The Gale of April, 1848. - Soon after navigation was resumed one of the most violent northeast gales swept over the entire lake region, causing the destruction of half a million of property, beside numerous lives. The steamer Oregon, Captain Chapman, bound westward from Buffalo, when off Fairport, had both smokestacks swept overboard. Her anchor was let go with a full scope of chain, and while swinging to her anchor an immense sea boarded her and swept her cabin from the main deck, baggage rooms and baggage, all on board having previously fled to the upper cabins. In this dilemma she dragged until the day following, when off Cleveland, the steamer Diamond went to her rescue and towed her into that port. The storm set in April 18, and came more in the shape of a cyclone, and gradually settled into a gale of two days' duration.
The steamer Niagara, on Lake Ontario, belonging to the Ogdensburg line, was driven ashore at the mouth of the Genesee river and was wrecked. Five vessels went ashore at Sandusky peninsula, and, in short, wrecks were scattered promiscuously on all the lakes. The brig General Worth, built by Mr. Treat, had just been launched the day previous at Euclid, below Cleveland, met the full force of the storm, but was by superhuman efforts protected and saved from destruction.
Explosion of the Goliah. - The saddest of the season's casualties was the destruction of the propeller Goliah, by fire and explosion, on Lake Huron, with the loss of 18 lives. The Goliah left St. Clair river September 13, with a very heavy cargo, consisting in part of 200 kegs of powder, 20,000 bricks, 30,000 feet of lumber, 40 tons of hay, and about 2,000 barrels of provisions and merchandise, destined for the Lake Superior mining companies. On Thursday morning, soon after daylight, she was seen about eight miles from shore, with her mast and smokestack overboard, the wind blowing southeast by east, and the steamer drifting toward shore. It was evident, from the large volume of smoke that issued on her that she was on fire. She drifted to within 10 miles of the shore, the surf being very high and the wind subsiding. About 9 A.M. the wind shifted to southwest, and the burning hull receded from the shore, and when about three miles out exploded with a tremendous noise, throwing fire and fragments to a great height. Efforts were made by a Mr. Whitcomb and others to launch a boat, with a view of rendering assistance, but the heavy breakers prevented getting a boat beyond the surf. It was ascertained that about 18 persons were on board; Captain Cottrell, Captain Beckley and Lieutenant Schwartz were of the number. There were not less than 15 persons on shore who saw the burning and explosion of the propeller. The schooner Spartan, Captain Fuller, left the St. Clair river three hours behind the Goliah, and after several hours' sail, saw, heard and distinctly felt the explosion, though many miles distant.
The charred upperworks of the ill-fated craft were discovered at Pine Point, above Goderich, the mast coming ashore at Kincardine. Among the articles that came on shore were two or three hundred barrels of flour and corn meal. No bodies were ever found.
Chicago's First Locomotive. - The first locomotive at Chicago, the "Pioneer," used on the Chicago & Galena road, afterwards the North- western, arrived in Chicago from Buffalo October 10, 1848, on the brig Buffalo.
Niagara Falls Dried Up. - The winter of 1847-48 had been an exceptionally severe one, and ice of unusual thickness had formed on Lake Erie. The warm spring rains loosened this congealed mass, and March 29, 1848, a brisk east wind drove the ice far up into the lake. About sunset the wind suddenly veered round and blew a heavy gale from west. This naturally turned the ice in its course, and, bringing it down to the mouth of the Niagara river, piled it up in a solid, impenetrable wall.
So closely was it packed and so great was its force, that in a short time the outlet to the lake was completely choked up, and little or no water could possibly escape. In a very short space of time the water below this frozen barrier passed over the Falls, and the next morning the people living in the neighborhood were treated to a most extraordinary spectacle. The roaring, tumbling rapids above the Falls were almost obliterated, and nothing but the cold, black rocks were visible in all directions. The news quickly spread, and crowds of spectators flocked to view the scene, the banks on each side of the river being lined with people during the whole day. At last there was a break in the ice. It was released from its restraint, the pent-up wall of water rushed downward, and Niagara was itself again.
The following craft also passed out of time during the navigation of 1848: Steamer Columbus wrecked on Dunkirk pier; steamer Kingston wrecked in St. Lawrence river; propeller Goliah exploded on Lake Huron, 18 lives lost; barque Eleanora wrecked at Hamilton; bark Buffalo wrecked on Manitou island; brig Empire sunk by collision in Lake Erie; brig Iowa wrecked on Point Albino, Lake Erie; schooner Josephine wrecked at Dunkirk; schooner Tribune foundered in Lake Michigan, 10 lives lost; schooner J. Y. Scammon wrecked near Calumut, 2 lives lost; schooner Eagle capsized on Lake Michigan, all lost, 7 lives; schooner Pilgrim wrecked at Port Maitland, Lake Erie; schooner Gallinipper capsized on Lake Michigan, crew saved; schooner Jessie wrecked on Long Point, Lake Erie; schooner Essex wrecked on Bass island, Lake Erie; schooner Constitution wrecked on Long Point, Lake Erie; schooner Ellen wrecked at Wellington, Lake Ontario, 8 lives lost; schooner Jessie Smith wrecked on Lake Michigan; schooner Uncle Tom wrecked on Long point, Lake Erie; schooner "76" wrecked on Lake Michigan; schooner Robinson wrecked on Presque Isle, Lake Ontario; schooner Oneida wrecked on Lake Michigan, near Chicago, schooner Martha Freeme wrecked at Port Burwell; schooner Ottawa wrecked near Port Stanley; scow Rainbow wrecked near Barcelona.
Return to Home Port
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.