At 10 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1854, After 18 hours spent battling a blizzard on Lake Michigan, the fate of the Westmoreland was sealed less than three miles from safety. Rising water in the bilge finally extinguished the fire in the boiler, leaving the cargo-laden steamer powerless and thrown to the mercy of heavy, icy seas off a then-remote stretch of Lake Michigan coastline.
No actual photographs of the Westmoreland exist. Here is a photo of a steamer just like the Westmoreland:
Seventeen of the thirty-three souls on board the Westmoreland would soon perish in the deep, frigid waters of Platte Bay. The other half would spread the legend of a ship reputed to be carrying $100,000 in gold coins in her safe, and 280 barrels of whiskey in her hold, sparking more than a century of treasure hunters that would search in vain for the wreck. In fact, the wreckage of the Westmoreland was finally discovered in 2010 sitting upright on the lake bed, 200 feet under the surface of Platte Bay near the Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore. So far, neither the gold nor the whiskey have been found (or so they would have us believe...).
William Saltonstall almost lost his life several times from the extreme cold he encountered. He gave the credit for his surviving to a waterproof matchbox he always carried. He said that often his ability to start a fire was the difference between his surviving, or perishing from the cold.
Saltonstall took time off from his journeys to court Miss Sarah Brayton Aiken (1825-1910) of Oswego, New York.
|Sarah Aiken Saltonstall (1825-1910)|
His courtship was successful and they were married in 1840. William and Sarah were blessed with six children who survived to adulthood. Three boys: Brayton (1848-1936), Gilbert (1850-1896) and Henry (1861-1907), and three girls: Elizabeth (1840-1898), Constance (1846-1934), and Grace M. (1858-1918). There was another daughter Gertrude, who was born in 1845 but who died in 1852.
After the Civil War, William Saltonstall gradually closed down his retail ventures. I guess he was getting too old for the arduous journeys, although the transportation system was getting better every year. He spent his latter years solely in Chicago, eventually becoming the bankruptcy trustee for the Chicago District.
William Saltonstall died Friday, August 13, 1886 from "Pressure of the brain with apoplectic symptoms." Here's his obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune of August 16, 1886:
As I mentioned above, William Saltonstall is buried in Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago:
and added to his headstone is "Pioneer 1835". Sarah, who died in 1910, lies next to him:
and also their daughter Gertrude who died at the age of seven:
Here's a photo of the Saltonstall plot at Rosehill:
On the beautiful monument you can see the Saltonstall family coat of arms:
You can see that it has been Americanized (simplified) somewhat from the original British coat of arms of the Saltonstall Family:
William Saltonstall, Chicago pioneer - may he rest in peace.