Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tragic Accident Off the Shores of Pelham in Early 1802

The waters of Long Island Sound that surround City Island and Hart Island have been the scene of many tragedies during the last 350 years.  There have been countless drownings, shipwrecks, ship collisions (including a number with consequent sinkings), drowning suicides, sailors frozen to death, and even murders on anchored (and passing) vessels.  The story of one tragedy, however, bears retelling because of the noble efforts of rescuers involved.

On January 7, 1802, heavy winds whipped the waters of Long Island Sound near Hart Island.  The waters of the Sound were running high and large waves lashed at the shores and local shipping.  

That cold and windy day, a sloop was passing near Hart Island.  On board, in addition to the crew of the vessel, was one of its owners, Peter Jessup, as well as George Lockwood and his 22-year-old son, John Lockwood.  The Lockwoods lived on Horse Neck (a narrow neck of land sticking protruding into Long Island Sound in the Township of Greenwood, Fairfield County, Connecticut in what now is part of what is called Old Greenwood).

As the sloop passed Hart Island, a particularly strong gust of wind caught the sails and caused the vessel to jibe (i.e., to change tacks by steering away from the wind so that the leach of the sail swings across the so-called "eye of the wind").  As the vessel rolled violently from the sudden change of tack, young John Lockwood was pitched from the deck of the sloop quite a distance into the cold, frothing waters.

Members of the crew immediately began trying to reach John Lockwood and render any form of assistance possible.  Simultaneously, Peter Jessup and the young man's father, George Lockwood, unlashed a small boat stored on the deck of the sloop and lowered it into the violent waters.  The two men cast off in the tiny vessel with the riotous waves pounding their craft.  

For thirty minutes John Lockwood bobbed in the violent waters as the crew of the sloop and the two men in the tiny boat tried to save him.  After a half hour, however, John Lockwood slipped beneath the waves and was drowned.

Once it was clear to all that the young man was gone and could not be saved, it was time to get the little boat with Peter Jessup and George Lockwood back to the sloop and safely on board.  Though it took some time, finally the small boat was able to get to the side of the much larger sloop.  As the two men scrambled to climb aboard, the small boat overturned, dumping both into the same cold waters that had just taken the life of John Lockwood.

Now it was Peter Jessup and George Lockwood who were bobbing in the violent waters as the crew of the sloop tried to save them.  Peter Jessup repeatedly yelled to George Lockwood "don't be frightened!" "don't be frightened!" as he repeatedly tried to right the small boat.  The crew of the sloop cast ropes and, soon, George Lockwood grabbed one and was pulled from the waters.  

Peter Jessup was not so lucky.  He was never able to right the small boat and soon slipped beneath the waves and was drowned.  

The cold, gray waters around City Island and Hart Island took two lives that day.  Many, many more were to follow.   

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Mr. John Lockwood, son of Mr. George Lockwood of Horse-Neck, aged 22 years, on his passage from New-York, on board a sloop, on the 7th inst. near Hart-Island, when on the boom of the vessel, casting off the reave plat [sic; perhaps "reeve plate"], a flaw of wind struck the vessel, which caused her to jibe; in which situation he was cast a distance from the sloop.  He was afforded every assistance possible, not only from the sloop but from the shore, being near the land; he remained above water nearly half an hour; but at last drowned.

Mr. Peter Jessup, of the same place, part owner of the sloop, was on board.  --  In order to save his fellow creature in distress he had resort to the boat, which was on deck; but with the assistance of the crew he soon had it overboard.  Mr. Jessup and Mr. Lockwood took the boat, and attempted to save Mr. J. Lockwood; but the wind blowing fresh and the sea running high, they could not effect their purpose.  When they had lost sight of him they attempted to regain the sloop.  In running along side the boat overset [sic].  Mr. Jessup was frequently heard to say to Mr. Lockwood, don't be frightened; but not being able to right the boat he was drowned.  Mr. Lockwood, was saved by getting hold of a rope, cast from the sloop."

Source:  FATAL ACCIDENT, New-York Evening Post, Jan. 23, 1803, No. 59, p. 2, col. 5 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link; free version available here).  

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