The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Fearless (Schooner), aground, 14 Nov 1875


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THE LATE GALE -- TWO SCHOONERS WRECKED -- AND ONE LIFE LOST.
      During the heavy North-easterly gale, which set in about 7 o'clock on Sunday morning and lasted throughout the day. Two schooners, the OLIVE BRANCH and the FEARLESS, both hailing from Oswego and laden with coal consigned to merchants in this city, were wrecked off the Island, and Captain Ferguson, belonging to the FEARLESS was drowned.
      The two schooners mentioned, in company with the DUNCAN CITY, left Oswego for Toronto about 4 o'clock on Saturday afternoon, the weather, at the time, being fair, with a light breeze, all went well until about 8 o'clock P. M. when a stiff breeze sprung up from the North-east, accompanied by a severe snow storm.
      During the night the wind and sea increased in violence, and 4 o'clock on Sunday morning it was blowing half a gale of wind, with a heavy sea running.
      At 8 o'clock lad was sighted and shortly afterwards the OLIVE BRANCH got into the trough of the sea and her mainmast went by the board, the mast fell across the fore-sail, which it tore badly, and also ripped up part of the deck. After clearing away the gear of the mainmast, the captain kept his vessel running along shore for some two hours, keeping her away so as to weather the Point. At this time breakers were seen ahead, and a heavy sea struck the vessel, sweeping the deck and carrying away the only boat on board. The vessel afterwards grounded, and the crew immediately took to the rigging.
      Fortunately their perilous position was noticed by Wm. Ward, who lives on the island, and he in company with three other men, George Garaux, Dennis O'Mally and ???, went to the assistance of the shipwrecked crew, they found the vessel had grounded about 30 yards from shore, a quarter of a mile on the west side of the eastern gap, in about 5 feet of water. After considerable trouble, Ward succeeded in throwing a small line on board the vessel, which the crew made fast to a large rope, one end of which was hauled on shore.
      By this time further assistance was at hand. Mr. Thomas Tinning had seen the stranded vessel and he immediately went out to the Island with the tug CLARKE, and three men, named Patrick Ronen, Micheal Leonard, and James Foster got out the tug JONES with a boat belonging to the steamer SHICKLUNA, and went over to render what assistance they could.
      They found that Ward and his men had rescued three men and a woman. Honen and Foster waded into the water as far as they could, with ropes tied around them, and rendered great assistance to those in the rigging. Honen at one time, was knocked clean off his feet by a wave and had to be hauled ashore by the rope which he had around his waist.
      It was about 10 o'clock when the vessel struck and it was nearly 1 o'clock before the crew, five men and one woman were got ashore.
      The schooner is a total wreck, she was owned by Captain Preston, the schooner's captain, and Messrs. Bond & Co., of Oswego, and was valued at $10,000, the insurance is about $8,000. The following statement is made by Captain John R. Preston:-
      The OLIVE BRANCH, which is owned by myself and other residents of Oswego, was endeavoring to make Toronto Harbor on the morning of Sunday, November 14th., with a cargo of coal from Oswego. A gale began to blow on Saturday night about 8 o'clock and shortly afterwards it began to snow heavily. At 8 o'clock on Sunday morning we sighted land and while holding the vessel out, she got into the trough of the sea which was rolling heavily at the time, and the mainmast broke, falling across the foresail tearing it badly, and ripping up the deck in places. I ordered sailcloth to be nailed over the holes on deck to keep her from making water, and in this condition we ran along for two hours, until I thought we were up as far as Toronto Point. We kept the vessel away for to come around the Point, when we saw breakers ahead, and immediately the sea broke over the vessel carrying our boat away and sweeping the deck clear, after the next sea she grounded, and rolled considerably at every wave, this was about 10 o'clock and we remained on board till about 1 o'clock, when we were rescued by Wm. Ward and the other fishermen of the Island, our boat had been carried away, and out of the seven souls on board, including the woman cook, only another, besides myself, would have been able to reach the shore unaided. Too much credit cannot be given the fishermen of the Island who so kindly assisted us with dry clothes, food and warmth. Previous to our leaving the vessel she had begun to break up badly and I would recommend to the authorities that the proper place for the proposed lifeboat station would be in the immediate vicinity of where we were wrecked. The OLIVE BRANCH is a two masted schooner and was built at Oswego, she was valued at $10,000 on which we had insurance to the value of $8,000 in the following companies:- British North America, Detroit Fire & Marine, and the Mercantile of Cleveland, the cargo I believe to be insured.
The schooner FEARLESS met with a similar fate to that which befel the OLIVE BRANCH. She was caught in the same storm, and although one of the best vessels of her class that sails the lakes, she was unable to weather the gale. Unfortunately the wreck of the FEARLESS was
attended with the drowning of Captain Wm. Ferguson, who was part owner of the vessel. He belonged to Niagara, and has left a widow and two children to mourn his untimely end. The FEARLESS went ashore about a mile and a half eastward of the gap, and about a quarter of a mile out in the lake.
