The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), Nov. 1, 1852

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p.2 The Detroit Daily Advertiser thus notices a new Dry Dock constructed by Mr. Lewis Ives, formerly of this City:-

The New Dry Dock - We notice that important work which Mr. Lewis Ives had been constructing for some time back, has got fully in operation. The Brig Minnesota, which was injured last week in Lake Huron, is the first vessel that has been taken in for repairs. The dock works admirably, and presents facilities for repairing vessels, at this point on the lakes where material can be obtained at cheaper rates than any other place, that will commend it to the attention of ship owners.


Thursday, Oct. 27th - Torrance vs McPherson - This was an action brought by the proprietors of the steamboat Ottawa, against the owners of the steamboat Reindeer, to recover damages for loss and injuries sustained by the former boat running into the latter, on the night of the 9th September, 1851.

Mr. Haggerty, for the plaintiff, stated the case for the Jury.

The following is the substance of the evidence produced in Court by both parties: -

It appeared by the evidence of Capt. Wells, of the Ottawa, that he hauled out from Greer's Wharf about nine o'clock at night, on the 9th Sept., 1851; backed the vessel out, her stern then being towards Cataraqui bridge; the vessel dropped one or two lengths astern in that position before getting under weigh; he then saw a red and green light near Cedar Island, which he supposed were those belonging to one of the American steamers; said to Pilot "there comes one of the American boats, be sure to give her a wide berth"; Capt. Wells being rather indisposed, gave the boat in charge to the Pilot and went below to change his coat; going into the Saloon found that preparations were there being made for a dance; had been there about a minute and a half when he heard the engine bell ring; went immediately out to the foot of the ladder leading to the hurricane deck, and about four points to the right saw the Reindeer coming up; went up to the Pilot and found that he had stopped the engine; when Capt. Wells saw how matters stood he told the helmsman to port more, and immediately after ordered the helm hard aport, and subsequently rung the bell to reverse; heard no bell on board the Reindeer until she was within fifty feet of the Ottawa; as her bell rang he heard Capt. Purdy's voice, which he knew, saying "look out or we shall be into you"; then saw the spear of the Reindeer pass over the decks of the Ottawa, and the collision took place. Two miniature models of boats were here shown to Capt. Wells, who, with them, illustrated the position of the vessels at the time of the collision. The Reindeer had a Barge in tow, lashed alongside, when Capt. Wells contrived to detach from her lashing and take, while the Reindeer headed towards Kingston; at the time of the collision the Ottawa was heading towards Garden Island; Capt. Wells knew by the crash the boat would sink; went down between decks, and found that the water was gaining rapidly; thought at first of running for Garden Island; returned on deck and told the passengers to get ready to go on shore for the vessel would sink in five minutes; the vessel was then beginning to turn over; the passengers and crew then got into the barge and from thence into the Reindeer, which was then alongside the barge; after the collision the Ottawa steamed a short distance towards Point Frederick, and then sunk in eight fathoms water; before sinking, the lake Pilot, by order of the Captain, hove the deep line and found the depth of water; the Point was about a quarter of a mile from the place where she sunk. Capt. Wells positively swore that he gave the vessel he saw approaching, which he did not know until he heard Capt. Purdy's voice, an unusually wide berth, keeping well to the southward, supposing she was one of the American boats, and stated that if the Reindeer had ported her helm at the time the Ottawa did, the collision could not possibly have occurred. There was plenty of sea room for all the vessels in the port of Kingston to have passed without touching each other at the place where the vessels met; from the time Capt. Wells first saw the lights of the Reindeer to the time of the collision her lights were without any variation seen over the Ottawa's larboard bow, nor was the course of the former vessel ever altered during that time; the Ottawa was a temperance vessel; there was no liquor allowed on board of her; the Captain went ashore in the Reindeer, and procuring assistance had the Ottawa towed into shoal water, and it was not until last spring that she was again fit for service, being under repairs all the time. Capt. Wells acknowledged, in his cross-examination, that he had sat down on a sofa in the Saloon to see the dancing but was not there one or two minutes; he saw no dancing, but he heard a fiddle tuning; when the engine bell rang he started on deck, as before stated, when he ordered the helm hard aport; the Ottawa's head was towards Garden Island.

