Terrific Storm of November, 1835. -- The season of 1835, wound up with one of the most terrific gales that ever visited the lake region, and, in proportion to the number of vessels employed, caused a greater destruction of life and property than ever before. It occurred November 11. The wind was west-southwest and, it is said, announced its approach like the sound of an immense train of cars. At Buffalo the creek rose to a height of 20 feet, floating steamers and vessels into some of the main streets, crushing canal boats under bridges, while on the west side of the harbor dwellings were swept away and the occupants drowned.
A vessel called the Free Trader, with 13 passengers on board beside the crew, took her departure from Fort Burwell, Canada, for Cleveland, and was struck by the gale and twice capsized, righting each time. After the storm she was discovered drifting off Dunkirk, and was taken into that port with one sailor still alive and clinging to the tiller. Among the passengers was Mr. Richardson, owner of the cargo.
The schooner Comet, of Buffalo, left Madison dock, below Fairport, with fifteen tons of iron and five tons of ashes. The crew consisted of six sailors, and there was one passenger. She is supposed to have foundered off Dunkirk as two topmasts were afterward seen in that locality, and several articles, recognized as belonging to them, floated ashore.
The steamboat North America was driven on the beach at Erie. She was commanded by Capt. G. Appleby. The steamers Sandusky, Henry Clay and Sheldon Thompson were floated on the bank in Buffalo harbor and seriously damaged. The North America, prior to going ashore, had let go her anchors and attempted to ride out the gale at Erie, but the wind, increasing in its fury, soon parted her cables, while the passengers and crew gave themselves up as lost, but it was suggested to scuttle the boat to prevent her jumping over the pier, and to this action the salvation of the boat may be ascribed. The schooner Two Brothers was landed on top of the Buffalo pier and became a total loss.
Vessels which were outside, as soon as the cyclone set in, tried to reach the nearest port, and when forced to Buffalo, on entering the harbor an immense amount of damage was done, as the creek at that time was crowded with vessels. Boats were run into and sunk, while the whole extent of the loss of life ranged far into the hundreds. Among the schooners ashore at Buffalo were the Tecumseh and the Col. Benton. The flood was the highest known since 1816 and the most destructive. Wharves and piers at various lake ports were demolished, and scarcely a vestige left. At Portland harbor two persons were drowned from the pier on account of the sudden approach of high water. The schooner Godolphin, freighted with salt, was wrecked at Fairport and crew lost.
The schooner Lagrange, a fine vessel, commanded by Captain Chanchois, with a full cargo of merchandise from Buffalo for Detroit, was capsized near Point Pelee and sunk about seven miles from shore. All perished except a man and boy, who were taken off the mast next morning, nearly frozen to death. The vessel was never recovered.
The storm on Lake Ontario was very severe, and the casualties large. On that lake the schooner Robert Bruce, which left Kingston, Canada, for some port up the Bay of Quinte, in ballast, was wrecked and all on board were lost. The wreck, after the storm, drifted ashore on Henderson Point, and the coat of a passenger, Elias Everett, was found hanging to a nail, and his wallet, containing $719, was recovered. The schooner Medora, owned in Oswego, from up the lake, laden with wheat and walnuts, went ashore at the mouth of Big Sandy creek, and all hands were lost.
Among the vessels lost on Lake Michigan during that storm were the schooners Chance, Bridget, Sloan and Delaware. On the Chance seven lives were lost; on the Bridget, 16; on the Sloan, six. The Bridget was wrecked near St. Joseph.
Schoolcraft bears testimony to the skill of the old-time captain during this storm. He embarked November 2, 1835, at Mackinac for Detroit, "on board a schooner under command of an experienced navi- gator (Captain Ward) just on the eve, unknown to us, of a great tempest, which rendered that season memorable in the history of wrecks on the Great Lakes. We had scarcely well cleared the lighthouse, when the wind increased to a gale. We soon went on furiously. Sails were reefed and every preparation made to keep on our way, but the wind did not admit of it. The captain made every effort to hug the shore, and finally came to anchor in great peril, under the highlands of Sauble. Here we pitched terribly, and were momently in peril of being cast on shore. In the effort to work the ship, one of the men fell from the bowsprit, passed under the vessel and was lost. It was thought that our poor little craft must go to the bottom, but owing to the skill of the old lake mariner we eventually triumphed. He never faltered in the darkest exigency. For a day and night he struggled against the elements, and finally entered the strait at Fort Gratiot, and he brought us safely into the port of our destination."
Other Events of 1835 -- On July 21, 1835, at a meeting of the directors of the Grand River Navigation Company, it was ordered that the first steamboat of not less than 15-horse power that should ply on the Grand river from Dunnville to the head of navigation when opened, should be allowed to pass toll free through the locks of this canal as long as she should ply thereon. The steamboat Commodore Perry exploded twice at Buffalo and on Lake Erie, killing six persons. Business gradually increased, emigration continued to assume a lively aspect, moving to the Far West, while sail vessels as well as steamers carried a fair share of that class of travelers. Five steamers were added to the lake tonnage. January: Steamboat Daniel Webster damaged by fire to the extent of $8,000, at Buffalo; owned by Pratt, Taylor & Co. March: Steamboat General Porter sunk at Black Rock. April: Navigation opened between Detroit and Cleveland. April 1: schooner Agnes Barton launched at Buffalo, 110 tons burden, owned by J. L. Barton: schooner La Porte launched at Buffalo, 150 tons burden, owned by A. Eaton: steamboat Susquehannah launched at Oswego: steamboat Great Britain driven ashore near Toronto during a storm. June: Steamer Wm. Peacock ashore during a severe gale near Dunkirk: steamboat Commodore Perry disabled by explosion of steam pipes near Buffalo. September: Steamboat Commodore Perry disabled by bursting her boiler near Detroit, taken in tow by steamboat Daniel Webster; five lives lost: steamboat Michigan stranded at mouth of Detroit river, released; sloop Express, Capt. Wm. Cornwall, wrecked at Dunkirk during a severe gale. November: Steamboat Columbus, Captain Walker, ashore near Erie: steamboat Daniel Webster damaged by collision with piers at Grand River.
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Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.