The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Emerald (Schooner), C85417, sunk, 26 Nov 1903

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      Toronto, Nov. 28. -- The schooner EMERALD from Fair Haven for Toronto has been given up as lost. Those on board were:
Captain McMaster and his son, Walter, of Toronto.
John Slight, mate, of Port Hope.
John Selkirk; John Bohrman, of Picton; Frenchman, of Ogdensburg, and Mrs. Wright, of St. Catharines, the cook. It is said the EMERALD was withing 25 miles of this city but was forced to put back to Charlotte, which port she left 13 days ago. She had a cargo of coal.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Saturday, November 28, 1903
Cobourg, Ont., Nov. 28. -- Many here believe that the EMERALD foundered late Monday night last. On that evening large quantities of wreckage were washed ashore about two miles east of the Gull Light. As the EMERALD was last spoken to on the South shore almost opposite Cobourg the westerly wind could easily have driven the wreckage across.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Sunday, November 29, 1903
Wreckage coming ashore near Coburg on the north shore of lake Ontario is believed to confirm the loss of the schooner EMERALD which left Charlotte for Coburg 13 days ago. Seven men perished.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Monday, November 30, 1903
Brighton, Ont., Dec. 1. -- On Tuesday, Nov. 17, a lady living about three miles west of here on the Lake Shore, Mrs. Warter Sharp, noticed a three masted schooner apparently in distress, about ten miles southwest of the bluff. While watching it Mrs. Sharp saw it suddenly disappear. The wind was blowing a gale at the time. Mrs. Sharp is positive she saw the vessel and it apparently did not nove from the position where she first saw it until its disappearance. This is supposed to have been the missing EMERALD.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Tuesday, December 1, 1903

      Bark EMERALD. Official Canada No. 85417. Of 322 tons gross. Built Port Colborne, Ont., 1872. Home port, St. Catharines, Ont. 139.0 x 25.6 x 11.5 Owned by F. McMaster of Deseronto, Ont.
      List of Vessels on the registry Books of the
      Dominion of Canada on December 31, 1902

Schooner EMERALD. Of 400 tons. Built at Port Colborne in 1872 by Hardison. Owned by P. Larkins. Port of Hail, St. Catharines. Value $14,000 Class A 2. Three masts.
      Insurance Classification Index, 1878.

