The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Idler (yacht), U12163, sunk, 7 Jul 1900

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      The Yacht IDLER Capsized And Sunk Off Cleveland During A Fierce Squall.
Cleveland, July 7, - During a fierce squall this afternoon the yacht IDLER, owned by John and James Corrigan, was capsized and sunk six miles off this port and six lives lost. Following are the names of those drowned:
      Mrs. James Corrigan, wife of the well known vessel owner.
      Miss Ida Corrigan
      Miss Jane Corrigan
      Mrs. Charles Riley, all daughters of James Corrigan.
      Miss Etta Corrigan, daughter of Capt. John Corrigan
      an infant daughter of Mrs. Riley.
The only survivor among the passengers is Mrs. John Corrigan. She and six men of the crew were picked up by a fishing tug and brought to the harbor.
"It was about 2:15 o'clock that the squall hit us," said Samuel Riggan, the mate of the ill-fated yacht. He was relating his version of the affair to a sympathetic crowd in the office of the Lake Carriers' Association. "The yacht laid down on her beam ends." he continued, "and the water rushed through the deadlights and companion ways, and in three minutes she sank. Mrs. James Corrigan, Miss Ada Corrigan, Miss Jane Corrigan, Mrs. Charles Riley and the infant daughter of Mrs. Riley were all in the saloon below when the storm came on us. Capt. Holmes gave me orders to take in sail, and I transmitted the order to the men. They obeyed quickly. The captain, myself and the crew made efforts to save the women, but without success. We told them the yacht was sinking, but they could not or would not come on deck. I waded into the saloon when the water was up to my neck, But Mrs. James Corrigan would not come out. She may have been rendered incapable of action by fear and knowledge of impending doom. An effort was made to take the infant daughter of Mrs. Riley out, but Mrs. Riley would not let the child go."
The mate said it was realized that nothing could be done to save those in the cabin and their attention was turned to saving those on deck. The latter, outside of the captain, mate and crew, were Mrs. John Corrigan and her daughter Miss Etta Corrigan. "The captain, myself and some of the crew tried to get Mrs. Corrigan and daughter upon the cross-trees in the rigging, but the heavy sea washed us all overboard. "For God's sake, Mrs. Corrigan, you and your daughter keep a tight hold on the rigging," we called to them. As we yelled, the sea swept them and us overboard. Fortunately Mrs. Corrigan had succeeded in taking hold of a cork lounge. She clung to it and was saved.
      The yacht left Port Huron yesterday with the family of Mr. Corrigan aboard, and started for Cleveland. Mr. Corrigan was ill and started by train. The yacht was in tow until she reached Bar Point, when the captain left her tow and turned the yacht for Cleveland. At 2 o'clock the storm came up and inside of five minutes the yacht sank. All the women excepting Mrs. John Corrigan and Miss Etta Corrigan were in the cabin when the gale came up. They became panic stricken and refused to leave the cabin. The mate implored them to come to the deck, but they refused.
According to the testimony of several sailors, the topsail, the mainsail and jib were all set when the storm came up. This is denied by Riggan, the mate, who declared they were in good condition to face the storm.
Capt. James Corrigan declared tonight that good seamanship could have averted the tragedy. He is almost frenzied with grief. The IDLER was a staunch schooner yacht, which Capt. Corrigan recently purchased from John Cudany, of Chicago. The captain declares she could have weathered the storm under good management.
      Saginaw Courier-Herald
      July 8, 1900

Cleveland, July 7. -- During a fierce squall this afternoon the yacht IDLER, owned by John and James Corrigan, was capsized and sunk six miles off this port, and six lives were lost. The following are the names of those drowned.
      Mrs. James Corrigan, wife of the well known vessel owner; Miss Ida Corrigan; Miss Jane Corrigan; Mrs. Charles Riley, all daughters of James Corrigan; Miss Etta Corrigan, daughter of Capt. John Corrigan and an infant daughter of Mrs. Riley. The only survivor among the passengers was Mrs. John Corrigan. She and six of the crew were picked up by a fish and brought to the harbor.
      Milwaukee Wisconsin
      July 9, 1900

