About Abigail Becker (Jackson)
(Added By Jeff Coleman) Source: http://www.kwic.com/~pagodavista/abigail.html
The Heroine of Long Point
Harry Barrett's Lore & Legends
No account of Long Point would be complete without the story of the woman known the length of the Great Lakes during her lifetime as the "Angel of Long Point".
Abigail Becker was the first born of a Dutchman and Loyalist, Elijah Jackson, who left New York State for eastern Ontario and eventually settled in Townsend, in Norfolk County. In 1848, at age seventeen, she married a Walsingham widower, Jeremiah Becker, who made his living as a trapper and fisherman in the marshes of Long Point. With him came an instant family of five boys and a girl; Abigail was to add to it by bearing him three girls and five boys.
Since Jeremiah spent so much of his time on Long Point, he decided to build a home there. In the lee of the foredune a mile or so west of Courtright Ridge and what came to be known as the breakwater, he built a rough cabin from the lumber that lay strewn along the beach.
Abigail loved this home among the dunes and seems to have had no fears of the isolation or of the winter storms that would often prevent Jeremiah from returning from his day's trapping or from the trips he made periodical-ly into Port Rowan to barter his pelts for supplies.
One night four exhausted seamen appeared at the cabin at the height of a bitter storm. Their ship had foundered far up the beach, but all six of her crew had miraculously reached safety through the pounding surf. Their ordeal was far from over, however, as their clothing had frozen and the driving sleet had added a coat of ice to their shivering bodies as they walked up the beach for hours.
The four had no sooner staggered into the glowing warmth of the Becker cabin than they told Abigail of their two shipmates who had fallen by the way on the exposed and storm-swept beach. Courageously, Abigail left her daughter to tend the wants of the men, while she and two of the boys set out into the snow-filled darkness to find the missing men.
She did find them, but they were more dead than alive. Even her promise of warm clothing and a hot meal failed to rouse them from their torpor. Eventually, however, Abigail and her sons carried the two exhausted men to the warmth and safety of the cabin. The next day the storm abated, Jeremiah returned, and the sturdy seamen were sufficiently recovered to gain the mainland.
Not long after, another schooner foundered in the sand bars of the south beach. The crew were taken off safely except for the cook. She had been in her cabin below decks during the storm, and it was assumed that in the excitement the unfortunate woman had been washed overboard before anyone even saw her come on deck. The ship settled into the offshore shoals, providing a supply of clean, fresh water within its hold. As the wreck lay just off the beach opposite the Becker cabin, it offered a ready source of sweet water for the family, more convenient than that they usually used.
One morning Abigail sent one of her daughters with a bucket on a line to dip water from the ship's hold. The child soon came running back, calling, "Mother, Mother, there is a woman in the schooner and she is waving to me." Abigail went to investigate. Through an open hatch, the watery beams of a winter sun sent green shafts of light through the black and quiet water. As her eyes gradually became accustomed to the darkness, she could see first the white but serene face of a woman, then a halo of hair moving gently as the ship rocked under the impact of each succeeding wave, and finally the wraith-like outline of a woman floating with outstretched arms. Obviously the cook had never left her bunk when the ship foundered. Now, months later, her body, which had been preserved by the cold water, had floated free to appear as if beckoning from the hold.
The experience does not seem to have upset Abigail unduly, for she and her family remained in the cabin among the dunes, to the great good fortune of another shipwrecked crew.
