The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
J. P. March (Schooner), aground, 4 Nov 1878

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Chicago, November 4. - The schooner J.P. MARCH, worth $10,000, with a crew of four, is reported a total wreck with all on board lost, at Good Harbor, Little Traverse Bay, north shore of Michigan. She was commanded by Capt. John Debbage. Several minor casualties have been reported, and old sailors state that the storm has been terrific.
      (The MARCH hails from Chicago, and registers 356 tons. Ed.)
      Detroit Post & Tribune
      Tuesday, November 5, 1878

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      The schooner J.P. MARCH is reported lost with all on board. She was lost at Little Traverse Bay on the northern shore of Lake Michigan. The MARCH was a three-masted schooner and was owned by Benton & Pierce of Ohio.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Tuesday, November 5, 1878

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      A terrible disaster has befallen the schooner J.P. MARCH, several of the crew being lost, and the vessel a total wreck. There have been fears for the MARCH for a day or two, but the Inter Ocean, not having positive information, has not heretofore mentioned her name. It seems that she dragged or ran ashore at Good Harbor, opposite the North Manitou, in the recent norther, and that Captain Debbage, the first mate, the cook, known as Mary, and her little son, after fearful suffering, perished, the remainder of the crew escaping to the shore.
The vessel is owned by Barton & Pierce, of Chicago. Mr. Pierce yesterday received the following :
      Good Harbor, via Leland, Mich., Nov. 2. To Mr. Pierce 133 South Water Street, Chicago. "The JOHN P. MARCH is ashore at a place called Good Harbor, eighteen miles from Grand Traverse. She went ashore in a gale of wind last Wednesday night. The Captain and mate are lost Also Mary and her son. The bodies of the captain, mate, and Mary were found. The captain her $210 on him; also a gold watch. Either come yourself or send someone to take charge of her, or send me a dispatch what to do."
      Moses Mason, Second Mate
Captain Debbage resides at Oswego, where he leaves a wife and child. He was pretty well off, and his bereaved family will at least not want. The mate is also understood to have been a married man. The cook is thought to have been a widow. She has been with the vessel a long time. Capt. Debbage was an old and experienced navigator, though not an old man, and has many friends and acquaintances.
      Except the captain, none of the names of the lost are yet known.
      The MARCH had a cargo of coal from Cleveland, consigned to Hebstrom, of Chicago and insured for $2,200 in the Orient. The vessel, which has been abandoned to the Underwriters, was built at Vermillion by Crozier in 1864, and received expensive repairs in 1874. She measures 355 tons, classed B 1 and was valued at $10,000, and insured for $8,000, the Phoenix having $4,000 and the Manhattan $4,000. Her freight list was insured for $300 in the Phoenix.
      Chicago Inter Ocean
      Tuesday, November 5, 1878