      Tug Starts For Scene Of Wreck But Is Forces To Return.
      Another Attempt To Be Made Today If The Lake Subsides.
      Mrs. John Corrigan, a Survicor, is Too Ill to Tell Her Story.
      Capt. Holmes denies that he mismanaged the boat and says that its capsizing could not have been
      prevented -- Tells of his heroic efforts to save Jane Corrigan -- Heavy seas on all day yesterday
      High white capped waves dashed and lashed over the wreck of the ill-fated yacht IDLER out in the lake all day yesterday, so that it was impossible to make any attenpt to recover the bodies of the six victims, members of the falilies of Capt. James and John Corrigan, who lost their lives by the capsizing of the vessel during the storm Saturday afternoon.
      At 3 o'clock yesterday morning the tug BEN CAMPBELL started for the scene of the wreck with diver Walter Metcalf aboard, for the purpose of trying to recover the bodies. The tug took in tow Capt. Motley and the life saving crew, who were in their lifeboat and were prepared to assist in the search. Nearly the whole of Saturday night was spent in getting anchor lines and other things in readiness for the work.
      As the BEN CAMPBELL plowed her way through the sea until she came within two miles of the location of the wreck and then it was found that the waves were so high that it would be useless to go further. There was such a high sea on thatit would have been impossible to have anchored the tug, and without being securely anchored the diver could have done no work. The tug turned around and returned to the city, reaching here at 7:30 o'clock.
      It was the intention to make another trip to the wreck to attempt to recover the bodies some time during the day, but the sea, instead of quieting down, grew heavier, if anything during the afternoon and the plan had to be given up.
      It is the intention to go out to the wreck early this morning with the life saving crew, a tug and a diver, provided the lake has subsided sufficiently to do any work. Capt. Motley of the life saving station is of the opinion that the storm is about over and that the lake will be smooth today. According to weather forcaster Kenealy, however, the strong north west wind will continue all day today, so that the searching expedition may be further delayed. Capt. Motley said last night that the heavy wind yesterday might split the sails of the IDLER, but he did not think that the canvas or spars would be washed away or that the bodies would be washed out of the cabin. He thought that the vessel was so deeply imbedded in the mud that it would not be moved by the wind. Capt. Motley said that several fish tugs saw the wreck of the IDLER yesterday but they saw nothing floating around in the lake in that vicinity.
      The life saving officernotified Fairport to keep on the lookout for any bodies that might drift down the lake and was ashore. Capt. Motley examined the vessel and the position of the sails when he went to the wreck Saturday night.
      "I went into the rigging and found the mainsail, the staysail and the jib up," said Capt. Motley. "The foresail was partly down. They were evidently trying to get that sail down when the storm came."
      The steamer ANNIE LAURIE, bound from Sandusky to Cleveland passed within three miles of the west of the IDLER at 2:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon. D. O. Lockhart, captain of that boat, said after his arrival that a very high sea was rolling over the IDLER and that he saw something floating around the wreck which looked like sails.
      A large number of people visited the docks near the mouth of the river yesterday to try to secure some new information regarding the wreck and to learn whether any of the bodies had been recovered. Sailors sat along the wharves and discussed the details of the catastrophe, and the general opinion seemed to be that the IDLER was handled in a reckless manner and that her sails should have been furled before the storm struck her.
      According to the reports the fishing tugs SMITH and HELENA passed the IDLER just before the storm and the captain of the latter tug expressed great surprise that the IDLER was not getting ready for the storm by taking down her sails.
      S. Lyons, a lake capotain, said that the crew had nearly an hour to lower the canvas before the storm came, but that they evidently were unable to handle it after the wind and rain came.
      C.H. Holmes, captain of the IDLER, lay in bed all day yesterday under the care of a physician at the Bethel hotel. Capt, Holmes was partially paralysed as a result of what he had gone through, and was unable to stand up. He said that his affliction was caused more by grief than by the injury he had sustained while in the lake by taking in a quantity of water. Capt. Holmes talked freely about the wreck, and appeared to be deeply affected by the catastrophe. He appeared to be particularly grieved over the death of Jane Corrigan, eldest daughter of Mr. James Corrigan, and when he told of his unsuccessful efforts to save her his eyes filled with tears and his voice chocked.
      "We would have been capsized if there had been no canzas up" said the captain. "I did the safest thing in leaving the mainsail up. When the vessel keeled over we were trying to bring her head to the wind. The helm was pretty much out of the water and wouldn't turn and I went to the wheel. It was not an ordinary squall, but in the nature of a cyclone, and the IDLER could not have stood it if her masts had been bare. The wind struck the starboard quarter and then shifted to the port quarter.
      "When the boat first careened I was sitting alongside of Jane Corrigan giving directions to the sailors. She got frightened and I tried to pacify her, but I thing she fainted for a time. Alaf Neilson and I pulled her up on the side of the boat after the boat went over the second time. The stern began to sink and we climbed towards the bow, but the water came up faster than we climbed. We got up to the rigging and intended to climb that. A big sea came and washed the three of us out towards the forecastle.
      "We all went under the water. Jane Corrigan had her left arm around my neck and I had one arm around her, and with the other hand I had got hold of her hair. The suction of the sinking boat dragged us down. I kept hold of her hair with one hand and struggled with the other. I started to swim and took about two dozen strokes and came up under a fender. I tried to hold the girl up and told her to put her arms over the fender. She did so, but two or three heavy seas came and knocked us both off.
      "I grabbed the girl again, but didn't have strength to hold her. She slipped from me, I don't know just how, and a moment later they dragged me over the rail of the tug and when they got me on the boat I became unconscious.
      "Mrs. James Corrigan and Mrs. Reily and her baby were in the cabin when the boat went over. Before the storm came I told the mate and steward to close the deadlights, and the mate told me today that he did close them. He said that he might have left the one in the pantry open. This was on the upper side of the boat when it tipped over, and its being open would have made no difference. Mrs. John Corrigan told me, however, when we were coming in on the rescueing tug, that the mate had opened one or two deadlights to get air.
      "I started down the cabin during the second squall to warn Mrs. James Corrigan and Mrs. Reiley and just then the crew screamed that the boat was sinking. I yelled to the ladies to come on deck, but got no response. The mate told me afterwards that he and the steward had put life preservers on the two women."
      Mrs. John Corrigan Has The Wreck Of The IDLER In Her Mind Almost Constantly.
Mrs. John Corrigan of No, 71 Cutler Street, the wife of Capt. John Corrigan and the only woman saved from the yacht IDLER, which capsized in the lake Saturday, is still in a serious condition, due more to the nervous shock than to the effect of the exposure and water. She was a little better yesterday.
      Her physician gave orders that she should under no condition be allowed to talk of the disaster, even to members of her family or her husband. Several times yeaterday Mrs. Corrigan wanted to talk to her husband about her experiences, but the latter would not allow her to go far. At these times Mrs. Corrigan became so nervous and affected that it was easily to be seen that the result would have been a serious relapse.
      Mrs. Corrigan yesterday inquired several times whether the bodies had yet been recovered, and it was evident to her family that the terrible scene was almost constantly in her mind. The scene will stay with her all her life without any doubt.
      Mrs. Corrigan's thoughts remained collected all the time she was in the water, and it is probably that she knew more of what was happening than anybody else that passed through the awful accident.
      Milwaukee Wisconsin
      July 9, 1900

