Some tragedies are tragic for the simple loss of life in a struggle against insurmountable odds. Others are still more sad because they simply didn’t need to happen. The sinking of the Lamont falls into the latter category.
Hartwick and Tuller summarize the sad turn of events in their book “Oceana County Pioneers and Business Men of To-Day.” I will share with you a bit of what they have written. It would seem that sometime prior to March 14, 1880, two men named Whittington and Adams purchased a tugboat called the Gem. This boat was then repaired and put to work on the lake, and it was not long before a friendly rivalry arose between the captain of the Gem and the captain of a tug called the Lamont. “The spirit of rivalry was maintained and strengthened by bantering, hectoring remarks by each and the circulation of false stories concerning the seaworthiness of the respective crafts,” Hartwick and Tuller said. Before too long the idea of a race was born. Bets were made, trash talk was exchanged and, “…the captains,” wrote our good authors, “were each wrought up to such a pitch of excitement that nothing short of a catastrophe to start would have stopped them.”
The fated day of the previously mentioned date, March 14, 1880, was a Sunday, with “a heavy sea rolling in.” Aboard the Gem was captain P. H. Adams, John Millidge and Moore Hardway. Meanwhile, on the Lamont we had captain Charles Lamont, his son of 12 years old, Georgie, and a man named Palmer Hill. The ships were off, and the gathered crowd watched until they were no longer visible through the falling snow. As Hartwick and Tuller said, “It was evident from the start that the Lamont was no match for the Gem in such a sea, yet she ploughed along through the breakers in a vain endeavor to keep up.” However, things took a turn for the worse when the Gem returned home alone that afternoon. The townspeople of course asked captain Adams what he knew of the Lamont, to which he stated that, “when about four miles out she turned about, and as he supposed, returned to Pentwater, as the snow enveloped her so he could not see her any great distance.” Immediately a search was commenced which yielded the worst possible results. Along the beach, three miles to the north, lay the wreckage of the Lamont, and not too long after, the bodies of the whole crew were washed ashore.
While there was no great storm, and while the death toll is relatively small, the loss of the Lamont hits as hard as any great tragedy one might think of. To think that three people, and one of them so young, could die during the pursuit of such honest and good-hearted fun is truly a tragedy. I will leave off with the same kind words that Hartwick and Tuller did regarding captain Lamont:
Mr. Lamont was one of the best engineers in the place, a good mechanic and a daring sailor. Many a time has he breasted the rolling waves with a tug to relieve some vessel in distress, or aid them in making port. He seemed to be absolutely without fear. (Hartwick and Tuller, 1890, p. 108)