The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
James R. Bentley (Schooner), sunk, 12 Nov 1878

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The bark ERASTUS CORNING which passed this port this morning, bound down, brought down the crew of the schooner J.R. BENTLEY, which sank Tuesday off Forty Mile Point. She was built at Fairport by Bailey Bros. in 1867 and measured 574 tons.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Wednesday, November 13, 1878

      . . . . .
      She Goes Down In Deep Water On Lake Huron.
      Mr. C.J. Magill one of the owners of the schooner JAMES R. BENTLEY, received a dispatch from Port Huron yesterday to the effect that the vessel foundered in Lake Huron off Forty Mile Point (about thirty miles from the Straits) and the crew, all safe, had passed down by Port Huron early yesterday morning on board the ERASTUS CORNING, by which vessel it is presumed they were picked up. No particulars were received up to last evening, but it is likely that the disaster occurred Monday night or Tuesday morning. The BENTLEY was commanded by Captain Charles Hamilton. She left Chicago with a full cargo of rye on the morning of the 9th. The CORNING, Captain George B. Clark, also grain loaded, left here the evening of the same day. Both were bound for Buffalo. The BENTLEY, since she came out, has been very fortunate. The only serious accident to her that we now call to mind, occurred in Chicago harbor, when she ran into and wrecked a locomotive and three freight cars which were standing on one of the railroad bridges. And even this was not her fault; and in the scrimmage she sustained little or no damage. Just before loading for the present eventful passage, the BENTLY came out of dry dock, where she hag received considerable repairs, recalking, Etc. Captain Hamilton is well known all over the lakes, and is regarded as a careful, good navigator. That he and his crew escaped will be learned in marine circles generally with pleasure.
The BENTLET's cargo was shipped by Brown, Fleming & Co., and Wiley M. Egan, of Chicago. It was insured as follows: Manhattan, $5,100; Lamar, $5,100; Pacific, $8,250; Total, $18,450.
      The hull was owned and insured as follows:
      C.J. Magill, Chicago 1/4 interest, in Mercantile of Cleveland, $3,000
      Robert McGomery, Buffalo, 1/2 interest, in Phoenix, $6,000
      Charles Hamilton, Master, 1/4 interest, in Aetna, $3,000
      Total insurance on hull, $12,000
The freight list is insured in the Buffalo of Buffalo (?) for $1,369
      The vessel was built at Fairport, by Bailey Bros., in 1867, measured 574 tons, rated B 1, and was valued at the time of loss in the Marine Registers at $17,200.
      Thus another fine vessel and a valuable cargo pass out of existence, for the vessel and cargo are certainly beyond all hope of recovery, the water where they are, being very deep. The cargo is, of course, ruined already, and as to raising the vessel, it is out of the question.
      Captain Hamilton's friends will sympathize with him in his bad luck.
      Chicago Inter Ocean
      Thursday, November 14, 1878

