The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Simcoe (Propeller), sunk, 24 Nov 1880

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Appalling Marine Disaster
      Twelve of the Crew Drowned
      On Friday last a telegram was received here stating that the Prop. CANADA of the Collingwood and Chicago line, had found the pilot- house and Captain's desk of the Prop. SIMCOE off the south side of the Manitoulin Island and it was supposed that she was lost. On Saturday the Prop. COLUMBIA of the same line arrived in Collingwood and reported passing through a large amount of wreckage and cargo belonging to the SIMCOE about 17 miles North-west of Cove Island. The Propeller EMERALD arrived here on Tuesday afternoon bringing some of the survivors of the SIMCOE, and we have learned the following particulars of this fearful calamity. The SIMCOE left the Straits of Macinaw on Tuesday, November 23nd, and was caught in a fearful gale while crossing Lake Huron on Wednesday. The wind was terrific, and was accompanied by a blinding snow storm. The heavy seas soon put out the fires, and for nine hours the ill-fated vessel was in the trough of the sea and completely unmanageable. The crew were without hope, and at last the SIMCOE made the fatal plunge, going down bow first. Capt. Parson and the engineer, Mr. J. Nesbit, and two others were on the hurricane deck, and jumped into one of the boats which they cut loose just as the vessel made the final plunge. The Capt. and the rest of the crew were forward and tried to save themselves in the lifeboat, but it was fastened and went down with the SIMCOE. The wheelsman tried to save one of the women but a table came to the top striking and killing her instantly. A line was then thrown to him and he was drawn in and saved. The survivors succeeded in reaching Providence Bay on the Manitoulin Island, some 30 miles from where the vessel went down. Then There procured a conveyance and drove to Manitowaning, where they got on the Prop. MANITOULIN and were transferred to the EMERALD at Gore Bay. The Company owing the EMERALD sent the NORTHERN BELLE to look for her on Tuesday but she met the EMERALD, and on learning the above particulars took Capt. Parsons on board and returned to Collingwood. Mr. Nesbit reached here by the Emerald on Tuesday afternoon, and was warmly greeted by his friends who had given him up as lost. The crew of the SIMCOE was seventeen in all, of whom the lost... Capt. R. Hill; R. McNab, ...Ben. Mitward, Wheelsnman; John Henry, Fireman; Tom O'Hare, Deck-Hand; Tom Levi, Deck hand; McDougal, Deck hand; Donald Carr, Deck hand; Miss Julia Gibson, Ladies' Maid; Miss Lydia Williams, Cook; Geo. Patton, Porter; and one man shipped at Chicago, name unknown. Those who survive are as follows:- John Nesbit, 1st Engineer; Capt. Parsons, 1st Mate; R. McNemeny, Wheelsman; Mathew Noble,Fireman; P. Croft, Deck-hand. Capt. Hill was the eldest son of Mr. Vasy Hill., Lighthouse keeper at Griffith's Island. He was well known here, and leaves a wife and small family, who reside in Collingwood. Mr. Robert McNab resided here, and also leaves a wife and one or two children to mourn his loss. He was a brother of Capt. McNab, of the CITY OF OWEN SOUND, and was a universal favorite with all who knew him. The SIMCOE sailed only this season under the above name, and she was what might well be called an unlucky vessel. When first built she came out as the steam barge MARY ROBERTSON and was burned to the water's edge in the Straits of Mackinaw on her first trip from Chicago; she was then towed to Detroit and rebuilt, but her ill-fortune seemed to stick to her, as she was afterwards sunk at Little Current and was continually in trouble. In the Fall of 1878 she was again burned to the water's edge at Byng Inlet, and after lying at the bottom of the river till Fall of 1879 was purchased by Georgian Bay Transportation Company of Collingwood who rebuilt her and changed her name to that of the SIMCOE. The SIMCOE was on her last trip from Chicago, and was loaded with 19,000 bushels of corm, consigned to Gooderham & Worts, Toronto; and also a deck load of pork. The cargo was fully insured and the vessel was insured for twelve thousand dollars.
