The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), July 2, 1849

Full Text


July 3, 1849

(from bound volume of originals at Queen's University - Special Collections)



We copy from the Pilot and the Globe fuller particulars of the melancholy accident on board the steamer Passport. It may appear singular that we should copy from other newspapers, instead of detailing the sad catastrophe from facts gathered at Kingston; but the fact is, that so many different versions of the sad affair have come to our ears, that we feel reluctant to publish any, lest we might say what is not the precise truth. When the particulars of the Coroner's Inquest reach us we shall give them publicity. Steamboat owners are like cats. You may stroke the fur the right way for years, and hear nothing but purring; but accidentally tread on the tail, and all memory of former kindness is obliterated.

A distressing accident occurred last Wednesday evening, on board the Passport steamer, when off Lancaster on her upward trip. The injection pipe having become choked, (in what manner is not yet ascertained,) a violent escape of steam took place, by which a number of persons, emigrants, were so severely scalded, that nine died almost immediately. Nine others were landed at Cornwall, where they have since died; the remaining six, it is expected, will recover. Several others, whose injuries were of a slighter character, remained on board, and the Passport, after a short delay, proceeded on her voyage.

Further particulars will no doubt be furnished when the report of the Coroner's Inquest arrives. Meanwhile, it is proper to state that the Passport's engines are so constructed as to render explosion next to impossible, and that the well known care and skill of the engineer preclude any supposition but that the unfortunate occurrence was what is termed purely accidental, against which no human sagacity can provide. [Pilot]

It appears that the Chief Engineer of the Passport has recently been appointed to a better situation, and his successor not having been appointed, the boat on the night in question was in charge of the Second Engineer. Unfortunately, at the time of the accident, the second engineer had retired to his berth, leaving an inferior officer in command - his being, as afterwards appeared, illiterate, unable to read or write.

About 9 o'clock p.m. the Passport was off Lancaster (16 miles below Cornwall), the underdeck being loaded with steerage passengers, when the boat took the ground. Orders were given to stop the engine and back out; it appears that to do this, from the peculiar construction of the engine, the engineer should have opened one cock and shut another. He opened the first, but it is said neglected to shut the other. The steam in consequence rushed from the cylinders, through the hot well, in among the steerage passengers - and the scene which followed may be imagined. The shriek which broke from the unhappy sufferers, we are assured, was frightful and was heard several miles off. The utmost consternation struck all on board, the character of the accident for some time being unknown; four persons jumped overboard, of whom two were saved, but it is feared the other two were drowned.

Capt. Bowen and his officers were most energetic, and the simple nature of the disaster having been ascertained and confidence somewhat restored, every exertion was made to relieve the sufferers. A surgeon came off from Lancaster to their assistance, and the scalded passengers having been brought on deck, it was found that forty four were severely injured. We are told that the scene during the night was horrible in the extreme; the cabin was strewed with men, women and children suffering the most frightful agony, and the shrieks of the dying rang throughout the night. After some delay the boat proceeded to Cornwall, by which time nine of the sufferers had expired. A Coroner's Inquest was there held by Dr. McDonald and Mr. Dickenson, and evidence taken, but we learn no verdict was rendered, the inquiry having been adjourned.

The sufferers in this unfortuante affair were all immigrants. About twenty of them were left behind at Cornwall, and the remainder were brought up to Kingston. We understand that four additional deaths have resulted since the Coroner's Inquest sat, and that many others are very seriously injured. [Globe]

The Increase of Western Trade - Oswego is gaining on Buffalo in amount of business. [Oswego Times]

Trade of Toronto - customs duties of Port of Toronto are nearly 3 x as big as same quarter last year.

survey being made for road from Auburn to Big Sodus Bay which has a good harbor - this will take trade from Oswego. [Auburn Advertiser]

Wanted to Charter - a schooner, steamer or propeller to deliver light house supplies from Lake St. Louis to Lake St. Clair. Dep't of Public Works, 1st July, 1849.

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July 2, 1849
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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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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), July 2, 1849