The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Picton Gazette (Picton, ON), 8 Sep 1921

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One of the worst lake tragedies which has occurred for many years, was the sinking of the schooner Oliver Mowat on Thursday night last, after being rammed by the large steam freighter, Key West, just off Main Ducks. The Oliver Mowat sank in a few minutes taking with her to their death, Captain Thomas Lake Van Dusen, mate Jacob Corby of Deseronto and the cook who resided at Niagara Falls.

Captain VanDusen's death came as a great shock to his many friends in Picton. He has sailed out of Picton for many years and was well known and a capable and careful mariner. Last year he was in command of the Bertie Calkins, and for many years past has been master of schooners carrying coal into Picton and bay ports. How the collision came to occur was a mystery. The night was clear and the schooner showed the usual lights.

The schooner left Picton on Thursday afternoon, bound light for Oswego, for a cargo of coal. Shortly before 11 o'clock that night, as the vessel was off the Main Ducks in Lake Ontario, a freighter was seen approaching from the east. The night was clear, and the barge continued on its course, although a signal was flashed by the schooner to give warning of her position. The barge came ahead and struck the Oliver Mowat amidships, plowing her way half through the schooner.

The Key West did not back out, but an effort was made to keep the schooner afloat. In a few minutes however, the schooner had settled so badly that it was about to sink, and the Key West withdrew, taking out the survivors.

Captain Van Dusen and the mate made an effort to save the cook, who was in bed at the time of the collision, and kept shouting for help, but they were unable to reach her, the vessel settling so rapidly. The men then made an effort to save themselves, but were apparently carried down by the suction as the Oliver Mowat went down.

The captain was seen in the water just before the boat sank.

Two of the crew were saved, John Minaker of Picton and George Keegan of Belleville.

Minaker had got into a life preserver, and Keegan was without one. The former threw a plank to Keegan. These men were rescued by the Key West. The crew of the barge had lowered a boat in an effort to effect a rescue, but no trace of the others could be found. The barge remained on the scene until all hope was abandoned for the safety of the missing. She then proceeded west to Port Dalhousie, carrying with her the two survivors of the tragedy.

Captain Wattles of Montreal was in command of the Key West. The Oliver Mowat was a three master and usually carried about 550 tons of coal.

Captain Van Dusen had a comfortable home on Queen St., and is survived by his wife and five sons, Malcolm, Ralph and Edward of Chicago, Howard employed in the T. Eaton Co. Ltd., Toronto, and Leo, who has been sailing with his father most of the summer, at home.

The bodies of those drowned have not yet been recovered and an inquiry will be held at Montreal to establish the cause of the accident.

The Oliver Mowat was owned by Capt. Van Dusen and R.G.K. Hepburn. She was uninsured.

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8 Sep 1921
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.00012 Longitude: -77.13275
Rick Neilson
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pd [more details]
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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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Picton Gazette (Picton, ON), 8 Sep 1921