NIAGARA'S DEFIANT SCOW


| September/October 1977



We thank Donald Partrick, 35 Argyle Crescent, Bramalea, Ontario, Canada L6T 1M9, Editor of Boiler Bulletin, the publication of Ontario Steam & Antique Preservers Association for sending us the following article. We're sure it will be of interest to our readers.

Many people have seen the remains of the old scow about a thousand feet above the Horseshoe Falls and about eight hundred feet off shore, when visiting Niagara Falls. There is little or no information about it, and few people know what happened and how it got there. In response to a few requests from some of our members, I dug up the following story.

The scow, a large flat bottomed barge, 80' long and 30' wide had six hoppers in it to carry material that had been dredged from the river bottom, and was owned by the Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, Buffalo. These hoppers had large doors in the bottom so the dredge spoil could be dumped in special dumping areas in the river. The scow would stay afloat, as it was built with air-tight compartments which would keep it afloat when its cargo was dumped. Two men comprised its crew. They opened the doors to dump the scow and then wound them back up again, a slow and tedious operation.

On the afternoon of August 6, 1918 about 3:00 P.M. the tug 'HASSAYAMPA' had the scow in tow near the American Hydraulic Power Company intake, Niagara Falls, New York when the tug ran aground. The scow breasted in the current and the cable holding it to the tug snapped. On board the scow were Gustave Loftberg a 51 year old Swedish sailor and James Harris, 51 of Buffalo.

The scow was swept across the river by the fast moving current to the Canadian Side and began heading towards the rapids above the Horseshoe Falls. The two crew members worked frantically to try to curtail its rush towards the thunderous waterfall. They threw overboard an anchor, but with the rocky bottom, it afforded no holding. They opened the doors on the scow, hoping that they would become | lodged on some rock and stop or slow the scow's headway. They also opened the seacocks to the air-tight compartments to allow the scow to sink. She started to, but not fast enough. Only a few thousand feet were left now, time was running out, the situation appeared hopeless. Then the half-forgotten anchor snagged on a rock and held. The scow settled on the bottom, 850 feet from the Canadian shore, directly abreast of the Toronto Electrical Development Powerhouse.

News of the men's plight spread quickly. The first to get there was the Niagara Falls Ont. Fire Department. The buildings of the power company were guarded as the First World War was still on, and the Army arrived on the scene. One man related years later that he arrived on his bicycle following the horsedrawn fire engine. Nobody had the slightest idea what to do. They tried shooting a line out, but it fell short by about 500 feet. Somebody had the bright idea of floating a wooden object out to the scow from up river, but that also failed. Shortly after 4:00 P.M. a call for aid was telephoned by Ross Coddington, Supt. of construction of the Hydraulic Power Company, to the lifeboat station at Fort Niagara, New York. At 4:15 the Lifesaving Company comprised of five men left the station and made the trip by motor truck the 25 miles in less i than half an hour. You couldn't do that today in August around Niagara Falls! Arriving at the scene with a , Breeches Buoy Rescue Equipment, they quickly set it up and the first line they fired to the scow landed on board.