The Great Calamity -  Part I

 

Before 1799 ended, a great tragedy befell the little community of pioneer men and women.  Sally Davis who had been a part of the community since February1799, and knew the men involved as neighbors shall tell the tale.

“The Great Calamity came upon us in the fall of 1799.  Captain Geerman who lived by the lake built a small sloop or had one that he ran to Canada for goods and provisions for the settlers.  The last trip was late in the fall.  He had only one young lad with him, Welcome Spencer, 16 years old.  They were driven on shore on their way home and both lives and vessel were lost not far from the Gallop Islands.  We did not hear from them for three weeks until it was reported that a light was seen on Stoney Island.  It was feared that Capt. Geerman was cast away on that island and he and young Spencer might be there starving to death.  Sylvester Spencer, father of Welcome, Nathaniel Rood, Chipman Wheadon, Miles Doolittle and Green Clark started from Mexico Point to rescue these men, if they could be found.

After a long and fruitless search among the islands and about the lake shore they gave up all hopes and on their return home off Stony Point there came up a blow that capsized their boat and they all found a watery grave.  For days and days nothing was heard from them.  After about three weeks one day Captain Hamilton came along to our house with a hat in hand.  I asked him if he had heard anything from the men.  ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘they are all drowned; this is Mr. Wheadon’s hat.  The boat was seen from the shore when it upset.  One man was seen to hang onto the boat for some time after it upset, supposed to be Wheadon, as he was a very smart and active man.’  Other accounts say that Green Clark’s body was washed ashore; but none of the others were recovered.  Mrs. Davis’ story continued; ”These five men were lost, Sylvester Spencer, Nathaniel Rood, Chipman Wheadon, Miles Doolittle, Green Clark, and the two that were lost on the schooner making seven in all out of 12 which was all there was in the country at that time.  Those left were Phineas Davis, Capt. Hamilton, Calvin Tiffany, Jonathon Parkhurst, and Benjamin Winch.  The reason why our men did not go was we were all sick with ague and fever except Tiffany and he had to stay to take care of the sick.  The loss of these men was a terrible blow, what few was left in town were so completely discouraged that a part of them left the place.  Some lots that had been taken up and improved were left to grow up to bushes.”  Among others on Wright’s 1799 map list: William Adams, Charles Spencer, Stephen Spencer, Richard Carey, and Elisha Hamilton.  They forfeited their contracts.

The Great Calamity of 1799

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