The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
John R. Noyes (Schooner), U75434, aground, 17 Dec 1902

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      Five Persons, All of Oswego, Saved at Lakeside
Adrift on Angry Waves Thirty-Six Hours Without Food and Without Prospect of Help - Rescued After One of the Most Heroic Struggles of Man for Man Ever Chronicled on the Great Lakes - No Way to Signal for Help.
      Special to The Post-Standard
ROCHESTER, Dec. 15. -- Through the bravery of Captain Gray and his crew, five persons and two dogs were rescued from the schooner JOHN R. NOYES of Cleveland, Ohio, and landed safely on the shore at Lakeside after one of the most heroic struggles of man for man ever chronicled on the Great Lakes. The crew had given up all hope of rescue after thirty-six hours without food and without prospect of help.
The crew of the NOYES consisted of Captain George Donovan, Mate J. Ryan and his son, J. Ryan, and wife, and George Premo, all of Oswego. Captain Donovan of the NOYES is the son of the captain of the steamer JOHN E. HALL, believed by the rescuers to be lost.
Captain Donovan reported that his boat, the NOYES, broke away from the steam barge HALL, which towed him out of Charlotte Thursday morning, when they were twenty-five miles off Kingston. That was at 8 o¹clock Saturday morning. They drifted all of Saturday, Saturday night, and Sunday morning brought up off Lakeside, about twenty miles east of Charlotte. They threw out their anchor there, giving it sixty fathoms of chain.
      Cut the Boat Loose
The sea was so high that the chain stove in the side of the boat, and they had to cut it loose and drift in the wind. Sunday morning the waves broke in the cabin windows, and the five were entirely at the mercy of the storm. The weather was freezing cold, and spray froze to everything it touched almost as quickly as it struck it.
It was while they were apparently in their worst straits that they sighted a steamer passing from the eastward toward Charlotte. For a time their hopes were raised, only to be lowered as the steamer passed without seeing them. The forlorn men of the NOYES had no way to signal for help.
      Syracuse Post-Standard
      Tuesday, December 16, 1902

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      Five Rescued From Wreck
      Charlotte Life Savers Succeed After Hours Of Heroic Work In The Cold.
      ROCHESTER, Dec. 16. - Exhausted and almost frozen, four men and one woman were rescued from the schooner barge JOHN R. NOYES, in the teeth of a gale yesterday afternoon by the Charlotte life-saving crew. Their names are George Donovan, captain; James Ryan, mate; Mrs. James Ryan, his wife; James Ryan Jr., his son, and George Premo, all of Oswego.
At 4 o¹clock in the afternoon the crew of the life boat near the barge, 20 miles out, bare of canvas, her bulwarks stove in, the windows of the cabin broken and the rigging gone. Not a soul was on the deck, which was thickly coated with ice. Repeated calls by the crew finally brought a head to view from the forecastle and then a fervent, "Thank God! You have found us!" broke over the waves.
Buffeted by the waves and chilled to the very marrow, Captain Gray, with the eight men comprising the life-saving crew at Charlotte, bent to the life boat for almost 20 hours before their task was accomplished, and those aboard the Noyes were brought to land. The conditions of the rescued and the rescuers were almost identical.
James Ryan, mate of the barge, said: "We left Charlotte last Thursday about 8 a.m., towed by the JOHN E. HALL. We encountered heavy northeast gales almost from the start. We slowed down at the False Ducks light, 15 miles from lakeside. The weather was thick Friday morning, we fetched in at Long Point in thick weather. In the afternoon we made Long Point and ran to the Ducks for shelter, but were not able to make it. A heavy
northeast gale was blowing.
      "We hung off the Ducks till 1 o¹clock Saturday morning when the wind let go. Then we drifted around I couldn¹t tell you where the ---- we didn't go. We heard the HALL blowing signals of distress about 1 o¹clock Saturday morning and I guess she has gone to the bottom. God pity them! We know something has happened as I heard her blowing signals of distress."
      Syracuse Journal
      December 16, 1902