      by C.H.J. Snider
      Forty years after the Toronto schooner EMERALD disappeared so mysteriously with Capt. Frank McMaster and his crew, an eating house on the south side of King near the Portland corner still displayed a spirited drawn portrait of the vanished vessel in its front window.
      That part of the city in the Bathurst vicinity between the old Queen wharf and what was then Arthur Street, was full of schooner family's, Capt. McMaster had bought a house on Bathurst St., three Kelly's "Nucker" [Edward J.] his father Michael, and his uncle Hewie, all Captains, had homes on old Defoe St, or Little Adelaide, or Tecumseh or Wellington - where Edward lives yet - Capt. Davie Reynolds was on Mitchell Ave., the disappearance of the EMERALD shook the district worse than the South African war had done.
The steam barge D.R. VAN ALLEN, Capt. Wm. Van Vlack, had left Charlotte after the EMERALD had sailed out of that port with a light fair wind for home.
At nightfall she overhauled the schooner off the Devil's Nose, easily shouldering the old sea left over from the southwest hale, all sails set, lights burning brightly, and all well; within an easy 12 hour sail from home.
The lake is a lonesome place late in the fall, and there is then great friendliness among vesselmen. The VAN ALLEN blew a salute as she passed, and the EMERALD answered with a small screech of her donkey engine whistle, a ceremony usually reserved for the last trip of the season, in the trade we had to economize on even whistle-breath.
      Midnight, just at the time of changing the watches, the light southeast wind shifted suddenly in a squall and came in fresh from the northeast. This was still a fair wind for both the VAN ALLEN, and the EMERALD, and should have brought both into Toronto before noon.
      But only one came, and that was the steam-barge. The wind had worked around into the west by next day and they thought the EMERALD has been headed off, she was reported to have holed up in Prinyer's Cove, but this report was contradicted. She was not there.
      Capt. Williams brought the STRAUBENZEE home in due season without mishap. Knowing Capt. McMaster and his family well, Capt. Williams started at the old Ashbridges Bay cut, then called the Jetty, and trudged every foot of the lake beaches between that and Brighton. Here Mrs. Walter Sharpe told of seeing a three masted schooner running before a westerly gale on Tuesday, November 17th. and vanishing, she saw her far out in the lake, ten miles southwest of Presqu'isle Bluffs. Capt. Williams brought back a little door from a cabin locker. Mrs. McMaster recognized it, for the hinges were new, and she had herself bought them for the schooner.
      East of Cobourg some wreckage of a cabin or deckhouse had come in on the beach and been burned by duck hunters before Capt. Williams saw it. There was also the EMERALD'S provision box, a sort of deck pantry, between Cobourg and Port Hope, near the Gull Rock, a rounded stanchion, six feet long, the height of a timber-droghers cabin trunk, washed in that was the EMERALD'S. Her broken fore-mast came in on Wicked Point, sixty miles further east. The timber for the new bow-sprit, which had been carried on deck, with the EMERALD'S name in blue pencil on it, was found at Cat Hollow.
      Many explanations were offered, all plausible, none provable. In the midnight shift of the wind the schooner might have carried away her foremast or bowsprit in a sudden gibe. The timberports in her counter, unopened for many years, and caulked tight and reinforced with heavy pieces of oak during the preceding winter, might have been stove in by the broken spars.
      Two significant features were the fact that all the wreckage recovered was from above the deck, and not one body was ever found. Seven men and a woman cook, Mrs. Wright of Oswego, N.Y. with two small children, perished in deep water. The mate was Capt. Thos. Slight, of Port Hope; the crew, Jonny Bowerman, John Shellick, Edwin Ashley, Alex Wright, and young Walter McMaster.
      That same year, in July, the $150,000 steel dredge, SIR WILFRED, most modern of its kind, was completed by the Polson Iron Works at the foot of Frederick Street, for the Dominion Govt., and left Toronto for the seaboard, in tow of two tugs, her sixty foot spuds sticking up like chimneys, spuds are heavy timbers which are lowered to the bottom like table legs to hold the dredge in position when she is working, when not in use they are hoisted up for easy towing. Off Port Hope a hot whiff of wind struck the dredge and her spuds. She rolled over under the pressure, filled and sank, the tugs having to cut the towlines to save themselves. The SIR WILFRED went down somewhere outside the Gull Rock. All that summer searchers sought her in vain.
      Four years later, in July 1907, they found her upright in 70 feet of water, a mile offshore, near Port Hope, her spuds came to within 12 feet of the surface. She was raised, a big salvage job, for she was worth $150,000 still.
      One of the divers reported the hull of a large schooner, lay not far from her. He did not examine it, no one told him to, and his air line would not reach that far. If the wreck was the that of the EMERALD, it was an amazing fortuity that, with all the diligent search being made for the dredge, this fine old vessel, with her hard-working, well deserving Capt. and crew, should fine the one square foot in all Lake Ontario that spelled death to all, because she must have spiked herself on the prong of one of those spuds when she dipped in the trough of a sea.
      A light buoy was placed on the spot where the lost dredge was found, but it was taken away when the dredge was salvaged, and so, the EMERALD'S last light went out.
      Toronto Telegram
      "Schooner Days"
NOTE:--- Several Diving groups have searched for the EMERALD, one did locate the site of the then sunken dredge SIR WILFRED, they found chains. and tools used in her salvage scattered around the site, but no wreck of a schooner was located anywhere near.

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Reason: sunk
Lives: 7
Freight: coal
Remarks: Total loss
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.795555 Longitude: -77.905555
William R. McNeil
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Emerald (Schooner), C85417, sunk, 26 Nov 1903