The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 27 Oct 1905

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Should Be Established By Government.

Detroit, Oct. 27th - The Seamen's Union will take up the question of overloading and will bring it before government officials. "Overloading this season has been the cause of a number of our members drowning like rats," says Local Agent Scanlon of the Seamen's Union. "The union will take up the matter and get up a large petition to the government asking that the matter be taken up. The government ought to establish a load line."

To Load A Great Cargo - Winnipeg, Oct. 27th - The steamer Philip Minch has been chartered at Fort William, by merchants of Winnipeg, to load three hundred and forty (thousand ) bushels of wheat. This will exceed the largest cargo that has hitherto been carried out of Fort William by over 50,000 bushels.




Capt. Alexander Milligan Gives His First Public Statement

Concerning the Foundering of the Barge Minnedosa.

The steamship Westmount and consort Melrose arrived at the M.T. company elevator at 12:30 o'clock, Thursday afternoon, reaching the end of their journey after their terrible experience on Lake Huron. Their progress down the harbor was witnessed by many relatives and friends of the crews aboard the two vessels and of the ill-fated Minnedosa, which did not occupy her accustomed place in the tow. J.A. Cuttle, general manager of the M.T. company; Mr. Shaw, representing the Underwriters; and Messrs. Jacques and Sharp, of the R.D. Martin company, to whom the wheat cargo was consigned, were here from Montreal to meet the vessels.

Capt. Alexander Milligan, of the Westmount, was interviewed by a Whig representative, and gave out the first public statement he has made concerning the foundering of the Minnedosa. It was practically the same as his telephone message to L.L. Henderson, the day after the catastrophe. Capt. Milligan termed as a base falsehood the story of the Detroit News to the effect that the Westmount had cut her tow line. He desired to say that he was never interviewed by a Detroit paper as despatches from that city gave out. The yellow and sensational story of the Detroit News was simply an attempt to belittle the Canadian mariners and their crews, but the latter have nothing to learn from the country to the south in regard to sticking to their posts when danger comes. Recent investigations of United States vessel disasters have not been creditable to some people.

The statement of Capt. Milligan shows that there was no sign of any distress from the Minnedosa. Ten minutes before she disappeared, Capt. Milligan saw her coming along all right. It was clear moonlight and he could see members of the Minnedosa's crew going in and out of her cabin, as if nothing was wrong. Capt. Milligan gives it as his opinion that the Minnedosa had been leaking slowly all Friday, but her captain evidently thought that a port of safety would be reached before there would be any danger of the Minnedosa sinking. As to loading, Capt. Milligan said that the captains of the M.T. company vessels had that matter left to their own discretion. No specific order as to amount was ever given them. The company committed the safety of the vessels to their hands. Capt. Milligan's statement is as follows:

Capt. Milligan's Statement.

"The Westmount, with the Melrose and Minnedosa in tow, left Port Arthur on October 16th, at 3 p.m. The wind was then south-east, light. When about 100 miles south-east by east of Passage Island, the wind increased to a furious gale and a heavy sea running. Knowing we could not make shelter to windward, till the gale abated, and being too far away to turn the barges in the trough of the sea and seek shelter to leeward, we slowed our engines to half speed and rode out the gale, head on.

At 3 a.m. of the following morning, the wind having abated, and being then ten miles south of Caribou Island, we proceeded at full speed to the Soo without mishap, reaching there about 4 p.m. We proceeded down the Soo river and cleared Detour, the outlet to Lake Huron, at midnight. The weather was then fine, with a light easterly breeze. Both our barges carried full sail until seven o'clock of the same evening. When abreast of Point au Barques, the wind increased to a gale from the same quarter. Knowing we could not pull the barges seventy-five miles in the trough of the sea, we hauled up, head to wind. Feeling that the wind would shift south-west, we made no effort to pull the barges far out into the lake, and eased our engines to half speed till midnight. As we expected, the wind then shifted to the south-west, with increased fury. Gradually we turned to the weather shore a distance of about fifteen miles. After full speed for two hours and decreasing the distance to about seven miles from shore, under which we expected to make a lee within two hours, I went below to change my clothing. In less than ten minutes, Mr. Black, chief mate, rushed to the chart room and cried - "Captain, the Minnedosa has entirely disappeared."

