Page 29 - Wrecked on the Cheticamp Coast, 1823
ISSUE : Issue 26
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1980/8/1
morning of the 2nd of December, the wind changed more to the eastward, with a strong breeze and much sea. Taylor still employed bailing, Crompton and M'Cullum pulling at intervals. On this day, towards meridian, with fresh gales and a high sea, we saw the low land of Cheticamp. I told the company I saw a house, but they would not believe it. We were very fearful of running down into the bite, as the sea was so high; so we kept right for the point.... In opening the point, we discovered a ves? sel's masts, which we thought appeared like a galliot, but we soon found her to be a ship on shore. We run for her, when she proved to be the Commerce, of Bristol; she had run in there full of water, and was a complete wreck. When we reached her, the mate and some of the crew came into our boat, and pulled her on shore. They took us to the house, carrying us all on their backs, except Crompton, who was the only one that hopped in. It was a fishing- house belonging, to one Captain Breeho, who, we were informed, was at Guernsey, but he had a clerk who kept the store-house in his absence. We were all kindly received by the storekeeper; he gave us the best refreshment he had in the house, but, hav? ing to go out to work in the day-time, he could render us no assistance except at nights. I had the boots cut off my feet, and we had our feet put into buckets of cold water for a considerable time, but to no effect. We were all put into a room, and laid on the floor on an old sail. There came to see us a kind-hearted Irish woman and several others; she made us some oatmeal gruel, and put oatmeal poultices on my hands, and dressed all our feet with scraped potatoes.... Dec. 3rd, in the morning, our kind friend, the Irish woman, came again to see us, and brought her husband along with her. They and their family were the only persons resident here, except French people. They brought with them some milk; she made us gruel for breakfast, and likewise dressed our feet, and my hands also. The pilot having reserved some money, it began to speak the old language, and he agreed with the woman to take him to her house for the winter; he told the master of the house to give us half a gallon of rum, and then he took his leave of us, and I have never seen him since. Webster lay in a most de? plorable condition; the bones of his legs were eaten through, and limbs all swelled as thick as his thigh, and were very black and frozen. He complained sorely of lying on the hard boards; they got him some straw to lie on. In this deplorable condition we lay on the hard floor for several days, the man be? longing to the house having his work to attend to, and having no woman servant in the house, we could have no assistance till he came home at night. This made me lament much the loss of our master, as he would have been able to have drawn money, and relieved us by getting us a bed to lie on. We were at length relieved by one Mr, Blanchard, a Roman Catholic minister of the settlement of Cheticamp, which was a- bout three miles distant. He went round a- mongst the parishioners, who were all French people, and got them to take us. In a day or two, they and their worthy priest came with horses to remove us; they brought with them rugs and blankets to cover us with. They could speak but very little English; however the first that spoke to me was one Joseph Macknall, who said, "Will you come to my house?" I read? ily answered, "Yes," being desirous of getting a bed to lie on. I was put upon his horse, and covered with blankets; so were all,my shipmates, except Crompton. The man of the house told him he would keep him, as he thought he would be likely soon to recover. I then left my shipmates, and went with my guide, Joseph Macknall; he led the horse with one hand and held me on with the other. It blew and snowed very heavy, which cut my poor legs up very much, not being able to hold with my hands; and having teen for some time in a warm house, and now coming out into the cold, it cut me up more than all the rest. I thought I should have fallen off the horse several times before we reached his house; at length we arrived, and I was kindly re? ceived by the mistress and daughters. I was put into a crib, made of rough slabs, upon a straw bed, which I found very com? fortable, having been so long destitute, and the crib was placed alongside of a window. I found none in the house that could speak English, except the master of the house. I was in a most deplorable condition the time I was here, having juniper poultices applied to my hands and feet every night and morning; several Indian women came in to dress my hands and feet. I was in a vi? olent fever for several days, and was al? most induced to think every day that came would be my last. Having so much fever, I was parched with thirst, and was always wanting to drink water, which was the only beverage the house afforded; and if I put it in the window during the night, it would be all ice when I wanted to drink a- gain. The rain and snow came rattling and beating upon me in the night. I mentioned this to the master of the house, so every night afterwards they dragged the bed be? fore the fire. My middle finger on my left hand was now very bad, nothing left but the bone; I wished the Indian women to cut it off, but none in the house would perform this oper? ation. I got my host to sharpen my pen? knife, and I cut it off myself; if I had not, it is most probably I should have lost my whole hand, as my arm was very much swelled and inflamed at the time. One of the Indian women went into the wood and got some red kind of bark, and chewed it in her mouth to make a poultice of it for my hands. I said to the master and mis? tress of the house, when they were dress? ing my feet, "Do you think I shall lose my (29)
Cape Breton's Magazine