      . . . . .
      Further of the Loss.
      It was stated last night that the cook of the lost schooner J. R. BENTLEY, has arrived here in Chisago during the day from Detroit by rail, and reported that he and the rest of the crew had been paid off there, and that Captain Hamilton had gone to Buffalo by rail. It was also stated that the man said the BENTLY struck heavily on a reef in the Straits, and that this was the cause of her disaster. We did not succeed in seeing the man ourselves. It will be noted below that the Detroit papers say the crew of the BENTLEY went through to Buffalo on the CORNING, but our informant said he saw the cook and was talking with him in a well-known ship chandlery on Water street.
While in dry dock here the BEMTLEY was thoroughly searched for leaks, and came out in good shape. A few trips ago Captain Hamilton provided the vessel with a new boat, and it seems that the investment proved a most fortunate one, for had she not had this new boat, it is doubtful whether captain or crew would be alive today.
The Detroit Free Press of yesterday says: "The CORNING, in tow of the MOCKING BIRD, passed here about 6:30 last evening, but made no stop. One of the Bentley's crew was brought ashore by J. P. Wescott, marine reporter, and in a few hours left the city by rail. Both he and all of the crew who were seen were very reticent concerning the disaster, and gave scarcely any particulars. The BENTLEY cleared from Chicago last Thursday, and experienced during Monday night and Tuesday morning a heavy gale from the north. It strained her badly, and early Tuesday morning she began to leak so seriously that her pumps were not able to keep her free of water. During the forenoon the CORNING was seen and signaled, and came within hailing distance. Soon after, the BENTLEY began to settle rapidly, and finally foundered. Her crew, which saved but little of their effects, were rescued by the CORNING.
      The Post and Tribune says: "The CORNING was boarded by a Post and Tribune reporter, but only a few additional facts were obtained, as every one seemed to be thoroughly reticent concerning the affair. As near as could be learned, the BENTLEY struck some rocks somewhere in the Straits on Tuesday morning, and when about twelve miles east of Bois Blanc Island, sunk in 170 feet of water. At the time a very heavy sea was running. The entire crew were picked up by the CORNING, and will be taken to Buffalo. All were well except the mate, William Dervy, who, unfortunately, had an arm broken, but when he reached the CORNING Captain Clarke of the latter set it, and when she passed down last night was doing well and quite comfortable. Captain Hamilton, of the BENTLEY, desired us to express publicly his thanks to Captain Clarke for the kind manner in which he and his crew had been treated."
      Chicago Inter Ocean
      Friday, November 15, 1878
      . . . . .
      Statement of Captain Hamilton of the Loss of the Schooner JAMES R. BENTLEY.
Buffalo, N. Y., Nov. 16. -- Captain James Hamilton, of Buffalo, late master of the schooner JAMES R. BENTLEY, which went down thirty miles north of Sheboygan on Tuesday morning last, reached port this (Saturday) morning at 2:30 o'clock on the schooner ERASTUS CORNING. Captain Hamilton's statement of the matter is as follows: The JAMES R. BENTLEY, three-masted vessel of 575 tons burden, left Chicago on the morning of Nov. 9, at 6:30, bound for this port, with a cargo of 36,288 bushels of rye. Nothing of interest occurred until last Tuesday morning, when they passed through the Straits, and, when between the main shore and Roberts' Island, where the Straits are about two miles wide. The deck was in charge of William Derby, chief mate. Wind fair, breeze strong, going about ten miles an hour. About 5 o'clock in the morning, in jibing over to clear Lighthouse Point, the mizzen sheet got foul, bringing the vessel to about three points, and before she coulds be got off on her course again she stuck on the middle around with great violence, bouncing off, and without stopping proceeded on her course. The shock was so great that all hands were immediately brought on deck, and fourteen to fifteen inches of water were found in the forward part of the vessel, when the pumps were sounded. An attempt was made to clear the water out of the vessel, all the pumps being put in motion, but despite all efforts to keep it down, it gained on us. The square sails were then taken in and the vessel hauled up by the wind, attempting to beat back into the passage for shelter, to try and save the vessel and cargo. Three hours and a half were thus occupied, but our center board was jammed and was useless from striking on the reef, and the vessel filled fast in spite of all efforts to save her. The crew then asked that they might save their lives by taking the boats. The water in the hold was nearly up to the deck, as seen when the fore hatch was removed, and an order was reluctantly given to leave the vessel. The small boat, having been lowered a few minutes previously, was placed under the port quarter, the crew's dunnage was hurriedly tumbled in and they got in, and none too soon. I was the last one to leave the vessel. A heavy sea was running, and the crew was composed of over nine men. Our little boat lay to, after heading well down, to see the end. In just twenty minutes after we left her she sunk beneath the angry waves, from our eyes, never to rise. The bark CORNING, Captain Clarke, being in the vicinity, witnessed the sinking of the vessel, and , bearing down on us, took us in tow, the little yawl being taken on his vessel, where we remained until we reached port at Buffalo this morning.
      Chicago Inter Ocean
      Monday, November 18, 1878


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Reason: sunk
Lives: nil
Remarks: Total loss
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 45.48529 Longitude: -83.90945
William R. McNeil
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James R. Bentley (Schooner), sunk, 12 Nov 1878