The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Enterprise (Collingwood, ON), Sept 21, 1882

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The cry goes up, how long?
Death in a Life Boat
A Girl Heroine and a Boy Hero

Once again and after a lapse of a comparatively short interval we are called upon to record another steamboat disaster on our treacherous lake bring with it the tale of human suffering and loss of life which is only ... by the tragic proportions. Thursday last would always have been remembered by Collingwood for the fierce storm, but now the day and date have been indelibly written by the black characters of death and desolation. The only anxiety apparently felt in the town on Thursday was for the Emerald and the Asia was counted upon as assured of safety. ...When Captain John Davey of the tug Minnie haha from Parry Sound arrived in town with a despatch from Mr. J. C. Miller announcing the loss of the Asia The tug whistled into port about 9 o'clock and about midnight the wires had flashed all over the continent the disheartening news. The night in town was stormy and very dark, but those who heard the rumour which got observed were soon crowding the telegraph office and he streets to confirm their fears with certainty. It was learned that the boat was actually lost and that only two survivors Mr. D A, Tinkiss and Miss C .A. Morrison remained to tell the ... story. The Northern Belle had been despatched from Parry Sound on Sunday morning to the place where bodies were to be found and no further news expected until her arrival...

The wreck and everything connected with the boat became the subjects of general conversation and little has been talked since. The remarkable fact that the steward and purser Steve Carter and John McDougall were both on the Manitoulin and escaped when she was burned was immediately remembered , and a great deal of quiet and true sorrow was felt for the two unfortunate men who were both well known and esteemed for their kind natures and good qualities. But a day before his last sad voyage McDougall remarked that this was his last season as he intended to quit sailing on account of his health. The poor fellow's words were unhappily prophetic. He leaves a wife and twelve children, the youngest only a week or two old.

Monday was passed in intense anxiety and at night a telegram was received from Parry Sound stating that the Belle left at 6 o'clock. The night was so rough, however that she did not cross until morning arriving at Collingwood at about noon. With flags hanging at half mast and almost without sound the boat slowly and gracefully came to the docks, where a large crowd had assembled to greet her arrival Chief Lewis however kept the crowd off and only those immediately interested were allowed on board. The Mail and Enterprize reporters interviewed young Tinkiss a stout vigorous looking man of not quite eighteen years of age...

The young couple Mr. And Mrs Christie had only been married the Wednesday proceeding the tragedy, and were well known and well liked by all. Everyone's good wishes accompanied them on their trip but wishes however good could not control the elements and the many friends of the unfortunate pair will probably never see anything of them again.

In addition to young Watts the boy Hill a son of the late Capt. Hill was of Collingwood. Indeed our town could not hope to escape loss on any boat that sails the waters of the northern lakes.


Dr. B. Stephens decided that he could not hold an inquest though it was rather a generally expressed wish that he would. His reasons are that he objects to taking the following preliminary declaration under oath, which the law now requires of coroners. Indeed the doctor thinks he will never hold an inquest while the law remains as it is at present..


Mr. William Watts whose son was among the lost and who sailed for the scene of the disaster on Monday morning returned on Wednesday about 5 p.m. His mission was unsuccessful but the disappointed father says he will return again in a few days when he thinks the bodies will rise to the surface. He sailed to the Western Isles and there was becalmed but the Marry Ann tug came along and towed him. He left his boat with a crew and came on to Parry Sound with the Mary Ann Captain Campbell in command. They reached Parry Sound and persuaded the Northern Belle with the bodies on board to start for Collingwood. The wind was blowing so strong however from the south west that the tug and the Belle laid up all night at Campbell's Rock opposite Chanabler Boyd's Island The Belle left at daylight and Mr. Watts and Captain Campbell took their boats to the place where the bodies had been laid on the beach marked by an upright board .From this point the boats separated .Watts sailing in one direction two small skiffs from the Mary Ann going in another and tug standing out into the lake The small skiffs searched everywhere from Punt an Barne to the Mink Islands. Mr Watt saw two chairs which he secured and a bag of flour but no bodies pieces of the wreck were plentiful and a gangway of the boat were seen. The ... put for the wreck which the Wiarton Belle reported to Captain Campbell she had passed through... pieces of the wreck, and after sailing about for a time returned for her sail boats. Mr Watt started for Collingwood at Daylight the next morning.


