The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 27 May 1853

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p.2 Etchings by the Way - #1 - editor's trip from Cape Vincent to Oswego on Cataract and on to Niagara.

Imports - 25,26; Exports - 25.

The Burning of the Ocean Wave

Port Milford, 21st May, 1853.

To the Editor of the Daily British Whig.

Sir, - As one who has always evinced a lively desire to see Canadian merit rewarded, and whose paper has ever been foremost in recording individual instances of heroism, I beg leave to make you the medium for conveying the accompanying narrative to the public, and to seek your invaluable assistance in obtaining for the parties those tokens of approval, unlooked for by them, but not the less due on that account.

I will merely add, that the fearful occurrences in which they were such praiseworthy actors contributed to the loss of their cattle, which perished in the woods on the ensuing night, - the Dulmages being yet engaged in their work of humanity. It is also worthy of mention, that larger and better equipped boats might have been despatched to the scene of disaster to the preservation of many lives, but it was deemed too hazardous an undertaking. The Messrs. Dulmage, however, did not hesitate when called by the drowning cries of their fellow creatures; and it remains to be seen whether a discriminating public will foster a spirit so eminently deserving of public countenance.

I am, Sir,

Yours very respectively,

J.W. Verner, Collector of Customs.

At my request, Mr. Dulmage related the following particulars, viz:-

At about 12, or half-past, I was awoke by the noise of letting off steam. I awakened my wife, and perceiving a strong glare of light through the window, exclaimed, "There is a steamboat on fire!" Hurrying on my clothes, I ran across to my brother's house (David R. Dulmage), and, sending him for further assistance, got ready my fishing boat. He returned by this time with Thomas Wall and James Gallagher, who both professed their willingness to go. Meanwhile our wives kindled a large fire on the beach, as a beacon to such of the unfortunate crew as might be in the water. - When about half a mile from the burning vessel we were hailed by a man to windward, who proved to be Captain Wright. He was supported by two flour barrels - one under each arm - but was burnt and bruised in a shocking manner; nevertheless, he showed no care for himself, but sought continually to direct our efforts for the relief of others, and especially addressed himself to the first engineer, whom he exhorted to be of good cheer, as assistance was at hand. - We did not, however, find him. He called to several persons by name likewise, but we only succeeded in picking up a boy of 18, who had a life-preserver round him, but with very little signs of life; we also picked up a passenger, also much exhausted from cold and exposure. We continued to cruise around some time longer, but the sufferings of those already in the boat became so intense that we concluded to go ashore with them before resuming our search. Fortunately there was but very little wind and no sea. Before we could reach shore the boy died. He was from Prescott; and respecting his fate the Captain evinced the liveliest solicitude. As we neared the shore we perceived a schooner (the Emblem) bearing down towards the wreck; and placing the unfortunate persons we had rescued under the care of the women, hastened back to the scene of the disaster - the distance being between 4 and 5 miles, about 4. On nearing the wreck we picked up Mr. Forsyth, who told us he did not think there were others left in the water, the schooner being actively engaged in rescuing from the double destruction that awaited them by fire and water the few who still survived. It was now daylight, and the schooner being reinforced by the addition of another schooner (the Georgiana), and the propeller Scotland having also arrived, we deemed it best to hasten back with Mr. Forsyth, who, like those we rescued the first time, was almost perished with cold. It also commenced blowing fresh, and the sea began to rise, one of the schooners beating in between the wreck and the shore, and the propeller standing up the lake; taking all which circumstances into consideration, we did not think it worth while to venture out again. We now turned our undivided attention to the survivors; but all our efforts to recover the young man were fruitless -the vital spark had fled while we were seeking others in the water; in fact, all whom we picked up were much exhausted with cold. We then harnessed our horses, at the earnest request of the Captain, and conveyed the rescued persons and corpse to Picton. - Such is a simple statement of the facts.

Philip Dulmage

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27 May 1853
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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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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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 27 May 1853