The Loss of the Sally, Dec. 1817/Jan. 1818

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Transcribed by T. W. Stewart

We regret to inform you that Tom passed away in Ottawa, Ont. Monday, October 16, 2006 at the age of 84.


The following is a newspaper article from Jan. 19, 1818 passed along by Tom Stewart, which I found quite interesting, as it disagrees with the name of the vessel named by Lorne C. Callbeck, Island historian and writer, in "Cradle of Confederation", pgs. 312-215, and again in his book, "My Island, My People", pg. 141 as "Seven Brothers", and repeated in successive genealogies and books since. This is the vessel who's rescue brought about the death of Joseph Smith Wood and his brother, John, and injured another Brother, William.

The article claims the vessel was not the "Seven Brothers", as named by Callbeck - it was the "Sally", built by the Wood family in Pownal Bay, in 1817, registration number 1817033. Further investigations are on-going to try to come to the truth. Why, at this point, there is disagreement over the name is unknown. The Sally, according to records had a single deck, 2 masts, and was classed a Schooner. She was 50 feet long, 21 ft. wide, and 10 ft. deep, with a gross tonnage of 100 tons. She was first registered in 1817, and registration was officially closed in early 1818, reason for closure: lost at sea. As noted by Callbeck in "Cradle of Confederation", she was considered lost in late December, 1817, when an ill fated rescue attempt was made to rescue those aboard. The registration records confirm this, listing the actual closure date as Dec. 1817. A search of records show no vessel "Seven Brothers" either owned by the Woods, or whose registration was closed in either year. The family had, however, built a vessel named the "Four Brothers" in the year 1815. She, however was registered 46 tons, a much smaller vessel than the "Sally". The remainder of Mr. Callbeck's information appears to be correct, and hopefully we can iron out this discrepancy.

At the moment, my pet theory is that is may well have been built as Seven Brothers, but sold under the name of Sally. Many ships at the time were sold and loaded with timber and sailed to Britain. It is possible that it might have been re-named before registration at the request of the new owner. We will follow up on this and see if we can find the full story. For the meantime, it must remain a mystery. T.W. Stewart was never able to find out anymore about the vessel beyond its registration.


The following is the actual newspaper account of the tragedy, which took 4 lives:

Prince Edward Island Gazette Mon., 19 Jan., 1818, page 4

"Melancholy Occurrence - It is with extreme regret, that we have to detail the melancholy circumstances which attended the wreck of the Schooner Sally, belonging to Messrs. Woods of Lot 49. --- The loss of the vessel, &c, (very considerable to the industrious owners) is but a faint consideration when put in competition with the loss of lives, and the distress and injuries consequently brought upon the survivors --- and which cannot but remain for some time a serious check to the temerity of the adventurous and enterprising when employed in the very difficult navigation of the seas surrounding this Island, always to be met with at such advanced periods of the seasons.

The Schooner Sally, about one hundred Tons burthen, took in her cargo of lumber at Crappo, intended for the port of Plymouth. The ice having made early in the season at Crappo, the vessel was forced to put to sea and from thence endeavoured to make Charlotte-Town harbour to take in provisions, crew, &c. But when within a few leagues of the latter place she was obstructed by a large field of ice which prevented her entrance into it, where she was distinctly discerned from the Town, driving about in different directions as impelled by the winds and tides. For several days she remained in that perilous situation with a scanty allowance of Provisions, and the owners with others on board; and the great quantity of half made ice in the river precluded every prospect of affording them any assistance. Upon the 3d inst. Mr. John LePage, who had chartered the schooner, taking advantage of a mild day, and anxious to afford every assistance to the persons on board, and to expedite the voyage of the vessel, assembled a crew of six persons together with himself, and proceeded down the river in a boat with provisions, saws, and other necessary utensils for cutting the ice. The persons who accompanied him were Ensign Smith, late of the New Brunswick Fencibles, James Foster, carrier of the Mails, James Pollard, Joseph Wood, J. Chillingworth, and John M'Aulay. About 3 o'clock, upon the same day they left the town, they reached the vessel, and after an ineffectual attempt to cut her out, they retired to the cabin. The wind shifted during the succeeding night to the S. E. and the ice drifted the vessel upon an extensive shoal laying to the east end of St. Peters Island, about ten miles from the town. Upon the following day (Sunday) the Wind shifted to the N. W. and blew a severe gale with some snow, which continued with increased violence during the following night, when the ice driving against the vessel with extreme violence carried away the rudder and stern post, and the water rushing in with great rapidity, the persons below amounting to twelve in number, after much exertion ascended to the deck, and the ice leaving the vessel upon the shoal, exposed them to one of the most inclement ever witnessed. The sea which dashed over them in constant succession, froze on their cloths, so that they became covered with ice. Previous to the great field leaving the vessel it threw her up on her beam ends, when with difficulty they cut away the masts. The provisions and spirits, which had been taken on board the previous day were totally washed out of the cabin through the stern. In this melancholy dilemma, Mr. Wm. Wood, jun. was dashed against the railing and fractured two of his ribs : in an attitude of insensibility he was considered dead, but to the surprise of his unhappy companions, he recovered and made every exertion to rally their druping spirits. During these awful and impending moments Foster & Chillingworth gave themselves up to fatigue, cold and despair. A short time before day-light an effort was made to gain the shore, in the boat, but after repeated struggles, was relinquished, when the two last mentioned persons perished in the boat. --- Some time after day light the survivors resolved to make another effort to regain the shore, which they were successful in reaching near the Block House, but so much frozen in their hands and feet, and exhausted, that out of ten only four were enabled to assist the remaining six out of the Boat. Just before the Boat reached shore Joseph Wood expired, and his brother John directly after he was carried to the land. At the time of their landing the fatigue and severe cold had deprived them of the almost entire use of their limbs and senses. The least injured with the assistance of the party of soldiers at the Block House, conducted the almost lifeless bodies of the survivors to the nearest places of succour, where every means to be acquired were offered to their assistance. A scene of deeper distress than was exhibited among these unfortunate men, can scarcely be conceived but never adequately depicted. Out of the whole number, four died before sufficient relief could be afforded and two of them in the last moments of safety. The remainder were much injured by the frost, particularly in their hands and feet; but it is with much satisfaction we are enabled to announce that they are all doing well and likely to recover without any farther loss than some of the toes and fingers.

John Foster and Joseph Wood, have both left families in this town to lament the loss of active and industrious husbands and provident fathers, and from their obliging dispositions and general usefulness must long be regretted by their friends and the community in general."

Dave Hunter and The Island Register: HTML and Graphics© 1999, 2000

Last Updated: 12/06/2003 9:57:17 PM
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