In the Jaws of Death
How the Edith Sewall Went Down in a Storm– Her Crew at the mercy of the Waves– A two Hour Battle For Life
On Wednesday evening last the Palladium contained a short account of the loss of the steamer Edith Sewall off the head of Wolfe Island. The boat was commanded by Capt. Alex Bailey a sailor of fifty years experience, assist by his two sons, William C. ages 21and Frank aged thirteen. All reside at Sackets Harbor.
William, in an interview with a Watertown Times reporter, gives the following graphic account of the loss of the little boat and of the terrible situation and final rescue of the crew: The Times says they left Kingston about 8:30 p.m. and that the voyage had been quite uneventful with the exception of heavy seas, until about 5:00 o’clock when they were some two miles out of the harbor of Long Island. At about this time the fish oars began moving around, and finally all landed upon the starboard side of the boat, and in a moment the tug was capsized.
William says as soon as he saw the moment of the oars, cut loose the "punt" (the small boat) and seizing his younger brother, endeavored to board her, but she immediately went over. He succeeded, however, in catching hold of her side, when on looking around he saw his father going down and under the sinking tug. In an instant he let go his grasp on the "punt" and struck out for his father, and succeeded in catching him by the arm. The father could not swim, and the young man scarcely knows how he succeeded in reaching the "punt" again, but it was finally accomplished. And on the bottom of this boat, over which the high sea was washing every minute, these three men clung for over two hours before assistance came. The water was cold, and there was not one of the party who did not anticipate a watery grave as an inevitable result. Several times their courage was almost gone, and in their exhausted condition they felt that they must surely perish, and were almost inclined to let go their grasp on the "punt" which was saving their lives. This was especially true as regarded the little fellow, whose limbs had become stiff and rigid with the cold.
William says at one time both his father and little brother lost their hold on the boat, but by a desperate effort regained it. At last, fishermen on Belle Point saw the fearful position in which the three men were placed and stared out in a boat after them. This movement was first discovered by William, who gave out the cheering news to his comrades, who rallied once more and clung to the old "punt" with a desperation only known in struggles for life.
The Canadians finally reached them but it proves none too soon, for the strength of all three was exhausted, and the little fellow at once succumbed and became unconscious, and for two hours efforts to rally him were fruitless. William says that the kindness of these Canadian fishermen was something that will never be forgotten by any one of the party, for without remuneration they attended to their every want and saved them from death.
The boat was built in 1875, and was valued at $3,000. She lies in 40 feet of water.