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      The following is the latest from the schooner J. P. MARCH. The other dispatch from Mason was sent from Leland. The vessel is ashore at Good harbor.
      Traverse City, Mich., Nov. 5, 1878
      To Burton & Pierce, 133 South Water street, Chicago.
      The schooner is a total wreck. Decks all off along starboard side, and back broken. Have got mainsail and two wharp lines ashore. Please send someone here, as I have no money and can't hire. ---- Moses Mason
      The first dispatch from Mason, who is the only surviving officer, was dated "Good Harbor, via Leland, Nov. 2, (Saturday), and brought the first intelligence of the disaster. It did not get into the hands of the underwriters until Monday, the 4th. Whether the delay was at Leland or here in Chicago is not known. It is certain, however, that such information ought to be given to the underwriters at the earliest possible moment, for it often occurs that if it is communicated promptly, vessel and cargo are saved, while, if there is a few hours delay, both vessel and cargo go to destruction for the want of a tug or other assistance that the underwriter would send.
      Mrs. Murray, the cook, and her son, have been with the MARCH for several seasons. The name of the first mate, also drowned, we have been unable to learn.
      Mr. Pierce complained yesterday that we had put the valuation of the vessel too low. If so the Insurance Register is wrong, which is not likely. In other words, the underwriters make their own valuation, and owners are compelled to abide by it. It was the Insurance valuation that we gave.
      In regard to the names of the crew, it is the same with the MARCH as with most other vessels. No record of the names of the men on board was left ashore, and if the entire crew had been lost all their names would probably never have been learned, as the ship's books are also probably.
      LATER:-- A special to the Inter Ocean, received last night says: - "The schooner JOHN P. MARCH went ashore in Good Harbor Bay during the heavy gale of wind and snowstorm Oct. 30, at 11 o'clock at night. Captain John Debbage; Frank Anderson mate; Mary Murray cook and James Murray, her son, were lost. They all got into the rigging where they held on until daylight, when the captain tried to reach the shore, but failed and was drowned. Afterwards James Murray perished in his mother's arms from cold. The mother then said she gave up all hope, and she to died. The mate then made an effort to reach the shore for assistance, and met the same fate as the captain. Soon after the vessel was discovered from the shore, and a boat was drawn up abreast of the wreck, and the remainder of the crew, consisting of the second mate, Moses Mason and three sailors, were rescued, but nearly frozen to death."
      Chicago Inter Ocean
      Wednesday, November 6, 1878
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      Details at Last of the Terrible Disaster to the Schooner J. P. MARCH.
      Young Morey, the son of Mrs. Morey, cook on the J. P. MARCH, was well educated, his his mother spending all her hard-earned wages to push him forward. He was about 18 years of age, and a very promising young man. He was his mother's pride and hope, and when he died in her arms on board the wreck it is not to be wondered at that the heart-broken women gave up and died too. Both their bodies were swept overboard, but afterward recovered.
      The particulars of the disaster are as following:
      The MARCH, which had been lying for refuge in the harbor of Beaver Island, weighed anchor and made sail on the morning of the 30th of October, the storm having mainly subsided, and the wind being from the southwest. When within fourteen or fifteen miles of the North Manitons the wind shifted to northwest and began to blow a gale. Captain Debbage concluded to make South Manitou harbor. It began to snow and the weather became very thick and cold, with darkness approaching. In this condition of things the captain mistook the mainland for the Manitou and struck about a mile and a half above Their's dock near Good Harbor. At that point the water is quite deep, and with the sea then running the vessel lay some forty rods from the shore, and in a very uneasy position, being apparently on a bearing of some sort about amidship.
      At daylight Captain Debbage took two fenders as a sort of float, with a view of reaching land and getting help, the shore being uninhabited except by a couple of fishermen two miles north of the vessel. As the captain struck the water, the sea setting around the stern of the vessel, which lay broadside to the beach formed a sort of current, and carried him under. He sunk and rose twice, and the third time when he came up the fenders were on top of him, and he went down and was seen no more.
      The fishermen spoken of above, having got knowledge of the wreck, took their pond boat
about 11 a. m. and hauled it up, with a team, to the wreck, not knowing then that any lives had been lost, seeing four men in the rigging, they launched their boat and went out to the vessel, where they found the following in the rigging: Second Mate Moses Mason and seamen Ed McKevitt, James McFie, and Albert Pegger. These they rescued, though McFie and McKevitt were almost gone, and could have survived but a few minutes. From the survivors they learned the thrilling story of what had passed.
      Mary Moray, the cook, and her son, James Morey, after the death of the captain, died from
exposure while the rescuing party was approaching. Their strength having given out, they laid down on the deck, near the bow, with their arms locked about each other. McFie tried to cheer the woman on and said to her: "Mary, cheer up, here is help." At this the boy turned his eyes on McFie, raised up a little and fell over into his mother's arms, dead. The poor woman cried out: "My hope is lost; I might as well go too!" She fainted, and a swell swept the deck and washed them both into the sea.
Ole Anderson, the mate, then made up his mind to make an effort to reach the shore, He stripped off all but his trousers and underclothes, and, walking along the rail several times, jumped into the water and disappeared.
Having landed the survivors the two fishermen commenced to search for the bodies. The mate and captain were first found. The cook was found by two boys, who dragged her ashore. Her neck was broken and she had a cut on her forehead. Toward evening of this day, the 31st, the sea ran down considerably. The bodies of Captain Debbage and the mate were removed to Justice Koch's house, about two miles from the wreck. He then sent his team down after the body of the cook, but, it being late and getting dark, it could not be found. The men, however, found the body of young Moray half buried in the sand on the beach. At 5 o'clock next morning Mr. Koch again sent his team out and the woman's body was found, and all were taken to Mr. Koch's house.
Justice Koch summoned a jury and held an inquest on the four bodies. The storm having destroyed all telegraph communication, and justice Koch being unable to get any word to or from Captain Debbage's friends, on Sunday, Nov. 3. he had them buried in a private graveyard adjoining his garden. The Rev. George Thompson, of the village of Leland, performed the service.
      Captain Debbage's body has since been raised and taken to his late home in Oswego, Justice Koch accompanying it. The bodies of the others will remain where they are.
      Second mate, Mason and the other survivors, at last accounts, were still in Good Harbor looking after the wreck, their expenses being paid by Messrs. Burton & Pierce of Chicago, the owners of the vessel.
      Chicago Inter Ocean
      Tuesday, November 12, 1878

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Reason: aground
Lives: 4
Freight: coal
Remarks: Total loss
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William R. McNeil
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J. P. March (Schooner), aground, 4 Nov 1878