest indications of a tornado at hand. Shortly after dinner, while all of the crew were on deck, except one who had not quite finished his meal, the vessel was struck aloft by a sort of whirlwind, which instantly capsized her. The crew clung to the side of the vessel until a boat from shore came to their rescue. The most painful part of the incident was the drowning of the cook, Eliza Weatherhead, aged fifty-four, who was unable to get out upon deck before the cabin filled with water. She was a widow from Hannibal, Oswego County, New York, where she had friends and two children. The Jamaica came out in 1867, was 316 tons burden, and is owned by M. M. Wheeler, of Oswego.
      Detroit Free Press
      June 22, 1872

Note:-- The boat was abandoned as a total loss the next day, but was recovered by Coast Wrecking Company early in July. She was lost for good on Lake Michigan in August, 1885.

      . . . . .

      The schooner JAMAICA, bound down with 18,000 bushels of wheat on board, was struck by a squall off Rock Falls, Thursday, and instantly turned over. The crew were rescued by a boat from shore, and all were saved except the woman who was employed as cook, she being below at the time, was drowned. The boat that saved the crew was the yawl belonging to the schooner TWILIGHT, who mate the same fate at the same spot a year or two ago. The shipwrecked crew were taken aboard the EIGHTH OHIO and brought to this port this morning. There were two other vessels in sight at the time and were afterward seen with their canvas all gone.
      Port Huron Times
      June 27, 1872
      . . . . .

THE SCHOONER JAMAICA. - Alderman (Morgan M.) Wheeler telegraphs O.H.Brown that he has contracted with the New York Coasting Company to raise the jamaica and put her in the dry dock at Detroit. The terms for the raising are not given, but if the company fail they are not to receive anything. The expedition left for the scene of the disaster Friday afternoon.
      Oswego Daily Palladium
      Thursday, June 27, 1872

      The schooner Jamaica Capsized and Sunk on Lake Huron
      We learn from a telegram received from Falls River, Michigan, that the schooner JAMAICA, Capt. D. Bouthwell, was struck by a squall yesterday afternoon, about 1 o¹clock, capsized and sunk in seven fathoms of water, twenty miles below Point Aux Barque, Lake Huron. The crew were all saved excepting the cook a woman.
The JAMAICA was owned by Ald. M. M. Wheeler, built in 1867, classed A1 valued at $22,000, and insured for $18,000, $10,000 with the Aetna,$4,000 with the Phoenix and $4,000 in Detroit Fire and Marine. She cleared from
Milwaukee June 17th , for this port, with 18,000 bushels of wheat, for Jenkins Hover & Co. The wheat is insured for $28,000 in Cincinnati companies. As she lays in but seven fathoms of water, efforts will be made to raise her.
      Oswego Daily Palladium
      Friday June 21, 1872

The Loss of the Schooner JAMAICA. The circumstances attending the loss of this vessel were so unusual that we give the following from Capt. David Bothwell's statement: -- Thursday, the 20th inst., the vessel was coming down
lake Huron with a light wind ahead, and when about 50 miles below Point Au Barques she was struck by a white squall, and in less than a minute and a half capsized. At the time of the accident, the mate Carlisle, was in the cabin eating his dinner, and the cook Mrs. Weatherhead, was in the kitchen attending to her duties. One of the seamen was in the forecastle. The vessel went over so suddenly and the water rushed in the companion way with such force, that the mate was compelled to clamber through a window in the captains room on the windward side. The cook was last seen in the kitchen in the water nearly up to her arm pits.
The seamen in the forecastle tried to get to the scuttle, but found it impossible for some little time the water was rushing in so fast and filling the forecastle that he floated to the deck beams, which he grasped, getting air through the stovepipe hole till the rush of water was over, when he groped his way to the companion way and got out. Floating planks and the house of the steering apparatus floated the crew till the schooner settled to the bottom right side up, when they took to her rigging, where they remained till a boat from the shore took them off.
      At the time of the accident the crew were getting the vessel ready to go about, but the helm had not been put hard down. Some twelve years since a similar accident befell the bark JOHN RAE, grain loaded, bound for Kingston,
when she was struck by a squall off the Ducks, capsized and sunk immediately, carrying down al hands with her.
      Oswego Palladium
      Tuesday June 25, 1872

