BY VERONICA STIENBURG, ARCHIVIST
From the Congregational Annals of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul:
On the 15th [of January 1879] Sr. M. Edward [arrived] accompanied by her sister Miss B. McKinley who had been visiting in Holyoke. They preferred coming by way of Cape Vincent and were obliged to make the journey from Watertown to the Cape in a sleigh.
The snow lay in such great quantities that the driver was unable to keep the main road and quite lost his way. In crossing, as they neared the City, the ice gave way and horses, stage and passengers went down into the water.
The latter jumped out and the men scrambling on the solid ice threw horse blankets to them and thus prevented their floating under.
The horrors of such a situation are thrilling to the imagination to say nothing of its reality. The day was intensely cold and they were forced to walk to the shore a distance of nearly three fourths of a mile though we cannot doubt that this exercise preserved their lives as it kept the blood in circulation. It is needless to say that our consternation was great when they arrived in such pitiable condition and no time was lost in giving them the care their condition required.
Sr. Mary Edward – Catherine McKinley (sitting) and another of her sisters Sr. Mary Patrick – Sarah McKinley (standing). Photograph taken between 1872 and 1878.
Their inner garments were actually frozen to them while icicles hung from their outside clothing. Being bathed in alcohol and well rubbed they experienced no lasting injury from the accident. Their escape was little less than miraculous. The other passengers were equally fortunate in saving their lives.