Disaster in Mexico Bay
The Brig J.S. Harvey Wrecked - The Captain Frozen to Death - The Crew Rescued From A Perilous Condition
Thursday, Dec. 15, 1864
On Wednesday and Thursday of last week a most furious gale prevailed on the Lake. The brig J.S. Harvey, of Chicago, shortly after clearing the Welland canal, was caught in the storm on Wednesday, while sailing near the north shore of the lake, but was driven by the wind to this side. The cargo was consigned to Ogdensburgh, but the captain and crew were unacquainted with this Lake, and concluded to make the port of Oswego.
It was impossible to get into that port, however, and the brig was seen to pass Oswego on Thursday at about 8 o'clock a.m. Near Smith's Landing an anchor was cast, but the cable parted, and the vessel continued down the lake, sometimes at anchor, weathering the gale until about 4 o'clock p.m., when she was driven ashore about one half a mile east of the mouth of Sage Creek. The cable was broken and she filled with water.
During the day the labors of the captain and crew had been of the most severe character, and they were nearly helpless from fatigue and exposure. The disaster occurred but a few rods from the shore, and was witnessed by the inhabitants living in the immediate vicinity, yet such was the fury of the storm that nothing could be done towards rescuing the unfortunate men from their perilous condition. The life boat had been carried away during the day, and to swim ashore was out of the question.
During the day Capt. Clark had lost his overcoat, and at night felt the cold more sensibly than the rest. His crew kept him walking, and used every effort to save him, but about 11 o'clock he died on the watery deck - chilled to death. His body was lashed to the mast, and as the waves had commenced rolling over the deck, the crew were driven to the rigging, where they were compelled to flee the gale all night. At 1 o'clock in the morning there were indications of a calm, and faint whispers of hope were uttered among the men in the rigging. But again it grew blacker, and the wind burst from the north with a tremendous roar, and the gale became a hurricane. To those shivering, exhausted men it was a night of terror and suffering.
In the meantime great efforts were being made by those on shore to save the crew. The nearest life boat was at Port Ontario - a distance of nearly four miles. This boat was brought to the wreck by land - a difficult task - and at about 4 o'clock a.m. eight benumbed forms were taken from the rigging and carried ashore. The men were taken to the houses in the vicinity, and every attention paid to their wants. The majority of them are doing well. The feet of three out of four are so badly frozen that amputation may become necessary. The cook - an old man - was badly chilled.
The vessel had a cargo of 12,000 bushels of wheat. On Sunday two tugs with canal boats in tow, from Oswego, tried to get her off, but failed in the attempt. About 3,000 bushels of damaged wheat and other property was saved. The vessel was owned by Hanson & Co., of Chicago, and will prove a total loss. The cargo only was insured.
The body of Capt. Clark was sent to Chicago for internment. This is the third time he has been wrecked on the lakes.
Later - Narrow Escape of the Tug Boats
The tug boats above mentioned were the Tornado and Lady Franklin, and after saving what property they could from the wreck, they started for Oswego at about 6 o'clock p.m., Sunday. A large number of people were on board of the tugs, and each had a canal boat in tow, loaded with wheat and other stuff from the wreck. In the vicinity of Nine Mile Point the gale increased in fury and the canal boats were set adrift. A blinding snow storm prevailed, and the condition of the tugs was perilous in the extreme. The Tornado finally got a glimpse of the bondage which had been built near the Fort, and reached Oswego about 11 o'clock. Capt. Tiffany, of the Lady Franklin, finding he could not make the harbor, went back and beached the Franklin near Nine Mile Point. All on board were saved and found shelter at a house in the vicinity. The upper works of the Franklin were badly injured.
We have since learned that one of the canal boats, on which were Captain Ward and two others, went ashore near Sandy Creek, and that the other boat went ashore between Sandy Creek and Port Ontario.