Peter Lawson's Account
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from the Victoria Daily Colonist, 12 Jan 1904, pg.8

Well-Known Railway Man Was an Hour in the Water

Among the survivors of the disaster was Peter Lawson, the millionaire railway contractor of Helena, who was on his way to Victoria on a business visit to some Victorians. He, as did many others, had a miraculous escape. More than an hour in the ice-cold waters of the sea left him in a state of semi-consciousness.

Mr. Lawson remained by the ship. Had he taken to the open boats he would doubtless have met the fate of those who chose to attempt that means of escape.

"I was in the water about an hour and a half, according to my recollection," Mr. Lawson said. "Then I was picked up by the tug "Sea Lion'. I have only an indistinct memory of what was going on. Just when the 'Clallam' went down I am unable to state. I know that she began taking water, that the pumps were promptly put to work and that all hands were engaged bailing her out. Finally the tug 'Holyoke' came along and took us in tow.

"I remained on the 'Clallam' until the last. We clung to the starboard rail until we were washed overboard. Next I found myself clinging to a door of the 'Clallam' which had been washed into the sea. No, I was not very cold - probably too much excited to feel it. To begin with I had been seasick almost from the moment of leaving Port Townsend.

"After the vessel began taking water I remember that boats were lowered and that all of the women aboard the vessel were placed in these. The boats were of course, manned by men. The number of occupants I could not say. I know that Miss Louise Harris, of Spokane, was of the number. All of the women, I am convinced, were lost.

"The 'Clallam' appeared toward the last to have broken into pieces. I have no fault to find with any one. Capt. Roberts appeared to be doing everything in his power. He was calm and collected throughout. The crew behaved well, so far as I could see. The officers of the vessel were constantly beseeching those aboard to join in the efforts to bail her out.

"I am unable to tell when the vessel went down. She was waterlogged toward the last and went all to pieces. She listed to port and seemingly sank stern first. As she careened over we crowded toward the bow, changing to the starboard rail. Everybody hung on as long as possible. Then a wave came along and washed us all overboard. We grabbed anything in reach. It was the case of the drowning man reaching for the proverbial straw.

"I recall that Homer F. Swaney, of Port Townsend, was among the lost. I saw him about ten minutes before he went down. There can be no doubt that he was lost."

Mr. Lawson is one of the richest and most successful business men in the West. He is perhaps the largest railway contractor west of the Mississippi. As a contractor he took a prominent part in the construction of the Great Northern. He has large property interests in the state of Washington, owing the Spokane brewery and being one of the principal stockholders in the Centennial mill of Seattle. He is also interested, with H.C. Henry in railroad construction.
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