      Collingwood is getting an unenviable notoriety for sending to sea marine hearses. Last year's season of navigation closed with the loss of the entire crew and passengers of the WAUBUNO, and this has terminated with the loss of twelve of the crew of the SIMCOE. The owners in both cases are the same, and in both cases they are in a great measure responsible for the lives of those who have been lost. The WAUBUNO was not seaworthy, and there is reason to believe that the owners were aware of the fact; yet, for greed of gain, she was sent to sea and her living
freight to sudden death and a watery grave. Competent judges assert that the SIMCOE was equally unsafe, and that having been twice burnt to the water's edge and once sunk she never should have been patched up. Nothing but disaster could follow. There should be some legislative measure devised which would prevent owners of vessels from jeopardising the lives of their servants and passengers.
      Owen Sound Advertiser
      December 2, 1880

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Collingwood, Nov. 30. -- Tonight's Daily Messenger contains the following full report of the lost propeller SIMCOE:--
      At last we have definite news of the fate of the SIMCOE and her crew, and while the loss of life is fortunately not as large as was feared, still the story of the wreck is sad - exceedingly sad. Out of a crew of seventeen only five return to tell the tale of disaster and death. This morning the Georgian Bay Transportation Company sent the NORTHERN BELLE in search of tidings of the SIMCOE and their other two boats, for whose safety they felt apprehension. About three o'clock this afternoon a dispatch from Owen Sound announced that the three steamers MANITOULIN, EMERALD, and BELLE were in sight of that town, and it created intense excitement in Collingwood.
      The Montreal Telegraph Office was besieged by an anxious crowd, swayed by mingled hope and fear, eager to hear news from the wreck. About four o'clock came the news that five of the crew of the SIMCOE had arrived at Owen Sound, all the rest having met a sad and sudden death in the treacherous waters of Lake Huron.
      The Saved.
The following are the names of the saved:- Captain James Parsons, 1st mate; John Nesbitt, chief engineer; Robert McMeney, wheelsman; Matthew Noble, fireman; Edward Peacroft, deck hand.
      List of the Drowned.
The following are the names of those who went down to a watery grave with the ill-fated steamer: -- Captain R. Hill, Master; Robert McNabb, 2nd mate; Ben Milward, wheelsman; John Henry, fireman; Thomas O'Hara, Thomas Levey, Peter McDougall, and Donald Cair, deckhands; George Patton, porter; Miss Julia Gibson, ladies maid; Miss Lydia Williams, cook; and a deck hand whose name is unknown.
      Before the Gale
The NORTHERN BELLE arrived in port at five o'clock, having on board Captain Parsons and one other of those who escaped from the SIMCOE. Immediately on her arrival a reporter interviewed Captain Parsons, first mate of the SIMCOE, and obtained the following particulars of the wreck:-- The steamer SIMCOE left Chicago bound for Collingwood at 12:15 a. m. on November 19th. and had favorable but cold weather down the west shore of Lake Michigan, and was off Twin River Point at 11 p. m., steering north-east for the Manitous. On Saturday morning a heavy westerly gale with snow set in. The harbor of South Manitou was reached at 11:30, where the steamer was wooded and lay until midnight on Monday. On Tuesday, the 23d, they had a smooth run through the Straits and passed Cheboygan at 3:30 p. m. with a gentle wind from the south-west. At midnight the wind was south and the lake was not rough, the steamer going on her course in good shape. On Wednesday at 2 a. m. the duck Island and light were passed the usual distance off.
      The J.W. Hall Great lakes Marine Scrapbook, November, 1880 [ rest of article missing ?]
      . . . . .
