Six Loggers

   The book Isaac’s Storm (Erik Larson, 1999) tells about the hurricane that destroyed Galveston, Texas in the fall of 1900. The last chapter, entitled “Haunted”, tells of the path of the air mass after the destruction of that city. Instead of diminishing as it moved north and east, it caused “hurricane-force winds” in Chicago and Buffalo, “killed six loggers trying to make their way across the Eau Claire River and nearly sank a Lake Michigan steamship.”

   The Thursday, September 20, 1900 edition of the Eau Claire Weekly Free Press told of the incident. At the end of the workday (Saturday, the 15th), 18 workers boarded a bateau some miles upriver of Eau Claire. The craft was over-loaded; water was up to the gunwales before the winds hit. The goal was to reach the “Northwestern Lumber Company’s boarding-house near the dam”. When they reached “Five-Mile Pond” they attempted to leave the main channel and enter it; swells of several feet caused the boat to take on water at a rate that bailing failed to keep up with. The names of drowned men were William Prayfrock, Andrew McQuade, John McQuestion, and Thomas Cameron of Eau Claire, John Liter of Fall Creek, and Abner Parr of Augusta.

  My wife and I raised our family five miles east of Eau Claire; our kids and many others in the neighborhood made trips to “Bullhead Pond” on the south side of the Eau Claire River. I’m guessing that this is that same body of water mentioned in the article.

  The Augusta Area Times published a sketch of Thomas J. Hill from the Eau Claire Telegram on June 17, 1910, titled Veteran and Also Pioneer. Mr. Hill, deputy marshal in charge of the grand jury, who was a member of  C Company, Eighth Regiment that took  the war eagle Old Abe to the war, was a lifelong lumber worker. On the day of this disaster, he was aboard a wannegan that had passed safely through the pond earlier and "started for Devine's." He learned of the accident and returned to the pond, and played an important part in the rescue efforts.