The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Wednesday, November 19, 1879

Full Text
Further Particulars -- Eleven Lives Not Accounted For -- None Reported Saved Since Last Night -- The Pecuniary Loss $ 100,000 with No Insurance -- Statements of Survivors -- How the Lost Were Swept off and Drowned -- How the Survivors were Rescued -- A Story of Great Heroism and Suffering -- The Most Harrowing Adventure on the Lakes -- The Survivors Charge the Crew of the Seymour with Cowardice.


The tug Seymour of Ogdensburg, left Cape Vincent about 1 P. M. Monday with a tow consisting of three dredges and ten scows, two of which carried derricks, one in line behind the other, and with four small tugs, the Chas. M. Riter, A. O. Thayer, Jno. Hickler and Philip Becker, lashed to different parts of the tow, assisting in their management.


Capt. Fleming of the Seymour says that it was his intention to make for Sacket's Harbor. The weather was then fair and continued so until about 8 P. M. At 4:30 P. M. Mr. Arnold, the junior partner, who was in charge of the fleet, came along side the Seymour in the tug Becker from the first dredge, the Gordon, which carried most of the crew, and gave orders to make for Oswego. The fleet reached the Galloup island light, 15 miles out from Sacket's Harbor, at 6 P. M. Monday, and squared away for Oswego, 30 miles distant. The weather was clear but very dark, and at 8 P. M. the wind changed and began to blow, increasing momentarily to a gale. At 11 P. M., it began snowing and the weather was so thick that nothing could be seen from the Seymour but the first dredge. The cold was intense. At 8:45 the tug Becker informed the Seymour that all the scows had broken loose. The fleet had by this time got within about seven miles of the Oswego light, which was not lost. The Seymour put about to hold the remainder of her tow to the windward if possible.


The O. A. Thayer, a very small tug, was the first that went down, about 9 P. M. Her captain, Henry Hickler, was saved. Engineer John Wood has not been heard from. Noah Garrow and H. Marshau (Marshall) of Ogdensburg and Charles Woods were on the scow and are probably lost. The tug Becker came alongside the dredge Gordon about 1:30 A. M., half full of water. George Palmer, Samuel Logan and William Logan jumped aboard the dredge. Immediately thereafter the tug plunged and was seen no more. F. F. Strauss, Capt. John L'Esperance, engineer of the Riter, and Billy O'Brien, who manned her, were taken off by the Seymour about 2 A. M. The tugs Thayer and Becker were seen to go down. Each scow carried one man and these are probably lost.


The scene on board the dredge Gordon beggars description. Here were Richard Arnold, Patrick Eagan, Billy Logan, Sam Logan, Geo. Palmer and his wife, the three preceding the last having been taken from the Becker. The last seen of the other dredges designated as Nos. 1 and 3, was at 10 P. M. The dredge was meanwhile leaking badly from the effects of a collision with the Becker early in the evening. The fireman, Thos. Smith, of the dredge, had ninety pounds of steam on and was pumping with two syphons, but all efforts to keep her afloat were unavailing. The water was waist deep in the engine room, and at 4:40 A. M., the Gordon careened over and all on board were drowned, excepting fireman Smith and two brothers named Heather, who clung to a portion of the stern still above water until they were picked up by the Seymour. Mr. Smit proved himself a brave man. The Heather brothers owe their lives to him, for both were entirely exhausted and were kept up by him for a long time. The others were washed off one by one by the fearful billows.


It is still stated that the lost fleet carried 31 persons, and the following is the latest revised list this morning:

Proprietor Arnold, Henry Hickler, son of another proprietor; James B. Youngs, Buffalo; Patrick Hogan, Grand Rapids, Mish.; Pat Finnell, Lachine, P. Q.; Capt. Thomas Thompson and Fred Straus, (or Straub), Buffalo; Mr. Paul, Lachine; George Palmer and wife, Virgennes, Vt.; L. Morrison, Welland; Jerome Morrison, wife and daughter; Charles England and wife; Charles Caryouth, Lachine; Edward Beauseau, Buffalo; John Wood and son, Noah Garrow, H. Marchau and Wm. Scott, Ogdensburg; Capt. Sam Logan and Wm. Logan, Morrisburg -- total, 25.


As stated yesterday the tug Riter was found about a mile off this port abandoned. Just after we went to press last evening a dispatch from Sodus Point announced the arrival of the tug Hickler there with fourteen persons from the wreck as follows:

Captain Thompson, Fred Stroh (Straus), Judson Morrison, Charles Entland and wife, Charles Corigan (Caryough), J. B. Young, Henry Hickler, Jerome Morrison and wife, Patrick Fennell (Finnell) and three names not known -- total 14.

