The fateful night for the schooner Cavalier was Friday August 31, 1906. A crew of five, led by a Captain Glass were transporting cedar lumber on Lake Huron when a storm blew up. While making its way to Southampton’s harbour the schooner was driven against the rocks/reef on the north side of Chantry Island, tearing its hull and sank rapidly.
The Cavalier’s crew clung to the rigging and spars of the ship through the night and were rescued the morning by Captain William McGregor Lambert, the lightkeeper of the Chantry Island Lighthouse. Luckily no lives were lost, however the “crew during the night did suffer from wet and exposure”, according to the Port Elgin Times. The ship itself was a total loss, but much of the cargo was saved.
For his lifesaving efforts, Captain Lambert was awarded a bronze medal from the Royal Canadian Humane Society and was awarded in front of a large crowd at a public meeting December 17, 1906. The medal was presented to Captain Lambert by John M. McNabb. The painting seen here was done by Captain Lambert’s wife, Elizabeth Mary Parsille in 1906, and is thought to depict the lifesaving measures of Captain Lambert to the crew of the Cavalier. Through time, salvaged pieces of the Cavalier have become part of the museum’s collection, including the mast head, which was donated in 1954.
The wreck of the Cavalier once again brought home the need for Southampton to have a life-saving station. In the aftermath of the wreck the town once again petitioned to government to set up a station. This petition was successful and the life-saving station was completed in 1908, two years after the wreck.