It appears that while Mr. Tinning was over at the Island rendering assistance in rescuing the crew of the OLIVE BRANCH, he noticed another vessel in distress to the eastward of the Gap. He immediately came back to the Esplanade and got the lifeboat. He then proceeded through the marsh opposite to where the vessel had stranded. This was about Three o'clock in the afternoon. The vessel was bumping fearfully, and the sea was breaking over with terrific force. The captain was seen to get into the jolly boat, which had been launched but which shortly afterwards broke adrift, and after drifting about forty yards was capsized and Captain Ferguson was drowned. The boat afterwards drifted ashore about half a mile westward of the schooner. There was such a heavy sea running that it was impossible for Mr. Tinning to go out to the schooner with the lifeboat, and he and his crew had to remain waiting for the sea to go down a little. About half past ten o'clock at night an attempt was made to reach the wrecked vessel, but after going about 150 yards out the boat was nearly swamped,and they had to return to shore, as the boat could not live in such a sea. A fire was made up on the beach and the crew of the lifeboat were provided with provisions. They remained on the beach all night, and at daylight another attempt was made to reach the vessel, which after a good deal of buffeting about they succeeded in doing and took off the shipwrecked crew, consisting of Robert Short, the mate. Eliza Clark the cook, Jas. McMiller, Wm. McTarrer, Samuel McLean, and Chas. Lintock. The woman and Chas. Lintock were in a very exhausted state, and could not have held out much longer. During the night the crew had taken refuge in the cabin, which was half filled with water. They were brought ashore, and taken to Simpsons Hotel at the foot of George Street, where every attention was shown them by Mr. Simpson. The crew of the life-boat, who so gallently risked their lives in going out to the vessel and rescuing others from their perilous position, are deserving of much praise. Their names are:-
Thomas Tinning, James Simmons, Patrick Finnigan, Albert Metcalfe, Thomas Hastings, John Morley and William Montgomery.
      The FEARLESS is a complete wreck, and the beach near where she was wrecked, is strewn
with broken spars &c. The schooner was owned by Captain Wm. Ferguson, who was drowned, and Mr. Jno. Bishop, of Niagara. It is understood she was insured.
      The mate, Robert Short, makes the following statement: -- The FEARLESS left Oswego in company with the schooners OLIVE BRAHCH and DUNCAN CITY, about four o'clock on Saturday afternoon. The schooners were laden with coal. The FEARLESS had 507 tons of coal on board.
Everything went all right until about half past four on Sunday morning, when the foresail jibed and carried away the fore sheet and Jaws of fore boom gaff. Before we could get the boom in the foresail was torn. We then took a single reef in the foresail and stood in close to the land. Sighted land, which we took for the Highlands. We afterwards stood over and jibed for the lake. The mainsail soon afterward tore and the mainsheet was carried away. A heavy sea was running, and after getting in the main boom we again stood in for the north shore. The foresail being gone we could not jibe any more, so we had to run the vessel off all we could. We fetched up again and soon afterwards sighted land,which we took for land at the head of the lake. The snow-storm at this time was so heavy that a man standing aft could not see another man on the forecastle. About seven o'clock on Sunday a man was sent up to the foretop to try and see land. He said he could see land which he thought was Burlington Beach. We then hauled up and let go both anchors in about three fathoms of water. The vessel hung for a while, and then began dragging. Almost all the cable on board was paid out, but she still kept dragging until about four o'clock in the afternoon, when she struck.
The captain immediately gave orders for the jolly-boat to be lowered. The sea at this time was making a clean sweep over the decks and filling the cabin with water. The captain told then to do the best they could, as he could not help them. He said he was sorry for the poor woman on board. He also spoke of his wife and children, and cried very much. The vessel all this time kept bumping heavily. The jolly-boat was lowered and the captain wanted the crew to get into the boat. Some of the crew wanted to get into the boat, but the mate would not get in. The boat was hauled aft to the port timber-heads and the captain got in. The boat was afterwards allowed to drift under the stern of the vessel so that the crew might get in. Some of the crew had hold of the boats painter all this time, but directly they got her under the lee of the stern of the vessel a heavy sea struck her and fetched her head on to the sea. The next sea that struck filled her, and the boat capsized; and the last seen of Captain Ferguson he was holding up one hand with an oar in it. The crew remained during the night in the cabin, which was half filled with water, until they were rescued by the crew of the life-boat yesterday morning. The mate further states, that he has been sailing the lakes for the last sixteen years, but he does not remember ever having seen such heavy weather before. He speaks in high terms of Captain Ferguson as being a skillful seaman.
The body of the deceased has not yet been recovered..
      Toronto Daily GLOBE
      Tuesday, November 16,1875

