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Memoirs:

A PERILOUS VOYAGE -

 A Sketch of Early Times
by Captain C.S. Hart

Oconto Enterprise                             
September 12, 1916 

It was a glorious morning in early autumn of the year 1855 when a party of Indians embarked in a birch canoe for a voyage down the Oconto River and over the bay to Peshtigo. The Indians consisted of the Chief of the Menominee Tribe with his family, accompanied by a small white boy of about 11 years of age, making the party fifteen all told.

The canoe started from a point on the north bank of the Oconto river, near where Park avenue bridge is now located.   The voyage down the river was quickly made and the canoe was soon boating on the water of Green Bay.   The morning was an ideal one not the faintest suggestion of a ripple marred the shining surface of the water.   Each member of the party fielded a paddle which propelled the canoe about 7 miles an hour. The birch canoe of those early times was a fine specimen of marine architecture and this one was no exception to the   rule besides being handsomely decorated  with colored porcupine quills worked in beautiful designs on each end of the canoe
 

Illustration of a canoe as described in the story, note the quill decoration on the bow. These crafts were capable of carrying several tons of cargo.

The Chief laid the course of the canoe for the mouth of the Peshtigo river, 10 miles to the northeast. Peshtigo in those days was spelled and pronounced Pe-shat-i-go, Peshatigo. When the canoe had covered half the distance the atmosphere,  along the western horizon, began to take on a hazy and bluish tinge which rapidly grew darker and streaks of lightning became frequent and rapidly increased in vividness, while the rumbling of distant thunder was faintly discernable. The clouds became blacker and more threatening and thel ightning's flash became constant. It was evident that a terrific storm was approaching with fearful rapidity and that unless help soon arrived, the party in the canoe would soon be swallowed up by the heavy seas that were beginning to lash the waters of the bay.

The canoe was a large one and in ordinary weather was perfectly safe but in such a storm as was now approaching it would not keep afloat but a very short time.   The Chief realized his danger and scanned the bay at all points to see if there was any relief  in sight.   Much to his joy he sighted a schooner, about 2 miles distance to the southeast, that had evidently discover the danger that was threatening the canoe and was making for it with all sails set.

The course of the canoe was changed at once and made for the schooner with all the speed possible.   The paddles played in unison and the canoe rushed forward at an astonishing rate.   The sea was raising fast
and soon began splashing over the side of the canoe which kept one person busy bailing.   It soon became a
question whether the canoe could be kept afloat long enough to reach the schooner.

 

Early Oconto County pioneer, Edwin Hart, father of Cyrus (C.H.), Clifford (C. B.), Henry Hart and 5 other children. He had purchased a boat in 1852. The family arrived in the Oconto wilderness with horses, household goods, a cow and yoke of oxen. 

The wind was freshening  rapidly every moment, and the schooner was coming up with greatly increased speed.  The Captain, who by the way  was Captain C. B. Hart, of the Hart Transportation Company, of Sturgeon Bay, and a thorough sailor, carried every sail to the danger point and the schooner laid over until the scuppers  which are above the deck, were several inches under the water.  A sailor was placed in charge of each sheet and halliard ready to haul in and lower the sails at a moments notice. The lashing of the anchors were removed and swung free.   When the schooner was within a couple of lengths of the canoe and the storm not more than an eight of a mile away, was brought up in the wind and headed for the oncoming storm.  All sail was taken in and the anchors dropped. By this time the canoe came up on her lee side and in a minute its occupants were on deck and at once helped the crew stow the sails snugly. As soon as this was accomplished everybody went below out of the fury of the storm which was nearly upon the schooner.
 

Schooner, of the Great Lakes type described in this memoir, under full sail and laid over with the starboard scuppers nearly awash.

When the storm broke over the schooner it was a terrific spectacle.  The heavy waves struck her bows and flew high above her decks and came down with a fearful crash that made every timber in her tremble and creak. The crashing of the sea following each other in quick success  was something fearful and endanged the safety of the vessel. The continuous roar of the thunder and the whistling of the wind through the rigging made dismal and fearful sounds.

When the storm passed over, Captain made sail and carried the Indians in safety to the mouth of the Peshtigo river where they left the schooner, a grateful and happy lot.

The white boy remained  on the schooner and became one of the crew. When the Captain discovered the boy his pleasure was unbounded for in saving the lives of the occupants of the canoe,  he saved the life of  his brother who was the white boy with the Indians in the canoe and the writer of this sketch.



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