The Toronto Globe says: "In regard to several boats lost of late, and the connected apparent fatalities, the following facts will be of interest: The CITY OF CHATHAM and the MARY A. ROBINSON were both built by Hyslop and Ronald, in the Chatham docks, about six years ago, and were afterwards both burnt, the former in Burlington Bay, here, near the Great Western Railway freight wharf, and the latter in her trip between Chicago and Port Colborne. Both boats were then rebuilt, the CITY OF CHATHAM being rechristened the ZEALAND, and the MARY A. ROBINSON the SIMCOE, and now both boats, within a few days of each other, have gone down with such fatal consequences. It might be stated that at the sale here of the hull of the CITY OF CHATHAM, after being burnt, there were only two parties, Mr. J.H. Killey and Mr. Zealand, both of this city, who made bids, the latter gentleman being the purchaser. Hence the name of ZEALAN. It also might be stated that mate Jim Parsons, lost with the SIMCOE, was formerly pilot of the Gun-boat PRINCE ALFRED during the Fenian raid, and afterwards captain of the ill-fated CUMBERLAND, which went to pieces on a rock in Lake Superior in a fog. The second engineer, Mr., McAntley, lost with the SIMCOE, was the son of engineer McAntley, who was lost in the WAUBUNO disaster on the Georgian Bay. Further facts could be given, but the above are the most singular."
      The J.W. Hall Great lakes Marine Scrapbook, November, 1880
      . . . . .
THE SIMCOE'S LOSS, Toronto, Dec. 1. -- Definate news of the fate of the stmr. SIMCOE has been obtained, and although all those aboard her were not lost, the tale is terrible enough. Five survivors out of her crew of 17 have been brought to Collingwood by the NORTHERN BELLE, and from them the story of her loss has been obtained. The ill-fated steamer foundered off Manitoulin Island, on Wednesday the 24th inst., Captain Hill and nine others, amongst them the Ladies maid and cook, perishing.
      Kingston Whig-Standard
      December 1, 1880

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      Owen Sound, Nov. 30 - The stm. MANITOULIN, which arrived tonight from Manitoulin Island, brought J.G. Parson, first mate, John Nesbit, first engineer, Robert McEneey, wheelsman, Mat Nobles, fireman, and P. Croft, deck hand of the stm. SIMCOE, which foundered on the 24th inst. The SIMCOE left Chicago the 18th with a cargo of 19,000 bu. corn and general freight experienced continued and severe gales on Lake Michigan accompanied by heavy snow storms, which she weathered. Early on the morning of the 24th whilst off Providence Bay on the south side of Manitoulin Island, a sea broke over her so heavy that it crushed through the engine room, putting out the fires, and the ship became completely unmanageable and remained in the trough of the sea taking in water until noon, when she sank. As she filled her upper decks were swept away, carrying the lifeboats with them. The 5 named succeeded in releasing one of the boats from the wreck and got into it. They then tried to rescue 2 others who were clinging to the upper works, but were unable to reach them. When the hull went down the remainder of the crew were standing forward by the bow, and made no apparent effort to save themselves. After witnessing the last of the wreck the lifeboat containing the 5 persons made for Providence Bay, a distance of 20 miles, from which place they went by team to Manitowaning, where they took the stm. MANITOULIN for this port. Following are the names of those lost: Richard Hill, captain; Robert McNab, second mate; Ben Millwood, wheelsman; John Henry, fireman; Tom O'Hare, Tom Levi, Donald Carr and McDougall, deckhands; Julia Gibson, lady's maid; Lydia Williams, cook; Geo. Patton, and one deck hand, name unknown
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      December 1, 1880 1-8

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      How He Escaped The Wreck Of The SIMCOE
      Stone Cutting Extraordinary
      "This blustering fall weather," said an old steamboat skipper who had sailed the lakes all the way from Kingston to Port Arthur, and whose experience goes back to the forties. "Remindes me of a dark period in the history of Georgian Bay, commencing with `79' there was a series of disasters up there, which caused a fall trip from Collingwood to the Sault to be more dreaded than a voyage across the Atlantic, even in the days of sailing vessels. Disaster followed disaster, any one of which involved a greater loss of life than was suffered by the Canadian troops in either the Fenian raid or the Northwest Rebellion. At last came the final catastrophe when the ASIA went down with 200 souls on board and, left only two survivors to tell of the horrors they had gone through".
The old fellow was spinning his yarn to a Toronto Telegram reporter and after describing the loss of several vessels, he made the following referance to the exploits of one of our citizens.
