The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Enterprise (Collingwood, ON), September 28, 1882

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Opening of the Inquest at Collingwood

COLLINGWOOD, Sept. 22 - To-day the town presented a lively appearance on account of the great Northern Exhibition being held here and strangers would hardly realize that we have so recently been afflicted by the terrible visitation of shipwreck and death. But the undercurrent of feeling is none the less strong and public interest has received a fresh impetus by the opening of the inquest this morning. Much speculation is indulged in as to its probable results, and all sorts of varying and conflicting opinions are expressed though there is a general feeling of

satisfaction at the commencement of what promises to be a thorough investigation. People are somewhat confused however by the reports of an inquest at Parry Sound, and by the announcement of a Government enquiry. If the three investigations are carried on there will be little chance of anything escaping revelation.


Among the latest arrivals in town is that of Mr. Nicholas Sparks, whose brothers Robert and Frederick, are among the lost. Mr. Sparks is terribly cut up by his losses, and his case excites a great deal of sympathy. He left on the Emerald this afternoon for Parry Sound. He goes to obtain possession of the remains of his brother Robert, who was found and buried near Byng Inlet. He will also endeavour to find the body of Frederick. William McDougall, son of the lost purser, also came to town last night.


Dr. Crookshanks empanelled the following gentlemen this morning to assist him in holding an inquest on the body of the unknown man the body referred to being that one of the five bodies brought from the Asia; - J. M. Appleton, .... after the jury had been sworn the coroner read a short address. An adjournment was then made to give the jury an opportunity to view the body, which was exhumed and brought to the drill shed. About eleven o'clock the jury viewed the body which is that of an able-bodied man of dark complexion. His head was badly bruised, very much decomposed, and presented a sickening spectacle, the face being turned to one side in the coffin, The deceased had a short black moustache and goatee, and was a man probably in the thirties. The jury met again in the Town Hall at eleven o'clock and the inquest was resumed. Mr H. Robertson appearing to watch the case for the Local Government, and the Company's solicitor, Mr. George Moberly, being also present. There was no attendance of the general public and seeing those few men sitting around the Council Board one would scarcely believe that an investigation of national importance was being commenced.


The first witness called was John Webber, of Collingwood, who assisted in burying the body of deceased on Wednesday, Sept. 20th. He identified the body which he helped to exhume as the same he had buried on Wednesday, and thought the deceased was about 32 years of age.

Jos McLafferty testified that he has assisted to bury and exhumed deceased , but saw the body for the first time today.


Mr. H. W. Bell-Smith, the Company's bookkeeper, said that he had held that position four years. The Asia belonged to the North West Transportation Company The Great Northern Transit Company chartered the Asia to run on the Georgian Bay or contiguous waters where the company wished to send her. She left port last on Wednesday, Sept. 13th; the shore books do not show the number of passengers lost; the shore-book only shows the names of those who got tickets in the shore office; I couldn't give the names of passengers from memory. Witnesses didn't have the books but fetched them at the request of the coroner and his testimony was resumed. The names of cabin passengers booked here are: William Christie and wife, William Clinton , D. Morley, and W. H. Wools and wife. Deck passengers A. Bowse and J. Shipp.


The load of the boat consisted of dry-goods, lumber, hay, pork, flour, supplies and general freight; the weight of he load was under 85 tons; the usual load varies from nothing to 200 or 800 tons; the Asia left here for Meaford thence to Owen Sound, thence to Presque'Ille and French River; the captain was J. W. Savage; I cannot say how long he was captain; I have a pay sheet with names of the crew; don't know anything about the equipments of the vessel; I know nothing further likely to throw light on the affair.

In answer to the Foreman the witness said he had seen the remains of the deceased; he never saw the man before in his recollection; the crew numbered 24, full complement there were only two deck passengers booked on here; the number of cabin passengers booked on shore is six.

To a juror - There were eight horses on board, their weight being included in the 85 tons. I don't think deceased was one of the crew. The Asia was capable of carrying upwards of 400 tons; the decks were pretty clear before the Asia started from here and the load appeared to be in the hold; couldn't give any opinion as to the competency of the captain; couldn't give an opinion about the bodies; saw the bodies as soon as they arrived and recognized the captain and mate, whom I knew previously; never saw the deceased before.


