Letter from Horatio N. Throop to Capt. James Van Cleve
(copy on p. 145, Reminiscences of Early Steamboats, Propellers and Sailing Vessels on Lake Ontario and River St. Lawrence - Unpublished manuscript by James Van Cleve, Lewiston, NY 1877. Copy in Oswego City Hall)
Pultneyville June 17, 1877
Capt. J. Van Cleve
I herewith send something of an account of the loss of my little schooner in 1827. I could have added many more incidents connected with the affair, my lonely swim getting ashore, finding in the wilderness a house where I remained 28 hours, my travel through five miles of woods and one long mile of gravely beach barefoot after leaving the house on my way home, but I have perhaps said more than will be interesting. Yours Truly, H. N. Throop
On the 22nd of August 1827 the small schooner Sophia of about 25 tons of Pultneyville owned and commanded by Capt. H. N. Throop was lost by sinking drowning two of three persons on board the captain saving his life by swimming four miles to the land six miles east of Big Sodus Bay (Lake Ontario). The vessel was loaded with corn taken on board at Pultneyville in bulk. On the passage from Pultneyville to Oswego during a strong north west wind about 8 o'clock A. M. it was discovered that a sudden change had taken place in the motion of the vessel and in less than 10 seconds after it became apparent that water was rushing in on the leeward side and towards the forward end of the vessel.
Efforts were immediately made to change the heading of the schooner in order to bring if possible the aperture above water but the inward rush of water was too rapid to admit of much change in the course of the vessel for less than one minute from the first indication of wrong the forward end of the vessel and full two thirds of the distance to her stern was entirely under water and the after part first settling below the surface and in two minutes from the discovery that the vessel was leaking her hull and spars had disappeared leaving the three persons comprising the crew struggling for life in rough water four miles from land each one looking for some floating thing to aid in buoying his person while paddling to reach the shore. One grasped a large oar. Another an empty barrel having only one head which furnished considerable buoyancy bit its shape for such purpose was probably of no advantage as the person having it soon sunk quite near where the vessel went down. The man having the oar left the vessel just in time to be beyond the vortex influence; he swam off partly with the and sea toward the land and gained a distance of about 100 yards where in about 5 to 8 minutes he drowned.
The captain had great confidence in his swimming ability under any circumstances which affords him great advantage on this occasion. he had up to the last moment been trying expedients and encouraging the two men and aiding them in saving their lives, but the time was so short after the efforts to change the direction of the vessel that but one of the men had time to reach the stern which was the last part above water, and the place above where the captain was.
One of the men did reach this point but an instant before the stern went under and probably through fear of the suction or vortex jumped immediately into the lake and hurried away. At the moment the last part of the hull went below the surface captain was on the trunk deck over the cabin when a wave came sweeping over driving a quantity of water down the companion way into the cabin overcoming the pound of buoyancy and the vessel disappeared below the surface drowning in the vortex the captain 12 to 15 feet under water requiring active moments on his part to again reach the surface in good time.
On arriving above water the view presented may by some be easily imagined, a few floating articles which had been loose on the deck of the vessel and the two men at momentary intervals only to be seen - the man having the barrel was evidently drowning - the other with the oar but a small distance away but only a small distance away but only a few moments to remain above water.
The captain had found a piece of board 18 inches by 10 1/4 inches thick. This he kept with him, held alternately by each hand arriving at the shore of the lake six miles below Great Sodus Bay, so much exhausted as he was unable to stand on his feet for near an hour, having been about 4 hours in rough water.
The cause of the disaster was probably caused by the cargo of corn becoming wet, swelling, and spreading open some of the seams of the vessel.