I hurried on deck and could find no trace of her whatever. The night was quite clear, and we could plainly discern the Melrose, which had been towing behind the Minnedosa. Capt. Phillips gave no warning or displayed no signal of distress of any kind whatever. We immediately turned and went back to where we thought she must have foundered. We circled around and about in the neighborhood in the hope of picking up some of our comrades who might be clinging to wreckage.

After a fruitless search of an hour we gave it up, and went after the Melrose, which was drifting helplessly in the trough of the sea towards midlake. We went alongside to leeward and asked Capt. Davy to try and make some more sail and hold out till day break, when we would endeavor to pick him up. This they were unable to do, on account of the heavy seas rolling over her. After lying to windward of the vessel for one hour, breaking the sea from her all we could, we decided she could not live till daybreak in her then position. We resolved to pick her up at all hazards. We bore down on her and the first cast of the line was caught by Mate George Davy and the wire cable tow line was made fast. Then we brought the Melrose around head to, and pulled for Harbor Beach for refuge, arriving there at 3 p.m. on Friday. Not being able to procure the men and materials for the temporary repairs necessary to the vessel we headed for Sarnia.

All reports as to the tow line being cut on the Westmount are untrue. There is not the slightest ground for such a statement being made. In my opinion the Minnedosa had been leaking slowly all day, and Capt. Phillips knowing that we were making every effort and heading direct for Harbor Beach, pluckily held on without signals of distress, believing that the harbor would be reached before she would settle. In regard to the loading of the boats, the matter is left entirely to the discretion of the master, and no amount is ever specified to the captains. They are simply told to load canal load or a lighterage load."

Capt. Davy's Story.

Capt. Davy, of the Melrose, when interviewed, stated that he did not see the Minnedosa founder. Five minutes before the Minnedosa's tow line broke, he saw the Minnedosa ahead, probably a quarter of a mile. When he found the tow line had snapped, he supposed the Minnedosa had simply broken away. The Westmount turned about and came towards the Melrose, but it was three hours before she could pick her up. They scarcely expected the barge would live till daybreak, in such a tremendous sea, but she weathered it all right. Even when the Westmount had picked up the Melrose, Capt. Davy said he and his crew did not know of the Minnedosa's fate, supposing that she was still adrift. It was not till Harbor Beach was reached that they learned of the awful truth.

From the statements of the two captains, it seems that nobody saw the Minnedosa go down. Her sinking must have been awfully sudden.

The Melrose's bulwarks were pretty well smashed, and a portion of her cargo, possibly 3,000 bushels is damaged, as much water got into the hold. The cargo of the Westmount was all right, and that vessel cleared last evening for Fort William alone. The Melrose's cargo was discharged today, having to be done in view of the insurance underwriters' representative, Capt. Thomas Donnelly.

The cargo of the Minnedosa was valued at $65,000, which the insurance people pay.

Marine Notes.

The barge Melrose will wait here for the S.S. Fairmount.

The schooner Burton is at Booth's wharf from Oswego with coal.

Crawford's wharf: schooners Metzner and Winnie Wing, from Oswego, with coal.

The schooner Queen of the Lakes is loading feldspar at Richardsons' wharf.

M.T. company elevator: S.S. Westmount cleared for Fort William; tug Emerson from Charlotte with one coal-laden barge.

Swift's wharf: steamer Hamilton up yesterday; steamer Picton due up today; steamer Belleville down this morning; schooner Theo. Voges cleared yesterday for Gananoque.

Craig's wharf: propellor Persia down yesterday; steamer Alexandria up tonight; propeller Cuba due down today; tug Reserve, lying in port, awaiting the arrival of assistance to place the gas buoys at Nine Mile Point.

It was a sailor named Ferguson who drowned of the schooner Annie Minnes in a squall near the Main Ducks. He went overboard with the wreckage. Desperate efforts to rescue him failed. The schooner is now in Picton harbor.

Personal Mention - The friends of James Tyo are glad he arrived home safely on the schooner Melrose.

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27 Oct 1905
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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), 27 Oct 1905