Ice Jam at Buffalo. - The elements were terribly destructive to life and property, commencing in the month of March, before the opening of navigation; an ice blockade in Buffalo harbor, March 14, was without a precedent in lake annals. During this ice jam at Buffalo the Chatauque, Rochester, St. Louis; brigs Empire, Toledo, Maryland, Illinois, Hoosier, Osceola, Globe and Toledo; and schooners Marengo, Woodbridge, Kinnie, Convoy, G.H. McWorter, H. Colvin, Barcelonia, Dayton, Jane Louisa, Rainbow, Superior, Dolphin and Velocity sustained serious injuries. The schooners Avenger, Milan, United States, Emlin, Baltic, Daniel Webster, Vermont, Adair, Huron and Stranger were damaged; steamer Dole sunk.
Thrilling Rescue of the Helen Strong's Passengers. - The loss of the steamer Helen Strong, a boat in her second year, was a most thrilling event. She left Buffalo for Toledo, November 20, about noon, with a large number of passengers and a heavy freight of merchandise, mostly for Erie. When in sight of that port she was struck by a heavy beam sea, which parted her rudder chain. The after cabin was being cut away in order to ship a tiller, when one of her steam pipes burst, and let all her steam escape, but no one was injured by the explosion. Her anchor was dropped, to which she swung for half an hour, when the chain parted, and at about 10 o'clock at night she struck a rocky shore which arose perpendicularly some 30 feet above her hurrican(sic) deck. After striking two or three times she broke in two places, and settling in the sand, remained stationary under the cliff. The first sea that struck her after she settled, carried away the whole weather- side of her cabins, making a clean breach through and through her. Every light had been extinguished by the sea, and the night being very dark, no one, unassisted, could scale the cliff, and to remain on the wreck seemed quite impossible. At this critical moment it was ascertained that at the first time the boat struck the rock and when she was high upon the wave, one of the wheelsmen and the second engineer, Mr. Munson, with a small cord had made the fearful leap against the rock, and fortunately without knowing anything of the place and not able to see anything for the darkness, they caught the root of a tree that had run far below the surface, by the aid of which they scaled the heights. The wheelsman went immediately in search of help and lights, and the engineer dropped his rope on the deck of the wreck, directing it to be made fast to some light man. It was done, and the man from the top drew up the man from the wreck, and the two drew up the third, and so on until the 60 men, women and children were taken up. Many of the passengers, especially the women, were badly lacerated, by being hauled up so rapidly over those pointed crags. The rope was thrown down and no one seized it, and after frequent and loud calls from the people on the cliff, it was presumed that all were saved who were alive, but on visiting the wreck the next morning several were found alive and taken off. The number of passengers on the boat was not known, and of the dead bodies of those washed off the wreck none were ever found. One woman perished during the night, and was washed overboard. B. Joy, of Sylvania, was seriously injured by the breaking of the rope when being drawn up. His leg and collar bone were broken, but he fell on the deck and was again drawn up and saved. The cliff against which the boat struck was 50 feet high.
In the above fearful night the schooner Lexington, Captain Peer, cleared from the port of Cleveland for Port Huron, freighted with 110 barrels of whiskey, 53 tons of coal and two boilers. The schooner foundered in the vicinity of the islands, when portions of the wreck were discovered. The crew, including the captain, consisted of six persons, all of whom found watery graves.
A Memorable Storm. -- Among other disasters on the memorable November 19, 1846, were the following: Schooner Racine, in command of Captain Dorchester, and owned by T. Richmond & Co., ashore near Madison dock; insured for $7,500. Brig Osceola ashore and total wreck at Silver creek; four lives lost. Schooner Swan ashore near Barcelona. Schooner Harwich ashore near Barcelona. Sloop Bayona, of Conneaut, capsized off Barcelona; three lives lost. Steamer Indian Queen ashore near Silver creek. Schooners Pilot, Merrill, Vieau Savannah and Black Hawk ashore between Manitowoc and Twin Rivers. The Charles Howard, schooner United States, J.H. Lyon, of Toledo, Huron, of Cleveland, ashore, the Dayton, of Black River, sunk at Erie. Brig H.H. Sizer and schooner Alps ashore near Erie. Schooner Ainsworth, of Cleveland, wrecked at Oswego. Canadian schooner Grampas wrecked on Lake Ontario. Schooner Minerva ashore at Braddock's point. Schooner W.H. Merritt ashore near the Minerva. Schooner Western, in command of Captain Bassett, ashore on the bar at Irondequoit bay, Schooner Missouri ashore at Braddock's bay.
Wreck of the Schooner Lexington. -- The schooner Lexington, of Algonac, owned by and in command of Capt James L. Pier, left Cleveland November 17, for Port Huron. She was freighted with 110 barrels of whiskey, 53 tons of coal and two boilers. When off Huron, Ohio, she was met by the terrific gale of the 19th, and soon foundered, with all on board, numbering 13 persons, among whom were the captain's wife, and the mate, Will Landon, also of Algonac. When the wreck was discovered the masts were visible and the sails were still up.
