The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 9 Jul 1908

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Had To Be Beached at Sackett's Harbor.

The schooner Acacia, owned by Capt. William Simmons, of Kingston, lies beached at Stony Point, near Sacket's Harbor, N.Y., and is practically a total wreck. She was laden with coal from Oswego for R. Crawford & Co.

Late on Wednesday afternoon Mr. Crawford received a telephone message from Capt. Simmons, shortly after he landed with his crew at Sacket's Harbor. He said that he had left Oswego Tuesday afternoon for Kingston, but the Acacia had sprung a leak, and he had to run back. He had difficult work in piloting his vessel through the gale and reaching a place near Sacket's Harbor where he could beach her. He ran her on a very shallow place in hopes of at least saving her cargo. It was Wednesday afternoon before he and his crew landed, being taken off by the life saving station crew. His wife and grandchildren had accompanied him for the trip and had quite an experience. As soon as Capt. Simmons reached land he telephoned to Kingston. (photo of Capt. William Simmons)

As stated in yesterday's Whig a Canadian schooner was reported wrecked somewhere near Oswego, but the name of the vessel was not known till the afternoon.

The Acacia is quite an old vessel, but was once rebuilt at a big cost. She is worth $2,500 at least.

This is the celebrated schooner that was the centre of attraction at Charlotte, N.Y., on July 4th, 1905. Capt. Simmons had hoisted a Canadian flag on his masthead in honor of the glorious Fourth. A rabid customs official came along and egged on by some irresponsible citizens of that coal trans-shipping burg ordered Capt. Simmons to haul down the objectionable flag. Capt. Simmons refused and threatened to shoot the first "foreigner" who came aboard his vessel to interfere with the flag. Capt. Simmons later protested to the authorities at Washington over the insult offered him, and the offensive customs officer was removed to some place where he would be less liable to cause harm to his country.

The crew of the schooner Keewatin which arrived here Wednesday, from Oswego, saw the schooner Acacia running back the previous evening.

A Watertown, N Y., despatch, yesterday afternoon said: A Canadian schooner, name unknown, was blown ashore near Sacket's Harbor last night, in a gale that raged on Lake Ontario, and is rapidly going to pieces. The stranded schooner is flying its flag at half-mast, a sign of distress, and the life-saving crew from Big Sandy, which was summoned at nine o'clock, is momentarily expected. The waves are dashing over the craft. The point where the schooner struck is known as Bull Rock, on the Pillar Point shore, about two miles from Sacket's Harbor, and beyond communication. (more details on page 8)

Schooner Blain Wrecked.

Word reached the city, this morning, to the effect that during a heavy storm the schooner James G. Blain came ashore off Oswego, and pounded to pieces on the beach. Her crew of seven, including a woman cook, were rescued by life-savers after a terrific battle with the waves.

It is reported that the schooner went to pieces within fifteen minutes after it struck the beach. The Blain was laden with coal, and tons of coal were scattered along the shore.

The Blain is owned by the George Hall Coal company, of Ogdensburg. Samuel Laflamme, Oswego, is the captain, and he is well-known in marine circles in Kingston. A few weeks ago the schooner discharged a cargo of coal at the Kingston & Pembroke railway wharf.

Marine Notes.

The schooner Mary Ann Lydon cleared for Oswego today.

The steamer Missisquoi was up from river points today.

The barge Quebec entered the government dry-dock today.

The steambarge Mary Louise arrived from Seeley's Bay, with a cargo of brick for the R.M.C.

The steamer Fairmount called at the M.T. Co.'s wharf on her way to Sydney.

M.T. Co.'s wharf: The tugs Thomson and Mary P. Hall cleared for Montreal each with two grain barges.

Owing to the rough weather the steambarge Robert McDonald was unable to clear for Sodus with her cargo of feldspar. She will probably clear today.



Captain & Crew Faced Death.

