It was a beautiful 8th day of August in the year 1917. The George A. Marsh
cleared American waters for the trip
across the expanses of Lake Ontario. She was on her way to the picturesque
city of Kingston with a load of much
needed coal for the Rockwood Hospital. The Sowards Coal Company had retained
her when their usual carrier was
found to be unavailable. The Marsh, very seldom, made this trip to the
Limestone city, but cargoes were in short
supply and her Captain jumped at the chance to earn extra money. Therefore,
after, a reported, 450 tons of black
was loaded into her holds at the port of Oswego New York. She had set sail
this lovely morning for
The Marsh and most of the old wooden sailing schooners and barges like
her were in their final years of long and
gallant careers. Steam had arrived on the scene and with it came larger,
faster, and more reliable ships. Ships that
much more economical to operate and maintain by their owners. Steamers
carried the better paying payloads of
passengers and freight. The old ladies of the lakes were left to carry
whatever they could to make a buck. This
generally meant over loading the ship's holds with merchandise such as
coal and feldspar. Built twenty-five years
earlier the Marsh suffered a little each time such a load was placed against
her old timbers.
George Marsh had started her life in a Muskegon Michigan ship yard in the
year 1892. Built for a gentleman by
name of J. Footlander and put to work as soon as she hit the water. For
most of the ship's working career she was
to fly an American flag of registry. Then on April 17 1914 a Canadian,
Mr. J.B. Flint, of Belleville Ontario, bought
her. He went to Toronto, registered the vessel as Canadian, and was given
the registration numbers 133750. Her
registered tonnage was listed as 220. As with many old ships of that time
her new captain John Wesley Smith was a partner
and part owner. The schooner was then sailed to her new home in Belleville.
Many trips were made across the
of Lake Ontario while the ship was based in this small south eastern town.
Calling on American ports such
Oswego New York.
For the thirteen souls on board and making the trip to Kingston this day,
things couldn't have looked brighter. The
day was sunny with a nice fresh breeze out of the south west. The ships
three large masts could carry plenty of sail,
the trip was going to be fast and enjoyable. Captain Smith was not aboard
that day, his sixty five year old mate William Watkins
a seasoned sailor. The second wife of the captain and five of their seven
children were on board. As well Mr. Neil
MacLellan, a deck hand, had received permission to bring his wife, their
eighteen month old baby, and a nephew
The captain's brother, William Smith, was also on board. Rounding out the
crew was a deck hand by the name
of George Cousins. In all 13 people were on board that fateful day.
it happened! The ship was suddenly hit with a violent, fast rising lake
storm. The kind of storm all seamen of the
day feared and had a healthy respect for. The crew of the George Marsh
fought this raging enemy of wind and rain
and valiantly. Hour after hour the storm battered the old ship while the
mariners struggled to keep her
from broaching in the mountainous seas. Finally, the old lady's timbers
could take no more. Her seams opened
allowing lake water to rush in and fill her passages. The pumps could not
handle the vast amounts of water. Her
buoyancy gone the George A. Marsh slipped below the surface of an angry
Lake Ontario. Ending her career within
Sight of her Kingston destination and the safety of it's harbour.
The last few hours in the life of the marsh must have been terror for her
crew and passengers. The wind raged, the
rocked violently from side to side and up and down. Foaming lake water
surged again and again over the decks.
All of this coupled with the darkness of the night that had fallen over
them made it difficult to complete any task.
the realization that the ship was doomed! The hands managed to launch the
yawl that hung on the stern davits.
The other life boat remained lashed to the port side deck near the bow.
