Old Settlers Club 1916
Papers from the Archives of the Old Settlers' Club of Milwaukee County
Published by the Club
A Sailor's Narrative
Condensed from Papers Read Before the Club by Captain William Callaway.
Source: Early Milwaukee, Papers from the Archives of the Old Settlers' Club of Milwaukee County, Published by the Club, 1916.
I was born at Portishead, England, near Bristol, on the banks of the Bristol Channel, and was attracted to the free life of the sea as far back as I can remember. My father was an officer in the British customs service, and three of my uncles were pilots on the Bristol Channel. While I am unable to vouch for the truth of the report, it was said that my great uncle, a certain Edward Callaway, piloted John Paul Jones into the Bristol Channel during the Revolutionary War at the point of a pistol. My father died when I was but ten years of age, and at fifteen I informed my mother that I was going to sea, threatening to run away unless she granted her permission.
I made my first voyage in the Spring of 1846 in the bark British Queen, bound from Bristol to Quebec, with railroad iron. She was a ship of perhaps five hundred tons register. The voyage out was uneventful until we reached the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where we got into a field of ice. After getting free from the ice we ran into a gale of wind blowing down the gulf, and were obliged to take a reef in our topsails. During a dark night we collided with another bark, and you may imagine with our cargo of iron most of us thought our chances of getting to Davy Jones' locker were pretty good. The two ships were thrown together by the sea, and we broke our studding-sail booms; the yard-arms came tumbling down about us, and our shrouds on the port side were carried away. During the excitement which prevailed at the time, I jumped on the rail to get aboard the other vessel. A big sailor caught me by the seat of my pants and threw me back on deck. We got clear of the other vessel finally, without further damage, and were one man ahead; for while we were rolling together one of the men from the other ship got hold of our ropes by mistake and was drawn aboard.
We reached Quebec in about eight or ten days, and found the ship we had collided with ahead of us. One of their boats came alongside, and their men were overjoyed to find their shipmate in safety. We were in Quebec about three weeks. Our cargo was unloaded into barges to go up the river, and we loaded timber to take back. After leaving Quebec, we had a safe passage home, but at the end of the voyage I had an accident which nearly finished me. I fell eighteen feet into the hold of the ship, and was picked up for dead, but recovered in a few days. It was rather a strange coincidence, as my father met his death by falling in the hold of a ship at the same dock. I made several trips to Quebec after this one, but will go on now to my trip around the world.
In the early 50's I shipped from Bristol on a little bark called the Kyle, bound for Melbourne, Australia. She was of five hundred tons burden and carried a crew of twenty men. We had on board 120 passengers, most of them bound for the gold diggings, discovered about this time, and two stowaways who were found after we had got out to sea. There was the usual ceremony of receiving a visit from Neptune when we reached the equator. After crossing the equator we ran into St. Paul's Island. The ship was then put in course, running down the southeast trade winds. Our supply of drinking water got so bad at this time we were compelled to hold our noses when drinking it, so our captain concluded to run to the island of Tristan Da Cunha, south of Cape Good Hope, for fresh water. When we neared the island the wind was blowing a gale, so we had to put off for Cape Good Hope. I was taken ill at this time with a serious fever, and had to have my head shaved.
We ran into Table Bay at Cape Good Hope and took on fresh water. The first land we sighted after leaving the Cape was St. Paul's Island and Amsterdam Island, both of them very small apparently about ten miles long and I do not think they were inhabited at this time, as I saw no houses or smoke. The food we had to live on was sufficient warrant against dyspepsia. On Monday we had pork and pea soup for dinner; Tuesday, salt beef and rice; Wednesday, salt pork; Thursday, salt beef and duff; Friday, pork and pea soup; Saturday, salt beef and rice; Sunday, salt beef and duff. We also had all the sea biscuits we wanted. When we were in the tropics maggots got into the biscuits, and we were obliged to break them over our knees and shake out the maggots before eating. We were served with tea and coffee as long as the supply lasted, and got lime juice every day as a preventive of scurvy. Our food was brought to us by the boys whose duty was also to keep the forecastle clean. We did not have table linen and silver knives and forks. Each man had his pannikin, tin plate, tin spoon and knife and fork. The food was brought down to us in kids, and each man helped himself, our forecastle floor answering for table and tablecloth.
