Teaching Cleveland

Lesson 38

The Cleveland Plain Dealer -- July 17, 1896

article photo "Twenty lives lost by the overturning of a flat bottomed scow in the river," was the message that flashed over telephone wires shortly after 7 o'clock last evening and startled men in newspaper offices and police stations.

The disaster proved to be an appalling one. The occupants of the boat were mostly Germans. They crowded into the scow, which was lying at the C.&P. ore docks in the old river bed.

All were eager to get to their homes, where happy faces of wives and children were awaiting them, and there they could partake of the warm evening meal and then rest after the arduous labor of the day.

The scow started across the river, handled by a boy. Suddenly a tug hove into view, coming at a rapid rate. The men saw danger. They attempted to turn back to shore. There was great excitement. Everyone was giving orders at once.

The boat became unmanageable and her side turned to the tug. At this moment a big wave from the tug washed completely over her, filling her with water.

Men yelled and jumped and in a moment there was a struggling mass of humanity in the inky black waters of the Cuyahoga. Three minutes later all was a quiet as though nothing had happened. Except for a few heads barely above water, a few life preservers floating about, and a big scow bottom side up, the river at that point presented no unusual scene. But twenty lives or thereabouts, had gone to meet their God.

.....This river bed runs westward, paralleling the lake shore. Along its banks docks have been erected and a vast traffic has sprung up in the handling of ore.

Among the largest ore docks are those of the C.&P. Dock Co., almost at the foot of Pearl street. Fully 300 men are employed there in handling iron ore. Most of them are foreigners by birth. The people who live in the downtown portion of the West Side, are accustomed to see these men trudge, back and forth, to and from work, day after day. They are known by the peculiar brown or copper color, which their clothes, shoes, faces, hands and even dinner pails assume, from contact with the ore.

Many of these men live in pleasant little homes of their own, in the suburbs of the West Side. Some of them have worked on the dock for years.....

A tremendous steel vessel, the Henry Bessemer, lay at the C&P docks yesterday. Her stern faced eastward. So large is she that those standing on the dock, at her stern, cannot see what boats may be coming down the river from beyond her. It is almost impossible to get an unobstructed view of the river at this point until midstream is reached.

Toward evening the various gangs of men at work on the dock begin to put away their tools and leave for home. The boys who carry water to them during the day have also another duty--to row the men across the river when they come to work and when they quit work at night.

....When the scow started from shore the Lagonda and her tugs were just coming alongside the Bessemer, and they were hidden from the view of the men in the scow by the Bessemer. When the scow got about fifty feet from shore the danger of a collision was noted. The effect of the waves washed from the prow of the leading tug was also apparent in a rocking motion of the scow.

...The waves caused greater rocking of the boat. They also swung her around with broadside to the tug. The next wave washed completely over her and filled her with water. Heartrending cries went up from the men. In the face of the terrible danger there was hardly a cool man on board. The crews of the Bessemer and other boats lying near rushed on deck, with startled expressions on their faces, to learn the causes of the appal-ling appeal from drowning men "Help! Help!" But the men on the boats were pow-erless. The only boat which might have averted the ter-rible calamity - the tug which was causing the danger - did not stop, perhaps could not, with a big steamer sweeping onward, close behind it.

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