The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Globe (Toronto, ON), Friday Aug. 10,1917

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People on Board Schooner George A. Marsh Missed Safety by Few Feet
Thrilling Story of Wreck of Belleville Ship is Told By One of the Survivors

Belleville, Aug. 9. Lake Ontario was at its wildest and wickedest when the George A. Marsh of Belleville went down at five o'clock Wednesday. Half a moon hung high in the southern sky and a pale dawn was trying to break through rags of clouds. All night long the storm had given threats of breaking. Clouds were racking across from the southwest, although the prevailing wind was southeast. The sea came snarling in from the southward. About 2 a.m. the storm broke. The schooner bound from Oswego with coal for Kingston was within thirty or forty miles of her destination.

When the big seas began to sp? aboard Capt. John Smith tried to run for shelter of the Bay of Quinte through the upper gap. While running the schooner went down under his feet, taking with her the captain, his wife their five children and all of the crew except two men. These two Bill Smith , the captains brother and Neil McLellan scrambled into the yawl boat with some of the others. The yawl boat capsized, many of those who had escaped into it were washed away and McLellan and Smith clung to the bottom of the upturned boat. McLellan, who like the captain had his wife and children with him, held one child in his arms, but it, too, perished from exposure.. Amherst Island fishermen sighted the capsized yawl boat when daylight appeared and rescued the two men, but McLellan's child was dead.

Where Cheboygan went down

The Marsh was lost not far from the spot where the schooner Cheboygan went down with all hands two years ago. The Marsh was a staunch schooner of her sort-a three masted lake vessel of old canal size. But like all the lake schooner, she was old and in the tossing she opened up. She was one of the many Lake Michigan hookers brought down to Lake Ontario in the last decade to carry coal after a lifetime of usefulness in the lumber trade. She was about thirty years old. Her yawl was a good boat with a gasoline engine in it, but the sea running was too high for a small craft.

Captain Smith was as well-known in Toronto as in Belleville, because he bought and refitted the schooner Dundee in Toronto about five years ago. The Dundee has since been burned. Capt. Smith was reported lost many times, but always made port in safety hitherto.

Unusual Loss of Life

It is not once in a generation that a schooner goes down on Lake Ontario with such a loss of life. People commented on the Marsh's unique lot of passengers when Capt. Smith took his family along and one of the crew did likewise. Two orphans here in Belleville, Horace and Maggie Smith ages sixteen and fourteen, mourn the loss of father, two brothers two sisters their stepmother and her baby. Capt. Smith was married twice. The children drowned were Rita and Elva aged ten and twelve; Jack aged seven; Clarence aged five and the baby. Neil McLellan had his wife and child on board with him and in addition had taken his sisters along for a tip. In the uproar of wind an wave it was impossible to get away from the sinking craft with two helpless women and seven children to care for. A crew of able bodied men could scarcely have been able to make the jump and care for themselves.

Experienced Sailors

The Marsh's crew were all experienced sailors. Mr Manning, the cook was Capt. Smith's father-in-law, and had sailed for years. George Couzens had been captain of the schooner J. B. Newlands until this years. Wm. J. Watkins had, after years of voyaging, settled down to keep the Ferry Hotel in Belleville but the call of the lake was too strong. All these men were drowned with the captain and the women and children. Watkins widow clung to the hope that her husband was saved when she heard that one of the survivors was "Bill" but that was the captain's brother. A lake schooner in these days,; said a sailor Œwhen all of them are long past their prime, is no place for women even in smooth water would be crowded with fourteen persons, and in the sea running Wednesday morning it would be impossible to keep the best of yawl boats right side up."

Had the Marsh had her ordinary crew of five or six men, it is very doubtful if even all of them would have been able to get through alive.

Toronto Boy Lost

Four year old George Graves, whom the crew nicknamed "Buster", was one of the McLellan family drowned. He was the nephew of Mrs. Neil McLellan, and the sone of George Graves, 51 Rosevear Avenue Toronto. The child whom Neil McLellan hale on the bottom of the upturned boat was Reta Smith, daughter of Capt. John W. Smith. She died in Neil McLellan's are about 10.30 in the morning. Half an hour later the fishermen sighted the boat and rescued the survivors.

One more survivor is to be recorded, the captain's dog Rain. He was washed off he bottom of the boat again and again, but always swam back, and was rescued with the two men.

"Another five or six lengths and we would all have been saved" said Neil McLellan, one of the tow survivors of the company of fourteen that sailed in the schooner George A. Marsh. When we found we(?article ends?)

Watching for Bodies

Kingston Aug. 9. (Special) A close watch will be kept for bodies. This morning the body of a boy, likely one of the sons of Capt. Smith was cast ashore at Lemoine's Point, some five miles westward. The remains were brought here. The lad was dressed in a little Indian suit. One of his suspenders had caught in his left arm and it was for this reason that he could not cling to the small upturned boat.

This afternoon another body floated ashore near where the first one was found. It is thought to be that of Greta Smith aged fourteen years.

Mrs. McLellan who was drowned, with her six month old babe, was formerly of Toronto, and a sister now lives on Simcoe Street. She joined her husband on the boat only two or three weeks ago. Her husband is a native of Port Hope, but spent his winters in Toronto.

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Friday Aug. 10,1917
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Globe (Toronto, ON), Friday Aug. 10,1917