On our ship "Grog-0 !" was always called when we got through shortening sails. The next land we made after Amsterdam Island was Cape Leeuwin, Australia. A few days later we made Melbourne Heads, and then dropped anchor in the bay. There were no docks for ships to go alongside of and not enough water in the river for large ships to go up, so we were obliged to unload our cargo into lighters. The people were coming to Melbourne so fast there was not room enough in the town. Tents were pitched on the hill across from the city and the hill called Canvastown. The town had its liquor stores, butcher shops and stores of every description. It was a grand sight on a sunny day to see Melbourne on the one side and Canvastown with its sea of white tents on the other. Our crew got the gold fever, and all but the carpenter and myself ran away. Run-away sailors were arrested when caught. There were so many miscreants there was not enough room for them in the prisons, so the authorities bought a ship called the Deborah and anchored it in the bay for a sailors' prison. It was the custom to shave the heads of the prisoners, and I had a rather unpleasant experience one day while in a butcher shop. A man greeted me and offered to shake hands, and when I said I did not know him, he said: "Of course you do; you were in the Deborah when I was there." My hair was still short, and I suppose this accounted for the mistake.
We shipped a new crew at Melbourne and went to New Castle, about ninety miles. north of Sydney, on the river Hunter. There was only one small mine there at the time, but I understand now they are shipping coal from there to San Francisco. The mine had a capacity of only 600 tons per month, and as there were ships ahead of us we had to wait six months for a cargo. All hands but the carpenter and myself were discharged, and I acted as cook and steward. We lay across the river opposite the little town, and there was a tribe of natives close by. Whenever the carpenter or myself wanted amusement we would give the chief and one of his head men a few glasses of grog and have them get the tribe to dance. When I visited the town I would tie the boat at the dock, and when, I came back it would be filled with natives waiting to cross with me. I al-ways made them welcome.
I made three trips to New Castle. On the last trip we got into a hurricane, or southerly buster, as they call it there. The canvas was blown away and we sprang a leak. When the gale was over we bent extra canvas which we had below and put into Sydney for repairs before going on to Melbourne. Sydney is the most beautiful harbor in the world. After leaving Sydney we encountered a strong head wind and ran into Botany Bay for shelter. The two years I had signed articles for were now up, and I got my discharge and sailed for home on the ship Seringapatam. Our homeward voyage was around Cape Horn. We arrived safely at Bristol, thus ending my voyage around the world.
My next trip was on the ship Petrel, bound with passengers for New York. While we were lying in New York harbor, two sailors from the Great Lakes who came aboard to spin yarns, told us what good things they had to eat on the lake vessels. They said they had ham and eggs for breakfast, two kinds of meat and pie or pudding for dinner, and hot biscuits and cake for supper. They also said that when they wanted a drink, all they had to do was drop a bucket overboard and draw it up full of fresh, cold water. I thought they were awful liars, but found when I came to the lakes, after making three more voyages from England to this country and Canada, that they were about right. I came to the Lakes in the year 1857, and started my career as a fresh-water sailor.
In the Spring of 1857 I had shipped from Bristol in the ship Jane, bound to Quebec with passengers. I worked my passage out, rather than follow the usual custom of securing a month's advance in wages when shipping and then running away after reaching this country. Nothing of interest occurred on my trip to Quebec, and we landed our full load of passengers in safety. I stayed with the ship and helped unload and reload with timber, and secured as much money that way as I would had I taken the month's advance and run away. I then went to Kingston and shipped on a vessel named the Liverpool, bound for the river St. Glair to load timber. I went across the river to the vessel in a boat, and was surprised when I got on board to see two horses secured forward. I was informed that they were used in loading timber and also that the vessel steered so wildly when loaded that it was necessary to have their assistance at times in steering. I made up my mind that that kind of sailing would not suit me, and left the ship at Detroit. I shipped there on a little schooner named the C. L. Burton, which carried only about three thousand bushels of grain. We went to Sandusky, and carried grain from there to Buffalo until October. I then shipped in Sandusky on the revenue cutter A. V. Brown, and came to Milwaukee.
