Four Children Drifting to Sea on a Cake of Ice! – Their Rescue by the Father of one of the Little Fellows!
From the Boston Traveler.
Last Saturday four small boys from five to ten years of age, visited the sea shore on the northerly side of Savina Hill, Dorchester, and heedlessly stepped upon a piece of floating ice. The tide was just then on the ebb, and floated the boys off some seventy or eighty rods from the shore into deep water, before their perilous condition was discovered. The alarm being given, several of the neighbors ran to the beach, but on their arrival they found the boys too far off to be rescued without a boat, and there was no boat near enough to be made available in season to save them. The little piece of ice on which they stood – being not more than five or six feet square – was rocking by the force of the water and the uneven balancing of the boys’ weight upon it.
In this emergency Mr. Joseph S. Hilliard father of one of the youngest boys – arrived upon the beach just in time to see two of the smallest slip from their position on the ice into the water. With admirable presence of mind, and equal fortitude he threw off his coat, and with a stable door taken from hits hinges for the purpose, he pushed it before him and swam to their relief.
While on his way he directed the two boys who were still standing upon the ice to extend a stick which they had – it being only a small rattan – to the two boys who were in the water, to catch hold upon. In this way the little fellow, probably five and a half or six years of age, grasped at it, and was thereby aided to regain his position on the ice.
The stick was then extended to the other and he caught hold of it and was drawn partly out of the water, when losing his hold he fell back again. This was Mr. Hilliard’s son. Let the reader imagine the thrilling scene – this terrible trial to the father’s affectionate heart, in witnessing his little son, only six years of age, sinking the second time into the water under such painful circumstances.
But Mr. H. was equal to the crisis; still he cautioned and counseled the boys while swimming to their rescue – telling them to keep perfectly quiet, and then reach out their stick to his little boy, which they did; and again the poor, chilled and almost exhausted child grasped it, and was thus sustained with only head and neck above water, until reached by his father. Mr. H. then, by means of the door and the piece of ice, kept those boys out of the water some half an hour or more, when a boat was obtained and took them all safe to land.
It seems almost miraculous that any of these boys were saved, when the depth of the water and distance from the shore, and the small piece of ice on which they were, are taken into consideration.
– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Monday Morning, April 7, 1862, p. 2