Mrs. Simmon, her two grand-children, and cook, Arthur West, and Robert Watt, who were on the wrecked schooner Acacia, arrived this afternoon on the Cape boat. West and Watt were seen by a Whig representative, and they described their disaster. Watt stated that the wind was blowing a gale from the south-east. The main boom broke, allowing the sail to drag in the water, and at three o'clock, Wednesday morning, they dropped the anchor, but it could not hold, and a few moments after the vessel struck hard and fast on Bull Point, three miles below Sacket's Harbor.

From three o'clock in the morning until three o'clock in the afternoon the eight people on the boat were face to face with death. West stated that during these long hours they did not know what minute they would break up and be drowned. One by one the sails and rigging were carried away, leaving them perfectly helpless, and at the mercy of the waves. Finally about 2:30 o'clock the crew saw a small sail boat making an attempt to reach them, and an hour afterwards they were taken off. "The schooner was beginning to go to pieces when we left," said West, "and nothing can be saved." During the morning two attempts were made to rescue the crew but both failed.

Faced Imminent Death.

The following account of the disaster came from Sacket's Harbor:

The two-masted schooner Acacia, owned and sailed by William Simmons, of Kingston, Ont., went ashore on Bull Rock Point, about two miles from Horse Island Light, at two o'clock Wednesday morning, during a terrific storm that swept Ontario from the west, and for twelve hours the crew and passengers were facing imminent death in the angry sea that beat upon the boat and rapidly wrought destruction to its hull and fittings.

At two o'clock Wednesday afternoon with a slight going down of the wind, Sam and Spencer Dibble, of this village, set out from this port in a sail boat and after a heroic battle with the wind and waves managed to reach the stranded schooner and took off the eight people aboard and brought them in safety to this place.

With Capt. Simmons on the boat was his wife and two grandchildren, Ethel and Earl Simmons, of Kingston, and the crew, which consisted of Capt. James Smith, Arthur West and Robert Miller and the cook, Jennie Potter, all of Kingston, Ont.

The Acacia left Oswego at six o'clock yesterday afternoon for Kingston, loaded with 370 tons of coal. During the night the lake was swept by a terrible storm and the schooner was tossed about in one of the roughest seas that Mr. Simmons, in his forty odd years of sailing, ever experienced. He tried to make Chaumont harbor, realizing that he could never ride the storm out in the open. So wild was the wind and high the waves that the course of the boat could not be controlled, and she ran on Bull Rock Point and at once began to go to pieces.

Prayed For Help.

The British flag under which the craft sailed was at once inverted and flung at half-mast; a signal of distress through the early hours of morning before the first rays of dawn appeared the eight people aboard the craft clung together in desperation and prayed for help. It was several hours after sunrise when someone at this village discovered the stranded schooner far out in the lake. At first it was thought she had been abandoned, but climbing the weather tower and training powerful binoculars on the ship, the inverted flag of England was discovered. A pennant was then floated from the staff over the weather tower and dipped three times. This was answered by a similar signal from the boat, whereupon the fact that human beings were aboard the boat was established.

Telephonic communication was at once established with the life-saving crew at Big Sandy Pond, and part of the corps, with a surf boat started immediately for this village. The sea was too high to justify the life-savers in attempting the trip by water; hence the journey over land. All the morning the sea was very high and no one here dared venture out to save the marooned crew.

About two o'clock in the afternoon, before the life-savers arrived, the sea and wind having quieted down slightly, the Dibble brothers, in their sail boat, left this port and fought the angry waves in a successful effort to reach Bull Rock. The eight persons aboard the schooner were taken into the Dibble boat, and then began the battle to reach the shore. The approach of the little sailing craft with its ten passengers was watched by a large crowd of people here, who gathered at the wharf and cheered an enthusiastic welcome. The Dibble boys, for their heroism, were accorded much praise by Capt. Simmons and by all who witnessed the daring trip that seemed almost certain destruction for the craft.

The Acacia is rapidly going to pieces and to save it or any part now seems out of the question.

The crew consisted of Capt. Simmons, his wife and two small grand-children, James Smith, the first mate, Arthur West, Robert Watt and Jeannette Porter, the cook.

Incidents of the Day - Swift's wharf: steamer Caspian down and up today; steamer Aletha from bay points.

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9 Jul 1908
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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), 9 Jul 1908