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The Yacht Idler


Newspaper Articles On The Sinking Of The Yacht "Idler"


Taken from the next day's newspaper


July 8th   July 9th   July 10th   July 11th   July 12th   July 13th   July 16th   July 17th   July 19th   July 20th  

July 21st to August 2nd 1900       September 29th to October 17th 1900

Court Case of Captain Holmes







Master of the Ill Fated Yacht Taken Into Custody
on the Charge of Manslaughter.



The Testimony at the Coroner's Inquest Shows That
He Did Not Prepare for the Gale.





"Keep Canvas on and Have a Little Excitement,"
Capt. Holmes Said to Mate Samuel Biggam.



      Capt. C. H. Holmes, who was in command of the yacht Idler when it sank, July 7, is under arrest on the charge of manslaughter. He will be examined by the United States grand jury in October for the negligence which he is alleged to have shown when six persons in his care perished.

      The coroner yesterday began his investigation into the cause of the disaster. The testimony produced was exceedingly sensational.

      The mate, Samuel Biggam, said, among other things:  "About ten or fifteen minutes before the squall struck us I asked the captain if we hadn't better take in some canvas, but he said, "keep it on and have a little excitement."

      The testimony of certain other of the sailors went on to show that the members of the crew are of the opinion that not enough sails were taken in.

      There was no evidence presented which would tend to show that after the yacht capsized not enough efforts were made to save the lives of the women.




                  Captain of the Idler Declares the Charges Do Not Amount to a Hill of Beans.




    Charles Holmes, captain of the ill fated yacht Idler, was arrested late yesterday afternoon by Deputy United States Marshal Keeley of the charge of manslaughter.

     The arrest was made under a United States statute, which provides that every captain or other person employed on a vessel, by whose misconduct, negligence or inattention to his duties on such vessel, the life of any person is destroyed, shall be deemed guilty of manslaughter, and upon conviction thereof before any circuit court of the United States shall be sentenced to confinement at hard labor for a period of not more than ten years.

      The arrest of Capt. Holmes was made at the request of Capt. James Corrigan, owner of the yacht Idler, and was the result of the inquiry into the cause of the wreck that was made at the law offices of Goulder, Holding & Masten last week. During the investigation testimony of members of the crew was taken in secret. Capt. James Corrigan has blamed Capt. Holmes for the wreck from the start and the night after the yacht went down he declared that the sinking of the vessel and the loss of six lives was due to the criminal negligence of Capt. Holmes.

      During the past two or three days members of the firm of Goulder, Holding & Masten have held several conferences with United States District Attorney Sullivan and furnished him with a transcript of the testimony regarding the wreck taken at their offices last week. After carefully investigating the matter Mr. Sullivan decided that it was his duty as a United States official to begin criminal proceedings against Capt. Holmes.   

      The affidavit making charges against Capt. Holmes was sworn to by deputy United States Marshal Keeley, and reads as follows:

      "Before me, Harrison J. Uhl, a United states commissioner for the northern district of Ohio, personally appeared this day John J. Keeley, who being first duly sworn, deposes and says that on or about the seventh day of July, 1900, on the waters of Lake Erie, in said district, Charles J. Holmes, a person employed on board of and being captain of the vessel Idler, in violation of section 5344 of the revised statutes of the United States, did unlawfully by his misconduct, negligence and inattention to his duties on said vessel Idler, cause the death of Ida Corrigan, Nettie Rieley, Jane Corrigan, Ida May Corrigan, Mary Rieley and Etta Corrigan by drowning in the following manner, and said misconduct, negligence and inattention of the said Charles J. Holmes consisted in this:

        "That being then and there master of said vessel, in charge of her navigation and invested with the sole authority in respect thereof, he failed to properly reduce the sail on the vessel on the approach of a heavy squall and although abundant warning of the approach and severity of the squall was present, he negligently persisted in carrying on said vessel an undue amount of sail, to wit: Her full mainsail and her full foresail, besides certain Jibs; by reason of which said misconduct, negligence and inattention to his duties as the master of said vessel, in charge of her navigation and by reason of his failure as such captain and as a person so employed on board said vessel Idler, to properly cause sufficient sail to be taken in and to cause said vessel to be properly prepared to meet the weather the said squall, said vessel Idler was capsized and sunk and the lives of the said Ida Corrigan, Nettie Rieley, Jane Corrigan, Ida May Corrigan, Mary Rieley and Etta Corrigan were destroyed as aforesaid."

