The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Evening Star (Schooner), capsized, 1 Jul 1868


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Goderich, June 6. -- The schooner EVENING STAR, which left this port yesterday morning for Kincardine light, capsized when a few miles out. Capt. Thornburn and another man were drowned; the balance of her crew were rescued this morning by the steamer W.R. CLINTON, from Saginaw. There was a strong gale on the lake yesterday.
      Owen Sound Times
      Friday, June 12, 1868
     


      Schooner EVENING STAR. -- This vessel, which recently capsized on Lake Huron and drowned her captain and one man, has arrived at Detroit with a cargo of bark. The Detroit papers state that she bears numerous scars as evidence of her misfortune.
      Chicago Tribune
      Thursday, July 23, 1868
     
      . . . . .

      OTHER CALAMITY ON LAKE HURON.
      Schr. "EVENING STAR" Capsized.
      THE CAPTAIN AND ONE HAND LOST.
      A Terrible Struggle for Life !
We are under the painful necessity of recording another terrible calamity which occurred on Lake Huron, near this point, on Friday last, involving the loss of two valuable lives. The following official statement from one of the survivors gives a full and 'correct' account of the accident:
      The EVENING STAR of the port of Goderich, cleared from the port of Chatham, in the Province of Ontario, on the first day of June, A.D. 1868, bound for the port of Kincardine, in the County of Bruce; Jas. Thornburn the younger, of the said village of Kincardine, captain; John McPherson, of Lucknow, in the County of Huron, mate, owners of the said vessel; Duncan lwlcPherson and John Gollan, hands on said vessel. Left Chatham on the 6th inst., at about 7.30 p.m.,
fully equipped and manned, sailed down the river Thames that night, and got into Lake St. Clair next morning - came to the St. Clair Flats, and waited from Tuesday at 8 in the morning until Thursday morning at about 3 o'clock when we got towed into Lake Huron by the tug 'MOORE'. She let us go about two miles north of the entrance to the St. Clair river, about 8 o'clock on Thursday evening, with wind light from the Northeast. Set sail up the lake with wind still northeast, until about nine o'clock, on said Thursday evening; when it changed round light to the east until about one o'clock on the morning of Friday the 5th (sic) instant, when the wind came round about southeast. About 8 o'clock in the morning of that day, the mate was called on deck by the captain to shorten sail. The mate cleared down the gaff topsails - hauled down the jib and flying jib, settled away the foresail two men standing by the peak and throat haolards (sic), got a light squall :from the southeast with rain, which lasted about five minutes. It cleared up fine then. Between 8 and 9 the foresail and jibs were set again - not much wind. The vessel was taken by a sudden and severe squall about hal:f past g in the morning of the fifth instant aforesaid. There was no appearance of a squall
until it was right on us. Had no time to take in sail. The mate was to leaward and let go the throat halyards and called to the man Duncan McPherson, to let go the jib sheets, there being no time for the man to let go the peak halyards. The squall lasted about three minutes from the time it struck the vessel until she capsized. The squall turned the vessel completely over with her bottom side up, about five miles north of Goderich harbor, and between four and five miles off the land. The mate and Duncan McPherson aforesaid went over to leeward, swam around until they got hold of the vessel's bob-stay at the stem, hung on there about ten minutes, saw the other man Gallon, try to swim towards us round the vessel, he got within ten feet of where we were hanging on - the sea washing round the
vessel's stem, knocked him back, when he went down and was drowned. The mate climbed up the vessel's stem on to her keel, took off his trousers and with them pulled Duncan McPherson up to him. When we got up there, saw the captain on the bottom of yawl-boat. The sea unlocked the davits tackle and the yawl-boat with the captain on it
drifted off to the northward - about half an hour afterwards the fog came on and we never saw the captain again.
      Remained on the keel of the vessel until about mid-day on Saturday the sixth inst., about 28 hours, when we were rescued by a fishing boat of Murdoch McPherson's of Goderich. After coming into the port of Goderich, the mate
engaged the steamer 'W.R. Clinton' to tow the vessel into Goderich harbor, which she did on Saturday last. On Sunday the 7th inst the tug 'ELIZA R. FOX', went out into the lake and found the yawl boat about four miles north of Goderich, but the captain was gone.
      Poor Capt. Thorburn must have had a terrible struggle for his life. While seated on the bottom of the yawl, in a heavy sea, he cut with his jack-knife, two holes in the planking, through which he inserted a strong necktie, fastening the ends so as to make a secure hold. It is believed he was drowned while holding on by his last hope. He was a fine young man, and leaves a wife and one child to mourn his loss. The agony of the survivors, as they saw vessel after
vessel pass close to them may well be imagined.
      Goderich Signal, Semi Weekly
      Thursday, June 11, 1868
     


Thorburns are in my family tree. I thought the following might be of interest to you.

On the schooner the Evening Star, two sailors perished, James Thorburn and John Gollan on June 5, 1868.

James Thorburn Senior and his second wife, Ann (McInnes) Thorburn and their seven children immigrated to Canada from the Isle of Bute, Scotland in approximately 1850 where they settled on the east shore of Lake Huron near Clark Pt. From the timber on their homestead, James and his sons built several vessels, pit sawing all the lumber and launching them from the beach. His sons from the first marriage to Janet McFie, James, John and David gained experience in handling boats in all kinds of weather and they became sailors on the Great Lakes.