The autumn of 1854 had been mild and comparatively storm-free. The brisk, sunny days of October and November had allowed Jeremiah and Abigail Becker to lay in plentiful stores of food and fuel wood lest the good weather augur a long winter's siege. The morning of November 24 dawned bright and clear, with light breezes out of the southwest. Jeremiah Becker loaded his skiff early and set out for Port Rowan. His wife, sensing impend-ing trouble, was uneasy and suggested he wait another day, fearing for his safety crossing the inner bay if the wind, which seemed already to be freshening, should catch him on the open waters. Laughing at her concern, he agreed to hug the marshes on his way in. Still feeling vaguely uneasy, the twenty-three-year-old Abigail strode purposefully to the highest point on the dunes behind the cabin to scan both the open lake and the marshes for any sign of trouble. Towards late afternoon, the children, sensing their mother's uneasiness, came too; the youngest grasped her mother's flapping skirt to steady herself against the wind that had now swung into the west and was rapidly raising white caps that angled in, in long, roaring breakers. When Abigail turned to look across the marshes, she could see that the inner bay had rolling whitecaps, too.
By nightfall gale-force winds howled over Long Point, and the roar of the breakers allowed Abigail only fitful slumber as she lay worrying whether any schooners were caught on the lake.
Her fear was justified. The previous day the three-masted schooner Conductor had taken on the last of 1O,OOO bushels of wheat in Amherstburg harbour. Captain Robert Hackett had sensed an impending storm, but he had insisted on sailing immediately because he knew that few days of good weather remained to him and he feared being unable to deliver his cargo to Toronto. He also felt that he could make the Long Point Cut before the storm had gathered sufficient force to be a threat, and, if necessary, he could ride it out in the comparative safety of the inner bay.
By dusk of November 24, the wind was strong, the schooner was scudding along under close-reefed sails, and Captain Hackett was forced to rely on dead reckoning for his position as the combination of driving snow and a moonless night gave him little opportunity of sighting the Old Cut lightship or familiar landmarks ashore.
Deceived by the snow and howling wind, about midnight the Conductor struck the outer bar a half-mile off the south beach. The breakers lifted her clear, but she then swung to port and luffed up into the wind to crash broad-side into the second bar and heel over. Taking on water as one mountainous sea followed another over her decks, she quickly sank until her decks were awash. The crew could do nothing but scramble for safety into the rigging, where they lashed themselves to the masts and prayed that their ship would not break up before daylight. Their yawl boat had been torn clear of the chocks and davits and they realized their only hope would be to swim ashore in the daylight. They also knew that any chance of survival in those sand-filled, angry breakers and the treacherous undertow they created was minimal.
Abigail Becker was astir early following a restless night. She built up the kitchen fire for breakfast before going down to the beach for a bucket of water. As she cleared the foredune, she saw the yawl boat of the Conductor in the pounding surf. No seamen were to be found, but with a sinking heart she hurried along the beach. Soon she saw the eight forms huddled in the rig-ging. She waved frantically and, with a feeling of relief, observed an answering wave from one or two of the men.
Realizing she could not summon help from anyone else, she hurried back to her children. "There is a vessel aground down the beach: we must hurry if we are to help them," she said. She and the older children hurried down the beach, carrying matches, tea, a kettle, and blankets. The children quickly gathered driftwood to build a fire over which the kettle was soon sputtering. Abigail, though she could not swim a stroke, girded her flowing skirts and waded into the breakers shouting encouragement to the men.
Captain Hackett and his crew discussed their chances of survival should they put their lives in the hands of the woman who stood beckoning to them. Finally, Captain Hackett exclaimed, "If we remain here much longer we are certain to be lost. On the other hand with her help we may reach shore in safety." Kicking off his boots and throwing his greatcoat ahead of him, he called out "If I make shore successfully the rest of you follow, one at a time.
The Captain plunged in and started swimming strongly towards shore. But as a sea threw him forward, his mouth and eyes filled with sand. He struggled to gain a secure footing in the shifting sands, but his strength failed and the undertow began to carry him back. Then Abigail dashed in to catch the collar of his coat. Half carrying him, she struggled shoreward and laid the semiconscious man by the fire. She poured a mug of tea for him before returning to the beach to encourage the next man to swim for it.
