The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 2 Jul 1900

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not published

July 3, 1900




Story Told by Capt. Bongard, of the Schooner Acacia.

The Picton Was Coal Laden From Charlotte to Belleville.

An Old Craft.

What appears to have been the first disaster of the season on Lake Ontario occurred Sunday south-west of Sodus, N.Y. News of the disaster was brought to the city by Captain Byron Bongard, of the schooner Acacia, which arrived at R. Crawford & Co's wharf, foot of Queen street, Saturday evening after a rought trip across the lake. Capt. Bongard's story is to the effect that Saturday morning the schooners Acacia, Annie Minnes and Picton, all coal laden, cleared from Charlotte, N.Y. Saturday. The two first named were bound for this port, but the Picton was destined for Belleville. Her cargo consisted of 350 tons of coal, which ladened her down pretty well. A stiff gale was blowing at the time and the three struggling schooners kept close together, the Picton standing off to westward, but following close in the route taken by the Acacia. The storm increased in fury towards the afternoon and between half past three and four o'clock it became too strong for the Picton; her captain evidently feared to continue the voyage as he reversed his tiller and headed the schooner for the south shore, pointing towards Oswego. About the time the Picton turned around a heavy squall struck the Acacia and kept those aboard quite busy for a few minutes steadying the craft. Looking around for the Picton Capt. Bongard saw her with all but one small sail reefed close. A second look a minute or two later failed to disclose the whereabouts of the Picton; she was nowhere to be seen. It was not possible for her to find shelter, as she was far from land, twenty-five miles to the south-west of Sodus.

Capt. Bongard took his glasses and mounted the shrouds of the Acacia, scanning the horizon at all points, but without gaining any sight of the unfortunate schooner. He concluded, therefore, that she had foundered, carrying down with her all hands. She must have lurched over suddenly, filled and sank like a stone. It was Capt. Bongard's intention to render aid to the Picton had he seen that she was in distress, but the suddenness of her disappearance made this impossible. The crew of the Acacia share Capt. Bongard's belief that the Picton foundered, and that all hands were drowned.

The Picton was an old schooner, considered quite unfit to stand such a gale as swept over Lake Ontario on Friday and Saturday last. She was sailed by her owner, Capt. Sibley, of Belleville, whose wife and family were thought to have been aboard. The crew consisted of three or four men, all hailing from Belleville; one was named James Dunn. The suddenness of the fatality would not give the crew an opportunity to man the life boat, and even had this been done it is unlikely that the small boat would long live in such a heavy sea. Had the Acacia and Annie Minnes not been staunch craft they could not have weathered the storm.

Capt. Bongard says the storm was the most severe he ever passed through. Capt. Hinckley, of the steamer Columbia, says the same thing. So also does Capt. Esford, of the steamer Toronto. The waves were rolling mountains high, the wind was squally, shifting constantly and coming in fierce gusts.

No Trace of the Picton.

It is almost a certainty that the schooner Picton, with her cargo and crew, lie at the bottom of Lake Ontario. Nothing further has been heard of them. Capt. Bates left Oswego with the schooner Fabiola at eight o'clock Monday morning, and Capt. Ira Folger, with the steamer King Ben at noon, and up to that time no tidings or trace had been received of the missing schooner. Both boats came across in the usual course, but no sign of the Picton was gleaned. All mariners are convinced that the Picton foundered.

Could Not Aid Sinking Ship.

Belleville, Ont. July 2 - The schooner Annie Minnes arrived in port this morning, and her crew confirms the loss of the schooner Picton off Charlotte. Her captain says he was within two miles of the Picton when she foundered, but was unable to render any assistance.

The crew of the Picton were: Capt. John Sibley, his son, eleven years of age, Sylvester; mate Frank Smith, sailors Walter Dunn and William Bly, and cook Barney Ayres. Ayres and Smith have families. The other two are unmarried, but their parents and relatives live here.

