Long lost shipwreck washes ashore near Sandy Pond

Above at left, pieces of debris washed up in Sandy Pond clearly shows the heavy construction of the large 3-masted schooner believed to be the Hartford, lost on Lake Ontario 125 years ago. Above right, the Hartford as she originally appeared.

SANDY POND — Discovery of the remains of a three-masted schooner that dislodged from its 125-year-old grave and washed ashore last week has created considerable interest among Sandy Pond residents.

Lying on the shore like a beached whale on the lake side of Sandy Pond peninsula is the skeleton of what is believed to be nearly all that is left of the three-masted schooner. Its ribs are plainly visible among the mass of heavy timbers.

Many, including maritime historian and diver Mark Barbour of Syracuse, believe these are the remains of the three-masted schooner Hartford that foundered a short distance away during a fierce storm in which seven people lost their lives.

Although to most it might just look like a pile of timber after an old barn collapsed,  Barbour said the vessel is fairly intact, including both upper and lower decks, and affords a great opportunity for study by marine archaeologists and historians.

The ship, carrying 22,000 bushels of grain consigned to Cape Vincent, was caught in a storm. Occasionally pieces of such vessels lost in Mexico Bay break loose and are carried ashore. History records more than 100 shipwrecks and groundings in Mexico Bay over a period of nearly two centuries.

This is the terse report written by the commander of the nearby U.S. Lifesaving Service station at nearby Big Sandy:

“Oct. 11, 1894 - Overtaken by stormy weather when in an overloaded condition; anchored 6 miles south of station, but foundered, drawing entire crew (seven people).

“Schooner was sighted from station at 11 a.m.; shortly afterwards she was seen to anchor and to commence dragging. (The lifesaving crew) started at once with beach apparatus, but before going far discovered that she had sunk.

“Returned for lifeboat and, after a seven struggle, in which keeper was washed out of the boat by the seas, but fortunately, recovered, and the boat itself damaged, arrived abreast of the wreck at sunset, when it was found that all hands had been lost. Returned to station at 9:15 p.m. completely exhausted.

“Spent 11 days patrolling the beach and reaching in boat for bodies of the drowned. On 20th found body of master’s wife and delivered it to undertaker.”

Lost in the disaster were Captain William O’Toole, his wife, Mary, who acted s cook; their 5-month-old daughter, Mary Kathleen, who was found on the beach drowned; the mate, Richard Seymour of Clayton; seamen Michael Purcell of Clayton and Dennis McCarthy and Damas Turgeon of Clayton; a man named Farquhaurson of Grindstone Island;  and William Donaldson of Theresa. Surviving the O’Toole’s were five other children between the ages of 2 and 10. The captain’s mother, Sarah,  raised them. Captain O’Toole, 45, was from Constableville.

The Hartford was built at the Linn & Craig Shipyard in Gibraltar, Michigan, and launched in September, 1873. It was  137’ 5” long, 26’2” feet beam and 11’ 2” hold, 323 gross tons, 307 net tons (U.S. Registration No. 95229. At the time of the wreck it was owned  by J.K. Post, O.H. Brown, J.H. & William McCarthy of Oswego.

Richard Palmer is a local historian and shipwreck expert who regularly contributes to The Palladium-Times.

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