Realizing that time was precious, the mate, Jerome, swung clear on a hal-yard to lower himself in the lee of the schooner's hull. He fared well, too, until the treacherous undertow swept his feet from under him. Like his cap-tain, weakened by exposure and cold, he began to be swept out into deep water. Captain Hackett, in spite of Abigail's remonstrances, dashed to Jerome's rescue, only to suffer the same fate. As the mate clutched him in the fatal embrace of a drowning man, it appeared they both would be carried off, but with a superhuman effort, Abigail grabbed an arm of each and dragged the two half-drowned men out of the reach of the undertow.
One by one, five more seamen plunged from the rigging into the icy waters of the lake, and one by one Abigail Becker met them as they strug-gled against the returning waters of each succeeding wave and brought them safely to her fire. At one point her crippled son rushed to her aid, only to have his crutch sink in the shifting sand, leaving him to the mercy of the churning waters. Again Abigail successfully saved both a seaman and his would-be rescuer.
What a long, nerve-wracking day it must have been for all of them. Hav-ing given her shoes to one of the men whose feet were frostbitten, Abigail moved among the men and into the surf in bare feet. It was bitter cold, and her clothing, like the sailors' stranded aloft, was soon encased in ice, but she worked on tirelessly.
Finally, all but the unfortunate ship's cook were safely ashore. He could not swim and chose to remain in the rigging of the foundered ship. As the storm raged with unabated fury, his shipmates agreed nothing could be done for him.
The short winter day was almost spent and the group moved from their beach fire to the cabin. But that night she and the men could sleep only fit-fully in the crowded quarters as they worried over the safety of the cook.
The next morning the wind had dropped and the men built a raft of timbers on the beach. They poled it out alongside the battered schooner and, with considerable difficulty brought the cook ashore, more dead than alive.
Photo Courtesy of Harry B. Barrett
As the story of Abigail's courageous rescue became known among the captains and crews of the ships that plied the Creat Lakes, they spread the tale far and wide. She received a number of honours, many of them through the efforts of E.P. Dorr, a local captain. A banquet was given in her honour in Buffalo, at which she was given a purse of $500, most of it contri-buted by sailors. A letter signed by Queen Victoria herself acknowledged her feat and enclosed a gift of £50. In 1860 the Prince of Wales presented a further gift while he was duck hunting on Long Point. And the governor- general sent a belated congratulatory letter in the 1890s.
The Benevolent Life Saving Association of New York wished to recognize the heroine. President Joseph Walker wrote Captain Dorr: "The giving of our medal is confined to the saving of American life. If thee wilt find that there was an American life saved from on board Schooner Conductor, Abigail shall have our best medal."
On enquiry, Captain Dorr learned that Jerome, the mate, and a crew member were, in fact, American seamen. The medal was struck and sent to the captain with instructions to obtain a receipt for it. He sent it to the col-lector of customs in Port Rowan, who was nonplussed for a moment when, on asking that Abigail give him a receipt for the medal, discovered she could not write. But he solved the problem by suggesting she accompany him to a photographer's where a daguerrotype was taken of Abigail proudly display-ing her new bible and the medal. The large gold medal is inscribed:
Photo Courtesy of Harry B. Barrett
Photo Courtesy of Harry B. Barrett
"Presented in May, 1857 to Abigail Becker of Long Point, Lake Erie, Canada West, for extraordinary resolution, humanity and courage in rescuing from impending death the crew of the schooner "Conductor" lost November 1854." On the reverse is engraved a vessel foundering in the breakers, a beach on which a fire is burning with people near it, and, in the background, the Becker cabin among the dunes of Long Point.
The money that Abigail received was invested in a fifty-acre farm in the Seventh Concession of Walsingham Township, north of Port Rowan.