As the ship sank, some people were thrown
into the cold black waters. The captain's brother and deck hand Neil MacLellan
managed to climb into the yawl which
they would have immediately cut loose from the sinking ship. McLennan had
his baby in his arms. One of the other
managed to grab hold of the yawl's side. For some reason however the two
men inside were not able to pull
her into their small craft. The cold eventually took its toll. She could
hold on no more and was lost to the fury of the
lake. After many hours the yawl made it to Amherst Island. By that time,
however the McLennan baby had
to the dreadful cold. In all eleven of the thirteen people on board lost
their lives. Gone were the captains
his children (Greta, John, Harry, Clarence, and one other), Mrs. MacLellan,
Her baby, McLennan's nephew
and the deck hand George Cousins. Some of the dead were recovered from
the lake. We do know that some of the
Marsh's last seafarers still lay beside their ship at the bottom of Lake
The next morning in that year of 1917. All that could be seen of the once
proud ship were her masts sticking above
surface. The George A. Marsh had sunk upright in eighty feet of water.
At the time of her sinking she was valued
at $5500.00. It was decided not to raise or salvage the ship as it would
be too expensive. The masts, being a
navigational hazard, were pulled out of the deck and dropped alongside
the ship. There she sat forgotten and alone
almost fifty years.
April 20 2006, Divercity recieved this letter: Thank you Eileen Wessell
looking up some info on sunken schooners on the Great Lakes and came across
your web site.
schooner the "George A. Marsh" is of interest to me, as my late husband
was related to a Neil MacLellan who survived the wreck.
problem is you have him listed as Neil McLennan. My husband was named after
the Captain of this ship John Wesley Smith.
Smith was not on board at the time of the wreck, even though he should
went to live in the U.S.A. to avoid having trouble with the authorities
and died in Oklahoma (Harrah) quite a number of years later.
his kin thought he perished on board until they found out different at
the time of his death.
thought you might like to know.
For the diver to-day the sites to see are her wheel, impressive bow, anchor
winch, the cargo, tools, dead eyes, plus
other areas of interest... The wreck is fully intact and gives a good indication
of how ships of the late 1800's and
early 1900's were constructed. P.O.W. marks the wreck with a mooring.
A Collingwood Ship yard built The Ottawa Maybrook and a sister ship during
the last days of World War II, they were
originally designed as 206 ton, 164ft, class C Coastal Freighters.
to be delivered to China as part of an aid package
by the Canadian Government. The war ended, China fell to the Communists,
the aid was cancelled and the two
ships were never delivered.
It was decided to convert the Ottawa Maybrook to a car ferry for use in
the Kingston to Wolfe Island run. The Shipyard had to do extensive modifications to convert the freighter to
a side loading ferry, but the Maybrook, renamed
The Wolfe Islander II, was delivered to Kingston where she replaced the
older side paddle wheel ferry Wolfe Islander. From 1945 to the late 1970's this converted
coaster traveled back and forth between
Kingston, Garden Island, and Wolfe Island. During the summer she would
load at the foot of Brock street in Kingston and cross to Marysville on Wolfe island, then back again. Once
the Ice of winter closed theMarysville dock the ferry would make
the longer trip down the river to her winter dock on the island. As the
ice strengthened a tug was employed to keep a path open and would even tow the Islander back and forth on her
rounds. Eventually it would become impossible
to get through so the ferry and her consort would be tied up for the winter.
The Islanders would have to fend
In 1976 a new end loading ferry was delivered, the Wolfe Islander III,
to take over the route. Larger, more powerful
more maneuverable, with four multi-directional diesel power units, it traveled
in a channel created in the ice
apth made by a brand new bubble system run by 5 huge
on the mainland.The new ship was able to provide year round service.
The Wolfe Islander II was kept around for a time as back up, in case the
new ferry broke down, but the modern unit was
The old ship found herself the property of the Marine Museum of the Great
Lakes on the
Kingstonwaterfront. Her luck ran out again when the Museum was able to
secure the acquisition of the Coast Guard light ice
breaker Alexander Henry which is now permanently moored by the dry dock
at the museum. It looked for
time like the Wolfe would go the way of the scrap yards.
That is until a group of concerned Marine enthusiasts and divers formed
a company and took the ship over with the
express purpose of sinking her as a dive site in an area protected from
the prevailing south west wind. The idea was to
provide a safe and interesting dive site accessablein all kinds of weather.
