Gibson, Nancy: Rescue!


presented by Nancy Gibson

The Rescue

Ira Seth Palmer was one of the nine members of the Charlotte, New York, U.S. Coast Guard to receive a gold lifesaving medal for the gallant rescue of the crew of five from the wreck of the schooner, John R. Noyes on Dec. 15, 1902.

The distress call was received at 5:30 p.m. on Dec 14 by the Charlotte Keeper. Due to the ice conditions, they could not get a barge to take the surfboat out. They resolved to take their supplies and surfboat by train to Lakeside and then use horse and sleigh to carry the apparatus to the water. Due to extreme weather conditions and heavy vapor causing poor visibility, they were forced to go back to shore and wait until daylight. By 11:30 the next morning, after battling heavy waves and freezing spray they reached the helpless wreck. The crew of the Noyes was suffering from 50 hours of exposure and 36 hours without food and would have perished within a few hours.

The same conditions still existed as the rescuers rowed them back to the shore. The lifesaving crew had been under oar for nearly fifteen hours and rowed for sixty miles under extremely hazardous conditions, but nobly carried out their duty. On March 3, 1903, they were awarded gold medals for "extreme and heroic daring in saving life from the perils of the sea."

Coast Guard Members

George N. Gray

Frank B. Chapman

W. Vernon Downing

Charles Eastwood

Miel Eggleston

George E. Henderson

Ira Seth Palmer

Delbert Rose

Lester D. Seymour

Conditions Prior to the Rescue

The American coal miners had been on strike in 1902 and Canada was in desperate need of coal. President Roosevelt had ordered the miners back to work and the shipping industry was busy trying to get the coal into Canada.

The schooner, John R. Noyes was loaded with coal and towed by the steamer barge, the John E. Hall. They left Oswego, New York on Dec. 11, headed for Deseronto, Ontario. The next day they were about 15 miles west of Kingston near the Main Duck Islands. A northeast gale came up. Eventually the two ships were separated. The John R. Noyes drifted back towards the American shore and the crew of eight on the John E. Hall went down near the Main Duck Islands. George Donovan was the captain of the John R. Noyes and his father Timothy Donovan was the captain of the John E. Hall. Two other members of the Donovan family also went down on the John E. Hall.


Ira Seth Palmer was born at Colborne Harbour in 1855. He was the son of Noble Palmer and Lydia Gleason. He emigrated to the United States in 1890, and worked for the Coast Guard. He lived in Rochester. Lydia Gleason was a sister of my great great grandfather, Anson Gleason. Ira would be my first cousin 3 times removed.