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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Uncle Charlie's Account of the Wreck

This was written by Great-Uncle Charles
Bowie, Dec. 5, 1945. "To Bettie Jean
and Donnie Gillum" This starts on
page 95 of "Out of These Roots." The
story Uncle Charlie writes is about his
father.

------------------begin here------------

Long, long ago, really a hundred years,
there lived a young boy, just about Bettie's
age, in a town away up north called Picton
[sic, Pictou], in Nova Scotia. Picton is
just a small town, or was when this boy
lived there. It is on a bay where the
water from the ocean comes right up to
the main street of the town.

The father, whose name was Charles, was
a coal miner, as that was his trade.
Coal miners, in those days, received
very small wages, so the family - like
the rest of the neighbors - were very
poor. At the time our story begins,
the family had lived in Picton for
twelve years and the young boy about
who we are writing had four brothers
and sisters. There was one sister
older than he was, and two sisters
and a baby brother who were younger.

In those days there were no public schools
like there are in our country today.
The only way children could learn to
read and write was for their parents to
teach them. Or, sometimes, a man would
find a room and open a school, and then
those parents who wanted their children
to learn to read and write would pay
the teacher, and he would teach them to
read. As this boy's parents were poor,
they could not afford to send them to
school very much, and he only attended
school for about six months in all his
life.

When boys were seven or eight years old,
they were set to work to earn money, or
their board and keep, so his arents sent
him to a farmer who lived near Picton,
to do chores and help with the work.
He learned how to milk cows, hunt eggs,
drive the cattle to pasture, and do
other things around the farm. When he
was not busy helping with the farm work,
he would play around with other boys who
lived in the town - much the same as boys
do now-a-days. In the summer the boys
would go swimming in the bay, which was
connected with the ocean, and this little
boy became a very good swimmer.

When he was about twelve years old, his
father, Charles, decided to leave Picton
and go to Pennsylvania and try to find
work where he could to earn more money.
Then he would send for the rest of the
family and they would start a new home
in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. So the father
bade the family "goodbye" and sailed away.

He found work at Plymouth and it was not
long before he had earned enough so that
he could send it to the family and tell
them all to come on to Plymouth. Several
other families decided to go with them
to Plymouth. Several other families
decided to go with them to Plymouth, so
they packed up all their things, bundled
up the children, engaged a small sailing
ship, and all went aboard and sailed off
for the United States.

The boat was small and crowded and the
passengers had to take their own provisions.
Also, the ocean was rough, so they did
not have a very pleasant trip, but our
"story boy" did not mind this. He went
all around the ship and visited and
became acquainted with all the passengers
and sailors. Among the sailrs was a
big strong man who took a liking to this
boy and became quite friendly with him.

At last the voyage was nearly ended, the
boat was entering the harbor, on a foggy
morning, to make a landing. The Captain
of the ship should have waited for a tug
to tow them into port, but he refused to
do this and continued to sail on. Soon
the vessel struck a hidden rock and began
to sink.

Then there was a wild scramble between
the crew and the passengers to lower the
small boats and leave the sinking ship.
There was not enough small boats to carry
all of them, so the crew deserted the
women and children, and left them to sink
with the ship.

Just before the ship went down, that big
strong man who had taken a liking to our
small boy, saw him on the deck and asked
him if he could swim, and as he had learned
back in Picton, he said he could, so this
man picked him up and threw him overboard!
Now you may think this was a very cruel
thing to do, but he did this because when
a ship sinks, all the people on board are
usually carried down with the boat. He
told the boy to swim as far as he could.
The boy swam away in the cold water and
did not see the ship sing, as there was
too much fog.

Well, there he was out on the water all
alone and he did not know where he was.
Did he give up? No. He just kept on
swimming like a brave little boy. After
he had been in the water a little while
he saw a bow boat passing close to him,
so he began to call to them for help.
He called as loud as he could. Now this
was one of the ship's boats, with the
Captain and some of the crew and a few
of the passengers; it was so crowded
that the Captain refused to take on any
more and ordered the crew to row on and
leave the boy in the water. But that
big strong man was one of the persons in
the boat and he stood up and said to the
Captain, "You stop the boat and pick up
that boy or I will throw you out." The
Captain was a coward and afraid he would
be thrown out, so he ordered the crew to
pick up the boy and take him aboard, and
so he was taken out of the water.

Again the boat started on, but had not
gone far until they saw a small baby
floating on the water. Again the Captain
refused to stop and pick it up. Ghen our
small boy began to cry, "That is my little
baby sister. Stop and get her!" Again the
big man said to the Captain, "Stop for the
baby, or out you go!" So the baby was saved.

The boat again started for the shore, but
soon another person was seen in the water,
hanging to some floating wreckage. Our
little boy saw it was his mother, so he
began crying out, "Oh, save my mother!
Save my mother!" But the Captain refused
to stop and take on any more people, as
the boat was almost ready to sink. Once
again that big man told the Captain, "Pick
up that lady, or out you go!" And the
Captain ordered the boat to stop and the
little boy's mother was saved.

The boat was now so heavily loaded that
everyone had to sit still to keep it from
rocking and filling with water, but they
all managed to reach shore, and all who
were in the boat were saved.

When the little boy's mother took the
baby in her arms, she saw it was not her
baby, sad to say. All the rest of the
family who were on that ship were lost
- one little brother and three sisters.
[The newspapers say there were six
children lost. - ofs]

The people on shore were very kind to
those who were saved. They took good
care of them and saw that they were all
sent on to their destination. So this
little boy and his mother arrived at
Plymouth, Pennsylvania, and the father,
Charles met them. What a sad meeting
that was - only one left of the five
children!

The mother did not live long, the
shock of being in the cold water so
long, and the loss of the children was
to much for her and she soon passed away.

After that the father, Charles, could
not settle down and stay in one place,
so he went west to Illinois and soon he
passed away and was buried at La Salle,
Illinois.

So there was left of that family only
that one little boy. What became of
him? That's another story, but he grew
up, married a beautiful girl and raised
a large family.

Bettie Jean and Donnie, don't you think
he was a brave boy? Now, who was this
boy and what was his name? His name
was Robert Bowie and he is your Great-
Grandfather - that is, the Father of
your Grandpa, Walter B. Bowie.

And this is a true story.

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