Thrilling Experience: Of a Band of Smugglers in the Lachine Rapids.: While “Running” Chinese Across the River at Caughnawaga Their War Canoe is Driven on a Reef at the Mouth of the Cataract

Fourteen Chinamen, accompanied by three shrewd smugglers from this city, had a narrow escape from going over the Lachine Rapids early on Monday morning, while attempting to cross the St. Lawrence from Lachine to Caughnawaga on their way to Uncle Sam’s domains.

The wily Chinese, finding that the new route to the United States via the Sorel Islands [further east] was discovered, abandoned that channel in quick order and directed their attention to pastures new. Together, with the smugglers, they hit upon an ingenious scheme, a little risky perhaps, but completely safe from the vigilant eye of the United States Customs officers and Treasury officials, as they thought.

This time they would run across the river a mile above the Lachine Rapids in a large Indian war canoe, and land in a cove dangerously surrounded by reefs, where pursuit would be impossible. When arranging for this trip, the Chinese miscalculated the danger of the St. Lawrence at this point, and let nothing come into their minds but their one ambition to cross to the land of the free.

On Monday morning, at 8:30, the party left Montreal for Lachine, comfortably ensconced in a large covered express waggon [sic]. They arrived at the place designated for their perilous trip near the Canadian Pacific bridge, and after scouting around for some time to see that the coast was clear, embarked in a large Indian war canoe that was in waiting near the rendezvous. It was first arranged to make for a cove above the bridge, but the guide misjudged the current at this point, and instead of striking out a mile further up the river, let go the ropes from the hiding place. As soon as the big war canoe, with its load of human freight, caught the swiftly running current it swerved quickly round, and in an instant shot between the two shore abutments of the bridge with lightning speed.

Out into the current glided the canoe, and in several minutes the party was in the centre of the swift current of the St. Lawrence. Down, down, they sped, the paddlers working like Trojans, but making little headway to the opposite shore. Back in the wake towered the bridge, and in the distance could be seen the white caps and spray from the turbulent waters of the Lachine Rapids. The canoe now and anon would rise on the heavy swells that were rapidly drawing it towards the cataract of rushing waters.

The occupants now, for the first time, realized their danger, and for a time lost their heads. The paddlers, worn out, quickly changed places with the more robust of the Celestials. Then commenced the race for life. With every plunge of the paddles the canoe rose on the heavy swells and cut its way through the small white caps. It was a case of life or death. On they went; the current getting swifter and the swells heavier. Less than a quarter of a mile off could be seen the raging cataract of the rapids. One hundred yards distant was the shore for which they had risked so much. The work was laborious, but slowly the canoe forged ahead, but as it did so it was carried down stream sideways. Nearer and nearer they approached, until finally the prow of the canoe rounded the reef opposite the rapids and grazed upon the sand of the cove.

All round the spot raged the turbulent waters, and the noise of the rapids two hundred yards distant from shore caused many of the party to utter a word of thanks at their escape from such a narrow call. It is doubtful if another party of Celestials anxious to gain access to Uncle Sam’s domains will undertake another such trip.

The whole party went onward with the evident intention of crossing the line near Hemmingford and Huntingdon.

Owing to the energy put forth by the United States Customs officers the smugglers are kept continually on the lookout for pastures new, for no sooner do they get two or three batches of Celestials safely over the lines than the officers are after them. The money now paid by the Celestials to get across is so tempting as to cause the smugglers, who are in most cases Americans, to devise schemes of the most hazardous nature to earn the rewards. Probably the shrewdest of this organized band of smugglers between Montreal, Toronto, and Boston is a wealthy Chinese resident of the latter city who visits Montreal quite frequently to arrange for consignment of live stock, and to also give the smugglers tips as to the movements of the United States Secret Service men, as, strange to say, this son of the Flowery Kingdom has a keen insight into the workings of the authorities, and in many instances the smugglers’ headquarters here are aware that a Secret Service man is on his way to one of their rendezvous before the train is two miles out of Boston. This is the man that also manipulated the strings for the smugglers of sulfonal and phenacetin, and was the first to hit upon the hollow cane and umbrella handles for conveying these expensive drugs into the States.

But now that the hot weather is on, there is a falling off in the demand for the dump, so the smugglers direct all their time to the Celestials, because there is more money in the latter at this time of the year. With the advent of cold weather commences the running in of the drugs and furs again by the underground route to Uncle Sam’s territory.

In conversation with a Star reporter last night a prominent local Chinaman admitted that the coffin scheme originated with him and that they were manufactured here and shipped to St. John, NB, where they were put together and used in smuggling Chinese over the lines into Vanceboro, Mex. When spoken to regarding the Sorel Island rendezvous, the speaker laughed heartily and said that if it had not been for the United States officers getting on their track considerable money could have been made by this latter route. He boasted openly of the many exploits he had with the customs officials and concluded by stating that there were fully five hundred Chinamen here at present anxiously waiting to cross the lines.

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