      . . . . .

      PERILS OF THE LAKES.
      Story of the Loss of the Schooners Olive Branch and Fearless, as told by
      Captain Preston of the Former and Robert Short, Mate of the Latter.
      ____
The Toronto Globe has further particulars of the loss of the schooners Olive Branch and Fearless, and the drowning of Captain William Ferguson, the master of the latter, from which we glean the following:
Captain J.R. Preston, of the Olive Branch, says, "A gale began to blow on Saturday night about eight o¹clock, and shortly afterwards it began to snow heavily. At eight o¹clock Sunday morning we sighted land, and, while holding the vessel out, she got into the trough of the sea, which was rolling heavily at the time, and the mainmast broke, falling across the foresail, tearing it badly and ripping up the deck in places. I ordered sailcloth to be nailed over the holes made in the deck to keep her from making water, and in this condition we ran along for two hours, until i thought we were up as far as Toronto Point, when we saw breakers ahead, and immediately the sea broke over the vessel, carrying our boat away and sweeping the deck clear. "After the next sea she grounded, and rolled considerably at every wave. This was about ten o'clock and we remained on board till about one o¹clock, when we were rescued by Wm. Ward and other fishermen of the island. Our boat had been carried away, and out of the seven souls on board, including the woman cook, only another besides myself would have been able to reach the shore unaided.
"Too much credit cannot be given to the fishermen of the Island who so kindly assisted us with dry clothes and warmth. Previous to our leaving the vessel she had begun to break up badly. i would recommend to the authorities that the proper place for the proposed lifeboat station would be in the immediate vicinity of where we were wrecked."
Robert Short, mate of the Fearless, made the following statement: The Fearless left Oswego in company with the schooners Olive Branch and Duncan City, about four o¹clock Saturday afternoon. The schooners were laden with coal. The Fearless had 307 tons on board. Everything went all right until about half past four on Sunday morning, when the foresail jibed and carried away the foresheet and jaws of fore boom.
Before we could get the boom in the foresail was torn. We then took a single reef in the foresail and stood in close to land. Sighted land which we took for Highlands. We afterwards jibed over, and stood for the lake. The mainsail soon after tore and the main sheet was carried away. A heavy sea was running, and after getting in the main boom, we again stood in for the north shore. The foresail being gone we could not jibe any more, so we had to run the vessel off all we could.
We fetched up again and soon afterwards sighted land, which we took for the land at the head of the lake. The snow storm at this time was so heavy that a man standing aft could not see another man on the forecastle. About eleven o¹clock on Sunday a man was sent up to the foretop to try and see land. he said he could see land, which he thought was Burlington Beach. We then hauled up and let go both anchors in about three fathoms of water. The vessel hung for awhile, and then began dragging. Almost all the cable on board was paid out, but she still kept dragging until about four o¹clock in afternoon when she struck.