      The JAMAICA.
      We have had an interview with Alderman Wheeler who has just returned from Lake Huron, where he has been to superintend the raising of the schooner, JAMAICA, the account of the capsizing of which we published several weeks
      The attempt to raise the vessel has been entirely successful. Capt. Wheeler reached the scene of his labors on Sunday the 30th ult., at about two o'clock in the morning. The vessel was found in about fifty-five feet of water, three miles from beech, off Rock Falls, on the west shore of Lake Huron, about sixty miles from Port Huron, the nearest harbor.
      For the purpose of raising his vessel Capt. Wheeler employed the Coast Wrecking Company, with their apparatus, consisting of the steamer RESCUE with large pontoons, recently built. The tug GEN. BURNSIDE was also employed
in the work. As the process of raising the vessel was one of interest we will describe it briefly.. The pontoons are large vessels built like a box, one hundred and twenty feet long, twelve feet deep and sixteen feet wide. By
means of diving bells, huge chains were swept under the JAMAICA, as she lay upon the bottom. The pontoons were ranged upon either side of the sunken vessel, and the ends of the chains were brought up through holes or "wells"
in the center of the pontoons; The chains were then hauled tight by means of hydraulic Jacks, After which water was let into the pontoons until they sunk to their decks in the Lake, the chains being constantly hauled tight as the
pontoons sunk into the water.
      After the chains were made fast, with the decks of the pontoons sunk to the surface of the lake, the pumps operated by steam power, were set going, which emptied the pontoons, the immense floating power of which by means of chains, raised the sunken vessels as the pontoons themselves raised above the surface of the water. When the vessel was thus raised several feet from the bottom the whole was towed towards the shore until the bottom was again touched, when the chains were loosened, the pontoons were again sunk, and the same process repeated.
      It was a work of patience, but was entirely successful, and the JAMAICA is saved.
      Capt. Wheeler states that the only serious damage to the vessel is the lifting of her decks, somewhat, by the swelling of the grain. With proper repairs to the deck, the JAMAICA will be as good as new, and will again take
her place among the best schooners on Lake Ontario.
      The unfortunate woman Mrs. Weatherhead, who went down with the JAMAICA was first discovered in the kitchen floating in the water in a standing position, with her arms folded. The remains were properly cared for and was
buried with funeral services.
      The wheat, owing to the coldness of the lake, was not badly injured, and was sold to a distiller at Walkerville, Canada opposite Detroit where Capt. Wheeler left the JAMAICA on Friday last undergoing the process of unloading.
      Oswego Commercial Advertiser
      Monday, July, 8,1872

Viva La JAMAICA -- Capt. M. M. Wheeler arrived in this city Saturday morning from Detroit, where he has been superintending the repairs of is schooner, the JAMAICA. The recent accident to this vessel has not injured it in the
least. She left Detroit on Friday laden with wheat the same number of bushels, (18,000) consigned to the parties here, and insured by the same underwriters every thing the same except the grain, as when over taken by the unlucky squall upon Lake Huron.
      Such energy and enterprise as is exhibited by Capt. Wheeler deserves success. And will have it.
      Oswego Commercial Advertiser
      August 5, 1872

      Capt. Wheeler's Card. -- In another place was found the card of Capt. M. Wheeler, thanking the several insurance companies and their officers for the prompt manner in which the losses sustained by him in the accident to the
JAMAICA were adjusted. While Capt. Wheeler speaks no more than the truth, in relation to these companies and their gentlemanly and reliable agents, there is another side to the question, of which Capt. Wheeler has given us no
permission to speak, and that is the obligations these companies are under to Capt. Wheeler for his energy and efficiency in saving the JAMAICA, and consequently very materially reducing the loss sustained by these companies.
      When the JAMAICA went down, it was sent down and regarded by the under writers as a total loss , and the insurers of the cargo of 18,000 bushels of wheat regarded that loss as also total. Capt Wheeler's efficiency in raising
the vessel, saved a handsome percentage upon the wheat, while the loss upon the JAMAICA was only fifty percent of the amount of risks taken by the companies respectively. The companies have not expressed their thanks in a card, but they have handsomely acknowledged their obligations in private letters and notes, which are very complimentary to Capt. Wheeler. We had no permission to mention these facts, but we have done it any how.
      Oswego Commercial Advertiser
      AugUST 14,1872

      Alderman Wheeler and the JAMAICA
      A few days since, in connection with the publication of Alderman Wheeler's card to the underwriters, we took occasion to mention the fact that he had received highly complimentary notices from the representatives of the
various insurence companies interested, in relation tot he part he had taken in saving the JAMAICA and its cargo.
      Since that time Capt. Wheeler has received a letter from E. P. Doer, Esq. General Agent of the Aetna, so deservedly complimentary in its terms, that we have solicited a copy of the publication.
      Oswego Commercial Advertiser
      August 16, 1872
      Letter to Capt. Wheeler
      Buffalo Aug. 15, 1872
      M.M. Wheeler, Esq.
      Dear Sir:- I have written you an official letter, in answer to yours. But I can not allow the closing of our accounts in the settlement of the loss of the JAMAICA to pass without something more than a more formal acknowledgment to you. The sinking of the JAMAICA loaded with wheat and capsizing, is the most remarkable case ever known on the Lakes, and also the raising of her, more like romance than anything else.
      The raising of her by the Coast Wrecking Company, Capt. Geo. B. Chadwick in command, was also a prompt and successful performance.
      The prompt action you took, coming here, as you did, on the 24th of June, and making the arrangements to raise your vessel, giving it your personal supervision, going with the expedition and staying with it all through, raising the vessel in 72 hours, docking her, and fitting her for sea, all under your own immediate directions, without calling upon an Underwriter for aid or assistance.
      It is so refreshing, and so rare, to find such a man as you, thus to look after your property, that the writer wishes to thank you for himself, and the whole Marine Insurance fraternity. Your manly, honest action will never be forgotten by me. If any one deserves a newspaper notice it is yourself, for your energy and effort raised, and saved the vessel and cargo.
      Again thanking you, I remain Respectfully your friend P. J. Doer.

We will mention here through Captain Wheelers modesty has forbidden us to do so, that the company has solicited a photograph of the captain, which it is proposed to have enlarged and suitably framed for an ornament of the general office.


Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: capsized/sunk
Lives: 1
Freight: wheat
Remarks: Recovered
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.640833 Longitude: -81.768055
William R. McNeil
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
WWW address
Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.

Jamaica (Schooner), capsized/sunk, 21 Jun 1872