The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Jane Bell (Schooner), U12782, aground, 9 Sep 1881

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Information from William MacDonald, a native of Amherst Island, Ontario. He wrote this information in an autobiography of his sailing career which appeared in Kingston Whig-Standard of May 3, 1927.

"In the spring of 1881 I shipped with Captain Peter Finley in the three masted schooner, JANE BELL. We were engaged in the ore trade from Escanaba to Ashtabula.
"We had a prosperous summer - - (he had previously noted that wages were now running from $1.00 to $3.00 a day) - - "and all went well until September 9th when on our way to Ashtabula, a gale of 50 miles an hour sprang up. No tug would venture to take us into harbor. We let go two anchors, both dragged and at nine o'clock at night we landed on the beach, one third of a mile from shore.
"The stern of our boat soon went to pieces, lashed by the terrific waves. We stayed in the bow until two o'clock next afternoon, when we managed to get a life boat cut out from the wreckage and started for shore.
"Jake Zaff, a big Dutchman and I were at the oars. we got about half way when the boat turned turtle. The Captain, the mate and five men clung to the upturned boat. Jake and I had each an oar, but could not make any use of then, so we threw then away and swan for the shore, a good furlong distant.
"There were men on shore but they could give no help except to cheer us on. Jake reached shore first and I got there soon after him. When the boat drifted in, two men were missing. One of them, the brother of the owner of the boat.
One of the bodies came ashore. We got a doctor who tried hard to restore life, but failed. We had all taken off our boots except the two who were drowned. I always take off my boots first thing when there are breakers ahead.
"We went to a farm house where we had dinner, after which the good natured farmer hitched up his team and drove us to Ashtabula, seven miles distant, where the Captain paid us off. We were none the worse, though we much regretted the loss of the Jane Bell and the death of our two shipmates."

      Cleveland, Ohio, Sept. 9.-- The body of Alpha Growl, who was lost on the ill-fated JANE BELL, has not yet been found, although ernest search is being made by his brother and others along shore at Geneva. The vessel has nearly all gone to pieces, and portions of the wreck are scattered for a considerable distance on the beach. The body of James Rodgers, the drowned sailor, was buried yesterday.
      The J.W. Hall Great lakes Marine Scrapbook, September 1880
NOTE:-- one or the other date is wrong ?

Bark JANE BELL. U. S. No. 12782. Of 373.84 tons. Home port, Detroit, Mich.
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1871

RIG: Bark (Pre-list; 1869; 1870; 1871; 1872; 1873; 1875); Schooner (1876; 1877; 1878; 1879;
1880; 1880-81)
GROSS: 373.84 (Pre-list; 1869; 1870; 1871; 1872; 1873; 1875; 1876; 1877; 1878; 1879; 1880; 1880-
HOME PORT: Detroit, MI (Pre-list; 1869; 1870; 1871; 1872; 1873; 1875; 1876; 1877; 1878; 1879; 1880;
YEARS LISTED: Pre-list; 1869; 1870; 1871; 1872; 1873; 1875; 1876; 1877; 1878; 1879; 1880; 1880-81.
NOTES: Listed as lost in 1880-81.
      Mvus, pre-list to 1885

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: aground
Lives: 2
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
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Language of Item:
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 42.4795 Longitude: -79.33393
William R. McNeil
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Jane Bell (Schooner), U12782, aground, 9 Sep 1881