The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), June 5, 1852

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p.2 A new schooner building at Mr. Ault's yard, Portsmouth, for Mr. Edmund Boyle, is to be launched this day at 2 o'clock.


Thursday - Bowen v. Ewart et al

This was an action brought by the owners of the steamboat St. Lawrence for the amount of loss sustained by that vessel being run down by the steamboat Britannia on the night of the 7th November last in Lake St. Francis.

Capt. Maxwell sworn - Witness produced a map drawn by himself, descriptive of the lights, buoys, shoals, and indentures of that section of the lake and shore where the collision had occurred. There are two channels, separated by a shoal or sandbank of some extent; these channels are known as the north and south; the south is the deepest, and therefore better adapted for the passage of heavy freight boats. That part of the north channel in which the St. Lawrence was sunk is 1 3/4 ? miles wide, and where she sank there were ten feet water; from this depth she must have been close to the bank, and the Britannia must have been three lengths out of her course when the vessels struck. - Cross-examined - The St. Lawrence when she sunk, headed to the west, northerly; lay about a mile from Point Moule.

John McArthur sworn - Has been a pilot these 8 or 9 years; knows the place where the St. Lawrence was sunk; there are two channels; the north channel is principally used by mail-boats, the south by freight-vessels; saw the St. Lawrence after being sunk; was pilot of the Porcupine steamer; passed at a distance of about 3 acres north of where the St. Lawrence was sunk; if the Britannia passed where the St. Lawrence lay, she must have been considerably to the south of her course. Cross-examined - Saw the St. Lawrence after she had been sunk; could not say how her head lay; in case the vessels were running as described on the map; the St. Lawrence must have been struck on the larboard side; the Britannia draws more water than the St. Lawrence; pilots generally take their vessels by the channel they are best acquainted with; in ascending the river the Cherry Island light is easily seen.

Direct examination resumed - Where the collision took place, the Britannia was out of the channel, and consequently out of her course; the Britannia is the heaviest boat.

Daniel McDonald sworn - Is a pilot; the two channels are recognized by all pilots navigating the St. Lawrence; the south channel is the deepest; the north channel has half a mile in length of good water; pilots in ascending the river always keep the middle of the channel; the St. Lawrence lay sunk three lengths from deep water, consequently if the Britannia had kept in deep water the collision would not have occurred. Cross-examined - Where the vessels struck, both could have ported their helms and passed without injury to either. Direct resumed - The Britannia should have ported her helm long before the vessels met.

James Hunter sworn - Has been a pilot 5 or 6 years; Is acquainted with the two channels; the three buoys which mark the shoal are always plainly to be seen; freight-boats always keep south channel; saw the St. Lawrence when sunk; passed about 100 yards to the north of her; the two channels are well known to all pilots navigating that part of the river; the Britannia had 1/4 (3/4 ?) of a mile of good deep water to the north of where the collision took place; never heard of the Britannia running the north channel before; never knew any freight steamers, with the exception of the Ottawa, that took the north channel. Cross-examined - Nothing of consequence ellicited. Direct resumed - Witness would know at once if his vessel was running into shoal water by the manner of steering; more difficult to steer in shoal water than in deep; if passing from 15 feet into 10 feet of water, could tell instantly of the change, and act accordingly.

Michael McNamara - Was pilot of the St. Lawrence at the time the collision took place; is well acquainted with the place where that accident had happened; it occurred on the 7th of November about 6 o'clock; saw the Britannia first as he was making the turn to the Island light; the Britannia seemed to steer strangely, going in a curious manner; did not at first know what vessel it was; desired the helm-man to port a little; seeing that the Britannia made no change in her course he kept porting the helm, at last fearing a collision he sang out "hard aport," seeing her still coming on he rang the big bell, and immediately after rang the engine bell to stop and reverse, then sang out to the Britannia to stop; the collision instantly took place; the St. Lawrence was struck on the larboard bow, and so violently, that her head was turned right round; if the Britannia had kept the same course she was running when she ran foul of the St. Lawrence she would have shortly got aground on the shoal; on the centre of the bank there is 4 1/2 feet water, and in some places it shoals suddenly from 9 to 5 and sometimes to 4 feet water; the Britannia in keeping the course she did on that occasion was entirely out of her proper course, and if not interrupted by her collision with the St. Lawrence would have certainly ran aground; saw no one on deck of the Britannia, after the collision saw the pilot and said to him "you have run out of your depth, or you did not know where you were running;" he made no answer to this observation; the Britannia in coming up seemed as if about to pass under the bows of the St. Lawrence, but suddenly ported her helm as if desirous of effecting a collision. Cross-examined - is not employed on the river at present; is engaged farming; any vessel could run 1 1/4 miles north of the spot where the St. Lawrence was sunk without getting aground; could not sail 100 yards south of it without finding five feet of shoal water; saw the Britannia first when about two miles distant; if he had been bringing up the Britannia, he would not have taken that course if he had known anything of the north channel; the Ottawa passed a few minutes after the St. Lawrence had sank; the Ottawa passed to the south of the sunken vessel, and so did the Queen. Direct resumed - Both the Ottawa and Queen passed on the south side for the purpose of speaking to the St. Lawrence; was not their usual course.