Dr Crookshanks then said that it was important they should secure the attendance of Mr. Tinkiss and Miss Morrison and it would the time to get them here. He suggested an adjournment and after deliberating the inquest was adjourned to Tuesday, Oct 3rd in the same place, the attendance of Mr. Tinkiss and Miss Morrison to be secured by that time...


Mr. Robert Burdett, who returned this afternoon from Owen Sound , where he had been with McDonald's remains reports the loss of three more passengers. One was his brother- in-law. A blind man named Robert Johnson, formerly of Meaford, but late of Manitowaning. The poor man was led by a young girl of 17 summers named Grant, whose merciful and self-imposed task has led her to the terrible death shared by so many. The other passenger was a stranger, and the three got on at Meaford. The wharfinger and several others gave them information to Mr Burdett, and are prepared to swear to the embarkation of the of the three unfortunates. Johnson was a man about fifty or fifty-two years of age, and has a son about seventeen living in Detroit.


The Emerald is lying in port waiting for weather to moderate before proceeding to Parry Sound. The first mate being interviewed, said that they had a passenger on their trip to the Sault who was on the Asia from Collingwood to Owen Sound. He is a merchant of Spanish River named Levi McKee and he got off the Asia to transact some business at Owen Sound. He is quite certain there were over one hundred passengers on board the oast boat. The mate further said he believed the Asia was not able to stand the storm she was in He thought the papers were not using Captain Savage fairly. He knew the Captain for eight years and considered him to be a good and capable seaman.


Mr. Duffy of this town who carries on extensive fishing trade and whose has found the body of Mr. Robert Sparks of Ottawa returned this afternoon from Midland by rail. He first heard of the wreck on Monday morning at two o'clock Shortly after he saw one of Mr. Watt's sons returning from the lighthouse, and told him. He then left this port on the Maganettawan and staying at Waubaushene on Tuesday night went to Byng Inlet on Wednesday, arriving there at 10 p.m. His men are of opinion that the Asia went down not far from the net grounds. That is where they found Mr Sparks body. When found the unfortunate man was upright in the water, his face turned to the land, and his head hanging down as though in despair of ever reaching it. The fishermen were making ready to go to shore after a hard day's sail when they saw the body, and immediately put out for it and picked it up . The head and shoulders were out of the water, and a common life preserver was fastened under the arms. The remains were taken direct to Midland and buried in the Still River Cemetery. Letters were found on the dead man's clothes by which he was identified. The papers and watch were sent to Collingwood. Mr Duffy's men also picked up a lumberman's trunk, and a fender supposed to belong to the Asia also a Peterboro canoe badly broken up, Mr. Sparks had all his clothes on but his hat, and was a fine stout, able-bodied man, over six feet in height. He had quite a heavy dark moustache. The fisherman expect to find a good many more bodies in their nets.


Finding of Another Body


On Thursday afternoon last it will be remembered that the tug Mary Ann left port having

on board Mr. Parkhill M P. P. Mr. Stewart. Mr. Dundas, Mr. Bledsoe of Cincinnati, Capt. Campbell, Capt. Morgan, of the Mary Ann and Mrs Morgan, together with the boat's crew. Owen Sound was taken first and the tug coaled up leaving for the scene of the disaster about 5 o'clock on Friday morning. Thunder storms weather prevented the party from accomplishing as much work as they expected , but on Saturday morning about 9 o'clock the body of Mr. A. Ducan was sighted by Mr. Bledsoe. He says:

On our way over at about 9:15 I sighted an object floating in the water about 150 yards away. I could not distinguish what it was but noticed a life-preserver, and regarded the sign as ominous. I at once called the attention of those near me to the object and went forward to Captain Morgan, who was at the wheel and told him that I had seen something I supposed to be off the wreck. I pointed out to him the object and had him turn the boat in that direction. When we came alongside we became sure that it was a body, and with bated breath we waited the moment we should get the remains on board scarcely expecting it would be one of those we were looking for. The waves were very high and our task was a difficult one, but by the help of a boat hook and reaching down we succeeded in getting the remains on board. When in the water the body lay in a stooping position, the head shoulders, and arms being well down in the water, and the only portion visible being the back under the shoulders. The body was fully clothed, even to the hat, which was pressed firmly down on the head, and the coat was buttoned tight as though at the time of the disaster the unfortunate man had braced himself for a desperate struggle. As soon as we got him out of the water and before we got him on board Mr. Dundas exclaimed, "I believe that's my boss"


