The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Corsair (Schooner), sunk, 29 Sep 1872

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Disasters on Lake Huron - Detroit, Oct. 1 - The disasters on Lake Huron on Saturday night and Sunday are much worse than on Lake Erie. Many lives were lost. The barge TABLE ROCK was wrecked on Tawas Point and all hands were lost but one man who came ashore on a piece of the wreck. The schooner WHITE SQUALL was sunk off Fish Point and only one man saved. The schooner NESHOTA was sunk at White Fish Point and five of her crew drowned. An unknown schooner on her beam eands and a propeller with a spar and her smokestack above water, were passed on Saginaw Bay. The schooner CORSAIR foundered off Highlands Sauble and only two men saved. The barges ADRIATIC and HUNTER are ashore at Green Bush. The barge A. LINCOLN is ashore at Sauble. The propeller DETROIT is a total loss at Green Bush. The brig GLOBE is sunk at Tawas. The schooner REBECCA is ashore at Alabaster.
      The Toronto Mail
      Wednesday, October 2, 1872

      . . . . .

      The big storm of Saturday the 28th and Sunday last; the tug SANDUSKY brought into Bay City the 21 survivors of the barges HUNTER and DETROIT. The schooner CORSAIR foundered off Sturgeon Point, Saginaw Bay at 4 A.M. Sunday morning, all hands were lost except 2. The barge A. LINCOLN is ashore one mile below Au Sable and her crew saved. The barge TABLE ROCK is ashore and gone to pieces on Tawas Point and all her crew except one were lost. The schooner WHITE SQUALL was sunk 10 miles off Fish Point and only one crewman saved. The schooner SUMMIT is ashore at Fish Point, 7 miles north of Tawas with 2 lives lost.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Wednesday, October 2, 1872

      . . . . .