Tour of Steamyacht Tekona - on tour of the Thousand Islands, Capt. A.H. Malone.

White Squadron Excursions - carried 2,500 people on steamers America, New York, and Empire State.


The schooner Maggie L. from bay ports unloaded grain at Richardson's elevator on Monday.

Capt. Bongard of the schooner Acacia has sailed for 38 years on the lakes, but in all that time he never saw such a storm on Lake Ontario, as that of Friday night.

Arrivals at Swift's wharf: Steamers North King from Charlotte; Hamilton from Hamilton; Unique from Ogdensburg; Caspian from Montreal; Corsican from Toronto; schooner Fabiola from Oswego.

Arrivals and departures from the M.T. company's elevator: Tug Thomson arrived from Sodus with two coal laden barges, and cleared last night for Oswego with two light barges; tug Bronson cleared for Montreal with ? barges.

p.5 Incidents of the Day - The steering gear of the steamer Columbian was fixed up here Saturday and she left again Monday on her regular trips across the lake.

The steamer Spartan, which met with a mishap at Lachine by a slight break in her machinery on Saturday, will resume her trips in a few days.



Accident to the Steamer Spartan on Saturday.

Montreal, July 2nd - The passengers on the Richelieu & Ontario navigation company's steamer Spartan had a thrilling, but fortunately very rare, experience Saturday. As usual on Saturday there was a large number of passengers, and also a big general cargo of freight. The result was that the boat was late in leaving Lachine, and it was growing dark as it approached the rapids. There was a regular gale of wind, and most of the passengers sought shelter of the cabin until as the steamer drew near the rapids they were called out to witness the famous scene. The Spartan was in command of Capt. Grange, one of the most experienced men on the river, and all went well until a short distance below the C.P.R. bridge, when a terrific gust of wind struck the steamer sideways and heeled her over to such an extent that she fell off from her course. This necessitated a sharp turn of the helm, and, under the strain, the rudder chains parted. The vessel had at this point a great deal of headway on, and for a few seconds the position was certainly very startling, as the vessel, under the influence of the high wind, and released from the control of the wheel, dashed almost at right angles to course. Fortunately, as is always the practice on the R. & O. steamers when running the rapids, the tiller at the stern was manned, and the steamer was brought up to her course, Capt. Grange at once proceeding to the tiller and directing the course from there. He realized, however, that against such a wind and with a crippled ship it was not advisable to shoot the rapids, and accordingly he ran her on a shoal near the property of the Lachine rapids hydraulic and land company. There was naturally a good deal of excitement, and several of the ladies fainted, but the captain went around with a smiling face and assured everyone that there was no danger. The passengers were given the option of going ashore or remaining on board until this morning. About a dozen, for business reasons, elected to leave the ship, and the life-boats having been lowered, they were sent ashore and came into the city by the electric cars. The passengers were nearly all Americans, and there were at least half a dozen bridal couples on their wedding trip.

The boat remains on the rocks, but the officials state that she is not much damaged. They wired to Kingston for wrecking apparatus and expect to get her afloat again in a couple of days. The captain says that the passengers had a very narrow escape, because if the boat had gone a little farther she would have been caught in the swift current of the rapids and would have been helpless.

p.7 They Were Disappointed - A boat load of excursionists who started Saturday afternoon for Rochester, N.Y., intending to spend Sunday and Monday in the flower city, were gravely disappointed at not reaching that place. The steamer Columbian was billed to make the trip, but having gone up to Picton in the morning, she did not get back in time to take them from here. They boarded the steamer Hero, which connected with the steamer Columbian at Bath. But Capt. Hinckley refused to risk another trip across the lake until the steamer's steering gear had been overhauled; she had crossed the lake three times Friday during the big storm and Capt. Hinckley wanted to be assured that the steamer's steering gear was in good order before risking another trip. Consequently the excursionists were returned to Kingston and left Sunday night on the steamer North King.

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2 Jul 1900
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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), 2 Jul 1900