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Rochester, Dec. 16. - The crew of the schooner JOHN R. NOYES of Cleveland, five in all, was rescued by Capt. Gray and his crew of surfmen and landed safely at Lakeside. It was one of the most gallant struggles with wind and waves ever fought on the Great Lakes. The schooner had been drifting for 30 hours, and the men, without food and without hope, dropped on the decks. Their clothing froze to the planks where they lay. The surfmen in the heavy lifeboat toiled after the drifting schooner and got to her after hours of work. The five men rescued were Capt. George Donovan, Mate Ryan and his son, John Ryan and wife, and George Preme, all of Oswego. As the surfmen passed the half-frozen sailors to the lifeboat from the drifting hulk, two dogs were seen aboard, and the lifesavers put them aboard the lifeboat also.
      Capt. Donovam of the NOYES is a son of Capt. Timothy Donovan of the GEORGE HALL, which had the NOYES in tow. The GEORGE HALL is believed to be lost.
      Capt. Donovan reports that the NOYES broke away from the HALL when they were 25 miles off Kingston. That was 8 o'clock on Saturday morning. They drifted and on Sunday morning they brought up off Lakeside, about 20 miles east of Charlotte. They threw out their anchor with 60 fathoms of chain, but the sea was running so high that the chain stove in the side of the boat and they had to knock it loose and drift at the mercy of wind and sea.
The cabin was smashed by the waves and the men had no shelter. The weather was freezing cold and the spray formed ice wherever it struck.
      In their worse straits they sighted a steamer bound in to Charlotte. Hope was raised for a time, but the steamer passed without seeing them and then the men sank in despair.
      The battle of the lifesavers as they toiled in the teeth of the gale after the drifting NOYES was a desperate one. For twenty hours they rowed to find the lost vessel. The crew of the schooner were too exhausted to cheer their rescuers. Two surfmen sprang for the schooner's rail and clambered on board. Life-preservers were tossed up to them and they buckled them around the half frozen men on deck. It was with great difficulty that the half-conscious sailors were transferred to the lifeboat. It was a battle for men's lives in the blinding storm, and the surfmen won.
      Buffalo Evening News
      December 16, 1902

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      ALONG THE LAKES. - The schooner NOYES, from which the crew had been rescued, has gone to the bottom at Charlotte.
      Buffalo Evening News
      December 17, 1902

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      Seven of Its Popular Citizens Given Up as Lost
      Vessel Ashore on Salmon Point Proves to Be the NOYES, Whose Crew Was Rescued After Heroic Work - No Tidings Whatever Are Received of the Steamer HALL - Tug Will To-Day Search the Duck Islands - Crew of the ISAAC STEVENSON Safe.
      (Special to The Post-Standard.)
OSWEGO, Dec. 17. - Almost the last ray hope for the ill-fated steamer JOHN E. HALL was blotted out to-night when the new came that the vessel ashore on Salmon Point was the schooner John R. Noyes and not the steamer Hall. She had rolled her masts out in the gale and thus deceived those who saw her from a distance into the belief that she was the Hall.
To-night a telegram from Picton, Ont., to Captain Thomas Crimmins of the Oswego Towing Association says that wreckage in great quantities has been coming ashore all afternoon and among it is a piece of a schooner with "JOHN R. NOYES" on it. The message further says the vessel was a total wreck and has been broken into pieces by the tremendous seas. A life-saving crew from Toronto, which went on a special train and then by boat to the wreck, reports it positively to be the NOYES.
      Friends Give Up in Despair.
The report that came in this morning to the effect that the wreck on Salmon Point was the HALL raised the almost vain hope that Captain Donovan and his crew might have survived all the terrible experiences of the week and still be alive aboard the wreck. To-night they give up in despair.
There is only one home and that a slim one. The HALL may be ashore on the Duck Islands and may have been missed by the steamer AVON last night in the darkness and thick weather. if she is not there, vesselmen say she is surely at the bottom of Lake Ontario with her crew of at least ten. The tug CHARLEY FERRIS will leave this port as soon as weather permits to search the Ducks.
The HALL left Charlotte with the NOYES in tow one week ago to-morrow morning, both laden with coal for E.W. Rathbun & Co., Deseronto. The crew of the NOYES was taken from the vessel by the Charlotte life savers Monday afternoon off Lakeside and thirty miles out in the lake.
      An Heroic Achievement.
It was the most heroic achievement of the life saving service on the lakes in many years. The exact make-up of the crew of the steamer HALL is not known here. It is known absolutely, however, there are seven Oswego persons aboard her. They are: Captain Timothy Donovan, First Mate Jerome Donovan, First Engineer John Donovan, Second Engineer James Donovan (all relatives); Thomas Cochrane, wheelsman; Daniel Bigelow, wheelsman; John Dixon, fireman. There are also aboard Thomas Tyler, fireman, and Mrs. Brown, cook, both of Buffalo.
Captain Donovan and First Engineer Donovan owned both boats, which were valued at about $35,000. The cargoes are valued at $5,000 and there is no insurance on vessels or cargoes.
The tragedy has cast a gloom over this city. The sailors of the HALL are all well known and popular here and their probably fate is being discussed everywhere.Telegraph offices, police headquarters and vessel offices are deluged with inquiries for news, but nothing of a cheering nature can now be given.
      STEVENSON Crew Safe.
The barge ISAAC STEVENSON, which broke away from the steamer AVON at 5 o¹clock yesterday near the Galoup Islands, is ashore on Stony Island and a telegram announces that the crew is safe. The captain of the Stevenson is J. Mallet, Jr.
      Post Standard, Syracuse, NY,
      Thursday, December 18, 1902

