The Icy Stage

Image from Golden Landmarks


We copy from a Montreal paper the following description of the loss of a mail stage in the ice, followed by the death of the driver, and a narrow escape from death by a passenger:

The night was intensely cold and dark; a drifting snow had fallen, which had obscured the track, and as the stage was on its way from Port St. Claire to Lachine, the horses got off the track and gradually edged to the unfrozen portion of Lake St. Louis. There were but two passengers, Mr. Ogden of Quebec, and Mr. Russell of Ancaster. When the leaders plunged into the water, Mr. Ogden and Mr. Russell both leaped from the stage; the first made good his footing on the main ice, but Mr. Russell’s cloak unfortunately got entangled, and before he could extricate himself, he found himself in deep water.

He clung to the stage, but as the night was dark he could see nothing of his companions. The horses swam with the stage about two miles until it grounded on a shoal, near the Isle Dorval, where the horses perished. Owing to the intense cold, Mr Russell’s clothes were immediately frozen to the stage, otherwise he must have been swept off, as the wind was blowing strongly. Soon after the plunge, Mr. Russell called out to the driver, Mudge, who answered that he was on a sheet of ice and drifting down; but the night was so dark that they could not see each other. Mr. Russell afterwards heard him shouting at intervals, some distance ahead of himself, and there is every probability that the unfortunate man was burried down the Lachine rapids.

Image from L’Île Dorval – Dorval Island

Mr. Russell lay on the stage, where it grounded, exposed to the dreadful inclemency of the weather, for eight hours, from half past one in the morning to half past nine, at which hour he was rescued. When Mr. Ogden escaped, he made his way to the nearest house for assistance for his companions. He procured men and ropes, and returned to the scene of the accident, but discover no trace of the stage; hearing voices, as he thought, in the direction of the Isle Dorval, he made the best of his way to Lachine, and roused the inmates of La flamme’s hotel.

A number of men and canoes were immediately put in requisition, and the party proceeded in a direction in which they thought they hear some one shouting; but owing to the dense fog they wandered up and down for five hours, and finally did not discover Mr. Russell until within thirty feet of the spot where he lay frozen to the stage. — When found his situation was distressing in the extreme; from the continuous beating of the surf over him as he lay, he had become completely encased in ice, to such an extent that it was found necessary to clear it from his with axes, before he could be detached from the stage.

He was perfectly sensible when found, but in a most exhausted state; both hands and the left knee were frozen. Mr. Russell still lies in a most precarious state; and we fear there are but faint hopes of his recovery. The body of Mudge has not been found. The mail bags were recovered, but up to Saturday, the cold was so intense that the state had not been removed from the spot where it grounded.

Alton Telegraph And Democratic Review (Alton, Illinois) Mar 17, 1848

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