The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), Sept. 30, 1850

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We learn that a disturbance occurred on board the steamer Highlander, on her trip up the river, on Monday night, which at one time threatened to be attended with the most serious consequences. The Highlander left Lachine for Kingston on Monday at 2 o'clock with a large number of cabin passengers, among whom were Sir Edmund and Lady Head and suite, Hon. Mr. Leslie, Provincial Secretary, Mr. Murdoch of Halifax, etc., etc. At Coteau du Lac, a large party of immigrants came on board, completely occupying the lower deck. All went smoothly until the vessel reached Cornwall, at which place 40 or 50 raftsmen were received as steerage passengers; they had run a large raft down the rapids that morning, and were going up by the boat to the head of the rapids to bring down a second raft. It was evident from the first that these men had been imbibing rather freely, and they had not been long in the vessel before a violent altercation took place between some of their number and a portion of the emigrants, the latter alleging that the raftsmen had interfered with their night quarters they had made up for themselves and families on the deck. An old man, an immigrant, received a violent blow on the face from one of the raftsmen, and from that point the war of words raged fast and furious; but still nothing very alarming appeared, and a lull having ensued the matter was thought to be at rest. After a little, however, the strife broke out with increased violence, and blows were freely struck; and the boat coming to a lock on the Cornwall canal, a party of the crew and immigrants, armed with sticks, endeavored to drive the raftsmen on shore. A regular skirmish ensued; severe blows were struck, and some of the men having taken up axes, a bloody termination to the affair seemed inevitable. One party forced their way to the upper deck, followed by their opponents, and the fight became general over the boat; a good many had been forced out of the boat, and these having armed themselves with stones commenced throwing them into the boat. Captain Stearns, while standing at the wheel-house received a severe blow on the head which laid open his forehead and lip; a passenger received a severe wound on the head from which the blood flowed copiously; and a poor woman was struck with a stone which cut her head in a shocking manner; a boy had his arm severely injured, and others were more or less hurt. One of the raftsmen appeared to be seriously hurt, but he was lifted ashore before the character of his wounds were ascertained. After a while, the whole of the raftsmen were got ashore, and the gangway of the vessel were closed; but the men continued round the boat, vowing vengeance against those on board, and declaring that the boat should not leave the lock until they had satisfaction on their opponents. After a good deal of parleying, two persons went ashore to reason with the excited men, and before long the storm was quieted down. A bargain was struck, the fares of the raftsmen were returned to them, and the boat moved off leaving them behind. As may be supposed, the alarm amongst the passengers was very great. The hurrahing, and yelling and crashing of stones against the upper cabins, were quite alarming, and many of the women and children among the steerage passengers, having retreated to the upper saloon, a strange midnight spectacle was there presented. The first cause of complaint in the affair is with the officers of the boat, in receiving such a party on board the vessel, excited by liquor as they were from the first; and the next is with the mercantile house sending aboard such a party of desparadoes, without some judicious person to control and influence them.

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Sept. 30, 1850
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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), Sept. 30, 1850