      Immediately after the warrant was issued for Capt. Holmes' arrest Deputy Marshal Keeley went in search of the Idler's captain. He found Capt. Holmes at his boarding house, at No. 212 Abbey street, and  took him before United States Commissioner Uhl in the United States marshal's office. Capt. Holmes then read the charge over carefully and said that he would plead not guilty and waive examination. His bond was fixed at $1,000 and his case will come up before the grand jury at the October term of the United States court.

      Capt. Holmes appeared somewhat excited and plainly showed the effects of his illness, which was brought on by his struggle in the water when his yacht capsized. When asked if he could secure bond he said that he would like to go to see Capt. James Corrigan expressing the opinion that he or someone in his office would go his bail.

      "While Capt. Corrigan is very bitter towards me over the loss of his family he has no doubt as in my character or integrity," exclaimed Capt. Holmes.  "Besides, everything in that affidavit doesn't amount to a hill of beans and cannot be corroborated." 

       Capt. Holmes was allowed to call up Capt. Corrigan's office by telephone, but did not find Mr. Corrigan. After some delay he succeeded in securing a bondsman. His bond was signed by Dr. J. R. Smith of No. 396 Jennings avenue.








Tells the Coroner That the Captain of the
Yacht Idler wanted "Little Excitement."


     Four members of the crew of the Idler were examined yesterday by the coroner. The inquest was held at the county morgue and began at 9:30 o'clock in the morning and with the exception of a recess for an hour at noon lasted until late in the afternoon. The mate, Samuel Biggam, was on the stand at the morning session and was subjected to a rigid examination. He threw some new important light on the disaster. Three sailors were examined at the  afternoon session. Neither of the Corrigans was present, and they were not represented. It was expected that Attorney Harvey D. Goulder, consul for the Corrigans, would assist in the examination. He did not appear, but it is said that nearly all the questions put to the men were written by him. This Coroner Simon denies. The coroner admitted, however, having been in consultation with Mr. Goulder, but declared that the subjects discussed had no bearing on the questions put to the crew or mate.

      The inquest will be resumed at 10:30 o'clock Saturday morning. Four other members of the crew have been subpoenaed. Capt. Holmes may be ordered to appear. It is possible that Mrs. John Corrigan will testify on that day.

      The following is the mate's testimony:

      "I have been a seaman for twenty three years and have sailed on all kinds of boats, from fishing smacks to the Great Eastern. I have sailed on the great lakes for nineteen years. I was on the Idler from May 24 to the day she went down. The crew consisted of four seamen, two stewards, William Summers, the ship's carpenter, the captain and myself- nine in all. We left Port Huron on Friday, July 6, between 3 and 4 o'clock. We were in tow of the Australia and she was being towed by the Emery Owen.

       "At. 6:30 O'clock Saturday morning the captain sent a man to me and told me to let the line go - this was outside Bar Point in Lake Erie - and to set the canvas, for the reason that the ladies were becoming sick on account of the rolling of the yacht. The wind was southwest. The spinnaker was set after breakfast and kept on until 11:30 O'clock, when we had to take it down on account of the yacht not laying her course. We steered southeast for Cleveland. The jib topsail was set after the spinnaker was pulled down. We were going at the rate of three miles on hour until two hours before the squall struck us. At 12:20 o'clock the wind was from the northwest. There were light, baffling winds. Up to the time the squall struck us we were sailing with the mainsail, forestaysail, standard and flying jibs, jib topsails, foregaft topsail and ??????????topsails.We remained so until fifteen minutes before the squall struck us.