The Detroit Free Press, reporting the loss of the schooner CORSAIR thus recites the thrilling experiences of the survivors:
"The CORSAIR met the heavy gale of Saturday night when off Thunder Bay light. It reached her about midnight, when the storm came to its height, and the seas began to sweep over the vessel. The CORSAIR was heavily laden with iron ore, and had about 50 tons on deck. She began to make water about 10 o'clock, and the crew started the pumps, which were kept going almost to the time when the vessel went down. A reef was taken in the mainsail, and the Captain decided to stand across the bay for Tawas. The new course eased the vessel and she had less pounding from the seas, although the water was knee deep on deck after 10 o'clock. The crew threw overboard part of the ore, and the CORSAIR rode well until 3 o'clock in the morning. Then the wind veered about and blew more violently than before, and the fore and mainsails were double reefed. The lighter sails were taken in soon after midnight. At 3 o'clock the mate called the Captain and informed him that the water was gaining on the pumps and that the vessel could never make Tawas. The Captain then decided to bring her up into the wind, hoping to lay to until the violence of the storm had abated. Although the wheel was put hard up the vessel would not obey, owing to the water in her hold. She got in the trough of the sea, and then all knew that her fate was sealed. The waves made a clean breach over her until the water on deck was waist deep to the men, and the schooners rail only a foot above water.
The CORSAIR had a crew of seven, viz:- Capt. G.H. Snow, of Oswego, who leaves a wife and two children; S.E. Perkins, of Oswego; Harvey T. Crouch, of Oswego Philip T. Rawlinsor, residence unknown; James Kelso, of Oswego, and his wife. The two men saved make up the seven. Finding that the vessel was fast settling the crew were clamorous to take the yawl. The cooks screams, the howling of the gale, and the dashing of the angry waves went to make up an hour of terror to all on board. The Captain finally ordered Rady to clear away the yawl. The man let her stern fall, but the block in the davit would not work, and he leaped into to boat to cut the ropes with his knife. At that moment the vessel got a heavy lurch, when her deck load shifted to leeward, and she went down head formost without more than an instant's warning. There was not a shout from any of the men, but the two survivors heard one long, loud shriek from the woman, which rang in their ears for hours after.
Rady went down with the vessel, hanging to one of the thwarts of the yawl. He was drawn down until it seemed that he was drowning, when he let go of the boat. The next thing he was at the surface, tossed about by the waves. He saw something close beside him, and he made a spring and seized the yawl, which had broken loose from the sunken ship. Some one called his name, and he found that Foley was seated in the boat, which was badly wrecked and floating even with the surface of the water. How Foley got there he does not know. He remembers being swept off the vessel, of being turned over and over by giant waves, but he cannot tell how he got into the boat. Rady was drawn into the boat, hardly able to assist himself, and Foley lashed him to one of the thwarts. The men had been floating around half an hour when day break broke out. Their eyes caught sight of a portion of the quarter-deck and cabin roof, which was about ten feet long, by as many wide. The gale was yet blowing violently, and the sea rolled the wreck and the men over and over every three or four minutes. The men reached three or four brackets attached to the wreck, but the loops could only aid them as they passed their hands through them, thus relieving their stiffened fingers from clutching at the splintered planks and broken beams. They saw a portion of the wreck floating about them, and once caught sight of the body of the cook, which swept almost over their heads as a great wave turned the wreck. Everyone remembers the raw chilly air of Sunday, and how the wind blew a gale all day long. One will not wonder, then, that the men, miles from land, drifting and tossing on a foaming sea, were so chilled before noon that they could scarcely speak to each other. Neither one expected to be rescued, and were almost amazed when noon came and they were still alive. They saw 1 or 2 vessels during the afternoon, and as their float began to rise more easily their hopes revived. About 3 o'clock they sighted a propeller belonging to the Evan's Line, and shouted for joy as they saw that she would pass near them. As she came within hailing distance, they both cried out. The wheelsman heard them, and the vessel prepared to rescue them. The gale was yet blowing, and the sea raging, and as the propeller swung round in the trough of the sea, she came so near to going over that her wheel was shifted over and she bore off on her course, leaving the men weeping like children. They had no further hope and during the night hardly spoke to each other. Both live at Oswego, and as the night came down and the gale still raging over the water, they gave each other messages to carry to friends in case death took only one. Drifting, tumbling, tossing, the long night passed at last, and the men got better hearts. As the sun came up, and the sea and wind went down, they had hopes that they would be rescued during the day, but hope had died out before the hour came. Schooners and propellers passed them at a distance, but they could make no signals. Crawling upon the wreck, they let the seas break over them, and Foley would have let go his hold but for the alternate words of encouragement and threats which his companion uttered. Rady got closer to him, and once attacked him with his fist to keep him form carrying out his design, though himself aware that neither would live see another sun if not rescued. Their feet and legs were like chunks of ice, having no feeling, and were so for several hours after they had been rescued.
At half past 3 o'clock, when about 20 miles off Sturgeon Point, they sighted the CITY OF BOSTON, half an hour later the propeller came so near that their shouts were heard, and she rounded to and picked them up, they had been afloat from Sunday morning at 4 o'clock until Monday afternoon at the same hour. Capt. Brown took them into the cabin, provided gruel, etc., for them to commence on, and finally dared to give them a full meal. Their limbs were rubbed for several hours before feeling returned, and, as stated before, the men were only just able to walk about last evening. Two more thankful men were never seen, fully realizing that a few hours more would have seen the wreck bearing two corpses.
      The Toronto Mail
      Monday, October 7, 1872

      . . . . .

