Stories of the Sea

1900 - STEAMER - CITY OF MONTICELLO

The usual peaceful course of events in Yarmouth was ruthlessly broken on Saturday afternoon, November 10th, by the announcement of one of the most appalling calamities that had occurred in its history. About 3.30 o'clock a telephone message was received from Capt. A. Norman Smith from Chegoggin, summoning medical assistance for stewardess Smith, of the steamer City of Monticello, coupled with the statement that this steamer had foundered in the Bay and all on board, except four, had perished. Immediately the news spread with lightning speed, passing from lip to lip, as each one told his neighbor the terrible news.

Little groups of men gathered on the streets, and when Capt Smith reached the post office an immense crowd congregated, completely blocking the street, so eager were they to hear the painful details. With great difficulty, and although suffering from his injuries and exposure, Capt. Smith related the circumstances attending the disaster. Each of his hearer's faces blanched as the terrible story was related, and many of the stoutest hearted welled up with sorrow and their eyes filled with tears from sympathy with the lost and their bereaved families.

Whilst Capt. Smith related his experience the new-comers in the crowd asked question after question about their friends on board, and as each new name was mentioned a deeper sorrow, if possible, seized the listeners. Several were unable to bear the mental strain and were obliged, although anxious to hear the minutest details of the disaster, to withdraw into some store or office where their emotions might have free scope. During the captain's recital of the story he was repeatedly interrupted by numerous friends calling to express their gratitude that he had been spared to tell the terrible details. Capt. Smith's statement was as follows:

We left St. John at 11.15 o'clock on Friday morning, November 9th, and had a fair run to Petite Passage. The sun here shone out brightly and there were indications of a northwest wind. Capt. Harding and I both coincided in this opinion. Capt. Harding decided to keep on. We got as far as Cape St. Mary's, when the wind began to blow very strong, which continued to increase to a gale. We kept on our course as near as possible, and made fairly good weather.

On Saturday morning at daylight Cape Forchu bore due east, about four miles distant. Capt. Harding decided to try to run for Yarmouth, but on account of a heavy list, owing to the quantity of water in the hold, was unable to get the ship's head before the wind. The jib was set, but without effect. The water finally put out the fires and the engines stopped. The steamer then lay in the trough of the sea, unmanageable. She then began to settle very fast, being at an angle of 45 degrees, with starboard paddle out of water.

The captain had previously ordered the boats cleared and made ready for launching. The first boat was lowered and in it were: Miss Elsie MacDonald and a colored girl, and stewardess Kate Smith, (the only females on board); second officer Murphy, third officer Flemmings, quarter master Wilson Cook and myself, seven in number. The second boat; was launched about the same time. Some men got in her. She seemed to settle at once as if boarded by a sea. Some one in our boat cried out: "Those poor fellows are drowning!" when Murphy burst out crying, being unable to assist them. I never saw a man more worked up over his companions' safety and at the same time cool and collected regarding his duties at the helm of the boat.

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