If there were 31 persons aboard the fleet when it broke away this leaves 17 persons lost or to be heard from. If there were but 25 according to the above list of names -- and which now seems more probable -- it leaves 11 lost.


A despatch last evening from captain Richards of the Gardner says that he found one of the dredges drifting off Big Bodus and took her in there and that another was outside with her anchors down and would be brought in this morning.


Mr. Arnold and John Hickler of Buffalo arrived here last night in a state of great distress. Mr. Arnold's brother is supposed to be among the lost. These gentlemen telegraphed last night to the Seymour at Sackets to come on here and to the Hickler at Sodus also to come to Oswego. The Seymour started this morning, but for some reason not known ran back to Sackets. Mr. Arnold and Mr. Hickler left about 10:30 A. M. on the tug Morey for Big Sodus. They had no further information about the loss of the fleet or as to who is lost or saved.


The Seymour got into Sackets first, about noon yesterday. A despatch from Sackets says the accident was caused by the temerity of manager Arnold in undertaking to make Oswego in the night in such uncertain weather and with such and unmanageable tow. Neither of the small tugs had a compass, and when the storm began, loosened themselves from the tow. The sea was terrible, the worst that captain Fleming ever experienced, each wave going completely over the scows and no hawser could hold them.


An associated press despatch from Sackets this morning says: When the gale struck the lost fleet all the tugs cut loose from the tow except the Seymour, and sought to save themselves. The scows soon parted from the rest of the fleet. The tug Thayer sunk and it is supp9sed all the crew were lost. The tug Becker was abandoned in a sinking condition, but in getting her alongside of the dredge Gordon, they stove a hole in the latter which quickly filled with water and both crews were lost, except Thomas Smith and two Swedes and these clung to the cabin of the dredge and were picked up at daylight by the Seymour.


The revenue cutter Manhattan, Capt. Carson, is undergoing repairs to day, and hence could not continue the search for the wreck. As said yesterday the Manhattan, with the crew from life station No. 3, and the life boat in tow went up the lake yesterday morning on receiving news of the wreck, and when off of Fair Haven light with a very heavy sea running and the vessel laboring badly, parted her steering gear and they had to steer the vessel by relieving tackles. She returned to Oswego, arriving at 2:30, when it was discovered that repairs were necessary to her air pump. All of the above repairs are now under way.


This morning specials were sent from this office to all telegraph stations on the south shore of lake Ontario, asking for information of any tidings of the wreck or of persons who might have floated into any of the lake ports or have been saved in any manner. The following answers received:

NEW HAVEN, Nov. 19 -- No wreck in sight from Pleasant Point.

WILSON, Nov. 19 -- Have not seen nor heard of anything.

NEWFANE, Nov. 19 -- Nothing seen nor heard from any of the tow.

The Cape, Ogdensburg and Charlotte report no news.


Special despatch to the Palladium:

SACKETS HARBOR, Nov. 19 -- Mr. Lewis, engineer of the Seymour says: We passed Tibbets Point at 1:56 P. M., and squared away from Galloup light for Oswego at 6:02, wind light, northwest. About eight, the wind began to haul around to the northeast, increasing to a gale. At 8:45 Capt. Logan of the tug Becker came alongside the Seymour and called out, "Some of our scows are sunk!" It was then snowing hard.


Thomas Smith, fireman of the dredge Gordon, says the tug Becker came up alongside about 9 o'clock off the Gordon, striking her stern on and springing a plank a space of about twelve feet and cracked three plank, which then commenced to open and let in water so fast that it was impossible to keep her clear. She had ninety pounds of steam. The Becker came alongside again at 12 o'clock and called out, "We are swamping!" and wanted to put out a line. Then Mr. Arnold said, "Jump aboard the Gordon and let the tug go" -- which they done, and the tug Becker was seen to go down at once alongside the dredge. Smith then went down forward where the hoisting and backing chain comes through, and took some clothes and tried to stop the leak, but the heavy sea made all effort futile. Then he came on deck. Richard Arnold asked him how was the leak, when he replied he could not stop it, although he had bettered it a little. Mr. Arnold asked him if he could use some of his underclothing, which was finer and would work to better advantage. He said he thought he could. He then went down again and did the best he could until the water raised in the forward hold until it raised him to the deck and put out his lamp. Then they cut a hole in the floor of the fire hole and used pails in bailing out, and also pails in the engine room bailing out. The boat then listed over and the water came in the engine room door. Then Mr. Arnold told me to blow the whistle for the tug Seymour to come to our assistance, but we could not see her turning around or coming. Then he said "blow again,": which he did twice, but was obliged to leave the engine room, as the water was then waist deep.


Then Mr. Arnold says, "Tom, we are gone" I says, "Yes, we are gone!" We then started for the stern of the dredge.