But Jeremiah was not a farmer, and their farming efforts did not prosper. John Backus has told of their coming to his grist-mill. When he presented their modest bill he was shocked to have Abigail offer him her gold medal as payment. Refusing it, he told them he would allow them credit for a while. But as their wagon rolled up the hill from the grist-mill, Mr. Backus reflected on the hard times that had fallen on the Beckers. It occurred to him that the medal would be offered to the next merchant or farmer to whom they owed money, and that creditor might not be as reticent as he to accept it. Calling after them, he ran up the road to say he would accept the medal after all, but only that it might be safely deposited in the mill office safe until Abigail was able to reclaim it.
Soon after this Jeremiah Becker returned to his trapping cabin on Long Point that he might augment their meagre farm income by trapping. Their fortunes had begun to improve until, one cold January night, his line shanty in the marsh was flooded by a sudden storm. Jeremiah attempted to reach the safety of his permanent cabin, which no storm could flood out, but he froze to death attempting the three-mile trip.
Photo Courtesy of Harry B. Barrett
Abigail, with her young family, struggled on, trying to wrest a living from the farm. A few years later she married Henry Rohrer. In all, nineteen children grew up under her roof. This dauntless pioneer woman died peace-fully on her farm in 1905, aged seventy-four years. A public subscription was taken at that time to erect a monument to her memory, but the final disbursement of the fund was to furnish a ward in the Norfolk General Hospital, a memorial perhaps more fitting for the warm-hearted, selfless heroine of Long Point.
(Added By Jeff Coleman) Source: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0000626
Abigail Becker, nee' Jackson, "The Heroine of Long Point"; (b in Frontenac County, UC 14 Mar 1830; d at Walsingham Centre, Ont 21 Mar 1905). After marrying Jeremiah Becker, a hunter and trapper, in 1848 she settled on the S shore of Long Point, a long, narrow peninsula bedeviled by tricky winds and shifting sandbars and stretching out into Lake Erie.
During a vicious storm on 24 Nov 1854, the overloaded schooner Conductor foundered on a nearby sandbar. The captain and crew clung to the frozen rigging all night, not daring to enter the raging surf. Abigail found the men in peril the following morning and, although unable to swim, she waded shoulder-high into the icy water and persuaded the men to swim towards her. The captain and 6 crew members were coaxed ashore; the cook remained lashed to the rigging until he was rescued the following day.
The crew loudly praised Abigail's heroism. She received $350 of a purse of $550 collected from the sailors and merchants of Buffalo, NY; a special gold medal struck by the New York Lifesaving Benevolent Assn; a handwritten letter accompanied by 50 pounds from Queen Victoria; a letter of praise from Gov Gen Lord Aberdeen; and a bronze medal from the Royal Humane Society.
In later incidents she came to the aid of 6 other shipwrecked sailors who had struggled ashore, and she saved the life of a boy who had fallen down a well. A plaque erected in Port Rowan, Ont, 10 Sept 1958 commemorates her heroism, and the Abigail Becker Conservation area takes in part of what was her farm.She raised 17 children, of whom 6 were stepchildren and 2 adopted.
(Added By Jeff Coleman) Source: http://bobsnautical.50megs.com/photo6.html
THE HEROINE OF LONG POINT CANADA
From a soon to be published book
WHEN CANVAS WAS KING
BY ROBERT B. TOWNSEND
Little enough is known of the hardships suffered by some of the early pioneer women in Canada. My own great grandmother was left a widow, to raise seven daughters on a small farm near Hespler Ontario. As a young lad I was shown a piece of linen woven by her from flax she planted and harvested on land cleared by her and her daughters. I always think of her as a special pioneer lady.
The story of Abigail Becker is a story about a very special pioneer lady who, while not typical, certainly exemplifies that pioneer spirit that should be an inspiration for generations to come.
Born at Frotenac County, in 1831, Abigail Jackson matured to be a fine handsome lady, over six feet tall, "who feared God greatly and the living or dead not at all". As a young girl she moved with her parents to Parkhill Ontario, where, at the age of 17 she met and married trapper Jeremiah Becker, a widower with six children. She moved with him to an isolated trappers cabin on lonely Long Point, which was then an island jutting out into the lake Erie. By 1854, the time of the loss of the sailing vessel Conductor, the chronicle of which is the basis of this story, she had three children of her own. Eventually she was mother to seventeen children, the six step-children, nine of her own and two adopted children..
