The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), Nov. 11, 1859, page 1

Full Text

From the Sandusky Register

The Ohio left Buffalo on Friday morning, at ten o’clock, bound for Cleveland, with a cargo of 350 tons merchandise. She put into Gravelly Bay and lay till Saturday 5 P. M., when she pursued her course towards Cleveland. At 11 P.M. she was abreast Long Point, weather good. At about a quarter of two o’clock, Sunday morning, Captain Nickerson went below to the engine room, and found about 65 pounds head of steam. At that time he calculated the propeller was 30 miles above Long Point and about 10 miles from land. She carried her foresail jib, and was making about 11 miles per hour. The captain then went to his room, and removing his coat, hat, and boots, lay down on the outside of his bed to rest. He had lain there about 10 minutes, awake, when he was startled by a crashing report, like the explosion of heavy ordnance. He sprang from his bed, and without stopping to put on the clothing he had removed, hastened upon deck. An awful scene met his view. There was nothing of the propeller above water but the hurricane deck and bows, and all around the struggling crew were clinging to the pieces of the wreck and crying plaintively for help. Luckily one of the yawls struck in the water right side up, into which the Captain had just time to step and push off before the wreck went down. He was the last to leave the propeller. The other yawl was capsized. There were seventeen persons on board, all told. Of these, fifteen were saved. The other two, Thomas Corvett, the second mate, and Michael Danigan, wheelsman, are missing. The former was seen running aft after the explosion occurred. It is thought he got tangled in the wreck and went down. The wheelsman was not seen after the accident. The Captain’s son, a lad of about fourteen years of age, was on board and was saved with difficulty. He had but just recovered from an attack of fever, and was weak and consequently but illy able to take care of himself. He was caught under the cabin as it toppled over, and would have been drowned had not the engineer reached under the wreck and pulled him out.

Into the single yawl the fifteen survivors huddled, and having nothing for oars but pieces of the wreck, they were almost entirely at the mercy of wind and waves. They drifted up the lake, and saw two vessels before daylight bound down, which passed not over 10 rods from the yawl. All efforts to attract the attention of those aboard the vessels were in vain. A propeller and sail vessel were seen during the day, but they veered off towards land and soon passed out of sight.

The condition of the ship-wrecked men now became desperate. They were scantily clad, not one of them having either hat or shoes, a cold north-east gale was blowing and the seas were rolling terrifically. Many of the poor fellows, considering their case hopeless, abandoned themselves to despair. But their brave Captain, undaunted, and working with the energy of several men, with words of hope and encouragement, stimulated them to renewed exertion, and all labored with their impromptu oars to keep their frail bark from swamping.

Darkness now began to gather upon the horizon, and the stoutest-hearted of the devoted little crew began to give way before the almost certain prospect of a watery grave which stared them in the face. But a propeller is seen in the distance bearing towards them. It nears them, their signal of distress is seen, and they are picked up at about 5 P. M., off Madison Dock, 25 miles below Grand River, and about 15 miles from land. The propeller proved to be the Equator.

With the promptness and humanity of true and noble hearted sailors, Capt. Hines and his officers and crew did every thing in their power to administer to the comfort of their ship-wrecked brethren. They supplied them with clothing, and recruited their wasted powers with the best refreshments the Equator could afford. For this disinterested and humane kindness, the officers and crew of the Equator have the unfeigned thanks of those whose wants they so promptly relieved.

That a common yawl boat, in which were fifteen persons, should ride out the gale of Sunday, seems almost a miracle. Capt. Nickerson, who is an old sailor, says he never saw a more terrific sea than that which ran between twelve and two o’clock. He thought every surge would carry them down. When the Equator stopped to pick them up, she rolled so tremendously that it was feared she would go to pieces.

The cause of the explosion is unknown. At the time the accident occurred, the second engineer was engaged in oiling the machinery, and the firemen in trying the water, which he found all right. The Ohio is estimated to have been worth about $15,000. It was not insured. The cargo was very valuable, and was probably mostly insured. Capt. Nickerson lost $30 in money, two valuable glasses, a barometer, and about $250 worth of clothing.

Media Type:
Item Type:
Column 6 Transcribed by Brendon Baillod from the identical article which was first published in the Sandusky Register 11/8/59, copied in the Cleveland Leader 11/9 and republished in Inland Seas in 1959. I also have a copy of the original which appeared as shown above. I changed Brendon's transcription slightly to match the Free Press version.
Date of Original:
Nov. 11, 1859
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Richard Palmer
Copyright Statement:
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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Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), Nov. 11, 1859, page 1