The propeller SIMCOE went down off the shore of the Manitoulin, on the 24th. of November 1880. The SIMCOE was a rebuild. She had been the steam-barge MARY ROBINSON. The Mary was burned at Byng Inlet one fall, and the hull lay on the bottom there all winter. Next spring she was raised, taken to Owen Sound, a deck load of houses piled on top of her and then she was put on the route between Collingwood and Chicago to carry grain and passengers. The SIMCOE was a wretched old tub, and very difficult to manage in a sea. At the time of her loss she was on her way back from Chicago. She had taken shelter under one of the little islands near the junction of Lake Huron and Michigan during the night, and in the morning started out with fair weather. But in a short time the wind rose and the sea with it, and soon after the old tub was laying in the trough, at the mercy of the storm. Capt. Hill was in command, and Capt. Parsons, of Goderich, First Mate. When it was evident the steamer was sinking, the skipper and a number of the crew ran to the lifeboat, but as they either could not get it clear, or swamped after getting loose, and twelve of them went down.
Parsons and some of the others got in one of the wooden boats, and as the hull of the steamer sank and the cabins floated off, they got clear and started for Providence Bay, twenty miles away. That was a terrible trip in an open boat, exposed to the full sweep of bake Huron, with a blinding snowstorm, and the spray freezing to clothing and hair every time the sea broke over them. Hungry and ready to faint after long hours spent at the pumps they were too, but they struck out bravely, and just as the dusk of evening was falling, they got into Providence Bay after six hours battling with the storm. All the party were more or less frostbitten, but hospitable, though rude, houses were thrown open and in a short time the shipwrecked sailors were sleeping soundly."
"It was nothing new to Parsons, the mate, to get wrecked. This was about his sixth experience in that line. One time, way back, when steamers were not as numerous as they are now, he lost his vessel in the North Channel, above Manitoulin. He spent several days there, before he was rescued, and amused himself in the interval by cutting his name on the face of one of the innumerable rocky islands. The name PARSONS in large letters, is still pointed out as one of the sights on the Mackinac route to excursionists."
      Goderich Signal
      Friday, November 28, 1890 pp.2
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      Goderich, Ont., Sept. 10. -- Captain James C. Parsons, a mariner known in all Lake ports, is dead here. For many Years he commanded both canadian and American vessels and was one of the few survivors of the wrecked steamers SIMCOE and CUMBERLAND. His last command was the steamer MANITOU of the Manitou Steamship Company.
      Buffalo Evening News
      September 10, 1908
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      In many ways ships are like men. If you would understand the last days of a tragic human career, learn something of the man's close kin and early life. Often the world is suddenly shocked by the foundering of a seemingly staunch ship. Probably some of the mystery will be dispelled if you take pains to probe into her past and to find out the histories of other ships built in the same yards.
Certainly, when in 1880 the propeller SIMCOE went down in upper Lake Huron the public welcomed the disclosure of a few facts of this kind as throwing some light upon causes of the disaster. Not long after this distressing event, it seems, the press reported that the SIMCOE's sister ship, the ZEALAND, had met a like fate in the same waters. Worse still, it became widely known that both ships were not what they appeared to be; they were really old craft of ill repute masquerading under new names. Originally the CITY OF CHATHAM and the MARY ANN ROBINSON, respectively, they had been built by the same man and had the same misfortunes on the water. After only a few busy seasons afloat they were burned, and sank, the CHATHAM in Burlington Bay, Lake Ontario, the MARY ANN in Byng Inlet, Georgian Bay. In 1879 a shrewd, thrifty shipbuilder of the Georgian Bay lifted both hulls and proceeded to give them new identities.
      Upon each hull new upperworks were raised. In their bright garb of fresh paint both vessels looked as spick and span as absolutely new creations. The CHATHAM was christened ZEALAND and the MARY ANN, SIMCOE, and then, after being officially declared safe and sound, were commissioned to ply the waters of the Great Lakes for the season of 1880. Late in that season both ships went down in Lake Huron not many days apart. All that is known of the ZEALAND is that she vanished. The story of the SIMCOE's last hours and of her gallant though vain fight against the elements is an old and well attested chapter in the chronicles of Great Lakes shipping.