      The KENNEDY And Life Saving Crew Had a Perilous Trip To The Scene Of The Disaster.
      The tug WILLIAM KENNEDY and the life saving crew had a perilous trip to the wreck of the IDLER where they went last night to put up lights as a warning to sailors.
      The KENNEDY left at 6 o'clock with the life saving crew in their lifeboat in tow. When the two boats passed the breakwater they found a very heavy sea with the wind blowing nearly from the north west. The gale increased during the trip and the lifeboat appeared in great danger at times of being crushed. When in the trough of the sea surrounded by high waves it entirely disappeared from the men of the crew on the deck of the tug.
      When the wreck was reached the lifeboat was cut loose from the tug and they proceeded to place danger lights. The task was a very dangerous one but the seamen were undaunted and although their little craft was in constant danger of being swamped by the waves the crew succeeded in placing the signals.
      The IDLER was found in about the same position that it was when seen Saturday night but the main sail was gone, having been torn from the bolt ropes. The crew could not see whether the other sails had been carried away.
      After the life saving crew had finished its work the two boats returned. The trip was necessarily slow and the boats didn't get back untill 10:30 o'clock last night, having been gone four and one-half hours.
      Milwaukee Wisconsin ???
      July 9, 1900

      Chicago. July 13. Capt. A. J. Holmes of the steamer HESPER, is greatly put out by the statements that the Capt. Holmes who was in command of the IDLER when the Corrigan family was lost is his son. He resents the idea that a son of his should show so little knowledge of seamanship as the captain of the IDLER did that fatal night.
      Milwaukee Wisconsin
      July 14, 1900

      Cleveland, July 18. -- Capt. Charles J. Holmes, master of the schooner IDLER, which capsized off Avon Point with all her standing canvas set, on July 7, drowning five women and a baby, was arrested today by the United States Marshal on a charge of manslaughter. Bail was fixed at $1,000, which was furnished.
      During the coroner's inquest this morning, testimony of the most startling nature was rendered by the first witness, Samuel Biggam, who was mate of the ill-fated craft.
      "About 10 or 15 minutes before the squall struck us," he said, "I asked the captain if we had not better take in some canvas, but he said, 'keep in on and have a little excitement.' with my experience, I should have had all the canvas taken in except the fore-stay sail. The IDLER was perfectly sea worthy in all respects. Had the yacht been stripped, she would have been all right."
      The arrest was decided upon by District Attorney John J. Sullivan after a consultation with the Corrigan Brothers and Attorney Harvey D. Goulder. The principal testimony against Capt. Holmes will be given by the members of the crew, and the condition of the wrecked yacht when raised will also be used as evidence. It was found that three of the dead lights were open, which was the immediate cause of the sinking of the boat. In addition to this, the fact that so much canvas was allowed to stand in the face of the approaching storm is considered by competent judges a gross error in judgement. A United States statute must use every precaution for the safety of his passengers, and failing to do this, he makes himself responsible for the consequence.
      Milwaukee Library Scrapbook
      July 19, 1900
      . . . . .

