The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Advertiser (Owen Sound, ON), November 28, 1872

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Terrific Storm on the Lake
Loss of Propeller Mary Ward

A month has not lapsed since it became our painful duty to record a fearful accident where by three men lost their lives; and not again it falls to our lot to have to record the sad intelligence of still more painful and serious disaster, which occurred on the evening of Monday last. It is more serious because more lives were lost, and far more painful to us because some of the parties, whose lives have been so ruthlessly swept away by the hand of death , have grown up from infancy with ourselves, sprang into life in our midst prospered in business by our sides, and aided in advancement the home of their childhood.

Last Sunday morning the propellor Mary Ward, owned by a company in this town, and commanded by Captain William Johns called at the Superior wharf here, on her way from Sarnia to Collingwood. She was freighted with salt and 120 barrels of coal oil, and had a number of passengers on board, among whom were several surveyors, en route to Thunder Bay, that she had taken off the Cumberland at Inbomura Harbour, as that boat not intend going farther than Sault St. Marie.

The surveyors returned by the Mary Ward with the intention of proceeding to their destination by the overland route. But little they suspect the awful fate which awaited a portion of their number. Sunday was a beautiful day; scarcely a ripple on the water caused by the light southern breeze that was blowing, and the most timid would not be hesitated risking their lives on the Ward the trip to Collingwood ... citizens were assembled at the wharf to see the boat; and about 2 o'clock p.m. she cast her lines, and steamed away on her trip the last named port, taking with her several of citizens in addition to her other passengers. All went well with her until evening, and from some unaccountable cause the commander varied and led them off their course, and night being thick they were unable to see the Nottawassaga Light-house, until about minute before she struck the course was changed, but it was too late and about nine o'clock she ran on a flat rock off Craigleigth, about three miles from shore. Shortly after the vessel ground Mr. George Corbet, purser, and Moberly, one of the passengers, went ashore in a small boat, and proceeded to Collingwood, where they arrived early on Monday morning, for the purpose of procuring a boat to go to the assistance of the Ward. About 11 a.m. Captain Johnson and several others launched a boat, and started for the Light House, about three miles distance to procure assistance, which placed they had succeeded in reaching, as the boat was nearly full of water when they landed. The tug Mary Ann was got in readiness and started for the wreck about 2 o'clock p.m. Monday. In the meantime the wind veered round to the north -west and by the time the tug reached the wreck it was blowing a perfect gale. The Mary Ann hovered round for about two hours, but found it impossible to approach even within hailing distance of the propellor, and about half-past four o'clock p.m. she started back for Collingwood. Soon after she left, a boat was lowered, and eight men got into it for the purpose of going ashore, all of them were drowned. When they got into the boat they made a good start but when about a hundred yards from the propellor, the man holding the tiller appeared to lose heart, and let go of it, another of the crew immediately sprang to the helm, but it was too late; the boat had got into the trough of the sea, and the first wave that swept over her carried two of the occupants with it. The boat swamped, and four more were drowned the remaining two cling to for nearly three-quarters of an hour ;but the water was so cold, and seas broke over so furiously they too were compelled to go, and shared the same terrible fate as the rest.

The names of the drowned are J. Stephens and Robert Blyth of Owen Sound, Caldwell of Toronto; Taylor, of Simcoe; Chadwick, of Elora; Charles Canpbell, lived directly opposite where the accident occurred in Collingwood Township; Richard Rearden, wheelman, and William Row deck hand late of Devonshire, England.

John Stephens was one of the owners of the boat. He was a young man, and leaves a almost distracted widowed mother and a circle of relatives to mourn his sad death. Robert Blyth was a married man with a family of three children, whom he leaves beside a large family of relatives to mourn his untimely end. No doubt others all have other relatives to mourn their awful fate. The seas calming down towards evening, three fish boats went from Thornbury about 7 o'clock and took off those on the wreck. They reached Collingwood about 11 a.m. on Tuesday. The sea was running so high on Monday, when he tug went out to the wreck that they could see waves breaking over the propellor at a distance of nearly a mile. Up to this time none of the bodies have been recovered.

The vessel will no doubt be a total wreck. She was owned by Messrs Forhan, Cor... Johnson, Stephens and Miller, of this town and was insured for $12, 000.


About 11 o'clock, noon on Monday, Capt. Johnson came ashore to get relief; intending to land at Collingwood, but the sea was running so high they had to land at Nottawasaga Island, being compelled to jump out of the boat and wade ashore. The tug took a pump up on Tuesday, and it was put in her ready to light her as soon as the weather calms down sufficiently to enable a tug to take her off the rock.

The vessel is supposed to be nearly all right; but as yet the prospects of recovering the bodies is very poor indeed. A. M. Stephens has issued bills offering a reward of $200 for the recovery of the body of the late J.S. Stephens.

The Accident to the Chicora

The following appears in the Globe, signed by "Six Americans"

"The accident at about 3 o'clock p.m. of Wednesday, the 14th inst., near the middle of Bear Lake. It was snowing very heavily at the moment- so heavily that the shores were scarcely discernible. The vessel ran over two boulders, and then proceeded about three hundred feet beyond the second, when she struck a sunken ridge which raised her some two feet out of the water, on which she rested firmly at about midship. The only hole made in the bottom (so far as ascertained) was within the forward boiler compartment. This hole is quite large... The steamer is not materially injured, and no passengers, baggages, or freight were lost or seriously damaged...

The Chicora went ashore on the 14th last in a snow storm on Bear lake and injured her bottom so that she made water very fast. Steam pumps were procured and she got off when she started for Detroit where she will go into dry dock She passed Sarnia on Saturday morning last with the steam pumps working.

The steamer Chicora arrived a Detroit on Saturday from the Sault Ste Marie with steam pumps working. It appears she struck a rock in Bear Lake during the snow storm on Thursday, and was damaged so as to render her unfit to proceed on her voyage to Lake Superior. Her passengers and freight were handed over to the Algoma. The Chicora goes into dry dock for repairs, and will probably winter here.

The schooner C. A. King arrived in Collingwood on the 19th inst. from Chicago with a cargo of 20, 000 bushels of Corn. She reports having encountered a terrific snow storm when off the Isles of Coves, where she came very near being stranded owing to the storm being so thick that they could not see the light house until nearly on it.

The schooners Prince Edward, Phoebe Catherine, Maple Leaf, and Elizabeth are now lying in the river. They are being stripped of their canvass ready for winter lay up, after having done a good season's trade.

The Royal Mail steamer Algoma arrived at Collingwood about seven o'clock last night from Sault Ste Marie with 1, 200 packages of fish, a quantity of copper and from sixty to seventy passengers. She was detained about six days in assisting the Chicora at Bear Lake.

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November 28, 1872
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Bill Hester
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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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Advertiser (Owen Sound, ON), November 28, 1872