He said the shoes looked like Mr. Duncan's and he recognized the clothing, but the fell destroyer of the human body, corruption had done its ghastly work and the features were totally unrecognizable. The face was horribly swollen, especially about the checks and lips. Mortification had set in about the nostrils and the upper lips. The hands were perfectly white and very much puffed up. Mr, Dundas said deceased had a beautiful moustache when living, but there was very little left on the body and no signs of whiskers were recognizable. There was considerable redness about the forehead, as though the blood had rushed to the head, and no doubt the pressure of the hat inside of which the head swelled helped this effect. The pantaloons were torn a little as though portions of the wreck had struck the deceased..


We got him on board and searched the clothes. We found two tickets for himself and son, a very stained note book containing memoranda and his name; and the handwriting was recognized by Mr. Dundas as that of Mr Duncan. We also found a gold watch and chain with a gold ring attached to the chain on the inside of which was the name A. Duncan and $53 in money The watch had stopped at 11:15 and had water in it All these testimonies were indisputable, and Mr Dundas had the satisfaction of recovering mortal remains of him who a short time ago was in the prime of vigorous manhood. We made a crude box in it we packed it in ice which we had on board. We then started to cruise around are hopes being excited by what we had found and all eager and alert , But the weather got exceedingly rough and shortly after we found the body and while we were going about a heavy sea and wind combined struck us breaking the lifeboat from its davits and startling all on board. After this warning we made up our minds to add no more to the list of lake fatalities, and we concluded to put for the nearest point of land, which was Byng Inlet. We arrived at that place about noon.

The party returned to Collingwood after further but hopeless search and arrived home at a late hour on Sunday night. The body of Mr. Duncan was taken charge of by our local Lodge of Masons and forwarded to Acacia Lodge, at Hamilton, by whom he was buried.


Captain Scott, R .N. the Government Commissioner opened the enquiry at the Central Hotel, on Tuesday morning. The Captain's instructions specify that he is to hold a very thorough and impartial investigation and he is certainly doing so. He asks his searching questions in such a manner as to make the witness feel as though he is obliging himself by answering. On Tuesday Messrs Wm. Watt, H. W. Bell-Smith, Charles Cameron, and Captains B. W. Morgan, E. B, Anderson, P .C. Cameron and Alex. Birnie were examined. Yesterday the Mayor, Mr. John B. Fairgrieve, of Hamilton and Capt. John McGiffin, gave their evidence. Mr. John Birme has been appointed Capt Scott's assistant.


The body of the unknown man was claimed yesterday by two sisters named Lecarte, from Angus who recognized the articles taken off the body as belonging to their brother Isaac. The unfortunate man was again exhumed, and recoffined. He was taken away at an early hour his morning.


Last night Mr. Charles Cameron received a telegram from Capt. J. B. Symes announcing that the latter had possession of Capt. Savage's papers including his letter of instructions from the Manager. Mr. Cameron has telegraphed for the papers and they are expected by the first mail.


Mrs Capt. Savage has written a very affecting letter to Mr. Cameron thanking the Company for kindness shown to them to the remains of her husband.

ACCIDENT - The Northern Belle met with an accident near Algoma Mills last week, by which her screw was broken. A rock did the damage.

HOME AGAIN - On Tuesday morning the Campana came into port being among her other passengers Liet. Col. Hogg and wife. The Colonel reports a very pleasant passage down the water being perfectly smooth until Georgian bay was reached.

LUCKY ESCAPE - Mr James Johnston of this town went down to the wharf on Wednesday night the Asia was last in here for the purpose of taking passage in her for Manitowaning with a buggy. Some difficulty occurred in shipping his freight and it was too late to receive a shipping bill. The result was Mr. Johnston refused to go aboard and he now congratulates himself although very sorry for the fate which overtook the Asia on his narrow escape. It is indeed a lucky misunderstanding for him Meaford Mirror.

RETIRED - Capt. Fall of the St. Paul has been replaced by Capt. Conners who was mate of the craft in the beginning of the season.

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Date of Original:
September 28, 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), September 28, 1882