At the same time saving the ship from
The ship was cleaned and made safe for divers. Sponsors were found and
provided the much needed money for the
project. Each large sponsor had the name of their company engraved on the
glass of the port holes.On September 21st 1985
old ship set out for the last time out of Kingston's harbour, this time
under tow, almost the same route the route taken
to the winter dock for so many years. There in the St. Lawrence River,
within sight of the winter dock the Wolfe
II was finally put to rest. A fitting retirement for a Kingston landmark,
she landed upright in 80 ft of
water with the bow facing north.
life boat davits on the rear deck are at about the 40 ft level and the
car deck is approximately the 60 ft level.The Salon
is backlit by the ports and doors providing lots of ambient light. An air
pocket develops in a corner of the cabin from divers air in the
and it is possible to put your head in to it and speak toyour buddy 60
ft below the surface!!! WARNING don't
the air trapped there however as the oxygen is depleted.
Thehold of the ferry can be accessedas well, but this should only be done
by divers skilled in wreck
penetration. The insides get very stirred up in a matter of seconds with
silt. One of the anchors has been
and placed on the deck and a motorcycle appeared on the car deckone day.
There is a
capsule on the car deck area and Divers can drop down the stern to view
the large prop and rudder at 80 ft.
Many divers return again and again because you can't cover the entire
wreck in one dive. At one time divers could see the
portholes that were engraved by the sponsors of the sinking until a group
came with their air tools and took
for themselves. They were caught in the act by the Divercity Captain
who called the authorities, but the culprits ditched
loot overboard before being apprehended.
In the fall of the year 1917 a schooner barge was being towed into Kingston's
harbour in the midst of a troublesome
Heavily loaded with coal the old timbers, of a vessel built in the late
1800's, could take no more and the Aloha
was swallowed up by Lake Ontario's fury.. The tow vessel managed to pick
up all the crew except the Captain who
drowned.. The story does not end there however.. In the 1960's the Aloha
was found again by a couple
local Kingston divers... Then in 1980 the wreck suffered a great amount
of destruction with the illegal removal of a
winch from its deck... To-day the wreck sits in 60 ft of water offering
a good second or third dive or a warm up
dive for those who wish to hone their skills for deeper water. In the summer
fish abound, the water is warm, and visibility is great.
Around the year of Canada's 100th birthday a 40 ft wooden trawler hull
was started in Shelborne Nova Scotia.. The
craft was being built for Ken and Lois Jenkins of Port Credit Ontario.
The hull was brought to Port Credit and
completed in their back yard. In 1968 it was launched.. The completed boat
was christened The Effie Mae.. Around
the Effie became the first live aboard dive charter boat in the Kingston
area. In 1987 Ken sold the Effie to Ted
and Donna Walker. Ken succumbed to cancer and died the following year.
Ted and Donna started in 1987 to run
out of Kingston and continued to the end of the 1992 season.. Ted was transferred
out west. So the Walker
decided to sell their beloved Effie.. Finding no suitable buyers and not
wanting their beloved Effie broken up or
left to rot. They decided to donate the hull for sinking to Preserve Our
Wrecks Kingston. In the spring of 1993
ran her for the last time to the Metal Craft Dry dock to be made ready
Sunday October 17 1993
five years from the date of her christening the Effie Mae was put to rest
beside one of the historic shipwrecks
visited so many times before. To-day she is a valuable and much visited
dive site sitting upright beside the wreck
of the Schooner barge Aloha. A silent tribute to the two families who sailed
and cared for her during her life above the waves...
divers affectionately refer to the wreck of the "Effie" as "Ken's wreck".
Ken Mullings, a very active member
Preserve Our Wrecks provided most of the work getting the authority to
sink the ship, provided most of the labour
to get her ready for sinking, worried, paced and fretted until she was
finally put to rest.
Sort of put to rest" It seems he didn't like the first place the Effie
landed. So he convinced a number of divers
and a charter boat captain to help him lift the hull gently off the bottom
and pull her to exactly the right spot. This
was accomplished with no damage.... Ken is now Happy!!!!