James Ruddick - was employed on the St. Lawrence at the time of the collision; acted on that occasion as wheelsman; was in Lake St. Francis crossing to Cherry Island light when they saw the Britannia; (witness confirmed the pilot's statement relative to the Britania's manner of sailing as she approached the St. Lawrence, and the orders relative to porting the helm); when the pilot gave orders to "hard aport," the Britannia was heading directly for the St. Lawrence; the pilot then rang the big bell, and immediately after the engine bell to stop and reverse, the Britannia ran round, ported, and struck the St. Lawrence on the starboard bow, about three or feet from the stem, cutting into her about 15 or 18 feet; saw no one on the Britannia's deck; the collision turned the head of the St. Lawrence nearly round; St. Lawrence was keeping her direct course; if the Britannia had kept her course, there would have been no collision. Cross-examined - The Bytown passed with barges on the south side of the sunken vessel; she asked the St. Lawrence if she wanted anything.

Dennis Kinneghan, pilot of the St. Lawrence, confirmed the pilot's statement relative to porting. Witness, on seeing the manner in which the Britannia approached, said to the pilot, "you had better keep a sharp look-out;" when the paddles were reversed, the pilot shouted to the Britannia "keep away;" saw no one on the hurricane deck; heard for the first time the Britannia's bell just as the vessels struck. Cross-examined - The St. Lawrence had passengers on board; none of them were on deck when the collision occurred.

--- Davis - The expense of raising the St. Lawrence and the carpenter's bill for repairs, amounted to 603 pounds. Cross-examined - has heard that the St. Lawrence was insured to the amount of 2000 pounds.

The case for the plaintiffs having here closed, Mr. Haggerty addressed the Court and Jury on behalf of the defendants, and spoke for a considerable length of time. The witnesses for the defence were then examined.

Oliver Vetey, pilot of the Britannia, sworn -(Our reporter missed the principal part of the direct examination; but the principle points may be understood from his cross-examination.) Witness when approaching the St. Lawrence, was prepared to pass on the right or south side of the vessel - it was his usual course.

Cross-examined - If he had continued his course when interrupted by his collision with the St. Lawrence, would not have gone aground; never found less than 12 feet water on the shoal; there was half a mile to spare to the south of from where the St. Lawrence was at the time of the collision, to shoal water; has got aground several times with vessels under his charge; saw the St. Lawrence over the larboard bow all the time until the vessels struck; was going at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour; was going steady for the Island light; the St. Lawrence, as the vessels neared each other, changed her course as if to run across the Britannia's bows; witness then gave orders to put the helm hard aport; Britannia was then within two lengths of the St. Lawrence; two or three minutes afterwards, gave orders to stop the ship; shortly afterwards the vessels struck; heard someone call from the St. Lawrence to keep back; gave orders to reverse the paddles; does not know if they were obeyed or not; has always followed his own judgement as to the course he would run his vessel. Direct resumed - had been porting his helm for 1 1/2 miles before the collision to avoid the St. Lawrence; it was the larboard side of the Britannia came in contact with the St. Lawrence.

Capt. John Gordon - The last witness was in his employment; was a good steady pilot.

Wm. Read - was on board the Britannia when the collision occurred; was a deck hand, and occasionally worked as a carpenter, and sometimes assisted the wheelsman; was in the wheelhouse at the time of the collision; recollects the time; saw a boat's lights; the vessels were about 1 1/2 miles apart when he first saw the St. Lawrence; pilot gave orders to port a little, did so and then kept her steady; St. Lawrence seemed to be bearing down on the Britannia; she seemed as if she wished to cross her bows; when within two lengths of each other, the Britannia was "hard aport," the big bell was then rang, then the bell to stop and reverse; the Britannia always took the same course as she did that night; never saw her take any other; the St. Lawrence did not keep her course, when near the Britannia, she turned as if about to cross the bows of the latter vessel; the larboard bow, or left hand side of the Britannia was stove in.

Capt. John McArthur sworn - Is Captain of the Britannia; was not present at the time of the collision; just before that event, saw the tiller of the Britannia hard aport; the St. Lawrence was sinking when he first saw her; before he went to tea, saw the course the Britannia was running; she was going right across without any deviation; has sounded the course she then intended to run since, and found 12 feet of water all the way; took out the passengers of the St. Lawrence. Cross-examined -Knew nothing of the causes of the accident, until after it had occurred; did not hear the bell of the St. Lawrence; heard no bell; was in the deck cabin; would know when there, when the boat was stopped and reversed, by the motion of the vessel.

Captain Patterson and Mr. John Stoken were examined as to the safety of taking vessels south of the place where the St. Lawrence was sunk which both gentlemen affirmed was equally safe as practicable.

Captain Wells - Had some conversation with McNamara relative to the collision of the Britania and St. Lawrence, and the evidence he had given that day in the court did not agree with the account he then gave to witness.

James Hood - Was in the Britannia at the time of the collision; heard the bell of the Britannia ring; had almost at the same instant the vessel struck.

The Case for the defence here closed. Mr. Cameron addressed the Jury on behalf of the plaintiffs. His Lordship delivered his charge, setting forth the merits of this rather intricate case in a very clear and distinct manner, after which the Jury retired, and returned with a verdict for the plaintiff of 1,603 pounds.

For the plaintiff, Messrs. J.H. Cameron, J. O'Reilly, and Hon. J.A. McDonald. For the defendant, Messrs. Hagarty, and VanKoughnet, and Henry Smith.

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June 5, 1852
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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 News (Kingston, ON), June 5, 1852