The Brown was one of six revenue cutters built by the government in 1856 for use on the Great Lakes. There was one for each lake. They were built in Milan, Ohio, and when finished were all taken to Sandusky and moored close together. I was one of the first sailors. In the Spring of 1858 they were ordered to ship their crews and go to their stations. I stayed on the Brown two seasons, and was boatswain before I left. I believe she was the first government vessel stationed in Milwaukee. Her commander was Captain Mitchell. The lieutenant's name was Underwood.
In the Fall of 1858 we laid up in the Menomonee river, about where the Sixth Street bridge now is, alongside a clay bank on the south side* of the canal, and the pilot and myself were left on board to keep ship. The others were discharged, and the officers went to their homes. Elevator B was built then, and the Hans Crocker was moored at the dock. Captain W. Fitzgerald was her master. We became quite well acquainted. About the first of April, 1859, the Brown shipped a crew and we lay to anchor in a little bay just inside the piers, somewhat to the south. We used to go from here to different ports on Lake Michigan Racine, Kenosha, Chicago and St. Joseph and stay a few days in each port.
On one occasion we left St. Joe, bound for Grand Haven. The wind was from the south. We got out into the lake two or three miles, then wanted to set the square sail in order to spread the sail. We had two swing booms, which, when not in use, would lie one on each bow. I told the men to square them, which they were doing with lifts and guys, but were so slow that I jumped on the rail, one leg on each side the boom, and was lifting it square, it being two-thirds out over the lake and one-third in. Someone had taken the nut off the gooseneck that went through the saddles on the mast. While I was at work the boom let go, unshipped, took me between the legs and pitched me into the lake. As I was going down my arm caught on one of the guys. I grabbed it, but had all I could do to hang on, as the vessel was going about five miles an hour. I was hauled on board all right. I stayed on the revenue cutter until Fall, and then shipped on the brig David Ferguson, owned by William B. Hibbard and commanded by Captain Adlam.
On March 1, 1860, I married. In April I shipped on the schooner William Case, before the mast, to go to Oswego. I had a salary of sixteen dollars a month small wages on which to keep a wife. I left the Case at Oswego and shipped on the schooner Morning Light, bound for Saginaw, to load lumber for Chicago. I then came home and shipped on the schooner George Barber, with Captain Nelson, at twenty dollars per month. In those days the crew had to load and unload. Sometimes we would leave here at night and be in Muskego the next morning, alongside the lumber pile, load, and get out again at night. I stayed with him until September. I then shipped in the schooner Whaling, with Captain Kynaston. My old friend Andrew Boyd was mate. We loaded grain at Higby's elevator, foot of Chestnut street. The captain told us to go home, as the weather looked bad and he would not go out. The next night the schooner lady Elgin was lost. We made one trip to Buffalo. After our return I shipped in the schooner Robinson for Buffalo. I was taken sick with fever and ague, left the vessel and came back to Milwaukee. Then I went to work in Mr. Trusloaw's wholesale fruit store on East Water street, next to Greene & Button's drug store. In 1861, while fitting out the schooner Barber, I was again taken sick, and could not sail all Summer; so I worked in the store.
In the Spring of 1862 I shipped on the schooner Stella, owned by Mr. Goldsmith of Port Washington and commanded by Captain Smith. We loaded at the pier, carried wheat to Buffalo and came back to Milwaukee. Charley Millett, the mate, said : "Bill, let you and I buy a vessel of our own." I asked him how much money he had and he said: "A hundred dollars." I had the same amount. Our united resources did not seem a sum that would go far toward the purchase of a vessel, but "where there's a will there's a way." We started out, got as far as Division Street bridge, and there saw a small schooner called the Mariner. We asked the captain if he knew of a small vessel for sale, and he told us the Mariner was for sale for $850. She carried twenty-one hundred bushels of wheat. The owners were Peter Hansen and Mr. Backet of Sheboygan. My father-in-law kept a store on Wisconsin street, and as we thought he knew more about business than we did, we sent him to Sheboygan to see the owners. The owners came to Milwaukee the next day, and we bought the vessel for $850, paying $200 down and giving our notes for the balance $100 to be paid each month for five months and $150 in the following July. It looked rather risky, but we paid the notes as they came due, supported our families and saved money besides, after which we sold the Mariner.