     "I asked permission of the captain to take down the main topmast staysail, to keep it from getting wet. It was taken in. With the experience I have had I believe all sail should have been taken in except the forestaysail. The captain gave orders to take down main topsail, fore topsail and to haul down fore jib topsail. We were in the act of hauling down the jib topsail when the squall struck us.

      "Previous to this I asked the captain to take in some canvas, but he said:  "Keep it on and have a little excitement." I am sure that when the captain said that he did not think the gale would amount to much.

      "The clouds looked very threatening. There was lightning and thunder. All hands were saying "let go everything" and were letting go all running gear they could put their hands on. I had no conversation with the captain about taking down foresail.

     "The squall was three to five minutes away when the captain gave orders to take in two topsails and jib topsail.

      "The storm appeared to come from the northwest, but instead it hit us from the northeast. The gale had struck us when I started to take down the mainsail. The captain was standing aft, alongside the man at the wheel. He then took the wheel and sent the man forward to help us take the canvas down. The man that came forward told me that  two of the deadlights were open. I immediately went down into the cabin to close them. When I got there I saw Mrs. John Corrigan holding one of the deadlights and trying to close it, but could not, as the water was pouring down. Previous to the squall we were on the starboard tact, but jibed over and had the wind off the port side, with her boom well off. The main boom was off a little more than half way. It was guyed up. The guy was not fast when the squall hit us, but I don't know who let go of the guy. It was too late to haul in the sheet, as we could do nothing. The yacht was lying on her side, with the mainsail in the water.  We did not do anything about hauling in the main sheets. I cannot say whether anybody tried while I was on deck. We did not anticipate the severness of the squall until it struck us. I watched the cloud from 12:30; it kept getting heavier, with thunder and lightning. The captain was on deck, where he could see the  storm coming, with the exception of about five or ten minutes at about 1 o'clock, when he went down to change his clothes. The captain never consulted with me in regard to the weather. He issued his own orders."  

     "From my experience in sailing the lakes I should have had all sail in before the squall struck us, with the exception of the forestaysail. According to my judgment we had too much sail for the appearance of the weather. When I spoke to the captain he only ordered me to take down the main topmast staysail. That was the only one. In about five minutes after the captain gave orders to take in the main topsail, fortop and jib topsails,  I should have taken in more sail before that but did not say anything to the captain about it, because he is a man who does not allow any dictation.

     "I cannot say whether any of the rescued ones heard the captain say:  "Keep on the sail and we will have a little excitement,: except Mrs. John Corrigan, who was near enough to hear him make the remark. The captain asked me once my opinion in regard to the coming storm, and I replied that I thought it would be thirty or thirty-five miles an hour, forming my opinions from such squalls as I have seen before.

      "After I spoke to the captain about taking in some of the canvas there was plenty of time to take in all sails before the squall struck us, but we could not take in the foresail because the yacht was lying over. The crew were all standing by ready to obey orders. When the squall struck us I was down in the cabin to close the deadlights, as I stated before. I gave the stewards orders fifteen or twenty minutes before the squall struck us to close the deadlights, but when the man came from the wheel to assist us to take in the canvas he told me that the deadlights were open. It was necessary for me to go down in the cabin to close the deadlights because they drop down from the deck and fasten from the underside. When I got into the cabin I could see that two were open, one in Mr. Corrigan's room and the other in the after end of the cabin. Mrs Corrigan was trying to close it.