...Was witnessed at the dock on Sunday The bodies were being carried away to their friends M. M. Moore the fiancee of the first man went out to take a final farewell of him who was to have become her husband at the close of navigation season Her grief was excessive and her cries of" O Johnny Johnny" were heart rending Members deeply affected by the sorrow of the heart broken girl. The remains of the .. were removed to Owen Sound in charge of Mr. Andrew Locherbee and Mr. Bert Burdett, of the Collingwood Lodge of Masons, which body took charge of the remains (he was a Mason) on arrival and had him decently coffined. A basket bouquet of white flowers had been placed in the coffin by some sympatric hand. The bodies of the captain and Mr Little were sent away by rail Wednesday to their friends. McAlpine was sent to Gore Bay in the afternoon on the Belle. The unclaimed body will be buried by the town.


Captain Campbell has returned from his search with the tug Mary Ann. The Capt. is one of the most experienced and trust worthy sailors on the lakes. And knows the territory better than say other man .Consequently his search was a thorough one He says;-

"We left Collingwood on Monday morning and went to the Ninx Island lighthouse. There we left the small boats to hunt the islands and we went to Parry Sound to see the survivors and to from them where the life-boat lay. On Tuesday morning we went to point. I sent one of the boats to search among the islands east of the point and the other for the north shore of the land. I then started out into , lake towards Byng Inlet and the Wiarton Belle We got the ...ia's yawl from her. We were then west of the Black Bills Islands we cruised around and at night came centre at the Minx to report to one another. The next morning we started out in the boats going to Snake and Sandlands and the tug steering for the .estons Island. We picked up a deal of wreckage north of Limestone Islands. We found the pptabo at this point. Finding that stuff had drifted we stood out about ten miles in the steering in a line for Byng Inlet. Went and say Mr. Duffy's fishermen who found the body of Mr. Sparks of Ottawa. The body had a preserver on. The remains were buried at Byng Inlet on ...aday. I brought his watch and home with me. The watch had said at 11:40 and is full of water Duffy's men said they found the body seven miles southwest of Byng Inlet light in the lake. After hearing I stood out fifteen miles and sailed along the coast at that range. I ran into some wreckage at 5 p.m. On Wednesday. I think most of the wreckage is about 5 miles off the coast in the lake between the Limestones and Byng Inlet Judging by this and by the point where the lifeboat went ashore I am of the opinion the wreck is about ten miles off Byng Inlet The life boat made better time than he wreckage and reached the shore before the wind shifted to the north-west Duffy's men are of the same opinion in regard to the location f the wreck. Seeing ..of bodies and feeling assured I had done all it was possible to do I headed Collingwood arriving at about 2 a.m. on Thursday .I think bodies will ... on may be found , but looking for them is a similar task to searching for a nest in a five acre field and equally hopeful.

The captain has been closely questioned by anxious and unfortunate friends since his return and though they the hopelessness of the task their hunger to recover the bodies of their loved ones will not be satisfied short of another search. It is probable the tug Mary Ann will again leave to-night on another expedition. Mr Parkhill, M.P.P., . Mr Magee, a nephew of Mr. Robert Henry's. Mr. Anderson, Mr. Ane, and other searchers will go on the tug. An effort will be made to induce Captain Campbell to go with the party.


A number of photographs from the wreck were picked up and are on exhibition in the Company's offices.

The following is as fair a description as can be given;-

A picture of a young man , smooth faced and intelligent looking. It is a small card photograph, taken by W.B. St John, of Walkerson, Ont.

A picture of a strong looking woman, rather young taken by T. Donaghy, of Shelburne.

A picture of a pleasant looking young man, slight moustache and rest of face smooth. He had no collar or necktie Name of photographer not given..

A thin type of a good looking young man with moustache and curly hair. There is a strong resemblance between the features of the photograph and those of the unidentified Frenchman. The goatee on the dead face was heavier than the one given in the picture, but the resemblance otherwise is striking.

A picture of a smooth faced young man by Wm. McFadges, of Uxbridge Ont. The name of the town is nearly erased.

