50 Years Ago He talked to Survivors of Wreck
An 86-year old Bath district man, George H. Gurren, talked 50 years ago to two of the survivors of the freighter George A. Marsh which sank near Pidgeon Island, about four miles south of Amherst Island in 1917.
Reading the recent Whig-Standard account of the discovery, off Amherst Island, of the hull of a ship thought to be the Marsh, he recalled in a letter to his newspaper his experiences connected with the sinking of the ship.
"On that day,"he relates, "I had taken a spring-wagon load of grain tot he Bob Rickey grist mill at a point near where the Amherst Islander lands on her daily trip across the bay."
Although farming west of Bath, he had also been appointed fish and game overseer for local waters south of Amherst Island and the Upper Gap.
As he uploaded his wagon, a boat, operated by ne of the fishermen in his jurisdiction, landed with two survivors of the wreck.
Mr. Gurren drove the survivors to Ernestown Station where he bought them train tickets to Belleville, where their homes were. On their way, they told Mr. Gurren their story.
Mr. Gurren explained: "The sailors told me that the Marsh, a three masted ship, was coming down lake Ontario with a load of coal for Kingston and during a heavy gale and high seas, she spring a leak. Capt. Smith told the crew to man the two pumps and if they could keep her afloat long enough, he would beach her on Pidgeon Island.
"The two were placed on a pump near the forecastle. After a period of time, the one sailor said to his mate, "Bill, I guess we've had it' as the deck was then covered with water.
"One of them slipped into the forecastle room, grabbed a long plug of chewing tobacco and helped launch the boats. The boats did not survive the huge waves. As the captain and mate had their families aboard for a trip, it may be that the yawls were overloaded.
"Later, the two survivors were able to get astride an overturned boat. They said they were able to save one of the girls and kept her with them until near daylight. But then unable to hold her longer, they had to ‘sit there and see her float away.
"When I asked one of the survivors how they were able to keep up their courage,: writes Mr. Gurren, "He told me that the tobacco was taken in chaws' and from time to time he passed it to his pal and that ‘sorta kept our spirits up'."