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Maritime History: The Wexford

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The SS Wexford was a steel-hulled, propeller-driven cargo ship built in Sunderland, England in 1883 by William Doxford & Sons. The ship was lost with all hands on Lake Huron on November 9, 1913, during the Great Lakes storm of 1913. According to various sources, the crew loss ranges from 17 to 24 people. Her cargo was 96,000 bushels of wheat at the time of her loss. On August 25, 2000, the wreck was discovered intact and upright in 75 feet (23 m) of water on the lake bottom. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of The Great Storm of 1913, a copper wreath was placed on the wreck.

SS Wexford
Photo Credit: Matt Madzuik (Dan’s Dive Shop)

The wrecked steamer Wexford of the Western Steamship Company, Limited, has frequently visited Toronto harbor. Her last appearance in this city was early in the present season, when she picked up a cargo of package freight for points on the upper lakes. The vessel, which was built in Sunderland, England, in 1883, was one of the Welland Canal size, 263 feet long, and was valued at $107,000 fully covered by insurance.

The Wexford carried a crew of eighteen, including the officers. She left Fort William at noon, November 6, and passed Sault Ste. Marie two night later, with a cargo of 96,000 bushels of wheat consigned to Goderich for James Richardson & Sons, Limited, of Toronto and Kingston. After passing the Soo nothing further was heard concerning her whereabouts until the bodies of the five members of the crew wearing life belts marked “Wexford” were found near St. Joseph, on Lake Huron.

Was it a Collision?

Captain W. J. Bassett, Managing Director of the Western Steamship Company, the local office of which is at 72 Bay street, stated yesterday that the last word the company received from Captain Cameron was on Saturday at 12:45 p.m., when he sent a message to the effect that it was foggy, and he expected that he would [p. 3] delayed in the river. Captain Bassett stated that, while he did not care to discuss the cause of the wreck, he was inclined to think from the particulars to hand that the Wexford had probably collided with another steamer during the heavy snowstorm on Sunday.

Mr. James Bicknell, K. C., President of the company, when seen last night, stated that he had no statement to make regarding the loss of the vessel. “All that I have to say,” he commented, “is that the Wexford ranked among the best freighters on the upper lakes.”

No Names Yet Given

Mr. Albert E. J. Blackman, Secretary-Treasurer of the company, informed The Globe last night that he had a list of the deckhands but he would not divulge the names until he had been authorized to do so by Captain Bassett, who had left for Goderich to make a full investigation.

“The ordinary crew of lake freighters are a roving lot,” said Mr. Blackman, “and for that reason I do not think it would be wise to make known the names. Many changes are made monthly and it was quite possible that might have been the case with some of the deckhands lost in the wreck.”

Mr. Blackman stated that when Captain Cameron wired the local office on Saturday it was taken for granted that he had succeeded in getting as far as Detour, Mich. In conversation over the long-distance telephone with a representative of one of the elevators at Goderich last night, Mr. Blackman stated that several residents of that town had heard a prolonged blowing of a whistle early Sunday morning which led them to believe that it was the Wexford signalling for help. At that time a heavy snowstorm was raging.

Unable to Make Port.

Mr. Blackman thought that the fact that the bodies of some members of the crew were found south of Goderich fully indicated that the vessel had been unable to make port and had got much farther south in the storm than she really should have been. He stated that Captain Cameron was one of the most capable masters on the lakes. Mr. Blackman said he had no theory to advance as to the cause of the wreck.

Mr. A. H. Lougheed of Leuty avenue, a brother of the second engineer of the il-fated vessel, left for Goderich last night to take charge of the remains. Mr. Lougheed stated that the body would be buried at Collingwood, where the deceased resided with his wife and mother.

The Merchants Mutual Line of Toronto had three vessels disabled in the storm. The Acadian, according to latest reports received at the local office of the company, is in the most perilous condition. The Acadian is on a reef near Alpena, Michigan, and three of her tanks are filled with water. The full extent of her injuries will not be known until she is floated.

“Just as soon as weather conditions permit, ” said Mr. H. W. Cowan, “a wrecking tug will be despatched to float the vessel.”

Turret Chief Runs Aground

The second vessel of the fleet to be stranded was the Turret Chief, which after battling with the raging seas for almost forty-eight hours, went ashore on the rocks six miles north of Copper Harbor. The Turret Chief, according to the members of the crew, is well up on the beach with but a scant amount of water beneath her hull.

The officers and members of the crew reached shore safely, suffering terribly from hunger and frost-bitten feet.

Mr. H. W. Cowan of the Merchants Mutual Line said last night that arrangements had been made to send the crew to their homes.

The Turret Chief was upbound and light, and was headed for Fort William for grain. She was in charge of Captain Thomas Paddington of Toronto, and Chief Engineer J. J. Dove.

The steamer McKinstry was the third vessel of the fleet to meet with a mishap, by running aground on a mud bank near Brighton, on the north shore of Lake Ontario. She is loaded with cement.

Mr. Cowan said he had received word last night from Brighton, that the vessel was in no danger, and that the storm had abated sufficiently to enable a tug to pull her off the beach.

The McKinstry was on her way from Belleville to Fort William, on her final trip of the season.

The McKinstry is in charge of Captain A. E. Stinson and Chief Engineer A. C. Leitch.

Clippings. Date of Publication: 12 Nov 1913. Globe Toronto


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Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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