Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Ripples Over the "Nellie Sherwood": Schooner Days CCCLV (355)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 23 Jul 1938
Full Text
Ripples Over the "Nellie Sherwood"
Schooner Days CCCLV (355)


"Yes INDEED, I remember the Nellie Sherwood," said Robert Lymburner of Owen Sound to The Telegram, when Schooner Days recalled the sinking of that little vessel in Georgian Bay in September, 1882. "I am seventy-five now and I was nineteen when she came to Georgian Bay from Lake Ontario, but I have a very clear recollection of incidents regarding her entrance and her speedy and tragic exit.

"She carried the first two loads of lumber we ever shipped from our small water-power mill just inside of Cabot's Head in Dyer's Bay, in the Bruce Peninsula. They were the last Capt. Blanchard delivered, I think. We were pleased with our dealings with Capt. Blanchard. When we praised him for making his quick return for the second cargo of lumber from us he said so modestly, 'You know, Mr. Pearson's schooner always has a fair wind.' "The 'fair wind,' of course, is the sailor's delight, any wind that permits his vessel to go straight to her destination without tacking. It was like Capt. Blanchard to give the credit for promptness to the new owner of the Nellie Sherwood, Mr. John Pearson of Owen Sound, instead of taking it all himself.

"The first trip the Nellie Sherwood made from our mill I think the mate's name was McVicar. He must have left her before she sailed on that fatal voyage for Algoma Mills. Another who escaped going down with her was a sailor named Tulloch. He was with Capt. Blanchard on the second trip to our mill, and as he had a sister living within three miles of us he wanted to leave the vessel and go and visit her. But as our plant and wharf were on an exposed shore, four or five miles from where the schooner afterwards went down, Capt. Blanchard could not allow anyone to leave the vessel in case he had to cast off and get out in a hurry, owing to a shift of wind. This made Tulloch sore, and he told us he was going to quit the ship altogether. Possibly he did so at the end of this particular voyage, for his name does not appear in the list of those lost.

"It was from our mill that the last glimpse was had of the Nellie Sherwood that morning when she perished with all hands. It could not have been from the lighthouse on Cabot's Head, as has been said, for there was no light there until fifteen years later, in '96 or '97, and this of course was that dreadful morning of the 14th of September, 1882, when the Asia was also lost.

"We saw the little two-masted schooner passing towards Cabot's Head, at a distance of four or five miles. She was so far off that it was hard to identify her, but we knew the Nellie Sherwood pretty well by this time, and guessed it might be she, and the later news showed us that our guess was all too accurate.

"Just after we sighted the schooner a terrible northwest squall swooped down. It lifted the water into the air from the sheltered shore, it drove the rain all through the mill, and it hurled the top of a long pile of slabs into the bay. We thought of the poor little schooner, and when it cleared she was nowhere to be seen.

"Until we read the account in The Telegram lately, which quoted Capt. George Blanchard, one of the surviving sons of the Nellie Sherwood's captain, we of the mill in Dyer's Bay had always supposed that the brave father had been lost with both his boys, for there had been two with him when he was trading to our mill.

"The two little fellows were nimble as squirrels and they performed their stunts of climbing aloft for our edification. The younger one, who later became a captain himself, had gone home to go back to school in Toronto, we have learned. The older boy, Willie, whose body drifted to Griffiths Island, was lashed to some timber, no doubt by his father. The captain must have known that it would be impossible for his son to survive, or be picked up alive in that raging sea so far from shore, but his last thoughts I were probably to give his widowed and bereaved wife at least the comfort of knowing what had become of their first-born.

"The poor, battered body floated by its piece of wreckage, was picked up by Garret Patterson, keeper then of the Griffith's Island light, and grandfather of our North Gray member of Parliament. He carried it to the village of Big Bay, where I some of our mill hands lived. One of them recognized the boy by the particular braces he was wearing, for he had noticed them when the two youngsters were climbing aloft."

Another ripple from the long ago sinking of the Nellie Sherwood was with their father. They were daughters of the late Capt. Corson, who commanded the schooner before Capt. Blanchard took her to Georgian Bay.

And another ripple was added by the hale and alert Bobby Dale of Brighton, who began his sailing seventy years ago. He knew the Nellie Sherwood well, for she traded out of Brighton, and was named or renamed after a Brighton girl, now an old lady, living in the West; and he said that Tommy Uglow of Port Hope was one of those lost in her, although his name does not appear in the crew list.

Capt. Jas. McCannel of Port McNicoll also contributed to the record. He said that the schooner A. G. Morey, which reported seeing the Nellie Sherwood go down, and tried to rescue her crew, did not run for Collingwood that day of the great gale, but ran all the way to Midland. She was an old vessel herself, larger than the Sherwood, but perhaps not full canal size; black, three-masted, with a squaresail yard on j the foremast.

Switching to something less tragic, Capt. McCannel continued:

"'Crogie was another old timer, Capt. John Isbester by rights, the nickname being a shortening of Crojic Jack. Crogie, as all the salt watermen will tell you, is a corruption of cross-jack, the mizzen-course, or lowest square sail on the mizzen mast of a square rigger. Crogie came from the Orkneys, where square riggers abounded in the old days of the Greenland whale fishery. He was a heavy man, over six feet tall, and both his eyes had a slant that you never could tell where he was looking or what course he was steering—but he was a smart vessel man.

"One time I was in Buffalo and Crogie was there too in the large schooner F. L. Danforth, later towed by the Erin, when the famous "Cap" Sullivan was in his glory. Both steamer and tow then blazed in bright green paint. At the time I speak of the Danforth was unloading near the foot of Main street with other schooners.

"Capt. Fred Houghton, of the J.I. Case, loftiest three-master I can remember, and Capt. Leith of the Lizzie A. Law, put up a job on Crogie. They went to the shipping office and picked out the hardest-looking woman cook Buffalo could produce - and believe me Buffalo had some Cleopatras in those days. They told her to go to the Danforth and take charge, that the mate was en board, a big fellow with a squint, but to take no notice of him, and particularly no orders, for his place was on deck, and hers in the galley. She, thinking one was the Danforth's captain and the other the owner, sailed on board the Danforth with flying colors and strode into the cabin with her valise.

" 'And what would ye be wanting here, ma'am?' asked Capt. Isbester, politely strolling in after her.

" 'An' what bizniss is ut o' yours, ye squint-eyed lumberin' omadhaun of an Orkneyman?" demanded Bridget. "Git to yer fo'c'sle head where ye belong or I'll bash yer mug with a skillet till the Old Man'll have to say yer prayers for ye!'

"With that the fat was in the fire and half the Buffalo police force was needed to clear the decks of the Danforth. Fred Houghton and Jack Leith were exceedingly scarce around the shipping office ever afterwards."



THE F. L. DANFORTH AFTER SHE HAD BEEN CUT DOWN TO BARGE RIG. The DANFORTH is the vessel to the left. Near her is the steam barge Erin, which towed her. The long steamer in the foreground is the ROSEDALE of Toronto.

Snider, C. H. J.
Item Type
Date of Publication
23 Jul 1938
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 46.18476 Longitude: -82.81656
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 45.16306 Longitude: -81.33889
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.845277 Longitude: -80.905277
Richard Palmer
Copyright Statement
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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Ripples Over the "Nellie Sherwood": Schooner Days CCCLV (355)