There was also a number of books and two diaries one bearing the name B. Johnsons, the other Miss Charlotle Legg A small book "Ellen and Her Confirmation" bore the following inscription on the fly leaf. Presented to Ann Johnston for general proficiency. S .S. No8 Georgina" This silent record of the school day triumphs of the unfortunate owner was full of pathetic eloquence and brought an involuntary tremble to the voice of the reader. There was also a Wesleyan Sunday school hymn book old edition 1846 no name on it; a Wesleyan hymn book having written in it William Johnson 1878 and Miss N. Johnson a bible with no name in it and a nautical work belonging to the captain.

The only means of identifying the stranger are a bunch of his keys three shirt studs and some small silver.

A canoe that was aboard the Asia was picked up about ten miles off Byng Inlet and a case of bacon was found near the body.

A singular fact in connection with the late disaster is that a fishing smack the Dreadnot which was taken in tow by the Asia and cut loose at nine o'clock on the fatal morning should have been picked up intact by the Northern Belle and brought back to Collingwood It lived safely all through the terrible storm and lies at the dock a silent witness of the uncertainties of the lake travel.

Part of the Canada's crew left the boat and returned to go out on this trip. They are very reticent about the matter and decline to give their reasons for acting so.


Dr. Crookshanks of Barrie , arrived in town tonight and will hold an inquest on the body of the unknown man to-morrow. The jury are summoned to meet at Rowland's Hotel at eight o'lock in the morning, and will adjourn to view the body, which will be exhumed for the purpose, it having been interred last night. They will then meet in Town Hall at 11 o'clock. The general disinclination seems to exist among the jurors to serve....


The Collector of Customs Mr George Watson received instructions to have everything ready for an investigation which was to have been opened on Thursday ; but the young lady is still unable to leave her room at Parry Sound, and Mr Tinkiss refused to remain over. The Collector has reported these particulars to the Government and the investigation will not be held for a few days.


The following is the list of lost as far as known;...

On Thursday afternoon Capt Campbell , Mr. Parkhill, M.P.P. Mr. Bledsoe, of Cincinnati Mr. Magee, Mr. Duncan and Mr Stewart again left for the scene of trouble.


It is difficult to speak or write of this soul revolting tragedy without feeling a shudder at man's apparent helplessness to avert such disasters. Time and again we have had to report these frightful losses of human life, and the task becomes heavier and more sickening with each repetition. The present occasion has called forth the unusual host of "might have-beens' and from the lively interest and ... indignation shown , there is some hope that events may shape themselves to secure greater safety for the travelling community. But popular feeling is not always in the right, and in this instance the Great Northern Transit Company are being unjustly condemned. It is saddening to note the Globe's shameful attempt to turn this loss of life to political capital and its attack on the Company are disgraceful on this account The Company are enterprising men who have done a great deal for the service of the public and for the welfare of Collingwood . But their principal offence in the eyes of the Globe is the fact that they are Conservatives. Their boats are as good as they can afford to place on for the trade, and if the people who make so much noise about unseaworthiness, etc. Had any grounds to base their accusations on they are as ... as the Company for not making ... of their knowledge sooner. Living Capt. Savage was never criticized, his demerits as a sailor were not pointed out, but as soon as he joints the dead, these know-alls come boldly out and decry his fame. Why if they possessed this information they now pretend to did they not give it voice, and let the people know the danger they incurred by sailing with him? And why should the Company be censured if he was not a good seaman? He was not of their choosing but came from employees who refused to charter the Asia unless the crew were engaged with it. He gave every satisfaction while employed by the Company and they had no reason or cause to doubt his ability. The fact ...the boat was of a high class in Lloyd's ought to be a sufficient voucher of its seaworthiness. It was a far safer vessel than many of the punts which disgrace Toronto Harbor and about which our city contemporaries are suspiciously silent. No boat on Canadian waters except perhaps the Campana could have lived in the storm and at the spot where the Asia foundered on that ever memorable Thursday and the only way in which she could have been saved would have been by her detention in port till the storm passed over But when Capt. Savage sailed the indications were not for very sever weather, and as the evidence of the boy Tinkiss shows, the storm came up rather suddenly. Under the circumstances we think the Company are being criticized unjustly . A fair, honourable criticism accomplishes good, but the measure dealt .. to the Great Northern Transit Company can only result in arousing the unjust indignation of the people already sore hearted over their losses.

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Date of Original:
Sept 21, 1882
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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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Enterprise (Collingwood, ON), Sept 21, 1882