When I was in the store I became acquainted with Otto Wermuth. In July, 1862, I met him on Wisconsin street, and he said he was going to have a vessel built to go to the old country, and asked me if I would superintend the building, fit her out and take her across the ocean. I thought he was only "blowing," but answered "Yes." When he told me to go to Ellsworth & Davidson's shipyard and tell them what kind of vessel was suitable for crossing the ocean, I wanted to back out, but he would not listen to it. I had never superintended the building of a vessel, and was not thorough in navigation, but after I had consented was determined to "see it through." I went to Ellsworth & Davidson and asked them to make a model, which they did. I made another lake trip, and when I came back the contract was signed, and the vessel was to be finished by November 1, 1862. I then stayed on shore and fitted the rigging, having it ready to slip over the mastheads as soon as they were stepped.
Besides attending to the business of vessel building, I had to study navigation. I asked Mr. Ellis, who for many years kept a book store on Wisconsin street, to send to New York for an Epitome and Nautical Almanac. Hearing that Mr. Roche, who was living on Lyon street, near where Racine street now is, had been a teacher in the British navy, I made arrangements with him to teach me navigation. I lived on Grove street, on the south side. I would go home from work, get my supper, then walk over to Lyon street and back, as there were no street cars in Milwaukee in those days. I found Mr. Roche was not all he claimed to be, but he could see into the examples quicker than I. At length I concluded to study at home. I filled a plate with molasses, placed it in the back yard, for use as an artificial horizon, and each day with its aid took the altitude of the sun with my sextant. By November 1st I was pretty well informed. The vessel was finished November 6th and laid up till Spring. Mr. Wermuth went to Germany with his family. When he came back in the Spring I had the vessel already loaded with wheat for Buffalo at eleven cents per bushel. He was so pleased that he put his arm around my waist. Then he pulled a gold watch out of his pocket and made me a present of it.
The Hanover was built just west of Reed street, where Elevator A now stands. I believe she was the first and only vessel built in Milwaukee that went from here to Europe, although there were two other vessels that made the trip across the ocean from the Great Lakes before she did. I took the Hanover from here, through the Great Lakes, the canals and the St. Lawrence river to Quebec, and from there to Liverpool, England. From Liverpool I took her to Brock, on the River Wieser in Germany. She was sold in Brock to parties in Hanover, and I took her to Guestemunde, where my crew and I left her. I returned to my home in Milwaukee about October 20th of the same year. For a number of years after that I followed the occupation of sailing.
In 1865 I was master of the schooner Toledo. I left Milwaukee about the 13th of October to load wood at Bode's pier, which was six miles south of Manitowoc. We got alongside of the pier about 10 o'clock in the evening, took the foghorn and called for Mr. Bode. We then went into the woods blowing the horn. Blowing the horn was the signal that there was a vessel at the pier which wanted men to help load. We got loaded about 7 o'clock in the morning of the 15th. It commenced blowing a gale from the southeast. I ran to Manitowoc Bay and came to an anchor. Several other vessels were also at anchor in the bay.
We could not get into Manitowoc in those days, as there were only five or six feet of water in the entrance to the river. At noon the vessel began to drag her anchor, so we let go the second anchor. About 1 o'clock the small anchor chain parted and we were dragging for the beach; but I did not want to go on the beach if we could help it; so we pitched off the deckload even with the rail, close-reefed the foresail and mainsail and got a slip line from the starboard quarter with one end fast to the anchor chain, so as to cant her on the right tack. We then slipped the chain, when she filled on the starboard tack. When about a mile north of Manitowoc, the mainsail blew to pieces, and soon after our staysail went the same way. This left us only the foresail to get off a lee shore, and we kept getting nearer and nearer to the beach all the time. When passing Two Rivers pier we were about a quarter of a mile off. We ran along in the breakers until the centerboard began to touch bottom. Then I thought it best to uphelm and run her on the beach as far as she would go. My brother was standing by the foresheet when the foresail jibed and he was thrown down against the wood. I thought he must be badly hurt, and was much relieved to see him get up without assistance. I was steering and could not leave the wheel, but had to jump to save myself when a big sea struck our boat, which was hanging on the davits, threw her up nearly on the stern, and then fell on the davits with such force that she broke loose and went adrift.