       "When I went into the cabin the yacht was lying on her beam end. I went down after companionway by way of the steps. Mrs. John Corrigan, Mrs. James Corrigan, Mrs. Rieley, one of the young ladies - I cannot say which one - and the baby were in the cabin. I do not know of any warning or notice being given to the passengers, either before or after the squall struck us. When I came up from the cabin I  saw Capt. Holmes and Alexander Nelson, with Miss Jane Corrigan, holding her on the weather side, and one of the men - Charles Johnson - went down in the water and cut away the little boat. I afterwards saw Johnson and one of the other men get the little boat clear of the yacht and pickup Mrs. John Corrigan,  who was afloat on a lounge. They held her on the little boat until the fish tug came and took her aboard. I was trying to get the two young ladies on the weather side of the main rigging so that I could get them aloft when the mast heads started out of the water, but at that time a sea came and took the three of us away. I became entangled in the main rigging under water, but I kicked off my sea boots and coat. I judge I was about three minutes under water and when I came to the surface the yacht was out of sight.I could see Alof Nelson with one of the ladies and Capt. Holmes with Aleck Nelson with  the other lady, which one I cannot tell.

      "I got to the main cross-trees and succeeded in pulling William Summers to me. He was nearly gone as he could not swim a stroke. The two stewards were in the cross-trees, but how they got there I do not know. Then the fish tug Effie B. came and took the four of us and proceeded to Cleveland. Life preservers were on the yacht and John corrigan's daughter had one of them on. Mrs. James Corrigan and Mrs. Rieley also had on life preservers but they could not come out of the cabin. I do not know if the captain made any effort to put life preservers on the women. When I left the cabin Mrs. James Corrigan, Mrs. Rieley and the baby remained there. I asked them to come up and they would not. I asked Mrs. Riley to give me the baby but she refused and said:  "When I go the baby goes."

       "I should say that the Idler was perfectly seaworthy in all respects. In my opinion had the yacht been stripped she would have been all right."







Alec Nelson, a Sailor,  Said at the Inquest
That the Boat Was in good Shape.




     Alec Nelson, a sailor in the Idler, who boards at No. 34 Bank street. was placed on the stand. He said that he had been sailing for nine or ten years, but this, he said, was the first season on the lakes. He said he believed that the yacht was entirely seaworthy, He said:

     "At noon we, with the exception of the man at the wheel and the mate, went down to dinner. About 1 O'clock we were called up to take down the main topmast staysail and the two topsails, and the jib topsail. The captain told the mate and the mate gave us the orders. There was not much wind. The clouds looked as though a squall was coming from about the north. Previous to taking down the sails I did not hear the mate say anything to the captain. from the time we took down the sails until the squall struck was was about fifteen minutes. The crew were all standing by waiting for orders to  take down the sail. The captain was on deck, aft.  

      "When the squall struck us we all run to let go the sails without orders. we got down the jib and foresail. Some were only half way down, because the yacht was so much heeled. Next the yacht capsized."

       "I heard no orders to take down sails," he continued, "nor did I hear any of the crew talking about taking down sails. We were all ready and expecting to receive orders to take down sails.

       "The yacht sank in about fifteen or twenty minutes after teh squall struck us.

       "I got hold of Jane Corrigan and was trying to pull her up on the weather side. The captain came and gave me a hand and we got her up. I held her until the yacht sank. The captain left me and went down on  deck and came back in a little while. I saw two men go out in a little boat and save Mr. John Corrigan. My brother, Severen Nelson, and Ida May Corrigan were in the fore rigging on the after part. The rest of the ladies were down in the cabin. The yacht sank about a minute after the water entered her cabin. The captain, Jane Corrigan and myself went down with the boat."

       "Nelson said he had been yachting for six summers."





 Severen Nelson Says the Clouds Looked
Ominous Some Time Before the Disaster.



Severen Nelson, brother of Alec Nelson, was the next witness called. He has been sailing for eight years. His testimony was similar in many respects to that of his brother. He said the crew were called up at 12:30 o'clock to take in the balloon staysail.

