Squall 1902

Vol. XIV No. 3 - SUMMER 2003

Editor’s Note: This is a reprint of an article from Hearst’s Chicago American, July 15, 1902. The accounts were written by William F. Corey, then a young man, who later became a doctor and lived in Edgewater on Magnolia Avenue. His widow, Ruth Corey, gave these clippings to the Edgewater Historical Society along with a few family photos.

Chicago. The sloop Arab IV with a party of ten aboard was struck by a squall at 9:30 p.m. on July 14 while a half a mile south of the four-mile crib and capsized. The entire party was thrown into the waters of Lake Michigan. Two were drowned and eight rescued after one of the most thrilling experiences ever to meet a party of pleasure seekers on the lake. The dead were Mamie Taylor, 17, and Harry Jensen. This is William Cory’s account:

“We picked up the party at the Chicago Yacht Club at 6 o’clock and sailed south. There was a nice breeze, no sign of a storm and everyone was in the jolliest humor. There was not a thought of the disaster which was to cost the lives of two of the party in less than four hours from the time we put out into the lake.

“Captain Cameron sailed nearly to South Chicago, standing well out into the lake. About 9 o’clock he put about and started for home. We were about a half a mile south of the four mile crib when we saw the squall coming. It was one of the most peculiar squalls I ever saw. The wind came before the clouds.

“Barber was at the halyards and was starting to drop the main sheet. Poor Jensen had started forward when the blast struck us. We were laying in the wind. In an instant we were in the lake, the yacht turning turtle.

“When I came up my head struck something in the cockpit. I felt around and realizing where I was I dove to come to the surface. I was afraid of being caught in the rigging.

“On coming to the top I saw Miss Goodman struggling in the heavy sea. I grabbed her by the arm and Captain Cameron grabbed her by the hair and hauled her on the bottom of the yacht. Mrs. Cameron and her daughter had been pulled out of the water and placed in the dingy.

“We counted noses and in the excitement of the moment thought we were all safe although we had to cling to the bottom of the yacht. One of the women called and asked whether Miss Taylor was safe. That was the first realization we had the girl was drowned. Then Jensen was missed.

“Although the sea had run down it was still heavy, and I had a hard time keeping afloat, as the waves broke over us in spite of all that I could do. The bravery of Mrs. Cameron, her daughter and Miss Goodman is something I shall never forget the longest day I live. If they had any fear they never showed it and did all in their power to encourage me. When Mrs. Cameron prayed to be saved it was the prayer of a brave, strong woman in whose heart fear had never entered.

“When the women were safe ashore I telephoned the life-saving station and the crew went out. Then I got a tug, the Success, and with U.J. Herman and Henry Johnson we started to find the men who had been clinging for hours on the boat.

“It was after four o’clock (a.m.) when we sighted them off 26th street. They were no more glad to see us than we were to see them. They told us we had been sighted an hour before we located them. They shouted and waved a shirt but we neither heard them on account of the distance, nor saw them by reason of the fog.

“Not until we had righted the Arab IV at the clubhouse dock did we know that the bodies of Miss Taylor and Mr. Jensen were in the cabin. We can only surmise how they got there.”

Account by Artie Barber (who remained on the capsized yacht while William Corey rowed the women to shore):

“I was almost exhausted when the tugboat, Success, came in sight. I shouted several times before the men on the tugboat heard me. Mr. Cameron was also exhausted but by cheering each other we held out well. I have been capsized in boats many times but never before was I so frightened as I was last night.

“Mr. Cameron retained his presence of mind better than any man I ever saw under such circumstances. When Corey left with the party in the dingy Mr. Cameron gave his complete instructions about landing and the care of the women. Although the yacht was a Columbia Yacht it was thought best to land at the Chicago Yacht Club House.

“We tried to place ourselves in positions so we would not be in danger of releasing our hold upon the hull of the yacht. There were but one and one half feet of the hull above water and our position was a perilous one. We feared that the whole yacht would go under.

“Mr. Cameron, Hastings and I passed away our time discussing the probabilities of the yacht going under. I feared that the blankets and wet sails would pull it under. I would not be placed in such a position again for any amount of money. I think it was almost miraculous that we were saved. The death of Miss Taylor pains me very much. I have never known a brighter and merrier girl in my life.”

The Rescued:

  • J.B. Cameron, owner of the yacht
  • Mrs. J.H. Cameron, wife of the owner
  • Miss Mary Cameron, daughter of the owner
  • Miss Ruth Goodman
  • Arthur Barber
  • M. Hastings
  • William F. Corey

Another account records the story from the Columbia Yacht Club:

“It was after midnight when a faint hail struck the ear of Harry Boylan, steward of the Columbia Yacht Club at the foot of Randolph Street. He ran to the platform that surrounds the clubhouse and saw a boat coming slowly toward him. In it were Corey, and Miss Cameron and Mrs. Cameron and Miss Goodman. Cory was barely able to keep the oars moving. The women were in a state of collapse.

“Boylan, with a boathook, brought the skiff to the landing and lifted the occupants out. ‘For God’s sake,’ whispered Corey, ‘send out the lifesaving crew. Yacht Arab overturned. Cameron and Barber clinging to her. Two drowned.’

“Boylan assisted the four persons into the clubhouse and telephoned the life-saving crew. The crew at once prepared to launch their own boats and sent a quick message to a tug that was lying nearby with steam up. As the life-savers prepared their apparatus Corey told his story so far as he could remember it in the haze of the terrible events that had transpired since darkness set in.

“Mrs. and Miss Cameron and Miss Goodman were taken into the dingy and it was decided that I should try to row them to shore. Cameron and Barber and a third man, whose name I cannot remember said they would try and keep afloat by hanging to the yacht until I could reach shore and send assistance.

“We were all exhausted, I mean all who got into the dingy, and I fear Cameron and the other two will be unable to hold out. I started for shore, making as near as I could for the mouth of the river as I figured that the first thing to do would be to notify the life-saving crew. How long I pulled at the oars I don’t know, it seemed hours, and I guess it was. I expect I got off the course a number of times.

“I was tired when I got into the boat and before I had rowed a mile I felt my strength going. I kept at it some way and finally made out the lights of the yacht club. The women in the boat with me were in a state of collapse all the way in and therefore did not demand my attention as they would if they had become hysterical.”

“The life-saving crew and the tug were soon at the yacht club and Corey got aboard to direct the effort of finding the overturned yacht. The boat left at one o’clock and had not returned by two o’clock. It was feared that the overturned boat had drifted far out into the lake under the influence of the wind from the west.

“Mrs. Cameron and her daughter and Miss Goodman were placed in carriages and taken to their home on Hibbard street where the servants were in a state of alarm over the absence of the family, whom they knew were out in the lake.”
(This account ends before it was known that the tug reached the people clinging to the yacht.)

The yacht itself was described as:

Built especially for the Sir Thomas Lipton cup races which were held off Chicago beginning July 4. She was what is known as a twenty-four footer, this meaning that she was twenty feet over all and had a waterline length of about fourteen feet. This is a small yacht, indeed, but she was in every way thought to be seaworthy. The yacht was fitted with only a mainsail and a jib. When underway half of the deck was nearly always awash and those aboard rode in the hold. The yacht proved her fleetness in the first race for the cup by finishing second to La Rita, the boat which won the Lipton cup.