Stories of the Sea

1900 - STEAMER - CITY OF MONTICELLO - (Contiued)

Within five minutes of our putting off from the Monticello she turned completely over and disappeared beneath the waves. Our only safety depended upon our keeping our boat, before the sea, and how faithfully poor Murphy attended to this difficult task. It appeared as if his hands would collapse from the strain with which he grasped the tiller. When a short distance from the shore we tried to run the boat into a small beach between the rocks. I saw a tremendous comber coining after us and I shouted to all to hold on for their lives. I grasped both arms around the forward thwart with both hands locked by the fingers and waited for the result. In an instant the boat was lifted like an eggshell to the angle of 45 degrees, my grasp on the boat was broken, and I found myself thrown violently to the earth and grass on the beach. Sticking my fingers as deeply as I could in the bank I awaited the undertow. I was carried back some distance, but on the next wave secured a strong hold and then crawled out of danger. I observed Miss Smith and Mr. Flemmings crawling up the beach, and afterwards was joined by Mr. Cook. I saw nothing of Mr. Murphy and the two girls after the comber struck us. They uttered no shout, and I do not know how they met their death. It seemed hard that after displaying so much courage and fortitude they should be lost when safety was so near.

We walked up to Capt. Vickery's house, where we found the family at dinner. They at once showed us every kindness, and after a hasty lunch Capt. Vickery drove me to town. During all the trying ordeal on board the steamer there was not the slightest confusion, but on the contrary everything was done in the most orderly manner. Capt. Harding might have jumped into our boat, but paid no attention to it, keeping himself busy attending to the launching of the other boats, and serving lifebelts to the passengers. I sang out to young Olive to jump in the boat, and he could easily have done so. He had been most attentive to the three ladies, assisting them in getting ready and in jumping into the boat. Indeed the last thing he did was to throw Miss MacDonald's hand bag in the boat just as we were carried away from the ship.' There can be no blame attached to Capt. Harding. No more capable officer could be found. He was simply caught under conditions which looked favorable, but which turned out entirely different. I think it impossible that either of the men in the second boat could have survived long, as she appeared to sink almost immediately.

Third officer Flemmings said that about 10 o'clock on Friday night a sea boarded the Monticello on the starboard bow, which stove in the forward saloon and did other slight damage, which was temporarily repaired with boat awnings. When off Cape St. Mary's, about, five or six miles from shore, the steamer began to make water slightly. The pumps were set to work, and the steamer did not ship another sea. The pumps kept the vessel free until 8 the next morning. I had no idea of danger until an hour later, when the leak increased rapidly. We then began to throw the cargo overboard through the port gangways, and put out a drag to put the steamer before the sea.

About 11 o'clock the steamer was unmanageable, her position being then about four miles west of Chegoggin Point. The engines stopped about 11.30. Capt. Harding, in his quiet manner, ordered the boats put over. Wilson Cook and myself jumped in first. We then got the ladies on board, each in turn jumping from the rail of the steamer as the boat swung in with the sea. Cook caught them and I kept the boat from being smashed against the steamer. As soon as Mr. Murphy got in the boat it became unhooked from the davits and we were obliged to pull away from the steamer. The second boat filled as soon as launched. I saw two or three men in the water having lifebelts on. We saw the starboard quarter boat over the side before we lost sight of the ship.

We had not been in the boat more than five minutes before the Monticello turned completely over, broke in two and disappeared beneath the waves, with some men hanging on to the starboard quarter rail. The steamer broke in two, and the last seen of her was her rudder sticking up. This statement was corroborated by quarter master Cook, who added that the forward part sank bow first, and the after portion stern first. I saw four or five persons standing aft on the ship as she went down. I saw the second boat fill alongside the ship, some inside and some outside holding on. I think there were about seven in her and they did not get the forward davit tackle clear before the ship went down. I think about fifteen persons got into the third boat. They had oars out and were lying beside the ship.

Miss Smith said: Elsie MacDonald was in her stateroom and stayed there until I told her to get up, as we had to take to the boats and she had better dress. The Lawrence girl came on deck with Miss MacDonald. In the morning Mr. Eldridge sat down by me and said his people didn't know he was on board. I never realized we were in danger until we took to the boat. When Mr. Eldridge was speaking to me he seemed to be nervous and agitated a little, and he asked me if I was frightened. I told him " No, I was not the least bit afraid, and for him not to get frightened, as that was the worst thing he could do." He said: "All I can say is that God will take care of us." He then went away, was gone a little while and came back again and asked me if I thought he had better put on a lifebelt, and I told him yes, if he thought best. Then he did so and went away. Purser Hilton said he was feeling nervous and a little dizzy.