      The SIMCOE's owner put her on the profitable run between Chicago and Collingwood on the Georgian Bay. Her crew was made up of first class seamen. Dick Hill, an experienced and reliable sailor, was in command; the first mate, Parsons, was a captain in his own right; the chief engineer, Nesbitt, had his first class papers. But offset against the high rating of her men was a sinister fault of the ship, a fault which from the very first had gravely impaired her operation she steered badly, indeed, even dangerously. If not watched she would sheer off to one side and suddenly shoot over to the other. She was just like a bow heavy rowboat magnified a thousand times. The wheelsman dared not loosen his grip on the wheel for a moment. But much worse than this was said about the SIMCOE. Gossip had it that her crew were fearful that under stress of weather her old MARY ANN ROBINSON bottom would drop off her new SIMCOE upperworks.
      A bare quarter hour after midnight on Friday, November 19, 1880, the SIMCOE left Chicago bound for Collingwood. She had a normal, quiet run down the west shore of Lake Michigan and shortly before noon the next day turned into the harbor of South Manitou. By this time a strong westerly gale with snow squalls had set in. To kill two birds with one stone Captain Dick Hill took on a load of firewood and decided to stay at the dock until the gale blew itself out and the skies cleared. The vessel resumed her course at midnight on Monday and favored by a light southwest wind pressed on through the Straits of Mackinac, passing Cheboygan at half past three the next afternoon. The lake was smooth, the wind south, and was still in that quarter when at two o'clock on the Wednesday afternoon she passed the lighthouse on the Duck Islands. She was now well on her way to the entrance to the Georgian Bay and she had every reason to count on being off Cove Island light, sixty three miles away, by seven o'clock in the evening. The last leg of her journey was almost in sight. The captain and crew were in high spirits.
      But the ways of great waters, fresh and salt alike, are unpredictable. In less than two hours after the SIMCOE left the Duck Islands the wind had gradually stiffened and had raised waves of such a height that they magnified the ship's chief weakness to an alarming degree. In the heaving seas she steered like a log and labored terrifically. The relentless battering of the waves shattered and stove in the anchor shutters. In seconds, it seemed, the midship gangway on the weather beam was driven in. A gangway plank was strongly lashed across the gap. But it was not wide enough to fill the yawning space and to keep the water from dashing in and swirling over the deck. Captain Hill did some lightning quick thinking. With the combined strength of two or three men at the wheel he swung the SIMCOE right about from east to west, thus putting the vulnerable gangway to leeward. For a while the going was easier. But the respite was agonizingly brief. Hill saw the moment for final decision had come. He ordered the crew to throw the whole deckload of cargo overboard. But that, like the crude plugging of the gangway, was no more than a momentary stopgap. It was like giving a pick me up to a dying man. Of what avail were these feeble makeshifts against the steady flooding of the hold? Though the pumps were kept going all night the water gained inch by inch. Throughout the endless, dragging hours of darkness one question above all obsessed captain and crew as with a madness: how many inches more will the old ship stand?
      When dawn broke on the twenty fourth the faint hopes of the night before had wholly faded. Soon after nine the fires under the boiler were drowned out. Having foreseen this calamity coming the captain had the sails set and had made up his mind to stay with the SIMCOE as long as she remained afloat. But this too was only a makeshift, staving off fate for but a scant few minutes longer. Suddenly, as if exploding, the gale ripped off the foresheet and forced the crew to lower sail. All their attempts to secure the gaff and to reset the torn canvas were frustrated by the violence of the vessel's rolling. Loud creaks and cracks as of timbers being broken like matches added to the general dismay. Not a fraction of doubt was now left: the SIMCOE was already breaking up.
      It was now noon. The two hands of the clock standing upright together marked the boundary between safety and death as clearly as they divided one half of the day from the other. In the pause that this moment of crisis gives us who read the story we must for justice's sake note a certain fact: in the survivors' account of their experience there is not the faintest hint that the ancient hull and new upperworks parted company. Ungainly and awkward though she was the SIMCOE went down as a unit "her whole self" a manner which comported well with the gallantry of her captain and his crew.