P.O.W.'S Two moorings at the site are very well used indeed!!
In the fall of 1989 a new discovery in this area proved to be one of the
most historic of the early Canadian
steamboats, the iron hulled side-wheeler Cornwall. The following is an
article written for The Kingston Whig
Standard by One of the people who located the wreck. Diver and marine historian:
Launched in Montreal in 1854 as the Kingston, she was one of the finest
Canadian steamboats of her day on the
St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. Indeed, when the Prince of Wales (later
Edward VII) toured Canada in 1860,
she was chosen to be his 'floating palace.' Stained glass windows, pianos,
and luxurious carpeting comprised part of
her decor. In 1872 she was gutted by fire while off Grenadier Island in
the St. Lawrence River. Rebuilt as the
Bavarian, she burned a second time in the fall of 1873. The iron hull,
rebuilt yet again, at Power's shipyard at
was this time christened the Algerian. Under this name she served in the
Royal Mail Line for the Richelieu
Ontario Navigation Company until the turn of the century, running between
Toronto and Montreal. Renamed the
Cornwall in 1905 she gradually assumed a stand-by role, filling in when
one of her newer, faster line mates had a
the end of 1911 she was purchased by the Calvin Company of Garden Island,
opposite Kingston. In their hands
underwent a remarkable transformation. The Calvin's weren't interested
in passengers, their business since the
1830's had been the movement of lumber and ship building, with a towing
and wrecking business on the side. They
much of the upper works and added salvage equipment and a derrick for 'lightening'
the cargo of stranded
vessels. After two highly remunerative seasons the Cornwall was sold to
the Donnelly Salvage and Wrecking
Company, who used her for many more years as a wrecker. As late as 1928
they still considered her the flagship of
their fleet. With her 40 ton derrick, clamshell outfit, 12 inch rotary
steam pumps, diving equipment, air compressor
jacks, wrecking hawsers, syphons, steam connections and steel hose, she
was well equipped to fulfill her role of
rescuing vessels in trouble.
In the winter of 1928, the Donnelly Salvage & Wrecking Co. was one
of several Great Lakes salvage outfits
purchased and combined to form Sin Mac Lines, later Sincennes-McNaughton
Shortly thereafter her owners decided that the Cornwall had finally outlived
her usefulness. Her iron hull was tired
75 years of continuous use. The late Vic Ruttle of Portsmouth, an old Donnelly
hand, described her last voyage.
1930, just before Christmas, they towed her out in a snow storm. Her engine
had been removed but her boilers,
paddle-wheels and cabins were intact. Not being anxious to hang around,
the crew hurried her on her way by the
use of dynamite. He wasn't sure of her exact location but thought she was
somewhere near Amherst Island.
When found she was pretty much as Mr. Ruttle described her. Sitting upright
on the bottom in 70 feet of water, the
foot long iron hull is split open in several places, either from the dynamite
or impact with the bottom. The engine
missing from between the large a-frame, but the boilers are still in place,
sticking some 20 feet off the bottom. The
ten bladed feathering paddle wheels, 20 feet in diameter, are intact. The
cabins are all gone but a great deal of
wood-work lies on the bottom around the outside of the hull. Scattered
throughout the wreckage are other items of
interest; wooden barrels, tools, steam pipes, a bed, a ladder. At the bow
a large piece of fore deck still has the
windlass in place; a small engine and port-holes may also be seen here.
The sandy bottom and relatively shallow depth ensure that there is plenty
of light; visibility during the summer is
in the 15-20 foot range. The lack of silt inside the hull allows divers
to examine the construction methods used
what is only the fourth commercial iron vessel on the Great Lakes. A mooring
was installed in the fall by Preserve
Our Wrecks, Kingston to help protect this important piece of marine heritage.
wooden hull of the Comet, built in 1848, and the iron hull of the Cornwall,
built in 1854, rest on the bottom within
two miles of each other. Where else in the Great Lakes can divers explore
two side wheelers in one day?