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      Friends Entertain Fears For Safety of Crew
      Reported Steamer Ashore on Salmon Point Shoal Proves to be the John R. Noyes
      Life Savers Patrol Beach in Search for Hall.
      Grave fears are entertained this afternoon that the steambarge JOHN E. HALL has been lost with all hands. The report yesterday that the barge was on the Main Ducks and that the crew was safe on the island does not appear to have any foundation.
The barge found on Salmon Point and reported by the light keeper there to have been a steamer proved to be the JOHN R. NOYES, abandoned about fifteen miles in the lake last Monday afternoon when the crew was rescued by Captain Gray and the life saving crew at Charlotte. At that time the was drifting in a northeasterly direction, being helped along by the Southwest wind. it transpires that she went on the beach at Salmon Point
light sometime between five o¹clock Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. Dispatches received today by Commodore Crimmins and John S. Parsons state that the stern and spars of the barge are on the beach and that she has gone to pieces.
While discussing the parting with the Hall yesterday Captain George Donovan said that he did not know just where they were Saturday morning at eight o¹clock when the steamer let go, but he thought somewhere outside the False Ducks. Friday, he said, they had been close in on the North shore all day and within sight of land. Despite the fact that they were under the shore the Northeast gale kicked up a tremendous sea and the boats pitched badly. Friday night and Saturday morning it snowed hard and the gale kept increasing.
While Captain Donovan does not say so, others who were on the Noyes say that the machinery of the Hall became disabled, and that finding he could do nothing for the Noyes Captain Donovan directed that the tow-line be cut and in the blinding snow squall the boats parted with a blast from the whistle of the Hall. Had the latter been driven ashore word would have reached friends in this city before now.
The crew of the missing steamer are: Captain Timothy Donovan; his son, Jeremiah, first mate; his cousins, John and James, first and second engineers, respectively; Thomas Corcoran, son of the late Patrick Corcoran, formerly a resident of the First ward; Daniel Bigelow, 206 East Fifth street, wheelsman; John Dixon, brother of Henry Dixon, of 6 Porter street, and Thomas Tyler, Buffalo, fireman. Mrs. Brown, the cook, was from Buffalo.
The inability to get any word from the HALL or her crew has cast a deep shadow of gloom over the the men who follow the lakes for a living, as well as citizens generally.
Captain Donovan was an able seaman, an upright man, a kind husband and an indulgent father. His son was a young man of excellent habits who had been with him on the barge for several years. Another son, John, is in Chicago, while George, Frank and Ella are living in this city with their mother at 132 East Seneca street.
John Donovan, the first engineer, was married, but has no family. James and Jeremiah were unmarried. There is a slight possibility that the crew is safe, but the chances are against that theory.
Members of Captain Donovan¹s family say that as soon as the weather moderates the FERRIS will start for the Ducks on a searching tour.
      No News of the Missing Crew.
Kingston, Ont., Dec. 18. - (Special.) - Within a distance of forty miles of the city life saving crews have been searching for the crew of the steamer JOHN E. HALL, but up to noon there was no sign of the missing seamen. Mr. Donovan, of Oswego, has requested the Donnelly wrecking firm to make enquiries and forward information.
It was the light-house keeper, McDonald, that sent out the message to the effect that the HALL was ashore at Salmon Point shoal, which extends out about two miles from the lighthouse and is very dangerous. Life saving crews from both Consecon and Wellington, the latter sent out by the Rathbun Company, were sent to the wreck which is fast going to pieces. Captain Donnelly was wired by members of the Wellington crew that had returned to land that the vessel aground is not the HALL, but the barge NOYES, of Oswego. M.C.
      Oswego Daily Palladium
      Thursday, December 18, 1902

