The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), April 24, 1851

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Yesterday afternoon the steamer Northerner, Capt. Childs, arrived from Oswego, having on board, five bodies of the unfortunates, belonging to the steamer Comet. They were all handsomely coffined, received in silence by a large crowd of bystanders, and taken away to their late abodes, on the sholders of their friends. The colors of the steamer were at half-mast, and the conduct of Capt. Childs, in other respects, was what might have been expected of him. From the Commercial Times of yesterday, we extract the following further intelligence:-

Since our last paper went to press, three more of the wounded have died. The names of the dead are, Lloyd Davis, 1st Engineer; James Carroll, 2nd Engineer; John O'Connor, waiter, about 17 years of age; James Church, waiter, about 16; and Thomas Quiggins, fireman.

Of the crew of the boat, there are three missing, ( ) colored man, cook, who was last season a cook on the steamer Mayflower, upon Lake Erie. These are supposed to have been blown into the river, and to be lost, making a total loss of eight persons.

Daniel McGuire, cook's mate, and James Friel, waiter, who were more or less injured, it is thought, ( ).

The wives ( ) Engineers, and other friends of the dead arrived by the Cataract, from Kingston, yesterday P.M. The bodies of the dead were deposited in the upper room of the City Hall, and a Coroner's Inquest was held, and in session most of the day, and a large number of people congregated in and about the building. The bodies are to be taken to Kingston by the down steamer this morning.

The following is the finding of the Coroner's Jury - April 22nd, 1851.

That John Davis, James Carroll, John O'Connor, James Church and Thomas Quiggins, came to their death by scalding from the explosion of a boiler in the Canadian steamer Comet, in the Oswego harbor, on the 21st day of April, 1851, about 3 o'clock P.M. which explosion we believe to have been caused by the want of a sufficient quantity of water in the boiler.

In witness whereof, we subscribe our names -

Alpheus Stuart, Coroner.

Isaac L. Merriam, Foreman.

Curtis Severance.

A.W. Perry.

Stephen Luce.

E. Hadcock.

Robert Scott.

It was proved before the Jury that the two Engineers who lost their lives, were men of good habits, the one having charge of the exploded boiler, being a strictly temperance man.

The Jury, we understand, reached their conclusion in regard to the boiler from the testimony produced before them, mostly from Mr. Starbuck, scientific engineer from Troy, who made a thorough examination of the wreck and the exploded boiler. From all the attending circumstances and the opinion of Mr. Starbuck, it seems quite clear that the explosion was caused by the want of a sufficient quantity of water when the boilers were heated up, and that the change of position while the boat was swinging round brought the water in contact with hot iron, the consequences of which are obvious. We learn from the best authority, that the boilers of the Comet were thoroughly overhauled and tested this spring by one of the best and most experienced Engineers in Canada, who pronounced them sound.

It is not believed that any fault can be ascribed to the officers of the boat.

It must be highly consoling to the feelings of the owners of this unfortunate vessel, to know that the verdict of a foreign jury, held in a foreign country, has entirely exonerated them from all appearance of blame. The boilers of the Comet were not new; but every pains were taken, and no expense spared, to make them as good as new. Mr. Roberts, a highly scientific and well informed engineer at Toronto, was specially employed to make a survey, and to condemn them, if he could not undertake to make them in every respect perfect. This he undertook to do, and fully succeeded; for prior to the boat's starting on her regular business, he came down from Toronto expressly, and made a trial trip down to Ogdensburgh for the sole purpose of testing his work. The boilers were then, and at the time of the accident, pronounced by him in the very best condition; and the melancholy loss of life, together with the damage done to the vessel, was occasioned, not by the weakness of the boilers, but by their being allowed to become empty and nearly red hot when the cold water was poured in. This fact, the verdict of the jury fully sustains. Water upon red hot iron acts like gunpowder, and the like explosion may occur on board a vessel whose boilers are used for the first time.


April 22nd - Str. Cataract, Ogdensburgh, passengers and baggage.

Str. New Era, Ogdensburgh, 90 bundles spades and shovels, W. Bowen.

Schr. William Penn, Hamilton, 7030 pipe staves, Calvin & Cook.

Schr. Dexter Calvin, Cayuga, 25,000 West India staves, Calvin & Cook.

Str. Bay State, Oswego, mixed cargo.

23rd - Str. Ottawa, Ogdensburgh, passengers and baggage.

Schr. Conductor, Windsor, 100 doz. brooms, 92 kegs lard, 404 bbls. pork, 5 kegs tongues, 179 tierces beef, 32 hhds. hams, 21 bbls. potash, H. Fraser; 21 hhds. tobacco, 3 kegs lard, 30 bbls. pork, 12 bbls. beef, McPherson & Crane.

Propeller James Wood, Chicago, 7700 bush. wheat, 100 bbls. pork, 150 boxes candles, Holmes, Knapp & Co., Montreal.

Schr. J.L. Ranney, Bear Creek, 14,162 pipe staves, 1152 West India staves, Calvin & Cook.

Brig Breeze, Hamilton, 110 pieces timber, 12 masts and 400 stoves, Calvin & Cook.

ads for steamers Passport, New Era, Henry Gildersleev, Cataract and Northerner. April 24th, 1851.

p.3 Ottawa Mail Line - The Steamer PHOENIX will commence her trips on Monday 21st instant, leaving at 6 A.M. Bytown, 17th April, 1851.

The Steamer


At the opening of the Navigation, the Steamer LADY SIMPSON will commence her regular daily trips from Lachine, connecting with the steamer Phoenix to Bytown. The hour of departure of the Railroad Train from Montreal, will be duly notified to the public.

April 15th, 1851.

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April 24, 1851
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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.
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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), April 24, 1851