The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Aug. 2, 1886

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Detroit, Mich., July 31st - A Chicago special says: The Canadian steamer Isaac May staggered into the harbor at a late hour on Thursday night without fuel and almost destitute of provisions. Capt. Muir, her master, relates a thrilling experience. The May left Chicago three weeks ago, towing three barges. After a run of five days they arrived at the Manitou Island, on the Canadian side of Lake Huron, the largest island in the great lakes, covered with cedar trees. When the vessel arrived the inhabitants were badly frightened. For weeks not a drop of rain had fallen. The steamer and her tow began to take on cargoes of posts and ties when the woods suddenly burst into a great blaze. No sooner had the fire started than a severe wind storm swept over the island,

Driving The Flames

in every direction. The people fled in terror to the beach and sought shelter on board the vessels, which pulled out into the lake. Scores of bears, roaring with pain, ran out of the woods with the hair singed from their hides, and plunged into the lake. The flames raged for five days, burning over acres of valuable timber and destroying a vast amount of stock piled on the beach for shipment. Then a drenching rain storm set in and continued until the fire was put out. It was ten days from the time the vessels reached there before they were ready to leave, and their stock of provisions was almost exhausted in caring for the people who took refuge on them. Still Capt. Muir thought he could make his provisions hold out until they reached Chicago, but he did not count on having

Head Winds All The Way.

The vessels left the island last Saturday morning, and as dense clouds of smoke from the burning timber had settled down over the water the vessels had to pick their way slowly through the darkness. The steamers passed the straits on Monday, but hardly had entered Lake Michigan when they ran into another bank of smoke that shut out everything from view. So thick was the atmosphere that the first barge of the tow could not be seen from the decks of the steamer. On all sides could be heard the fog signals of passing steamers. By moving slowly and sounding whistles at frequent intervals the steamer made her way through the smoke in safety. Her progress had been so greatly impeded, however, that when one hundred miles north of Chicago the engineer reported the coal bunkers empty, and the steward informed the captain that nothing was left to eat but salt pork. The crew were put under short rations and the deck load posts were drawn on to

Feed The Furnaces,

but the cedar was so green that the boilers could hardly be kept warm. Finally the steamer cut her consorts adrift and came to Chicago under sail without them. The experience of the steamer at the Manitoulin Island during the fire was thrilling. The scene from the vessels, as told by a spectator, was grand beyond description. The flames shot into the air for hundreds of feet and turned night into day, while the heat was so intense that the vessels were obliged to push out into the lake. The noise was deafening, and amid all the din and confusion thousands of birds fluttered around their late home until, tired with constant flight, they dropped into the lake or fell into the flames. Deer and bear rushed from the woods together and threw themselves into the cooling waters of the lake. For five days the flames held their sway before the lumbermen could return to the island and finish loading the vessels. The barges were found off Racine and towed into port yesterday.


An excursion party from Napanee to Alexandria Bay, on Saturday afternoon, put into Kingston to take on board a pilot. The trip down the river was accomplished in safety, but on returning, and when nearly opposite the Thousand Island Park, the steamer struck heavily a rock, rested on it and remained fast. She sprung a leak and two pumps were set to work. Notwthstanding the accident the large number of the excursionists remained calm and self-possessed. The str. St. Lawrence, en route to Cape Vincent, passed the Quinte but had too many people on board to render the disabled boat any assistance. However she went on to Clayton and sent the John Thorn to the aid of the Quinte, and after taking the excursionists ashore she hauled the Quinte off. The Quinte having again taken on board her Napanee party resumed her journey and arrived here this morning shortly after 11 o'clock. She almost immediately went on for Napanee, leaking slightly though the pumps were not at work. The pilot, who knows the main channel well and who has often run the whole length of the St. Lawrence River, is not blamed by the Captain, as he could not be expected to know the ins and outs of the course taken by excursion parties. It is said this little mishap cost the Quinte a hundred dollars for simply being pulled off by the John Thorn.

The str. Passport, of the Richelieu & Ontario Navigation Co., which left Montreal on Saturday for Toronto, lies partly sunk in twenty feet of water at Cornwall. As she approached the canal the pilot gave the order to "ease down." The steamer was approaching the wharf too rapidly and he reversed the engines too late; in a moment the vessel struck the south wall of the canal.

There were about one hundred passengers on the steamer, principally ladies and children. The violence of the collision gave them a rude awakening, some being thrown from their berths. A panic would have ensued had not the officers done everything to allay their fears. All the passengers were quickly and safely landed. Evidently a big hole had been stove in the steamer's side, as the water rose rapidly in the stoke-hole and extinguished the fires. In less than five minutes she began to list over her starboard side, and a quarter of an hour later her cabin deck was underwater. The officers and crew carried all the clothing and baggage they could lay hands on. The heavy trunks on the main deck could not be removed. The passengers were subsequently sent to their destination by Grand Trunk Railway. An enquiry will be made into the accident.


The schr. Blanche is loading coal for Charlotte (sic).

The schr. White Oak will load coal at Charlotte for Kingston.

The schr. Craftsman has cleared for Sandusky to load coal for Goderich. At the latter place she will take on a cargo of salt for Chicago.

The tug McArthur has arrived at Collinsby from Toronto with a raft in tow. The raft is going to Quebec.

Capt. Estes, jr., is now in command of the str. Ontario, running out of Charlotte, and giving excursionists to the thousands of Rochester's population who seek fresh air upon the lake.

The steamer Rideau Belle bent her shaft on her last trip to Kingston. She was repaired here, and left on Saturday evening for Smith's Falls.

On Saturday the schr. Mary, coal laden, ran on the sand bar off Wolfe Island. She went on so hard as to require the assistance of a tug.

Capt. Rothwell, of the steamer Khartoum, failing to secure a certificated engineer for his boat, had to disappoint a goodly number of people who desired to go to Channel Grove on Saturday to attend at the annual picnic of the Cotton Mill employees. The Pierrepont took charge of the picnicers.

The sch. M.L. Breck, owned by Capt. Thompson, of Toronto, which went ashore on Keystone shoal, off Point Byng Inlet lighthouse, was towed to Collingwood on Friday. The Breck has her cargo of lumber in the hold still, and is floating without a steam pump. She will go on the dry-dock immediately. Capt. Donnelly successfully took her off the shoal.

Arrivals - schrs. Ocean Wave, Charlotte, 143 tons of coal; Annie M. Foster, Oswego, 113 tons coal; Riverside, Chicago, 21,632 bush. corn.



"the third annual regatta of the Kingston Yacht Club" - 2+ full columns.

Incidents Of The Day - The palace steamer Rothesay will leave tomorrow (Tuesday) morning on an excursion to the great natural curiosity, Lake on the Mountain.

The Rothsay, the "grey hound of the St. Lawrence," offers a grand excursion tomorrow up the picturesque bay to the Lake On The Mountain and its wonders.

Since the sinking of the Oconto the shoals near the Sunken rock light house have been marked by placing upon them barrels painted white and planting an evergreen in the barrels. This has been needed for some time and is fully appreciated by the river captains.

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Aug. 2, 1886
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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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British Whig (Kingston, ON), Aug. 2, 1886