James Thorburn Junior was born January 11, 1837 in Kingarth Parish, Isle of Bute, Scotland and died June 5, 1868 at Goderich, Ontario. He married Christina McLean and they had two children, James born 1866 died 1892 and Sarah Jessie (Thorburn) Wilson born September 11, 1868 in Ontario died January 1, 1950 at Los Angeles, California.

According to the Kingston Daily News June 8, 1868 issue, James was captain of the schooner Evening Star which left Goderich port bound for Kincardine. It capsized a few miles out which resulted in the drowning of James as well as another man. The balance of the crew were rescued by the steamer W. R. Clinton from Saginaw, Michigan. In another article, "Recalls Pioneer Period on Lake Huron's Shore, it mentions that the Evening Star was built in 1867 by James's father and brothers. Supposedly, the cook had taken over the wheel in order to let the crew eat and not being a sailor did not notice the squall coming up. It struck the vessel broadside and upset her. The cook walked up the side as she was going over and landed on her keel. The rest of the crew, he helped by taking off his overalls and passing down one leg. Captain James got on the bottom of a life boat and drifted away from the vessel. The lifeboat was found about fifteen miles from the vessel. His body was not recovered. James Thorburn, a nephew reported in 1935 that he still had a piece of the bottom of the life boat with 2 holes cut into if from a jack-knife and through these holes Captain James had passed his scarf, knotting the ends to hold on to.

In an article in the Huron Signal in the Thursday June 11, 1868 issue, the following was an official statement from one of the survivors: The crew consisted of James Thorburn, the younger of said village of Kincardine, captain; James McPherson of Lucknow, in the county of Huron, mate, owners of the Evening Star vessel; Duncan McPherson and John Gollan, hands of the vessel. The vessel was taken by a sudden and severe squall about half past 8 in the morning of the fifth of June. There was no appearance of a squall until it was right on them. Had no time to take in sail. The mate was to leaward and let go the throat halyards and called to the man Duncan McPherson, to let go the jib sheets, there being no time for the man to let go the peak halyards. The squall lasted about three minutes from the time it struck the vessel until it capsized. The squall turned the vessel completely over with her bottom side up, about five miles north of Goderich harbor, and between four and five miles off land. The mate and Duncan McPherson went over to leaward, swam around until they got hold of the vessel's bob-stay at the stem, hung on there about ten minutes, saw John Gollan, try to swim towards them round the vessel, he got within ten feet of where they were hanging on when the sea washed round the vessel's stem, knocked him back, when he went down and was drowned. The mate climbed up the vessel's stem on to her keel, took off his trousers,and with them pulled Duncan McPherson up to him. When they got up there, they saw the captain on the bottom of the yawl-boat. The yawl-boat with the captain on it drifted off to the northward about half an hour afterwards the fog came in and they never saw the captain again. They remained on the keel of the vessel until about mid-day of June 6th, about 28 hours, when they were rescued by a fishing boat of Murdoch McPherson's of Goderich. After coming into the port of Goderich, the mate engaged the steamer W.R. Clinton to tow the vessel into Goderich harbor. On Sunday June 7th, the tug Eliza R. Fox, went out into the lake and found the yawl-boat about four miles north of Goderich, but the captain was gone. Poor Captain Thorburn must have had a terrible struggle for life. While seated on the bottom of the yawl, in a heavy sea, he cut, with his jack-knife, two holes in the planking, through which he inserted a strong necktie, fastening the ends so as to make a secure hold. It is believed he was drowned while holding on by this last hope. He was a fine young man, and leaves a wife and one child to mourn his loss. The agony of the survivors, as they saw vessel after vessel pass close to them may well be imagined.

David Thorburn, a brother to Captain James was born May 8, 1842 Kingarth Parish, Isle of Bute, Scotland died July 24, 1873 Lake Huron, Ontario. David was first mate on the barge Herald when it collided with an American steamer off Sanilac, Michigan. According to the Huron Signal Wednesday July 30, 1873 issue, The steam barge Herald, owned and commanded by R. Hawley Junior of Goderich while proceeding to Detroit with a load of tan bark was run into and sunk by the steam barge Dunkirk, a short distance above Sarnia, early on Thursday morning last (July 24, 1873). The crew, with the exception of the mate, David Thorburn escaped. The unfortunate mate must have been knocked overboard by the collision as he was not seen after it occurred. After striking, the Herald was headed for the American shore and sunk, her bows being level with the water while her stern was about three feet under the surface. She lost about half her load. The damage she has sustained is not very serious and she has been raised and taken to Detroit for repairs. The total loss amounts to abut $1800, half of which will fall on the insurance companies.

I also have information on their brother, John Thorburn who relocated to North Dakota and is buried at Bottineau, North Dakota.

Sandra Williams
Calgary, Alberta
     
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Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Notes:
Reason: capsized
Lives: 2
Remarks: Recovered
Date of Original:
1868
Subject(s):
Local identifier:
McN.W.23225
Language of Item:
English
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.640833 Longitude: -81.768055
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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Evening Star (Schooner), capsized, 1 Jul 1868