      Cleveland, O., July 24. - Captain James Corrigan, millionaire owner of the yacht IDLER, which was wrecked 20 miles from here July 7, has equipped a remarkable boat with which to search the bottom of the lake for the bodies of his two daughters, Ida and Jane, who were drowned when the yacht went down.
      Capt. Corrigan has had a scow built with circular plates of glass in the bottom. These windows have been made watertight, so that as the boat is towed through the water it is possible to see the bottom of the lake for a considerable distance in all directions.
      That the search might reach to greater depth, the craft has been equipped with electric lighting apparatus so that lights can be used to illuminate the bottom of the lake.
      Saginaw Courier-Herald
      July 25, 1900

      . . . . .

      A $10,000 THEFT.
      One Man Arrested, Charged With Robbing The Corrigan Yacht IDLER.
Cleveland, October, 5.-- An important arrest was made in Pittsburg yesterday by Aeror Goldsmith, on of Jake Mintz's detectives. The man under arrest is Charles R. Samuel's, who lived at 103 Stearns Street, in this city, and it is believed that he is the man who stole jewelry to the amount of $10,000 from the wrecked yacht IDLER. When arrested in Pittsburgh a pair of gold link cuff buttons, marked L. or J.C., was found in his pockets, and when placed in the sweat box he acknowledged stealing the buttons, but denies knowing anything about the rest of the jewelry and diamonds.
      Samuel's is a Russian sailor, 38 years old, and was one of the men engaged by Mr. Corrigan to assist in raising the yacht. When the vessel was towed into this port, Samuel's, it is claimed was the first man to go down into the cabin. Jewelry and diamonds to the value of about $10,000 were known to have been with the party on the Idler's ill-fated trip, and when the yacht was raised they could not be found.
      Detroit Free Press
      Wednesday, October 10, 1900

Cleveland, October 10. -- The bodies of the wife, three daughters, granddaughter and niece of Capt. James Corrigan were lowered together into one large grave in Lakeview Cemetery yesterday afternoon. The Rev. Dr. Sprecher, of the Euclid Avenue Presbyterian church, conducted the service.
      On July 7 the schooner yacht IDLER, owned by Capt. Corrigan capsized in a squall off this port and Mrs. James Corrigan and Ida Corrigan, Jane Corrigan and Mrs. Rieley, Capt. Corrigan daughters, and the Rieley baby, were drowned. The last of the bodies was recovered only a few days ago.
      Miss MIchelle Hall, a niece of Capt. Corrigan and a beloved inmate at his home, died within the last week, and she was buried with the victims of the wreck.
      Detroit Free Press
      October 11, 1900

Cleveland, October 12. -- Capt. Holmes of the yacht IDLER, has been indicted for manslaughter. The IDLER, it will be remembered was capsized in Lake Erie in July, causing the death of the wife, three daughters and grandchild of Capt. Corrigan. The captain of the yacht was said to have refused to take in sail during the storm.
      Detroit Free Press
      October 14, 1900

Cleveland, O., Feb. 21. -- The famous Holmes case is at an end and the master of the ill-fated yacht IDLER, which was sunk off Cleveland harbor in a terrible storm on July 7, 1900, is a free man again.
      Milwaukee sentinel
      February 21, 1902

      Schooner yacht IDLER. U. S. No. 12163. Of 84 tons gross. Built at East Haven, Conn., in 1864, by Samuel Pook. Of 97.0 x 23.0 x 9.7. Rebuilt 1873 and again rebuilt 1876 by George Stearns, rebuilt again in 1890. Vessel Capsized near Cleveland July 7, 1900 with the loss of six.
      Herman Runge Notes

Schooner Yacht IDLER. U. S. No. 12163. Of 84.63 tons gross; 80.40 tons net. Built East Haven, Conn. 1964. Home port, Chicago, Ill. 97.0 x 23. 0 x 9.7
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1891

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Reason: sunk
Lives: 6
Remarks: Recovered
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  • Ohio, United States
    Latitude: 41.4995 Longitude: -81.69541
William R. McNeil
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Idler (yacht), U12163, sunk, 7 Jul 1900