The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Nov 1856

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Nov. 3, 1856


The following additional particulars are from the Milwaukee Sentinel of Monday:

We regret that we are obliged to record another terrible disaster on the lakes, resulting in a great loss of life and property.

The propeller Toledo, Capt. Densham, of the Am. Trans. Co.'s Line bound to this port with a large cargo of merchandize for this city and for merchants in the country in the gale of Friday night was lost in front of Pt. Washington, and the captain and all on board drowned but three. We get the following particulars from Mr. Pomeroy of Detroit, who was at Pt. Washington at the time.

On Friday about noon the propeller was within about 100 rods of one of the piers and was dragging her anchors and going northward. At about 4 p.m. an attempt seemed to be made to get up the anchors, and to get into a safer berth further north. The anchors were down again soon after she got beyond the north pier. The propeller had her flag at half-mast, but the waves were rolling at such a fearful height that no boat could live a moment in them, and no help could be rendered. The wind rose to its height at dark. Fires were built all along the shore, and by their light the hull of the propeller could be seen rolling and laboring heavily, some 100 rods out. At about 7 1/2 p.m. boxes and barrels of goods began to come ashore, and in about half an hour the yawlboat was dashed on the beach and was found to contain a man clinging to one of the seats.

As soon as he was able to speak he said that he was one of the deck hands, and had got into the boat with about 30 others but the boat was upset almost immediately and he alone managed to cling to it as it was hurled over and over towards the shore. In a short time another man got ashore, and a third was lifted up by a wave and thrown upon the pier alive. These three are believed to be the only three saved. They say that there were forty or fifty persons in all on board. They were deck hands and did not know the names of passengers, and but few of the crew. They remember one family of passengers, a man with his wife and six children.

They state that the Captain's object was to get up his anchors and beach her as a last resort, but the anchor chains got afoul and they could not raise them or cut the chains before the seams opened and the water came in so rapidly above and below that the propeller settled to the bottom.

Scarcely a vestige was left of the vessel in the morning, and such of the goods as came ashore were dashed to pieces by the waves.

The Toledo was one of the largest class of propellers, and with her cargo was probably worth $65,000 to $70,000. The vessel was not insured. We give below the list of the cargo, by which it will be seen that the loss is scattered over the state in every direction. The waves have swallowed up an immense stock of goods of every kind, scarcely anything of which was saved.

The schooner Pratt, from Buffalo, loaded with coal, stoves and iron for this port, is also ashore near Port Washington.

The Propellers Illinois and Potamac, of the American Transportation Company, were out in the gale and have not been heard from. The Propeller Nile was also exposed to the full fury of the storm on this Lake, but weathered it handsomely and came into this port, all right, Saturday.

We are indebted to Mr. J.J. Tallmadge for the following letter from Port Washington, received by him yesterday.

Port Washington, Oct. 25th

J.J. Tallmadge, Esq. - The report of the Toledo's loss is too true. Poor Densham is no more, and the propeller is the most total wreck you can imagine. She went ashore, dragging both anchors, last evening about 6 o'clock, and immediately went to pieces. The spectators describe it as being the largest sea ever seen here. Her crew consisted of twenty-one, all of which are lost with the exception of two deck hands, which I send to Milwaukee, per Traveller, and one steerage passenger. The names of the deck hands saved are Samuel Welch and Aquila Gifford - the latter was a deck hand on the steamer Niagara at the time of her loss. I cannot give you the name of the passenger, not having seen him yet. They report as having seen in the cabin five passengers, viz. - two young ladies, one old lady, and two young men. In the steerage a man, wife and four children, and two young men, beside the one saved. There may be more.

The shore is strewed for a mile to the northward of the pier, with pieces of the wreck. Boxes, barrels and contents nearly all smashed up, though some few packages will be saved in a greatly damaged condition. Some idea of the force of the sea can be formed from the fact that her deck plank and stanchions are all broken to pieces, the lower part of her hull split and divided, her bulwarks in pieces from one to six feet long, kegs of nails and boxes of axes thrown high on shore, etc.

As yet there have been no bodies found though strict search has been made for them, but as the beach is covered from two to six feet high with fragments, and the sea rolling yet, it has been impossible to do it thoroughly.

Imports - Nov. 1st - Str. Cataract, Ogdensburgh, (gen. cargo).

Str. St. Helen, Montreal, (gen. cargo).

Schooner John Towsier, Cleveland, 800 brls. flour, 250 brls. pork, 40 brls. oil, 4 brls. lard, 49 brls. tallow, 50 kegs lard, and 451 grindstones, Holcomb & Henderson; 54 grindstones, J.P. Milliner & Co.

Exports - Nov. 1st - Schooner Louis, Chicago, 361 bars r.r. iron, 500 bags salt, 150,000 feet sawed lumber.

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1 Nov 1856
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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.
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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Nov 1856