      Everything that happened after the stroke of noon took less time than the telling of it. The order to lower the boat had been put off too long. The SIMCOE sank suddenly like a stone. In the fraction of a second the crew found themselves in the heaving waters, each clinging to a bit of wreckage. The first mate, the chief engineer and a wheelsman managed to clamber into the lifeboat. Their one thought now was to save their comrades: quickly they dragged in two who were close by, a fireman and a deckhand. This success whetted hopes and fired effort. But the spreading tangle of the bobbing pieces of wreckage and the breaking crests of the great seas balked every attempt at rescue. Yonder the second wheelsman was clinging to a spar; even as a hand was reached out to grasp him numbness caused him to lose his hold. Swiftly the men in the boat sheered to the right toward the second engineer who, riding a heavy plank, was trying to paddle to the boat with his hands. A wave threw a floating mast squarely between him and safety. The rescuers turned sharply to the left where a deckhand was buoyed up on the roof of the wheelhouse; before he could be reached even with a pike pole he had disappeared. For the men in the boat the equal of a lifetime's heartache had been compressed into minutes; they saw their comrades one by one drop into the abyss of death.
      When the last had gone"and not till then" did the five survivors give any thought to themselves. Manitoulin Island, they knew, lay about fifteen miles to the north. They fell to the oars without delay. In the dusk of late afternoon they landed at the village of Providence Bay. Exhausted, chilled through and frost bitten, they were given all needed aid by the hospitable fisherfolk and farmers.
      But was this ordeal enough to put an abrupt end to five sailing careers? No, indeed. Though we cannot speak for all, we do know that at least one of the five sailors, the first mate, Captain Parsons, went back to the water as if nothing of moment had ever happened and in later years repeated the ordeal more than once amid the gales and high seas of the Georgian Bay.
      Inland Seas
      Spring 1952 pps. 29-32

      . . . . .

      Wiarton Resident Has Interesting Story Of Wreck of Str. Simcoe
      Mr. W. Matthews Gives Account of Sinking of Little Steamer, in 1880 South of Manitoulin Island
      Only Five Survive
      The following story of the wreck of the Str. SIMCOE, near Cove Isl will be of interest to many. The article has been written by W. Matthews of Wiarton and contains much of information which is not only highly interesting but is of considerable historical value.
      As we are approaching another navigation season though long delayed perhaps an early reminiscence of the wreck of a vessel well known to the early settlers of Owen Sound and Georgian Bay ports may interest some of your readers. The steamer SIMCOE was wrecked near Cove Island at the entrance to Georgian Bay at 11:40 a.m. November 24th, 1880, just a year and two days after the wreck of the str. WAUBANO. This was another of those disasters which
appeared to be due to the unseaworthiness of the vessel rather than to the stress of the weather. This was one of the five steamers of the Georgjan Bay Company, which were wrecked in a space of a little over two years.
      The history of the Simcoe was very closely connected with that of the ZEALAND, so much so that one was almost inclined to believe the sailor's yarn that both were "hoodooed ". Some years prior to 1880, how long we are unable to determine, two propellor boats were built by the same man and about the same time.
      One was called the "CITY OF CHATHAM" the other "MARY ANN ROBINSON." In course of time, both were burned to the water's edge, about the same time. The CITY OF CHATHAM at Burlington Bay, and the other at Byng Inlet, Georgian Bay. Both hulls remained under the water for a while, were purchased and rebuilt. The former was named the ZEALAND and the other the SIMCOE, both were examined and pronounced seaworthy and engaged in a profitable trade.
      But a strange fatality appears to have followed them. The "ZEALAND" went down in Lake Huron [Lake Ontario.] All that was ever found of her was a few pieces of wreckage. This was all that was ever known of the ill-fated vessel. Not long after the SIMCOE followed her consort to the bottom of the bay.
      The SIMCOE was owned by the Georgian Bay Transportation Co. The hull of the MAREY ANN ROBINSON was purchased by that company after the fire at Byng Inlet in the fall of 1879. The remains were raised and towed to the south shore and rebuilt. During the fall of 1879 and during the season of 1880, the SIMCOE ran on the Chicago - Collingwood route and did a good business. She had a careful captain, good crew and first class engineer. But it was said from the very first she would not steer well. It was hinted that the upper and lower parts were not properly fastened. But this was only conjecture, however, the vessel thus rebuilt succumbed to the waves in almost the
first heavy gale she encountered. Whether it was extra stress of weather or incompetence of the vessel, the facts are the same. We well remember her lying unloading at Wiarton dock just prior to her fatal trip.