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(Letter from Mrs. James Ryan of Oswego, N.Y. , cook aboard the JOHN R. NOYES, to Mrs. George Mouck, South Marysburgh, Ontario, February 2, 1903 - From: PP 11-124, "Canvas & Steam on Quinte Waters" by Willis Metcalfe, Prince Edward Historical Society, Picton, Ontario, 1968).

Dear Madam - I received the card you sent my husband last Friday, and I do not know how to thank you for the trouble you have taken to inform us of finding part of our belongings. The shopping bag and a picket book you found are mine. There was part of a shoe string in the bag, instead of a ribbon to draw it together. What you suppose to be a money order was only the receipt of a money order that I had sent to Oswego to my daughter; and as she had cashed it before we got home, the receipt in my pocketbook is of no value. I only wish it was good for eight dollars now, it would come handy, as we had over $250.00 in money and clothes.
We saw by the papers that Captain Savage said some of the trunks and clothes were coming ashore. Tell Capt. Savage that the picture he found of the two little children was John Skeeky¹s little boy and girl. It must have been a terrible sight to see the poor old NOYES go to pieces almost at your door, not knowing that her human freight would drift ashore with the rest, but thanks to the Lord and all the Host of Heaven who alone
brought us safe through it all. We wee almost on top of Long Point or Pt. Petre light on Friday afternoon, but were afraid to stay there, so we went out again into the fog and sea with 27 miles before us and only 3 hours daylight to make the Ducks.
The storm kept increasing, and the fog or steam was so thick that we never saw the light, and consequently we were at the mercy of the storm and sea. Oh, my dear woman, the horror of that night! The next day, and Saturday night, was enough to drive us all crazy. Midnight on Friday, the HALL got disabled and was not able to keep us out of the trough of the sea, which was rolling most high. We expected to founder every minute, and the RESOLUTE and ANDREWS were so close to us that we expected to collide all the fore part of the night. About 7 o¹clock Saturday morning the Hall was hanging on to our stern and came near striking us. My husband hailed them, but got no answer. Then he saw Jerome Donovan (the mate) run off and let go our tow line. Just imagine being left out in the middle of the lake in such a storm, without a rag of sail or anything to make her answer her helm. We rolled side-ways all that day, across and up the lake. We had the wheel lashed and all hands stayed in the cabin. We could not go on deck without being washed overboard. A door of the cabin would fill with water, consequently we were prisoners. No one ate or drank anything from Friday until Sunday. Saturday night the cabin windows were smashed in on us, and wet everything. The men nailed everything they could find up to the windows to try and keep out the sea. That night we lost our boat and on Sunday we found ourselves below Charlotte. We tried to attract attention all day Sunday and all Sunday night.
Monday we gave up all hope from the shore, and we were drifting out into the lake, with our lifeboat leaking, and another storm coming on, which we knew would be our doom, if we were not rescued, but the life-saving crew had spotted us, and they followed us out about 20 miles, the most daring deed ever done by a lot of men.
I wrote you the experience of ours for I feel certain you would like to know the true facts. I believe the HALL went down soon after she parted with us. Everything they owned was in those two boats, which were swept out of existence at one blow, and not one dollar's of insurance on them.
My children want me to ask you to send the bag and pocket book, as they want to keep them.
      Yours sincerely,
      Mrs. Jas. Ryan.

Schooner JOHN R. NOYES. U. S. No. 75434. Of 315 gross tons; 299 tons net. Built Algonac, Mich., 1872. Home port, Oswego, N.Y. 136.3 x 26.2 x 11.4
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1902

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Reason: aground
Remarks: Total loss
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  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.25506 Longitude: -77.61695
William R. McNeil
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John R. Noyes (Schooner), U75434, aground, 17 Dec 1902