The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Kingston Herald (Kingston, ON), July 2, 1844

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Our city was yesterday shocked by the most terrible and mournful accident that has ever occurred in its vicinity. Yesterday morning the steamboat Gen. Vance, Capt. S.D. Woodworth, left the wharf of J.N. Elbert, at 8 1/2 o'clock, with a full load of passengers and freight, for Toledo. She proceeded across the river to Windsor, and just as she stopped at the wharf and was letting off steam, the boiler exploded. The sound was like the report of a cannon, and was heard with fearful distinctness on this side. The fore part of the boat immediately sunk, and the aft soon followed. But this was of little consequence, compared with the melancholy loss of life.

Four persons at least are supposed to have lost their lives. Mr. Samuel D. Woodworth, the captain of the boat, the elder son of Mr. Benj. Woodworth, the late well known proprietor of the Steamboat Hotel, was thrown into the air and killed. His body was found some hours afterward, in the river. The body of George Sweeney, of Chatham, C.W., formerly employed on the Kent, has also been found. Rubert Motherwill, engineer of the ferry boat United, who had just stepped on board the Vance, is also supposed to be killed, though his body has not been found.

Maj. A.C. Truax, of Truago, one of our oldest and most respected citizens, was frightfully and mortally wounded, and though living at the moment of writing, cannot survive. Mr. Gaylord, the engineer of the Vance, was severely but not dangerously injured, and also two of the firemen, whose names we have not learned. Some 30 or 40 passengers were on board, and their preservation is almost miraculous.

The boat is of course an utter wreck, and her cargo all or nearly all lost. It is of course too early to judge calmly of the cause of the explosion, but it is due to Mr. Gaylord to say that he is an engineer of skill, experience, and of the highest integrity and fidelity, in whom our citizens repose entire confidence. The following statement by him has been furnished to us for publication:

Mr. Gaylord, the engineer, says her steam was low, and not so as to blow off when she left the wharf on this side, but as usual on leaving port, he caused the fires to be replenished, not knowing that the boat was to land on the other side. But on coming to the dock he had her fire door opened, and himself raised the safety valve and tied it up, so as to blow off freely. At the moment of the explosion he was standing upon the rail, with his hand having hold of the shroud, saying to Captain Woodworth, "that he should have given him notice of his intention to land there, that the steam was making fast, and he must stop long;" that instant the explosion took place; Mr. Gaylord was blown from the rail where he was standing, on to the forward deck of the ferry boat United, and was badly bruised, and somewhat scalded, but not dangerously.

p.S. Major Truax has since died.

Since the above was in type we have received some additional facts from Messrs. Livingston & Co.'s express line.

The General Vance was what is termed "a high pressure" boat, and was engaged in the coasting trade. Capt. Woodworth was a nephew of the late poet Woodworth, of this city. The boat had recently been newly fitted up at a large expense. [Detroit Daily Advertiser June 26th]

Fatal Accident - On Thursday last a large scow with four men and a boy on board was unfortunately upset in squall between Point Pleasant and the "Ducks." Two of the men were in the cabin when the accident occurred, but the other two and the boy being on deck were precipitated into the water. The men after various attempts succeeded in regaining the Vessel which was then floating keel uppermost, but the boy was unfortunately drowned. Nis name was C. F. Donnelly, brother of Mr. T. Donnelly, District Superintendent of Education.

The two men who were in the cabin must immediately have perished from suffocation, had they not providentially succeeded in finding a handspike with which they beat a hole through the bottom of the Scow which admitted a current of air, and through which they thrust a stick and a piece of cloth as a signal of distress. This was the first intimation which their comrades who were sitting on the keel had of their safety - a Schooner (the name of which we have not heard bore down upon the wreck, and released the four sufferers from their perilous situation, but not before a hole had been cut with an axe in the bottom of the Scow, large enough to admit of the egress of the two who were in the cabin. [Victoria Sun] or [Picton Sun]

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July 2, 1844
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Kingston Herald (Kingston, ON), July 2, 1844