       "Before going to dinner it was getting dark on our stern, and when we came back on deck we saw there would be a squall," he said.  "The mate gave orders to take in the two topsails. We had the mainsail, foresail and staysail and two jibs up when the squall struck us. Everybody sang out: "Let go everything,"  so we let go and did what we could. The yacht listed so much that we could not take in the sails. We all went over the weather side. I held on the right hand of Jane Corrigan. I left Jane with my brother and went up to Ida May Corrigan. She was sitting in the fore rigging. The captain and my brother, Alec were holding Jane Corrigan. Mrs. John Corrigan floated away on a lounge about that time. The two sailors in the boat went after her. Ida was calling to her mother to get out of the cabin., but the boat  had sunk so far already that no one could get into the cabin. I got hold of Ida Corrigan and the men on the tug tossed me a rope. The rope was foul of me and when the tugmen pulled on it they pulled my arm away from the girl."

     The witness said the only remark he heard the captain make was to order the mate to have the two topsails taken down.







Jacob Antonson Says That if He Had Been Captain
More Would Have Been Ordered In.


 The testimony of Jacob Antonson of No. 34 Bank street, who was a sailor on the yacht, was as follows:
       "I have been a sailor for fifteen years. I have sailed on the lakes for two summers previous to this one. I was at the wheel from 12 o'clock up  to the time the squall struck us. About ten or fifteen minutes before the boat sank I was relieved long enough to get my oilskins on.

        "I returned to the wheel after I got the oilskins on. After that there were no sails taken in. After the yacht went on her beam ends she righted herself once. She was up then about a minute or two, when she turned over again. Then she went down. From the time she went over till she sank I think was about ten or fifteen minutes. When I was relieved to get my oilskins the wind was on the starboard quarter. The sheets were about half way off then. There was hardly any wind at all then.

         "When the squall struck us the booms were on the starboard side, and when the wind came the yacht would not steer. Teh topsails were in when the wind struck the boom. It was blowing a gail about this time. during that time I did not hear anything said about shortening or taking in the sails. I did not hear the captain give any orders except when he ordered the topsails in. The main topsail was taken in before the topsails. After the main topsail was taken in she jibed over in about a minute or two. The watch did not go below. They stood on the deck. They were hauling on the jib topsail, but they only got it down about half way. The gaffsails were in about ten minutes before that. Abut a minute after they were hauling in the jib topsail, when she turned on her beam end. The only thing that was done was to let go of the halyards. It was blowing a gale then. Teh sheets were half way down at this time.

           "I noticed the squall coming the first time I went to the wheel at 12 o'clock. It looked pretty dark  like a dirty squall. I got orders to put the wheel down before she went over. That was about 1 o'clock. That was done to get the boat up to the head of the wind. She capsized as soon as I put the wheel down. The wind was north-northeast when the vessel capsized. The boat was headed a little to the  north of east. When the gaff topsails were taken in Mrs. James Corrigan, Mrs. Rieley and the baby went down in the cabin. When I went forward after she capsized I told the mate that there was one of the deadlights open and he ran to close it. After I left the wheel I went up on the weather side of her and pulled Ida corrigan up with me on the weather side. Teh boat raised and I went forward to let go one of the halyards. Then the boat turned over again. I got up on the weather side again and once more got hold of Ida Corrigan as we were lying in the breast of the main rigging.

           "I saw Mrs. John Corrigan fall in the water then. A sailor in a little boat and I jumped down with him and went and got hold of her and took her to the tug. Ida was still in the rigging on the weather side. After that we got hold of the captain and brought him on board the tug. We looked around there  for ten or fifteen minutes, but could not see any of the others.

           "I did not see that any of the ladies had any life preserver.

           "I did not hear any conversation between the captain and mate between dinner and the time the squall struck us.

           "My opinion of the yacht Idler is that the boat is all right.

           "If I had had command of the yacht I would have ordered in more sail than was taken in 


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Newspaper Articles On The Sinking Of The Yacht "Idler"


July 8th   July 9th   July 10th   July 11th   July 12th   July 13th   July 16th   July 17th   July 19th   July 20th  

July 21st to August 2nd 1900       September 29th to October 17th 1900


Court Case of Captain Holmes

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