A crew of nine lashed themselves to the structures on deck, for the ship had lost her rudder and was entirely at the mercy of the storm. The sailors were soon coated with ice and beaten almost to insensibility by a fast-freezing sleet. The vessel was being blown shoreward, broadside to the beach.
About 2 a.m. the ship was lifted over a sand-spit 100 feet off shore and flung on its side with the mast reaching land-ward as though making one last effort to reach safety. Dwellers occupying three shacks nearby heard the thud above the roar of the storm, but no one dared to venture out into the ice-laden storm. Ice streamers hard as hail and as long as lead pencils beat against the three lakeside shacks, while the noise was like a storm of broken glass..
With the coming of morning a thickened daylight appeared as the wind died down a little. A man and a grown boy appeared from the middle shanty, bundled up in a weird collection of typical shanty people's clothing. As they struggled toward the ship they almost stumbled over a crawling figure, an ice-coated sailor trying to reach the cabins. The rescuers dragged him into their shack, knocking off great chunks of ice from the man's garments. After much effort, the sailor's clothes were removed and he was bundled up under a pile of blankets, as the boy ran next door to the 'Old Folks' cabin to report the rescue. "Go back," said the old woman. "Go back to the beach, there may be more sailors ashore." She quickly donned a pair of man's boots, a patched overcoat and a heavy shawl and went to the middle shanty as the boy went with her. The two uncouth men in the third shanty did not appear. . . Again she told the boy to go back to the beach to see if any more men got ashore, but both the boy and the man refused to back out into the storm.
So the old woman bundled up and stepped boldly out into the blizzard. She had hardly gone a dozen steps against the ice-laden wind when she stumbled onto another crawling sailor. The man in the shack, shamed by the old woman, came from his shelter to help her drag the second sailor into her cabin. Her aged husband painfully crawled from his bed and assisted in removing the ice -covered clothing. The seaman's shawl, heavy with ice, was pushed out the door. Sadly the rescued man only moaned a time or two and died.
It was learned that he was the Mate of the vessel. The shanty folks gently put his body outside in the lea side, but not before the neighbor next door had obtained a packet of papers and a $20 bill from the sailor's pea-coat.
As soon as the storm abated somewhat the boy hurried over to Miller's Station to tell the postmaster and storekeeper of the wreck. Later that afternoon the storm died down and the people in the shanties could see seven figures coated with ice hanging grotesquely in the rigging of the schooner.
The boy made his way back to his cabin, with orders for the shanty people to do nothing or touch nothing until some officials arrived.
The story so far is from a column written before 1962 by William O. Wallace, who once said of his stories: "Some are true, some partially true and some legendary."
The Valparaiso Republican Newspaper wrote the following account on Dec. 6, 1857, which proved that his account was fairly accurate:
Upon getting word of the tragedy several of our former lake men headed by Captain Hixon formed a party to go to the wreck. With him went T. Windal, E. E. Campbell, and Officer Jones. They got to the vicinity by Friday night and on Saturday struggled afoot through marshlands and over the sand hills.
They found the seven men still imprisoned in their coats of ice. An owner's agent and a Lake County Officer had just arrived. The old folks and the man, whose name was Jim Dutcher and the boy were interviewed. But the other two shanty residents had gone.
Within a few hours the men had access to the ship and found only six bodies. The body of the Captain had been unceremoniously chopped from its icy matrix. There were remains of hair and bits of clothing left in the ice and from the shore it had not been apparent that one body had been removed.
Officer Jones and Capt. Hixon searched Dutcher and found some ship's papers and the $20 bill, so he and the boy were placed under arrest and sent back to Valparaiso.
The ship's agent ordered the Crown Point officer to take charge of the bodies. Both he and the surviving seaman thought the captain would probably have at least $200 in his possession at the time of the wreck and it was assumed that the two missing shanty men had known that the captain would have money in his possession and had at night chopped the body out, hauled it ashore, stripped it of all valuables and had buried it someplace nearby.
The ship, lying as it does, virtually on the county line, the whole case has been turned over to Crown Point with approval of the owner's agent. A widespread search has been ordered for the two missing shanty men, and an examination is under way to find the burial place of the lost captain. Captain Hixon says that upon examination of the ship, the upper berths were found to have never been touched by water and had the crew remained in their bunks no lives would have been lost.
The Old Timer, with the help of modern electronics, has found more about the wreck of the Flying Cloud, a wooden schooner. (Webster writes that a "schooner" is a ship with two or three masts, rigged fore and aft.) Statistics about the wreck were found in the "Great Lakes Shipwreck File -- 1679-1999" that listed the schooner as being built in 1851 at Clayton, New York. Length was 124 feet, with a capacity of 300 tons. The craft was recovered and repaired in 1860, but was capsized in a gale off Racine Wisconsin in 1863, drifting for about three weeks until it was towed to shore.
There was another big surprise for the Old Timer when he also found listed in that Great Lakes Shipwrecks file the wreck of the Frontenac, a 40 ton wooden brig with square sails owned by Sieur de La Salle, who explored our favorite river, the Kankakee! It was lost in a storm at Cape Enrage, near the mouth of the Niagra River, Lake Ontario, Jan. 1679. The vessel was carrying ironwork and supplies for the construction of the Griffin, another ship owned by La Salle that was also lost in a storm in August 1679.
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