Sometime after a storm which occurred in November of 1854, Capt. E.P.Dorr of Buffalo travelled to the bleak wilderness of Long Point to appraise the damage to a vessel owned by a Mr. Jones which had been stranded somewhere on the point during a recent storm. It was during this investigation that he learned first hand, from the crew and others, of the heroism of Abigail Becker, who could not swim, but had "waded out till the water was up to her lips" and rescued the whole crew of the schooner Conductor. Through the telling of the story of the heroism of Abigail Becker by Capt. Dorr, her great deed became known to the world. Sometime after a storm which occurred in November of 1854, Her place in history as Canada's greatest heroine was (hopefully) assured.
A Mr. Whittier obtained further details of the loss of the Conductor and the rescue of it's crew some years later from a Captain Barr, who was allegedly the last man off the stranded vessel Conductor. Amanda T. Jones, an American poetess, born in New York state, but who was raised near St.Catharines Ontario, wrote a poem, based on the story written by Mr. Whittier, which she entitled the "Heroine of '54." This poem was published by Century magazine, in the U.S.A. The poem was later reproduced in the Ontario high school reader, published by Rose & Co. 1886. and was in use in Ontario schools as the 5th reader until the mid 1920s.
The story of the heroic part played in the rescue of the crew of the schooner Conductor is an important part, but not the whole story, of the life of Abigail Becker. She was truly an amazing woman.
The story of the heroic part played in the rescue of the crew of the schooner Conductor is an important part, but not the whole story of the life of Abigail Becker. She was truly an amazing woman.
, Robert B. Townsend
ABIGAIL BECKERTHE HEROINE OF LONG POINT
"A hurricane blew up out of the south-west about five o'clock in the afternoon, and all the canvas was snugged down, the vessel driving before the gale." this was on Thursday November 23rd, 1854 on Lake Erie.
The Schooner Conductor, said to have been owned by a merchant named McCleod of Amherstburg Ontario, was boiling down Lake Erie with two men sweating at the wheel and a cargo of 8,000 bushels of corn for Toronto under the hatches. She was making the best time she could before a screaming sou'easter, because if the Welland Canal froze up on her, as it might any day, the voyage could not be completed.
The corn had been laden at Amherstburg Ontario, according to some accounts, which are most probable, or at Cleveland according to others (it may have been both places). The corn was insured for ,000. and the Conductor was insured for ,000.00. All of which would indicate the Conductor was not a large vessel, even for her time.
The crew of the Conductor consisted of: Captain Hem Hackett, Canadian, First Mate John Jones, American, Crew, James Cousens, Canadian, Crew, J.McCauley, Canadian, Crew, ? Chalmers, Canadian, Crew, Jerome ? American Crew, Jack Carver, Canadian.
If there was another member of the crew, described as the cook, it may have been a person by the name Barr, who was later referred to as Captain Barr.
The Conductor, a schooner rigged vessel with a square topsail, which, close reefed, was able to keep her headed before the wind and sea. But on towards midnight the topsail sheets, chains drawing the goosewings of the sail down to the yardarms, carried away, and in less than a minute the topsail had flogged itself to ribbons and vanished in the gale. With it's departure the Conductor got out of hand. She broached to, falling into the trough of the billows, and seas bursting aboard stove her bulwarks and made a clean sweep of everything on deck. She had two boats, an unusual equipment for a small schooner, and they were beaten into staves. Her crew of seven lashed themselves fast to ringbolts and stanchions to keep from being swept overboard. The wheel was abandoned, for the vessel was unmanageable.