A young boy named John Herzer was with us that trip, for health and pleasure, and as I did not know at what moment we would ship a sea that would carry everything before it, I asked my brother to get a rope around the boy and tie him to the mainmast, as he did not know enough about sailing to take care of himself. We were in a bad way, for our boat had been washed away, and we had no means of reaching shore, and the sea was washing over us all the time. We should most likely have perished by morning with the cold and wet if some men had not brought a boat down to the beach in a wagon. They launched the boat and came under our bow. We crawled out on the bowsprit and dropped one by one into the boat, in which we reached the shore safely. When leaving the vessel I went with the boy, my arm around his waist, so that I could hold him. This placed me in an embarrassing position years afterward, for John Herzer grew very fleshy. When I met him at parties he would take me around and introduce me as the man who carried him under his arm to the boat. He then weighed some three hundred and fifty pounds, and I about one hundred and thirty.
To go back to the wreck : When we reached the beach our teeth were knocking together, we were so cold and wet. The rescuers took us to Weilep's hotel, where they gave us some whiskey and a good supper. We were all tired and went to bed early. Two of the men who saved us were John Eggers and Moses Bunker. The names of the other two I cannot recall. There were six wrecked vessels between Manitowoc and Two Rivers point during that storm.
I came back to Milwaukee to secure wrecking tools. I got them of Cole & Harrison and put them on board the steamer Planet. It blew a gale from the northeast, and I could not get out for two days. I reached Two Rivers on a Sunday morning and went down to look at the vessel. She was in a sorry plight. She was partly filled with sand, and had settled down so you could get on board dry-footed by jumping over a little stream by her side that the current had kept open. She was broadside to the beach and had listed a little. The sand was level from the top of the rail to the combings of the hatches. Monday morning I went to work. I put eyebolts in her frames, lashed timbers to her sides, and got blocking and screws set. As the beach at Two Rivers is all quicksand, I had to raise the screws eighteen inches in order to raise the vessel two inches. I got her up forward and was ready to put ways under her when it came on to blow, and all the blocking was washed away and she was in worse condition than before. It took almost two months to get her up and on the beach. We then cut her in two and hauled the bow from the stern and lengthened her twenty-seven feet. I had to go seven miles into the country and there buy oak trees of the farmers. I had to buy the trees standing and make bargains with the farmers to cut them down and haul them to the vessel. I then had to get whip-sawers to saw the long plank by hand. The short ones were sawed at Mann Brothers' pail factory. I engaged a carpenter to boss the job while I superintended it. We got her ready to launch by the end of May. Then the carpenter went back on me and left, so I had to launch her myself. It proved a difficult task, on account of the quicksand; but by having anchors in the lake and purchases to the windlass, we got her off to an anchor. I then put on some things that had been left on the beach and came back to Milwaukee.
Upon my return to Milwaukee Mark Tyson chartered me to go to Manistee to load lumber for Chicago. I continued in that trade the remainder of the season and made three trips between November 8th and 13th. For the first trip I had $7 per thousand, for the second $7.25, and for the third $6.50. For the first trip I paid my men $36, and as we made the trip in five days the men thought the next trip would surely be a long one; so they would not go by the trip, but asked $4 per day. I agreed to their demand, and as we made the trip in four days I only paid them $16. I mention this to show the difference between those sailing days and the present.
In 1867 I again ran to Manistee and carried the material to build the lighthouse on Big Point Au Sable. We anchored off the point and unloaded onto scows. The scows were then hauled to the beach and unloaded. The same Fall I was wind bound in Manistee with many other vessels, among them the schooner William Jones. We all left the same afternoon, the wind being southeast. It was raining. When off Big Point Au Sable the wind shifted to the west and blew a gale, and we had to carry a heavy piece of canvas in order to get to the west shore. When about in mid-lake, at daylight, we saw a schooner about ten miles to leeward flying a flag of distress. I up helm and ran' down to her and found her to be the William Jones, waterlogged. The captain asked me to stand by her, which I did. When about half a mile away from him, I saw him waving his hat signaling me to come back. I wore ship and got to leeward of him. They lowered their boat. Every man got into her and we hoisted them on deck, but not any too soon, for just as the last man came on board our vessel their vessel rolled over almost bottom-side up, and most likely if they had stayed on board all of them there were seven would have been drowned. Being loaded with lumber, the Jones did not sink. We made more canvas and ran for Chicago.