      The Story As Told By The Second Mate
      Thirty-Six hours on a piece of deck
We are indebted to Mr. Grady, the second mate of the ill-fated schooner Corsair who arrived in this city this morning. For the following account of the disaster:
The Corsair loaded in Marquette with 575 tons of iron ore for Erie Pa. With 50 tons on deck and the balance in the hold, and up to the time we left DeTour, the outlet of the Sault Canal nothing of any importance happened. Running down Lake Huron the pumps were tried frequently, but no more water than usual was found until shortly before she sank. Saturday the wind blowed hard from the east, changing about nightfall to the southeast and later to the northeast. The sea increased until it ran, mountains high, and as every wave boarded the vessel, the captain concluded to run for shelter in Tawas Bay, and had got within about ten miles of Sturgeon Point, when it was found necessary to heave to as the schooner could not live running before it.
After heaving to, the pumps were sounded and the water was found to be about four feet deep in the hold. I reported the fact to the captain and he ordered that two men be put at the pump, and the rest of the crew throw the deck load overboard to relieve the vessel; but she gradually settled into the water. I went aft relieved Crouch, who was at the wheel, while he put on a pair of oil skin pants, and then walked to where the captain was standing. And found Thomas B. Foley, one of the seamen talking to him telling him that the vessel was going down. Captain Snow then ordered that the yawl be lowered and he went down into the cabin after his books and papers. Foley ran aft and cut the bow davit tackle, while Crouch tried to cut the stern one, but before he succeeded the boat was crushed beneath the vessel¹s quarter. The crew were all on deck, some of them forward and some aft and had been up al night. In about three minutes afer the captain went below and at 4:15 Sunday morning the vessel lurched two or three times and dove head first, disappearing entirely, and carrying all of us with her.
I noticed when she was going down that her decks raised and parted in pieces from her, and I was raised on a portion of the quarter-deck and then plunged into the water. When I came up I found a piece of plank and after paddling around, finally got hold of the boat and hung on with my legs around the thawt. Foley came up near me and I sung out to him and he too got hold of the boat. We floated in the shell of the boat for about a half hour when we saw the quarter deck and knowing that would float us better, we swam to it and limbed upon it. We found part of the steering apparatus on the deck and two rope beckets for lashing the wheel, about two feet in length, with eye splices in each and we slipped the eyes over out wrists, and with clasped arm to steady each other, rode the waves for some time safely, although they would brake over us. About daylight the deck overturned throwing but of us underneath and then it seemed we could drown before we could get the beckets off our swollen wrists.
Finally we released ourselves and swam out from under the deck and clambered upon it again, but being bottom side up it was hollow, and we were submerged to our waists all the time. To prevent the waves from washing us out, which they did several times, we lashed ourselves to the deck by our scarfs. In this manner we floated for thirty-six hours, drifting about twenty miles down the lake from where the vessel foundered. Monday afternoon the sea went down some, and with pieces of plank we had picked up we paddled for sails that we saw, but without attracting attention. About 4 o¹clock Monday afternoon we sighted a propellor coming down the lake, and we took our scarfs and tied them to the paddles and signaled her. God favored us, for the propeller saw our signals and came to our rescue. The propellor which proved to be the City of Boston, Captain Brown, stopped when she came along side of our float and two lines were thrown us. I made one fast to the float and passed the other around Foley, who by this time was hardly able to stir from cramps and exposure, and they pulled him aboard.
I climbed up the fender rope on the side of the boat some distance when the mate of the propellor got down to me and helped me in on deck. I was about used up myself as my legs had cramped until the muscles had become knots. We were kindly treated on board of the City of Boston, the captain mate and all hands doing everything for us in their power and we wish in our feeble way to thank them for saving our lives. We were taken to Cleveland and Captain Brown offered to sen us to Oswego by another boat, but Mr. Snow, brother of the captain wished us to come be rail to he paid our fares here. The Corsair was not overloaded as during the summer we carried 630 tons. After the vessel disappeared the only man I saw was Foley who was saved with me, the others were carried down with the vessel.
Both Grady and Foley are young men and live at Jordan Ontario, six miles from St. Catherines.
      Daily Palladium, Oswego,
      Thursday October 3, 1872

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: sunk
Lives: 5
Freight: iron ore
Remarks: Total loss
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 44.24863 Longitude: -83.45831
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Corsair (Schooner), sunk, 29 Sep 1872