The masts were still in her. She wallowed aimlessly "in the midnight and the snow" pushed by the raving sou'-wester down Lake Erie all the time; and at four o'clock in the morning she bumped bottom a few miles west of the tip of Long Point. Had the gale given her the chance she might have cleared the point and driven on for another forty or fifty miles before fetching up; that is if she kept afloat.
Where she struck was about 200 yards from the normal shoreline, but with lake Erie fleeing before the scourging gale the water was pushed up fathoms high, and Long Point was flooded on its low sandy beaches for a quarter of a mile inshore.
This made no difference to the despairing crew, for in the snow and the darkness they could see neither light nor land, and they did not know where they were. They cast off their lashings which held them to the bulwarks and climbed as high as they could into the ice-laden rigging, and there, as the poem says, "all night they swung."
And all next day.
It was two o'clock in the afternoon before the blizzard cleared. The crew in the rigging, sleepless, foodless, and freezing, saw a tall woman and two little boys fighting their way against the wind along the shore. The seas were breaking around the schooner on the bar, but they were spreading flood high up the beach, sucking back in swift recoil, and then charging madly forward again in reinforced battalions of billows.
"And, oh the gale! The rout and roar! The blinding drift, the mounting wave A good half-mile from wreck to shore With seven men to save!
"Up shallow steeps Raced the long white-caps, come on ; The wind, the wind that lashed the deeps Far, far it blew the foam.
"The frozen foam were scudding by - Before the wind a seething throng The Waves, the waves came towering high "The waves came towering high and white,
They burst in clouds of flying spray -"
When she was seventeen, and she had now nine children to look after - three babies of her own and six step-children. She lived, bless her, to mother seventeen in all, nine of her own, her six step-children and two adopted children. Her husband had crossed to the mainland the day before to get supplies, and the south-west gale prevented his return.
Through their glazed eyes the Conductor's crew could just make out the figures on the sand. Mrs. Becker was gesticulating and shouting, but it was only when she rushed into the water up to her waist and waved her arms that they understood her message. She was urging them to try to swim ashore.
A sudden gleam among the sand emphasized her purpose of rescue. She had lighted a bonfire, to dry herself and them. The little boys helped her drag driftwood and pile it high; some of the Conductor's own bulwarks, blazing on the beach, beckoned to her perishing crew. And again this heroic woman waded waist deep into the billows to wave her message.
As the day waned the captain concluded that between freezing by night and drowning by day there was little choice. He swung off and rode a tremendous billow shoreward like a Hawaiian surf-coaster, but caught by the undertow he was torn lakeward again; and then hurled toward the shore.
He would surely have perished in the ceaseless war of billow and undertow had not Mrs. Becker, "wading out till the water was up to her mouth," waited for his next approach, seized him, and held him. They were both beaten many times by the undertow which caught their feet and threw them face downwards, but this wonder-woman with her two boys tugged the captain up beyond the high-water mark to the bonfire.
Then Johnny Jones, the Conductor's mate, swung off from the masthead. the same terrible ride on the combers, the same maelstrom of the undertow. The captain, still coughing up lake water and sand, gasped "No woman can go through what you've done twice!" and waded out to help the man. They gripped. They whirled away. Both went under. Mrs. Becker strode in again, "till the water was up to her mouth,"
watched for their approach, and staggered shorewards with both men on her shoulders.
She could not swim. That was why she stopped "when the water was up to her mouth." But she could lift.
Then came four of the crew. One by one, swinging off for the leap for life; each almost drowned, each dragged up the beach by the great-hearted, great handed mother of many.
One man still remained in the rigging. This was the cook. Like Mrs. Becker, he could not swim but unlike Mrs. Becker, he dared not try.
The children had been sent back to the Becker cabin and returned with food and blankets. All night the bonfire blazed, with her rescued crew huddled around it, and Abigail Becker, in her frozen cotton dress striding up and down the beach in ceaseless vigil, peering into every bursting billow for a dark spot indicating a drowning sailor, and seeing none.