Perhaps the most thrilling event of my life was the wreck of the bark Naomi, on November 5th, 1869. We were windbound in Manistee on November 4th, the wind blowing a heavy gale from the south and at night shifting and blowing a heavy gale from the west. On the morning of the 5th one of the men went on the pier to look along the beach, and saw a bark about six miles north on the outside sand-bar. Three other sailors and I then started to walk along the beach to the scene of the wreck, but were soon obliged to take to the woods, as the heavy sea was washing up against the clay banks.
When we got within closer range of the vessel we could see the crew on the cabin with the seas washing over them. Their boat was on the beach. They had lowered the boat, with the intention of coming ashore, but the heavy seas filled her with water, and she broke adrift and came on the beach. The breakers pounding the boat on the beach had started some of the frames from the planks and had shaken the oakum out of the seams on one side. One of the men had tried to swim ashore to summon help, but was drowned in the attempt. The peril of the men on the wrecked schooner filled us with horror, and we determined to make an effort for their rescue.
The only boat at hand was that on the beach. A farmer had brought with him a hatchet and some nails. We turned the boat bottom up and nailed the planks to the frame as best we could. The next thing was to find something with which to caulk the seams, and we made use of a pair of old pants which we found. A lumberman by the name of Calkins pulled off his coat and tore off his shirt-sleeves. We tore the coat into shreds and filled the seams with them, using our knives as caulking-irons. I then cut a piece of one end of the painter and made a becket through the ring bolt in the stem of the boat, to keep the steering oar from slipping out of the sculling notch and getting away from me.
By this time quite a crowd had gathered, among them sailors and citizens from Manistee. They said it was folly to attempt a rescue in that boat, and some of them said they would go back to Manistee and get a good boat and bring it back on a wagon. They did this finally, but had to drag the boat a long distance through the woods by hand. I knew that by the time they could get a boat from Manistee it would be nearly night and perhaps all of the crew would have perished. Three oars and a pail had come ashore with the boat. I got together a crew of three men besides myself, two to row and one to bail. Two of the men were Chris Hansen and James Gillespie, and the third a sailor from the schooner William Heg.
There was a strong current running south along the beach, and I got the lookers-on, who had grown into quite a crowd by this time, to partly drag and partly carry the boat a distance to the north, in order to allow for the current in fetching up at the wreck. Then I got them to run into the water and push us afloat, which they did willingly. Our boat was a large one, about eighteen or nineteen feet long, but the seas were so high that she nearly stood on end when pointing out through the breakers. However, we kept her afloat, bailing her out with the pail as fast as the spray came over. The first sight that met our eyes as we approached the wreck was that of the captain, whose name was Carpenter, and his wife. He was fast to one end of a rope passed over the mizzen boom, and his wife, who was fast to the other end, lay dead in his lap. The vessel had her top sail close-reefed and set. Her mainsail also was close-reefed and set, and the main boom was lying on the rail with the end about eight feet from the side. I got our boat under the end of the boom, as it was not safe to go closer to the vessel in that terrible sea. The men on the wreck came along the rail and to the end of the boom, then dropping into the boat. Three of the men dropped in all right, but when the fourth was in the act of descending we shipped a sea in our boat that threw us from under him and he fell overboard. The undertow brought our boat back to its former place and the man came up alongside. One of our men grabbed hold of him and got him into the boat. As soon as he could speak he invoked heaven and the saints, calling down upon us blessings for saving him.
Having by this time shipped considerable water, we were obliged to put off for the beach, in order to save ourselves and those we had taken from the vessel, and to get the boat in trim. If we had shipped another sea it might have been the end of some of us. As we approached the shore, the men on the beach ran out into the water and took hold of the boat to pull her onto the shore. Two of the men we had rescued stepped out of the boat and dropped down as if dead, when they realized that they were saved. The people on the beach had built a fire in the woods back of a sandhill, and carried the exhausted men there, wrapping them in blankets after rubbing them with whiskey and giving them some of it to drink. This brought them around after a while. The crowd wanted me to take some whiskey too, but I refused to have any until I got through.
We put our boat in trim again and pulled her up the beach to our former starting point, but when we were ready to go off two of my boat's crew backed out and would not risk a second trip. It was some time before I could find two others, although there were numbers of sailors among the spectators. I succeeded finally, however, in filling my crew, but do not remember the names of the two recruits. We started off once more, but had got only about half way to the vessel when we shipped a sea that nearly half filled our boat; so we had to put back to the beach to get the water out and the boat in trim again. We once more got our boat back to the starting point, ready to put out again, when the two men declined to re-enter her. It took some time to get two others, but finally we did. The two who agreed to fill these places were Captain Hall of the schooner Stronach and my mate, Gus Janet. Chris Hansen deserved great credit, for he stuck by me all the time. The other men also were worthy of praise, and deserve credit for what they did.