      The story is briefly told by survivors of whom there were five out of a crew of probably twenty. The steamer left Chicago bound for Collingwood at 12:15 a.m., November 19,1880, and she had favorably but cold weather down the west shore of Lake Michigan. At 11 p.m. she arrived at Twin River Point, steering N.E. for Manitoulin.
      On Saturday morning a heavy westerly gale with snow squalls set in. The harbor of South Manitou was reached at 11:30 a.m. and the str. remained there till midnight on Monday to allow the gale to blow over and the weather to clear. On Tuesday she had a smooth and pleasant run through to Straits of Makinac and passed Cheboygan at 3:30 p.m. with a gentle wind from the .southwest. At midnight the wind was south and the lake quite smooth the steamer going on her course in good shape.
      On Wednesday morning at 2 0' clock the Duck Island light house was passed at the usual distance off. At 4 a.m. there was a brisk south wind and the sea was making the steamer steer badly, at 7 a.m. the sea had risen so much as to cause the steamer to labor heavily The anchor shutters were broken and driven in and shortly after the midship gangway was burst in, a gang plank was placed across and lashed but the sea was continually driving in and the decks were constantly flooded.
      Finding it impossible to keep their course with such a flood of water pouring over the decks the steamer's course was changed to the west With the broken gangway to leeward for a time the str. went better. But as the sea got worse she began again to labor heavily. The crew were ordered to lighten the ship by throwing the cargo overboard and in a short time her deck load was in the seething waters. The discovery was also made about this time that the water was gaining in the hold and all the pumps were set to work to keep the water under. At 8 a.m. the decks were again deluged with water, The steamer labored heavily and was taking water fast chiefly from the deck flooding, Every effort was made hatchways and gangways were fastened down but the water still increased in the hold till 9 a.m. the fire and boilers were drowned out and the engine stopped. At this point the captain ordered the sails set and said he would stay with the steamer as long as she could be floated. For awhile the sails worked all right the vessel turned from the wind and rode easier, but soon the gale carried away the foresheet. The sail had to be lowered. Owing to the heavy roll of the boat the crew found it impossible to secure the gaft or reset the sail and it was not long before the steamer showed signs of breaking up and the crew were kept at the pumps and worked manfully.
      As the water was gaining very fast at 11 :40 it was quite clear that the vessel would soon founder. According to the account given by the survivors there was nothing to prove the rumor that the hull was improperly fastened, Such idle tales are the result of some remarks from parties who took delight in criticizing the owners of the SIMCOE. We believe those reports were entirely unfounded. Finding nothing could save the vessel the captain ordered all hands to the life boats. Before the boats could be lowered however the steamer suddenly went down by the stern leaving
the crew struggling among the wreckage of the upper deck and the pilot house which held them for a few minutes.
      After parting with the steamer three of them managed to get into the wooden yawl they could only succeed in dragging two more into the yawl with them. They struggled manfully with the waves and wreckage for an hour or more only to see one after another of their comrades disappear without being able to help them, several clung to the mast and wreckage seeing the last of their friends disappear beneath the waves, the five survivors with hearts saddened by their awful experience began rowing for the nearest shore, fifteen miles distant reaching Providence Bay, Manitoulin Is. about dusk of the evening of the same day, in an exhausted condition.
      Some of them were badly frozen and in a pitiable plight. The people of Providence Bay did all in their power to relieve the sufferings of the unfortunate survivors of the ill fated vessel. Both survivors and lost showed a true heroic spirit, Some of the saved again took positions of responsibility on other vessels. In reviewing some of these early disasters it is evident the vessels were not as staunch, nor the marine inspector so rigid and searching as at the present day.
      The Dailv Sun Times, Owen Sound
      Tuesday May 18, 1926
      [courtesy Bill Hester]

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Reason: sunk
Lives: 12
Remarks: Total loss
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 45.664166 Longitude: -82.275555
William R. McNeil
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Simcoe (Propeller), sunk, 24 Nov 1880