The wind ceased ere midnight. The tramp of the surf up the beach lessened, and lessened, and lessened. Ere morning a breeze offshore flattened out the sullen roaring. By daylight the shallow lake was smooth - and there within two hundred yards of the new shoreline, hung the battered hulk of the Conductor, with one mast left standing - and one man still, oh very still, in the rigging.
Capt. Hackett and his crew, with Mrs. Becker's help, built a raft from the wreckwood. On this they pushed off, poling their way to the schooner. Their frozen shipmate was alive, but unable to help himself. He had to be cut from the shrouds. He, too, was brought to the bonfire and thawed out. Then all stumbled and staggered to the Becker cabin, and here the seven men and their heroic hostess and her nine children huddled on short rations for six days, until Trapper Becker broke his way through the ice of Long Point Bay with relief from the farther shore.
In June 1899 The Reverend R. Calvert of Riceville Ontario published the story of Margaret Becker (Mrs., Henry Wheeler). step daughter of Abigail Becker, who was in attendance at the scene of the rescue by her step mother. In that story Mrs. Wheeler stated that there were eight men in the crew, not seven. She also took exception to the verse Amanda Jones poem which states:
"Get wood, cook fish, make ready all." She snatched her stores, she with haste In cotton gown and tatter'd shawl Barefoot across the waste,
Mrs. Wheeler, who was aged 67 in 1899, would have been twenty one years old at the time, and was a witness to the events. She also related that her brother, who was lame and walking with crutches, wanted to go in help his mother rescue the mate, who was the second person to leave the Conductor but the sea was so heavy that he could not stand, and her mother had to get them, both out of the water."
Mrs. Wheeler recalled that "one by one they came ashore, but some of them not so easily as the first ones. Some were nearly perished and had to be dragged helplessly to the fire, being unconscious for some time. She took off her shawl and shoes and pout them on the men one at a time till she got them, all to the house where I and my younger brothers had a good fire in the large old fashioned fireplace."
In 1943 Mrs. Sarah Rourke of Cherry Valley, County of Prince Edward, related a story, which was reproduced by C.H.J. Snider in his column, Schooner Days about a rough trip down Lake Erie in 1898, while she was spending 6 weeks on the schooner L.S. Hammond with her husband and father-in-law, the Captain. Because of bad weather they had to seek shelter under Long Point.
"The waste land was used then for a deer park. You remember Abigail Becker, who saved the crew of the conductor from death on Long Point? 'The wind , the wind, where Eric plunged, Blew, blew, nor east from land to land?' Amanda Jones Poem about that great woman used to thrill us in the High School reader. We could see the ruins of Trapper Becker's hut. It reminded me of the little old log cabin in the lane. The chimney was falling down and the door was caving in, and the roof let in the sunshine and rain.
"Did it ever blow that night! The sailors climbed in the sails and slept there for it was dry on the deck. We were around a little curve in the small peninsula. The schooner had out two anchors. we seemed safe as in our own beds, except for the heave of the waters. We were there all night and the next day, until about five o'clock in the afternoon. The storm got underway and we got underway for Toledo."
Mrs. Wheeler, in her story, told of how her mother had saved a child from drowning in a well, and had saved a man from a similar fate at Nanticoke by throwing him a plank, and holding him up till assistance had come.
On another occasion, while living on Long Point Island, her husband and two sons were long overdue from a trip to the mainland to obtain provisions, Abigail waded out into a marsh, "up to her armpits" to recover a rowboat, in which she intended to row seven miles to the mainland for news of their whereabouts. Fortunately before she had set off the next morning on her adventurous trip, the prodigal husband and sons returned to their nest.