How the Chesapeake Went Down. -- The steamer Chesapeake, while in command of Capt. N.H. Warner, collided with the schooner John A. Porter, Capt. John A. Thomas, one morning in June about half past twelve o'clock, some five miles off Conneaut, with the loss of about 13 lives. It was some two hours after the collision, when every possible effort had been put forth to pump her out, that she was brought to anchor, and gradually went down in 40 feet of water. The passengers numbered between 40 and 50, an unusual proportion being women and children. Captain Warner's wife managed to reach the mast- head, and remained there after the steamer sunk and until rescued by the Harrison. While the Chesapeake was lying at anchor, gradually sinking, and just before she went down, a gentleman sought his wife who was standing on the hurricane deck, and thus accosted her: "Well, wife," said he, "that long mooted question will very soon be settled with us." "What do you mean?" inquires the wife; "to what question do you refer?" "Why," he said, "the question whether that old Red Dragon had seven heads and ten horns, or ten heads and seven horns." " Oh, husband," responded the lady, "how can you jest at such a time as this?" In about ten minutes the boat went down, and as luck would have it, this jester was saved. He was the editor of the Cincinnati Sunday paper, and his name was G.W. Bradbury.
A touching incident was the death of Daniel A. Folsom. When the engineer ceased to work, the yawl boat was manned and sent ashore in charge of Mr. Shepherd, the clerk. Ten men were put on board and four women, among the latter being Mrs. Folsom. She at first refused to go without her husband. He knew it was no time to debate the question and seizing their child put it a board. She immediately followed, and the husband took an affectionate leave of her at the gang plank as the boat departed. He afterward 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 alone and was never heard of afterward; his friend was saved.
Other Events of 1846. -- There was one steamer less on the lower lakes by the removal of the steamer Julia Palmer to Lake Superior. She was hauled over the portage at the Sault in the fall of 1845, and in 1846 placed in command of Capt. Benj. A. Stanard. The Boston, a fine new steamer of 775 tons burden, built at Detroit, commenced plying early in 1846, in command of Capt. W. Tease, who had for several years been in the forwarding business at Detroit. The Boston, during a gale, was wrecked at Milwaukee in November, the same year she came out. From some cause much more than the usual sickness prevailed among seamen throughout the lake region, chiefly chill fever. The schooner General Houston arrived at Cleveland with the entire crew sick, and it was with great difficulty that the vessel was navigated into port. Another vessel's arrival was noted with five of the crew sick, two of them so badly that they had to be carried ashore for medical treatment. George Mills, in charge of the government dredge at St. Louis flats, registered the number of vessels passing both ways for the month of July, 1846, as follows: Steamboats, 71; propellers, 37; brigs, 59; schooners, 128, and coasters, 81; total for the month, 384. There were 31 of all classes grounded, and had to be lightered over. In the month of June a greater number passed over, and a greater number stranded than in the month of July. In the spring of 1845 Lake Superior was navigated by only three small schooners, which were reinforced this season by a steamboat, a propeller and ten schooners. The steamer General Scott, commanded by Capt. John Scott, early in the season burst her boiler, near Mackinaw, killing one man and badly scalding two others. The steamer Bunker Hill collided with the brig Fashion, on Lake Erie, near Fairport. The steamer towed the brig into that port in a sinking condition. The steamer had a hole stove in her bow, and a part of her larboard wheelhouse and a portion of her cabin carried away. The brig was freighted with 3,000 bushels of wheat besides a quantity of flour. In 1846 the Maid of the Mist was built in the eddy below Niagara Falls, just above the railroad suspension bridge. She was run up to the cataract, and was a success in every way but financially. In 1846 Chicago became a port of entry, having previous to that time been included in the collection district of Detroit. The sloop Brandywine capsized off Barcelona and was a total loss; three men perished. Steamboat Waterloo, Capt. Midmer, was wrecked in Georgian Bay. Steamboat Boston was wrecked at Milwaukee, a total loss. Steamboat Brothers sunk in the river Thames, below Chatham. The steamer John Owen, Capt. Ira Davis, was the first arrival at Buffalo in the spring of 1846, on April 4, followed soon after by the propeller Phoenix and steamers General Harrison and Ben Franklin. The steamer Lexington, Capt. G. Appleby, which left Buffalo on that date, was the first to arrive at Detroit. January 12: Steamer Helen Strong, in command of Captain Capron, arrives at Conneaut, the first arrival of the year on Lake Erie. April: Steamers Sovereign and Transit disabled by collision at Toronto; passengers taken from both boats by the Queen; 16, brig Virginia on a reef near Buffalo; 14, schooner Savannah ashore during a storm near Twin Rivers; brig Europe and schooner Wyandot collide at Silver Creek, by which the latter sustains serious injuries. May: Steamer Madison disabled on Lake Michigan; passengers transferred to the steamer Missouri. June: Schooner H. H. Sizer capsized east of Southport; several lives lost; survivors rescued by the schooner Knickerbocker. September: Steamer Oregon, owned by Mr. Phillips, of Buffalo, provided with two iron lifeboats, capable of holding 100 persons the first boats of the kind on the lake. Propeller Goliath wrecked off Black river; owned by M. Truesdell, of Detroit; loaded with 9,000 bushels of wheat and 1,000 barrels of flour, thus being the heaviest wreck of breadstuffs ever known on the lakes. Propellor California wrecked at Point Pelee; released September 23 by steamer Dewitt Clinton. October: Schooner Mary Elizabeth wrecked, bound from Green Bay to Cleveland. 19, Schooner Ainsworth ashore at Ashtabula; Schooner Rainbow ashore at Erie; 22, brig Ellen Parker, with 14,000 bushels of wheat, and schooner Westchester, with 8,500 bushels of wheat, ashore near Buffalo; 20, schooner Malcolm sunk at the wharf at Oswego; November: Schooner Marshall Ney sunk in 20 feet of water at Cleveland by collision with the propeller Cleveland.
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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.