The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Monday October 2, 1883

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Sad Accident Off This Port Saturday Night
Captain John Allen and Son of the Schooner Ida Walker Drowned- Noble Efforts of the latter to save his father- An unsuccessful search in the Darkness by a younger son.

At an early hour yesterday morning it was noised about the city that two members of the crew of the schooner Ida Walker had been lost of this port during the preceding night. A Palladium reported who investigated the matter found that the report was only too true and that two more seamen had met their death in the waters of Ontario. The facts in the case are as follows: The schooner Ida Walker, Capt. John Allen left this port about nine o'clock Saturday night for Whitby. The crew consisted of the mate, Alfred Allen, son of the Captain, tow seamen and a sixteen year old by, who was also a son of Captain Allen.

The wind was fresh from the south-east and the night intensely dak. Although the crew was one man short, no fears were entertained that those on board would be unable to manage her, and all were expecting to spend the Sabbath in Whitby. Soon after the vessel's canvas was set, and when about two miles out it was decided to "wing her out," a term well understood by sailors and yachtsmen, and which means simply to arrange the fore and mainsails so they would draw on different sides of the vessel. Alfred Allen, the mate of the vessel, was at the wheel at the time the order was given, and Captain Allen, his youngest son and a seamen named John N. Bowerman jumped onto the cabin for the purpose of pushing the main boom out over the starboard quarter. The mate at once put the wheel hard down, and sprang to one side of the deck to assist in the operations. Captain Allen and the others placed their shoulders against the boom and shoved it outward as far as the vessel's rail. The wheel of the vessel which had been left alone at this moment flew back again, the vessel's head came up and the wind catching the sail on the outside pushed it slowly against the men who were trying to hold the boom off. The seaman Bowerman, who makes this statement was at this time standing on the after-end of the cabin, the captain's son near the centre, while Capt. Allen himself stood at the forward end. Seeing that it would be impossible to hold the boom out against the wind which was blowing against the other side of the sail, Bowerman stooped down on the cabin deck, supposing that Capt. Allen and his son would do likewise, and a moment later the boom swung over, striking him heavily on the neck. As quickly as possible he rose to his feet, but could see no one, the other sailor having gone aloft before the work had been undertaken. He at once concluded that the rest of the crew had been knocked overboard, and clambered down on to the deck, reaching it in time to hear the voice of Capt. Allen shouting "Alf! Alf!, and a moment later he saw the mate spring into the water. Bowerman at once groped his way toward the side of the vessel from which the young man had jumped and looked down into the water but could see nothing. As he stood there terror stricken, he heard a voice say "Help me! Help me!" and on looking down over the quarter he saw Willie, the captain's young son, holding on to a line. As quickly as possible Bowerman drew him on board and the two at once made preparations to lower the boat. Allen jumped in but before the boat could be cleared, it was found necessary to cut away some lines, which held it, and several minutes were lost in the operations. When the boat was at length set free young Allen sculled toward the place where he supposed his father had fallen overboard and was soon rewarded by hearing shouts of "Willie! Willie!". In desperation the lad struggled at the oar driving the boat as quickly through the water as possible, the cries continuing meanwhile till, as he thought, he was within two boats lengths of the men when they suddenly ceased and were not heard again. For many minutes he sculled about hoping to hear once more the voices of his father and brother but at length, becoming convinced that further search was useless, the broken hearted lad turned toward the vessel which was lying a short distance away. The tug Navagh was at once signaled and the vessel towed back to this port,

Captain John Allen, who thus met his death, was about fifty years of age and lived in Oshawa, Ontario, where his wife now is. He had followed the lakes for many years and was half owner of the Walker. Captain Allen had sailed into Oswego for many years and was known as a genial, wholesouled man, a kindly father and a most competent navigator. The news of his sad taking off will be read with regret by all.

Alfred Allen, the unfortunate young mate, was only 20 years of age. He is said by those who knew him, to have been a young man of good character and to have enjoyed the esteem of all with whom he came in contact.

The news of the accident spread rapidly yesterday and expressions of regret were heard on all sides. During the day flags were displayed at half-mast from the shipping in the harbor.

Although a sailor many years Capt. Allen was unable to swim and it is supposed that the son becoming exhausted was unable to hold him up any longer and that both sank together.

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Monday October 2, 1883
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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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Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Monday October 2, 1883