The Captain immediately gave orders for the jolly boat to be lowered. The sea at the time was making a clean sweep of the decks and filling the cabin with water. The Captain told them to do the best they could, as he could not help them. He said he was sorry for the poor woman on board. He also spoke of his wife and children, and cried very much. The vessel all this while kept bumping heavily. The jolly boat was lowered and the captain wanted the crew to get into the boat. Some of the crew wanted to get into the boat, but the mate would not get in. The boat was allowed to drift under the stern of the vessel so that the crew might get in.
Some of the crew had hold of the boat¹s painter all this time, but directly they got her under the lee of the stern of the vessel a heavy sea struck her and the men had to let go the painter or else they would have gone overboard and the boat drifted ahead of the vessel, when a wave struck her and fetched her head on to the sea. The next wave that struck filled her, and the boat capsized and the last seen of Captain Ferguson he was holding up one hand with an oar in it.
The crew remained during the night in the cabin, which was half filled with water, until they were rescued by the crew of the life boat Monday morning. The mate further states that he has been sailing the lakes for the last sixteen years, but does not remember ever having seen such heavy weather before. He speaks in high terms of Captain Ferguson as being a skillful seaman.
Among those who assisted in rescuing the crew of the Olive Branch, in addition to those named yesterday, were Patrick Honen, Michael Leonard and James Foster. The names of the crew of the life boat are Thomas Tinning, James Simmons, Albert Medcalfe, Thomas Hastings, John Morley and William Montgomery. Those saved from the Fearless owe their lives to the daring men who, after several attempts to reach the vessel, remained on the beach until morning and the sea had partially subsided. The Fearless is a total loss, the beach being strewn with her wreck.
      Oswego Palladium
      Wednesday, November 17, 1875

      . . . . .

      The two schooner, OLIVE BRANCH and FEARLESS, bound for this port laden with coal, during the severe storm of Sunday, November 14th., were driven ashore outside the Island, and are likely to become total wrecks.
      Toronto Harbour Commission Report
      Sessional Papers, Dept. of Marine, 1876

      . . . . .

      The FEARLESS, whose captain was drowned, is lying on the East side of the Marsh, and will not be moved this season, she will probably be a wreck before spring.
      Toronto Globe
      December 4, 1875

      . . . . .

      FEARLESS Schooner of 200 tons. Built by Bailey at Charlotte in 1857 as D. McINNES, rebuilt Kingston 1873 and owned by Folger Bros. Port of hail, Hamilton. Class A 2. Value $8,500
      Marine Register, 1874

      . . . . .

      FEARLESS of Hamilton on a voyage from Oswego to Toronto on November 14th. 1875 stranded after her anchor chain parted about 3 miles east of Toronto Lighthouse with the loss of one life. She was totally y wrecked and her loss is thought to be about $11,000. She was a schooner of 190 tons and 15 years old.
      Statement of Wreck & Casualty
      Dept. of Marine & Fisheries, 1875


Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Notes:
Reason: aground
Lives: 1
Freight: coal
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
1875
Subject(s):
Local identifier:
McN.W.19484
Language of Item:
English
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.621111 Longitude: -79.378611
Donor:
William R. McNeil
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Fearless (Schooner), aground, 14 Nov 1875