Patrick Eagan pulled the door off the water closet and he and Mr. Arnold stood together. A swell then came and took the door from Eagan's hand. Smith then says, "Come with me," and started for the tow line of the Seymour and went fifteen or twenty feet on the line. The sea was too heavy and he had to return to the dredge.


When he got back he called out for Pat and for Arnold but could get no answer. They were gone -- carried off by the sea.


I then got hold of Mrs. Palmer's hand, and her husband had her around the waist. She says, "George, we must go!" He tried to cheer her to hang on a few moments longer, and a swell then came and carried both away. I could not hold them any longer.


Then Billy Logan was carried away, about fifteen minutes afterward.


Then Sam Logan next. I had just spoke to him asking if he could hold out until daylight, but got no response, he being speechless.


This left three, Charles and Neal Hanthan and myself. Charles Hanthan says, "I cannot hold any longer." I told him to hold all he could. I took hold of his collar and helped all I could, Neal Hanthan standing between me and him.


It was now getting daylight and the Seymour came stern on toward us and threw us a heaving line which we secured after two fruitless attempts.


I hauled in the line with one hand, holding the slack in my mouth, and holding on the planks with the other hand. I made the line fast around them. Then I went aboard on the line and the other two were hauled to the side together and rescued -- both unconscious and froth coming from the mouth and nostrils.


G. T. Strah of the tug Riter, says about eight o'clock we were towing alongside of a derrick with a hawser. The men commenced to call out the scows were breaking loose. I told the fireman we would drop back and for him to haul in the hawser. He did not get the hawser in. I then called out to the men on the derrick to let go the hawser. They could not let go. I ran out of the pilot house to let go the hawser and could not, as the line was jammed. The tug was about capsizing. I went back to the pilot house to get the axe and cut the hawser. Then ran alongside the Gordon twice to get lines, but could not get near her without danger of sinking the Gordon or ourselves. I ran back again and the tow was gone. It was now about nine o'clock. I kept in sight of the balance of the tow until about twelve o'clock. The tug Becker was around without lights. I was running slow when the Becker crossed our bow and told us they were in a sinking condition. I told them to hold on, I would get alongside. They started off before I could get to them and that was the last I saw of them. I staid around until 9:10. Then the fireman came up and told me that the water was up to the grate, the syphon would not work and the engine got hot by coal getting in the crank pin. I told them we would board the Seymour. We ran alongside and could have got aboard, but did not see the men get off, and sheered off again and told the fireman to tell the engineer next time we got alongside to jump, which we all did and let the tug go adrift. H.


Special despatch to the Palladium:

SODUS POINT, NOV. 19 -- At ten o'clock Monday night when off Oswego fifteen miles the two broke in two between the barges Gordon and Number 2. The tug Seymour with the Gordon went on, the tugs Becker and Riter foll9owing, leaving the tugs Hickler and Thayer with the balance of the tow. At half past eleven the tug Thayer foundered alongside dredge Number 1, the crew escaping to the dredge. The tug Hickler held the tow until 10 A. M. Tuesday, when we anchored Number 1 and let Number 2 go adrift, taking the crew and making this port at 1 P. M.


The scow broke loose at 2 A. M. with three men -- Charles Wood, Louis Goreau and Henry Meshaw, who are supposed to be lost.


The tug Gadner brought dredge No. 2 into this port last night and has just got in with No. 1.


Richard Arnold on the dredge Gordon is supposed lost and all the crew.


All blame the crew of the Seymour for cowardly conduct. This is the best information I can get from the crew. W. H. S.


The tug Chieftain and barges, bound from Cape Vincent to Oswego, was out in the blow Monday night and not having arrived here was feared to be lost. She was not a part of the fated tow, and is safe as this despatch shows:

Special despatch to the Palladium:

HENDERSON, NOV. 19 -- The barges Mohawk and Onondaga, in tow by the tug Chieftain, are in Henderson Bay, all safe. Frank Demars of Varifield, Ont., and Isadore Burnett of Ontario, are on the barges all right.


An associated press despatch this afternoon from Ogdensburg says from the best information there it is believed the only persons lost are Capt. Logan, his brother William, Arnold and the cook and her husband of dredge No. 2. No news however, is given of the 11 persons still missing, including the above; the despatch is undoubtedly mere surmise.


The Morey and Gardner returned to Oswego at 4 P. M. today. J. R. Youngs and Wm. Scott of Ogdensburg (heretofore reported lost) came down on the Morey. They report the following safe at Sodus, not heretofore reported: Mr. Payul of Lachine, Edward Melsoner of Montreal and a child of J. Morrison. Eight scows were seen on the beach on the way down.

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Wednesday, November 19, 1879
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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 Palladium (Oswego, NY), Wednesday, November 19, 1879