Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Terrible Collision!!!
Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), 11 Jun 1847, p. 2
Full Text
Terrible Collision!!!
Steamer Chesapeake and Schr. Porter Sunk.
Several Lives Lost.

We are indebted to the Captain, Clerk, and Steward of the Chesapeake for the following particulars of this horrible affair:--

The Chesapeake and constellation were coming up from Buffalo, and about 12 Wednesday night, and when off Conneaut, the Schr. Porter, bound down, took a sheer to escape the Constellation and came in contact with the Chesapeake. It is said, her wheelsman after escapting the Constellation was ordered to make the Chesapeake light in her fore rigging, and as the latter made off, she followed up until the engine of the steamer was stopped and water backed, but the speed of the schooner soon overtook her,and struck her on the larboard bow. At the instant of the collision, the hands of the Porter sprang aboard the steamer, and the vessel continued its course out into the lake. Capt. Warner, thinking that neighter vessel was much injured, put about for the Porter, in order to return her crew, but as he neared her, he saw she was sinking, and by the time the small boat was lowered, she had disappeared,

At this moment the Captain was informed the Steamer was leaking. All hands were called to the pumps, the water gained and the passengers were set to bailing. The firemen were driven from the hold by the rush of water she was making. The Captain had ordered her to be run ashore, and she was accordingly headed to, but before proceeding far the water had put out her fires, and the engine stopped. Her anchor was then let go to maintain her position, as the wind was blowing fresh from shore. From this time, to the moment of her going down, was occupied in preparing floats to get ashore.

The Captain advised all to stick by the wreck, but some notwithstanding left, and nothing as yet has been heard from them; among whom was the Chief Engineer. After about half an hour she went down head foremost in seven fathoms, her upper deck rising with the water.-- On this the passengers that remained held fast. The Captain describes the scene her as awful -- such shrieks, he says, he never wishes to hear again. At this critical juncture the Harrison hove in view and passed them, not hearing their cries for help. She put into Conneaut about 1 1/2 miles distance from the wreck, and there was informed by the Clerk, who, with about fourteen others had made shore in the small boat, that her assistance was needed. She immediately put for the wreck, and rescued all on board.

Of those known to be drowned are the following of the passengers: [ ] ren, Sandusky; E. Cone, Bellville, O.,; S. York, Tiffin, O. Of the crew, R. Southerland, Chief Engineer; Orson Ware, 2d Porter; R. McNab, Deck hand.

There has, no doubt, been a fearful loss of life, and much property. The Clerk's books and about $8000 dollars in money, the property of private individuals entrusted to his charge, went down with the boat. Not even a passenger's trunk was saved. The Porter was loaded with 6000 bushels corn, and 70 bbls. Pork. Vessel and cargo insured.

Incidents of the Wreck.

While the Chesapeake was lying at anchor, and for about one half hour before she went down, few can imagine the terrible scene on board. The wind was blowing fresh from shore, forbidding all hope to those who would seek land on floats. Many dare not stay on board, not knowing the depth below them, and fearing when the steamer sunk they would be swallowed in the whirlpool she would make. Death seemed inevitable, and the only alternative left them was to drown with the wreck, or in a vain effort to reach shore. In this dilemma, with the boat fast sinking under them, the excitement is described as terrific. The bell was kept ringing and lights burning for signals. The passengers were counseling and cheering one another, and preparing whatever they could on which to float. The Captain was cooly advising the passengers that their only hope was with the wreck. He assisted his wife and another lady to climb the mast, and fixed them upon the cross trees. Mr. LYTLE, stewart of the boat, was very active and self-possessed, helping such as wanted help to his own imminent danger. At length he bow began to fall, and the cry was heard "she's going!" One loud, long and unearthly shriek arose simultaneously from the despairing multitude, such as the survivors say is still ringing in their ears, and such as they never wish to hear again. She sunk in seven fathoms water, about 1 1/2 miles from shore. Her upper deck broke loose from the boat, and floated upon the water, kept stationary by hanging and being lashed to the mast. But many had taken to their floats, some on settees, planks, cabin doors, tables, &c &c, and were floating about. One man was seen to capsize his plank, and the last seen of him, he was the under side of it, his fingers only visible, holding on with a death grasp.

A gentleman and his wife were seen on a small float, sometimes sinking and then rising to the surface. The lady not having presence of mind enough to guard against inhaling water when she went down, soon became strangled, exhausted, and died beside her husband.

Mr. Van Doren, a merchant of Lower Sandusky, with four others, made them a raft of several pieces, which soon went apart, and he sank to rise no more.

The most touching incident was the case of Daniel Folsom, his wife and child. When the engine ceased to work, the yawl boat was manned and sent ashore in charge of Mr. Shepard, the Clerk. Ten men were put on board and four women. Among the latter was Mrs. Folsom. She at first refused to go without her husband. He knew it was no time to debate such a question, and instantly resorted to the only argument that could prevail, by seizing her child and putting it aboard when she immediately followed, and the husband took an affectionate leave of her at the gang way as the boat departed. He afterwards joined a friend in making a raft, on which they floated for some time, but supposing they could do better by separating, he took his plank along and has not since been heard of. His friend was saved.

The Chesapeake was struck by the schooner about 1/4 to 12 o'clock. She went down about 1/2 past two. While on the bottom, and her passengers and crew hanging to the wreck, and floating about amid darkness and a strong sea, the steamboat Harrison hove in sight from Buffalo. She was hailed by every one on board, shouting simultaneously. The winds being high floated away the sound. The ladies then proposed to try their shrill voices alone. They sent forth a shriek both loud and shrill, but could not penetrate the sulky midnight air, nor be heard above the noise of the tempest. The Harrison pursued its course into harbor, unconscious of danger around. By this time the clerk and his boat load had reached shore. They had been carried down below the pier some distance for want of oars to row the boat, which had been forgotten. He ran up the beach to the pier just as the Harrison was making fast. She put about immediately, and reached the wreck in a very few minutes. She took all aboard that remained and went to picking up those afloat. It was now about daylight, and objects began to be visible at some distance. The lake was strewn with fragments of the wreck, and passengers were floating in every direction. Some were picked up five miels from where the boat went down.-- After cruising around until about 9 A. M., the Harrison left, satisfied that all who had survived had been rescued. The last one found was the bar tender, Henry Haas, he was siting upright on one of the hatches, had been afloat about five hours, and was so stiffened as to be perfectly helpless. My Lytle was picked up by a yawl boat from land, after floating about on a state room door some 2 1/2 hours, and was quite exhausted.

Mrs. P. S. Marsh, of Buffalo, had two children and a servant girl on board. With true maternal affection, she lashed one of her children to herself and the other to her servant, and refused to be put on board the Harrison, except as she had bound her little family together. One gentleman threw away his pocket book with $3000 in it, thinking it better to let it swim ashore than to sink with him. The Captain picked it up, and after the rescue restored it to its frightened owner. All speak well of the remarkable coolness of Capt. Warner, and the attention and kindness of his crew, especially Mr. Lytle and the 2d Mate. All was done by them that could be, and no blame, we believe, is attached to any one on board.

We are indebted to N. B. Seymour, 2d Clerk, for many of the above facts. Mr. S. was the first to descend the hold and report the leak to the Captain. He rendered essential service to the passengers throughout that perilous night.

As near as can be ascertained there were 57 passengers saved. The whole number on board cannot be known, as the Clerk's books were lost.

Item Type
Date of Publication
11 Jun 1847
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ohio, United States
    Latitude: 42.005936370296 Longitude: -80.6289410058594
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Terrible Collision!!!