Monday, July 27, 2009

The Restless Dead of Graveyard Pond

It was the winter of 1813, after a brilliant naval victory in September that secured the strategic waters of Lake Erie for the American forces, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's flagship the Niagara weathered out the harsh winter at Presque Isle’s Little Bay.

But fate would turn the safe harbor of Little Bay into what we would know today as Misery Bay.

Small Pox had begun to spread on board the Niagara. But being quarantined in the bottom of ship’s hold did little to stem the tide of the disease and the plague was quickly spreading ship wide. When those of his crew were struck down with the disease, the commanding officers ordered that their bodies be buried at sea in the lagoons of the pond near the bay. Now, as the plague’s ferocious force began to unleash itself upon all the crew the Niagara's commanders without Perry's guidance (Perry was home in Connecticut at the time) made a radical decision to bury all those infected with disease at the bottom of the adjacent pond.

There was little hope for them; Perry's flagship captain did what he had to do in a remote region of the then wilderness with little help coming for a long time. He buried the dying who yet had the breath of life into the little pond; tying stones around their bodies he surrendered them beneath the waves before death had the chance to naturally take their lives.

It was a harsh but relatively quick death.

Some saw it as a mercy killing.

Others saw it as an abominable act that had no vindication.

But it was done.

And the war was over within a year.

England and America were no longer at war, and both the Niagara and the Lawrence (Perry’s initial Flagship that was abandoned due to heavy damage during the Battle of Lake Erie), were sunk into the depth of Misery Bay after the conflicts ceased.

The Lawrence was raised in 1875 for the 1876 Centennial Exposition but would later be consumed in a fiery fate later that year.

The Niagara was raised in 1913 and the portions that were restorable were on display at the port of Erie until 1995 when a fully restored Niagara would once again sail the tempest lake where it gained its renown for securing early American sovereignty.

The forgotten dead who forged the fate of a newly born America on the other hand, wait to be raised since their untimely fate in the bottom of that small pond which is now called Graveyard Pond...


cryptidsrus said...

Awesome tale, Swope.

Cheryl said...

O.K. So this is just plain CREEPY! Lived here all my life and never heard of this. Is this one of those "local secrets".

Erin said...

What a tragic story for those poor men!

I pray that the Lord, in His mercy, rests their souls.

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Anonymous said...

Every Sept 10, I go to Misery Bay and pray for these dead and bring them grog, and thank them for serving this great country. Sometimes my boat is the only one there, I won't forget. May their sacrifice never be forgotten.