The third time we put off; we reached the vessel all right and got the boat under the main boom as before. One man came along and dropped into the boat as the others had done. Another got as far as the mizzen rigging, when his strength failed him and he could go no further. He stood on the rail, holding on to the rigging. I got the boat near him and told the men to watch their chance, and when the boat was on top of a sea to drag his legs off the rail. They did so, and the man tumbled into our boat like a thousand of bricks. Moreover he was not hurt. The captain now was the only living person left on board, and he was unable to help himself. I asked Gus Janet to watch his chance and jump on board when we got the boat alongside by the mizzen rigging and were on top of the sea. The only way he could have saved the captain would have been to loosen his wife and throw us that end of the rope, and then pitch the captain overboard, so we might haul him into the boat. Gus got aboard all right and did all he could; but at such times it takes longer to do things than at others. He had loosened the wife, but before he could accomplish the other details we had shipped so much water that I saw we had to put out for the beach again. I did not want to leave my mate on board the wreck; BO I got the boat under the boom and called to him to come aboard. He came along the boom and dropped into our boat, the same as the others had done. Then we started for the beach. Captain Carpenter, I presume, thought we had given him up. He cast at me a look I shall never forget, and rolled off the cabin deck between the cabin and the rail, and drowned. It had been my intention to get the boat in trim and go off again and fetch him.
We reached shore safely, but my arms were so strained they were in the shape of a bow, and I could not straighten out my fingers for some time. This was because of the prolonged tension of the muscles in holding the steering oar. We had been about four hours accomplishing our task. We then walked back to Manistee, and found that the editor of the paper there, who had been an eye witness of the rescue, had issued an "extra" giving a full account of the affair. When I came back home after this trip the members of the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, to my surprise, were kind enough to present me with a gold watch and chain. Our Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce at this time began an agitation for life boats on the Great Lakes. This was the starting point of the splendid life-saving service we have on the lakes today.
In 1870 and 1871 I was master of the schooner Toledo and was in general trade between different points on Lake Michigan. In 1871, the year of the Chicago fire, I was windbound in Holland Lake, which is about twenty miles south of Grand Haven. One Sunday afternoon, Mr. E. W. Diercks, who was later registrar of the Milwaukee Board of Health, came on board and asked me to take him up to Holland, six miles from where we were anchored. Mr. Diercks had chartered me to bring a load of railroad ties from Holland to Milwaukee. I ordered two men into a boat and we rowed him to the little town of Holland. When we reached there we found the woods on fire south of the place and the citizens fighting the fire, trying to save their town.
Their efforts were of no avail for that night every house was burned to the ground nothing left standing but a stone mill which was situated on a point of land at the head of the lake. When going back to the vessel, we could hardly breathe, as we were to leeward of the fire, and the smoke was dense. The next morning, seeing a tug taking the people to the lake shore for safety, I took the boat and brought many of them to the vessel. The people carried what clothes they had saved on board. I accommodated as many as I could in the cabin and put the others in the hold to stay until the danger was past. Soon after this I loaded the ties and came back to Milwaukee.
The night of this fire was the night of the big fire at Chicago. That same fall there were terrible fires in the northern part of Wisconsin, and many people were burned to death. Many cattle were also burned, and the fire made a clean sweep of many farms, destroying the houses and killing the stock, especially in the country around Ahnapee and from there to Green Bay.
Relief was asked for, and people from all over the United States sent supplies. A committee was appointed in Milwaukee to receive the supplies and ship them to the sufferers. I do not remember the names of all the committeemen, but among them were J. A. Dutcher and Col. Turner. The committee had charge of chartering the vessels and shipping the supplies. They appointed Capt. A. J. Langworthy to go to Ahnapee. He was to select a committee there to visit the people and find out what was most needed, so that the supplies might be distributed accordingly. As there were no rail-roads in those days along the west shore, the only way to get sup-plies to the burned district was to ship them by vessel or send them to Green Bay by rail, and from there thirty-six miles by team.