On still another occasion there was an iron-laden vessel wrecked on Long Point Island, the crew of six escaping to the land. It was winter and the lighthouse keeper had left for the season. The men broke into the Lighthouse looking for provisions. Only four of the men were able to struggle on to the Becker cabin. Two men had collapsed "about a mile and a half away" Abigail, with the help of her boys, provided food and nourishment and nursed the men back to a full recovery
Another time, another wreck. This time with a name like the Conductor, probably the Commodore. Mrs. Brown, wife of the Keeper of the light on Long Point, Lake Erie, said she had heard a curious story from Mrs. Isaac Becker, widow of the captain of the Bay Trader, (and probably a son of Abigail Becker)
It appears that the Commodore, barley laden, drove ashore in a gale, and all her crew were rescued, with difficulty, but the cook was missing. The vessel had been grain laden, and the cargo had swelled and burst the hull. The grain was removed, leaving the shattered hull full of lake water and bedded in the sand of the shore. The Becker family, living nearby, found the wreck a convenient well or reservoir, because getting water on Long Point in wintertime, always presented a problem. One had to walk out a long distance on the bay ice to get water clear of weeds. So they drew water from the wreck night and morning, it being close to their cottage.
One morning, one of Abigail Becker's brood - that noble woman mothered seventeen fine children in all, two adopted, six step children and nine of her own - came running back with her little bucket empty, crying "Mother! Mother! there's a woman in the schooner waving her arms at me!"
Brave Abigail, who feared God greatly and the living or dead not at all, strode up the ice banks to the mounded wreck and looked down the open hatch through which the winter sunlight beamed. She had always told her children never to tell a lie, and her daughters had not disobeyed her. There in the hold stood or floated a woman,. her arms waving gently as the level changed with the heave of the lake waves outside.
She was the schooner's cook, drowned in her berth next the galley when the vessel waterlogged month's before; released now as the lake ebbing and flowed in the empty hull, gently removed the bulkhead which had separated the hold and cabin.
The rescued crew of the Conductor returned to their home port of Buffalo. The merchants and sailors of Buffalo were so grateful to Abigail for her heroic effort that they presented her with what was described as a substantial purse. The proceeds (said to have been .00) was put towards the cost of purchasing fifty acre farm on the seventh concession, east of the centre road, North Walsingham, in Norfolk County. The proceeds were not quite sufficient to cover the full cost of the farm.
Life on the farm was difficult. Jeremiah Becker, soon discouraged, returned to "the point" thinking he could earn more by hunting. A few days after his arrival, the point was struck by a heavy storm. His trunk and some of his clothing was later found frozen on the roof of the cabin, where he had apparently taken it for shelter. Jeremiah had attempted to make his way to another cabin some three mules distant. His body was found three months later, frozen to a log, some two miles from the cabin.
At a later date one of her own sons was drowned in Port Rowan Bay. His body was never found.
Abigail Becker and her small boys, had to do the farm work - yoke the oxen, get ready the years wood, plant and dig potatoes, and do other chores. On one occasion she tended ten acres of corn for a neighbour to earn money, besides doing washing and other hard work. When one of the cows drank sour sap and died, and another cow was killed by falling tree, Abigail Becker wove and spun to earn enough money for another cow.
It was a hard and difficult life, one that few woman have had to endure. And it was not without personal difficulties. On one occasion, while pitching sheaves of wheat from a wagon in the barn, one of the horses took freight and, running out of the barn, threw her to the floor, breaking her toes and her arm "which she afterwards set herself". On another occasion, while hunting eggs in the mow, she fell upon her head and shoulders. In all her arms were broken on four different occasions.
During all this time she was a devoted mother to seventeen children. It was her boast that she raised eight boys and not one of them used tobacco ir liquor. The testimony Margaret Wheeler "No mother was ever more truly good to her children than our step-mother was to myself and the others." is a great epitaph to this truly remarkable Canadian heroine.
Abigail Becker died in 1905. She is buried in Carlton centre Cemetery, near Ottawa Ontario.
Abigail Becker (Jackson)'s Timeline
March 21, 1905
Walsingham Centre, Ontario, Canada
March 14, 1830
November 24, 1854
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada