Racine Daily Journal
Sunday Bulletin - Dec. 16, 1956


{picture:3 masted ship} This is the picture taken of Adam Harcus' ice-covered boat shortly after it arrived in Racine harbor from Lake Superior in the winter of 1870.

Sailing the Lakes Can Be Rough, Scottish Lad Learned in Racine by Jean Matheson

Winter sailing on the Great Lakes, whether in 1870 or 1956, is no lark. Last week the Pittsburg Steamship Co. changed its mind about keeping its ore fleet on Lake superior until Jan. 1. Bad weather and ice interferred. It would have been the first time since 1899 that ships had sailed the lake that late.

The decision recalled the tale of an 18-year-old Racine lad who in the late fall of 1870 ignored the advice of seasoned sailors and set off in his ship for Lake Superior to bring back a load of lumber.

Battered by Winter
All went well for Adam Harcus on his trip north. But winter had arrived in earnest by the time he started on his return. Ice coated the sails and rigging and rough water battered the boat. Relatives in Racine began to doubt that he would return at all.

But one wintery day the ice covered boat made its way into Racine harbor and, as present day descendants of Harcus recall him telling, a good share of the citizenry turned out to congratulate him and have a look at the ship.

Someone took a photograph of the battered craft. One print has been preserved in the Historical Room at the Courthouse and the second is owned by Harcus' daughter, Mrs. Alfred Anderson, 958 Washington Ave. Some townsfolk, however, probably were not greatly surprised over the youth's return. Only a few months earlier Adam had been involved in another sailing experience which could have came from the pages of Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer."

This incident occurred shortly after Harcus had arrived from Scotland to live with his aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Driver, their six sons and two daughters.

Caught by Wind Shift
Adam had sailed often on the North Sea with his Scottish uncles and was anxious to give Lake Michigan a try. One pleasant summer day the Driver boys and Adam set out for a sail.

The wind changed suddenly however, and the boys found they no longer could control the boat. They drifted most of the night and in the morning discovered they were near Milwaukee harbor.

The boat was docked at Milwaukee and the boys went to work making necessary repairs for the trip home. It was several days before they were ready to sail again. The repairs and bad weather delayed them and as was perhaps characteristic of their youth, they neglected to write their worried relatives in Racine.

Meanwhile, as the days passed, the Drivers decided the boys must certainly have drowned during the storm. They planned memorial services at the Presbyterian Church.

Attended Own "Funeral"
When the boat at last sailed into the Racine harbor, several boys who had been standing on the wharf rushed back to town with the news,. And as in the "Tom Sawyer" saga, Adam and his cousins were in time to reach the church for their own funeral services.

Two harrowing experiences on the lakes prompted Harcus to give up sailing. He became a carpenter-contractor, working on such buildings as the Main Library, the old Post Office at sixth and Main Sts. and Burlington High School.

In addition to Mrs. Anderson, the former Grace Harcus, Adam had two sons, both of whom still live in Racine. They are John Harcus, 822 Fourteenth St; and A. Harold Harcus, 2022 Washington Ave.

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