Col. Turner chartered me to take the supplies to Ahnapee. Winter navigation was not very good, and it was no easy task to find a vessel captain willing to go. I loaded by John Eldred's shingle mill, where the North- Western railroad bridge now is. My load consisted of everything imaginable furniture, clothing, bed-ding, stoves, flour, groceries, hay, feed, and so forth. We arrived at Ahnapee safely and my old friend, Capt. Langworthy was there with the committee to receive the supplies and distribute them.
When I unloaded,I came back to Milwaukee and took another load. I delivered the load safely, but while at the pier the wind blew a gale from the southeast, so that we were compelled to use all the ropes and chains we had to hold the vessel to the pier. When the gale was over, we loaded wood and left for Milwaukee; but before reaching here, it blew a gale and a snowstorm set in from the northeast. I could not see the pier light, and the first thing I could see was the north pier on our lee side; so I rounded to and let go the anchor, with the intention of trying to get out in the lake again. We got up anchor and cavorted into the lake all right, but the center board, being down about four feet and frozen into the box, touched bottom and turned her around against all head canvas and she went hard and fast on the beach.
As the sea struck the vessel, the spray would fly all over us, and as it was freezing hard, being the sixth of January, we were soon covered with ice. About eleven o'clock at night we managed to get the boat down and through the broken drift ice and reached the pier all right. I then lived on Grove street. I got home as quickly as possible. When I took off my coat and pants they were frozen so hard they stood up alone.
When the sea went down, I procured wrecking tools and put a purchase to Lighthouse pier, unloaded some of the wood on the pier, threw some overboard, and succeeded in getting the vessel off the beach about the ninth of January. As there were no tugs running during the winter in those days, we did the best we could with hand labor. We went on the Wolf & Davidson box to repair the damage. The ice was a foot thick from the piers, so we had to get men to cut it with saws. This took some time, but we got the vessel repaired, and then had to saw our way back to the shingle mill.
We put on another load for the fire sufferers, but the weather was very cold and the ice in the river about ten inches thick, so we were not able to get out for about three weeks. All this time the people were suffering for want of the supplies we had on board. In those days there were only the Grand Haven boats running. If I remember correctly, they were the Ironsides and the Lac la Belle, both of which later foundered. These two boats would come close alongside when going out, to break up the ice; but before I could get the vessel around the cakes would freeze again, and leave me as badly off as before.
After a time we got a northeast gale which sent in a sea and broke up the ice. After the gale the wind came from the west and carried the ice out into the lake. I then sailed for Ahnapee and arrived about a mile off the end of the pier at daylight one Sunday morning, when the wind died away. I had the boat lowered, and towed the vessel into the pier. There was a large crowd of people on the pier, and I shall always look back with pleasure to seeing those joyful faces, and remember the way they received us, with shouts and cheers.
As soon as we got alongside the pier we began unloading. There was a string of teams a mile in length, each awaiting their turn to load what the relief committee allowed them. Of course there were some who were not satisfied with what was given them. Someone stole a bag of clover seed and hid it behind a woodpile on the north side of the pier. In the hurry no one saw the trick; but later I happened to go on that side and saw the bag. I reported to the committee. That night they watched for the thief and caught him.
Before leaving Milwaukee I agreed with Wolf & Davidson to bring a load of ship plank from Manitowoc. I arrived there on Washington's Birthday. The plank was piled on the dock, and was long heavy oak. The vessel was very shallow in the hold, being only seven feet six inches deep. I had to come up with the mizzen rigging and rig tackles from mastheads in order to slide the plank down the main hatch. I had got the tackles on the first plank and was standing on deck with my back toward the hatch and telling the men how to work it when the plank slid toward me. Not thinking about the open hatch, I stepped back against the combings of the hatch and fell into the hold, a fall of seven and a half feet. The sailors picked me up for dead and sent for a doctor, but by the time he came I had recovered consciousness. He felt me all over but found no broken bones, though I was badly bruised and had to stay in bed for some days. One Sunday morning I left Manitowoc with a fair northern wind. Before I was long out it blew a gale, so that I had to be on deck until I got to Milwaukee. Consequently I was very tired. Next day I went down town and chartered for another trip. But I was taken very sick from the fall I had, and could not leave for three weeks. Then I delivered the last cargo.