The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Nov 1898

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p.1 Canal Ready For Business - St. Catharines, Nov. 1st - Navigation on the new canal, interrupted on Sunday by the carrying away of three gates by the steambarge George Spencer, will be resumed this afternoon. The work has been rushed along and the boatmen are fully satisfied.

p.2 Incidents of the Day - Capt. John Gaskin arrived from Wellington last evening, where he superintended the work of releasing the barge Kildonan.



Further information received about the foundering of the schooner St. Peter off Sodus Point says six lives were lost, including Mrs. John Griffin, wife of the captain, also of the mate, John McCreight, of Kingston, a seaman named Bosworth, aged twenty-two or twenty-three years, and three Swedes who shipped at Oswego a few days ago, and whose names are unknown.

Capt. Griffin recovered sufficiently to give the following particulars: "The schooner St. Peter was loaded with chestnut coal at Oswego for S.C. Schenck, Toledo. When the storm first struck us we were off Braddock's Point and I deemed the schooner in no great danger at that time, but thought with the aid of a torch at Charlotte I might secure a tug and make the harbor. Consequently a torch was burned by me and mate McCreight at intervals between eleven o'clock Wednesday night and four o'clock Thursday morning. It was this torch that the Charlotte life-saving crew sighted at four o'clock in the morning. No rochets were fired as we had none aboard and were not in distress at that hour. Along towards morning, in conference with my wife and the mate, we deemed it best at 7:30 o'clock to hoist a flag of distress, and with the aid of four seamen we tried to raise such a flag. With our greatest exertions we were unable to get it any higher than the cross trees, the wind blowing such a gale at the time.

"The schooner had on board a full crew and was not in any leaky condition; in fact the pumps were tested by me and the mate every ten minutes. All on board could see the Proctor and the life-saving crew coming to our assistance and expected that help would reach us. In fact I had cautioned the crew how to leave the vessel and not to be in a hurry nor to lose their head, as they could see the Proctor in full view from the deck of the schooner. I even could see the men on the Proctor as they moved about.

"The steering gear and the sails of the St. Peter were in perfect order. In Oswego, upon this trip, I had purchased and had on board a brand new yawl and when the sea was so great I endeavored to cut the ropes and float the yawl. With my best efforts I only succeeded in cutting one of the ropes. My wife wanted me to take the money she had with her and take care of it, as she felt we were in great danger. I said, 'No, you have sailed with me seven years, and we'll come out of this all right. You're just as able as I am to take care of the money.' That seemed to inspire her with some courage.

"When the sea that sank the ship struck the vessel it was a tremendous sea, and carried all hands over with it. My wife was near me in the water when the schooner went down. She seemed to be clinging to some wreckage. I picked up an oar and was trying to get nearer to her when she raised her right arm and bid me good bye. Pointing heavenward she said: 'We are going,' and that was the last I saw of her.

"About an hour later, as near as I can judge, I was picked up by the life-saving crew. While in the water I was hit on the head by some of the wreckage. The first I regained consciousness was this morning in one of the berths of the Proctor."

Capt. Griffin says the greatest praise should be given to Capt. Gray and his crew for braving such a storm as was running in the lake at that time.

A Captain's Opinion.

Recent marine disasters have reintroduced a complaint, which has frequently been brought before vessel owners and forwarding companies a complaint which apparently receives little attention, even though many wrecks owe their cause to the same difficulty. The trouble lies in loading boats too low in the water at this season of the year. Speaking on this point a local captain has the following to say: "Crowding a boat down until her deck comes within a few inches of the water is a grave mistake, when winds and seas are an uncertain quantity. In the summer season, when rough weather is the exceptional features of a trip, no objection can be taken, but not so in the fall. Too many of the lake tows are loaded too deeply making the tow barges loggy and stubborn, so that they give greater resistance in a heavy sea. On this account the best tow-lines frequently snap, casting valuable boats adrift to the mercy of the waves with rich cargoes and the lives of many men. Also a boat with very little side above the water has no chance to ward off the seas and she is practically submerged when seas roll high, endangering the cargo as well as making it difficult to handle her. It is a mystery to me why the forwarding companies allow such heavy loading, especially with their tows."

p.3 Affairs of the Hour - The body washed ashore at Port Maitland last week has been identified as that of Capt. Alexander Gillies, of the steamer Idaho, which was lost about a year ago with nineteen of her crew.


The sloop Ripple left for South Bay today with a cargo of salt.

The sloop Volunteer is unloading wood at the Grove Inn dock.

The steam yacht Miltonia is in Davis' dry dock for general repairs.

The schooner Cornelia cleared for Oswego this afternoon to load coal.

The sloop Rover cleared for Jones' Falls today with a cargo of general produce.

The tug Hiram Easton and barge, from Deseronto to Ottawa, light, passed by here today.

The schooner Dunn, Toledo to Kingston, timber, reached Port Colborne yesterday.

The schooner Two Brothers arrived in port last night with a cargo of coal taken from the barge Kildonan.

The schooner Kate, with peas and wheat from Wellington, discharged her cargo at Richardsons' elevator this morning.

The schooner Clara Youell, from Pelee Island, unloaded 12,000 bushels of wheat at the M.T. company's elevator today.

The schooner Robert Macdonald arrived from Wellington last evening with 4,000 bushels of barley for J. Richardson & Sons.

The sloop Madcap, from Bay ports, and sloop H.M. Ballou, from Brighton, unloaded peas at Richardsons' elevator today.

Mrs. Griffin, wife of Capt. John Griffin, lost with the schooner St. Peter, had over seven hundred dollars in cash on board when the schooner went down.

The tug Active reached port last evening with the barge Kildonan, released from Wellington beach. The barge looks a little the worse of wear, and has been severely strained.

The Atlantic transportation company has notified the Donnelly wrecking and salvage company to cease taking steamers owned by that company down to Montreal, as the insurance companies will not place insurance on the boats out of Montreal.

The tug Active, with the schooners Grantham and Eliza White as lighters, left this morning for the stranded barge Hector. With continued fine weather, it is expected that the barge will be released by the close of this week. The Grantham had steam pumps aboard.

The steamer Hero goes into Davis' dry dock this week to have the bottom of her hull scraped and painted. While she is on the dock the steamer North King will look after her route on the Bay of Quinte, after which the North King will go into winter quarters. She finished a very successful season on Saturday, when the contract for carrying the mails across the lake expired.

p.6 General Paragraphs - Capt. C.H. Kendall, in command of the steamer Islander, was in the city this morning, having closed a successful season with his steamer, a season free from any accidents.

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1 Nov 1898
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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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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Nov 1898