Lefevre, the Pilot's evidence corroborated the testimony given by Capt. Wells in every particular; he positively swore that "from the time the Reindeer's lights were first seen until the vessels met, the said lights were invariably seen over the larboard bow of the Ottawa, and that when the Reindeer's bell rang and Captain Purdy spoke, the vessels were not more than forty feet apart; he had just rang the bell to stop the engine when the Captain came up from the Cabin; when the Ottawa sunk she was nearer Point Frederick than she was when she was struck.

John Gashion, the Helmsman's, evidence corresponded in every particular with the testimony of the two previous witnesses. He stated that when the collision took place, they were about three-quarters of a mile from Point Frederick.

Hugh Richardson, the lake pilot on board the Ottawa, corroborated the evidence given by the other witnesses; he stated that every precaution was used on board the Ottawa to avoid a collision; he had at the request of the captain just as the boat was about sinking, hove the deep sea line, and found she was sinking in 48 feet water.

Several other witnesses were examined on the part of the Plaintiff, but no essential difference appeared in their evidence from that given by the witnesses previously examined.

Capt. Hilliard was called to prove the correctness of the several accounts for hauling out, repairing and refurnishing the Ottawa, amounting in all to £2,809 5s. 10d.

Mr. Vankoughnet addressed the Jury on behalf of the defendants.

Wm. Purdy, Captain of the Reindeer, being sworn, stated that he had been a sailor for 37 years; that on the night in question he had never left the deck, and the first and second mates, the Pilot, the Captain of the barge remained also on deck; on clearing Cedar Island he steered for the upper-town lights; had green and red lights hoisted; the night was very dark, and when he rounded Cedar Island all the lights of the town suddenly appeared before him, so that at first it was impossible to distinguish the boat lights from those of the city. The Ottawa's lights had no distinguishing color; when he first saw the Ottawa's lights the boats were about 3, 4 or 5 lengths apart. The Pilot stooping down sung out "there is a boat coming;" the bells to stop and reverse were immediately given, and the helm put hard aport. The Ottawa was coming some points inside the Reindeer's track, then suddenly swung across the line the Reindeer was in, tore away about 13 inches of that vessel's stem, and the Reindeer then struck her slantingly about midships. After the collision Capt. Wells called out to Capt. Purdy to come alongside, which he at once did. The Passengers of the Ottawa were then pouring into the barge; got alongside and got them out.

Capt. Purdy was certain that if the Ottawa had kept the usual course pursued by vessels leaving Kingston for the downward passage, the collision would never had occurred; and he was equally certain that on this occasion the Ottawa was not on that course, and that the Reindeer was on the course adopted by all vessels running into the port of Kingston. Instead of making a round to the southward, as had been stated on the part of the plaintiffs, the Ottawa was steering a direct course for Cedar Island; and it was only when she heard the Reindeer's bell that she ported her helm, which had the effect of bringing her across the Reindeer's bows. On Captain Purdy's cross-examination, he again stated that when he first saw the lights of the Ottawa, she was about four or five lengths from the Reideer, the latter going at the rate of seven knots an hour; and before the bell could be rung to stop the engine, five or six revolutions had been made. The models were here used to show the position of the vessels as they approached each other, according to Capt. Purdy's statement. Capt. Purdy further stated that by the course the Ottawa pursued, as she approached the Reindeer, it was impossible that the lights of the latter vessel could have been seen over the larboard bows of the Ottawa, consequently all the witnesses for the prosecution were in error in that respect. After the collision, the Ottawa ran about a quarter of a mile before she sunk, and then she was further off the land then when she was struck.

Mr. Barber, the mate of the Reindeer, swore that they passed close to Cedar Island, and that when he first made out the lights of the Ottawa he thought that she was about half a mile distant. The Ottawa as she came up was steering about half a point inside the starboard bow of the Reindeer; they had ran about one-third of the distance from Cedar Island to Point Frederick when the collision took place, and they were then steering for the upper lights of the town; when the Ottawa sunk she was further from Point Frederick than when she struck.

When cross-examined by Mr. Cameron, this witness stated that in about half a minute after the Ottawa was seen, the engine bells were rung, and the orders to stop, reverse, and hard aport, were given much about the same time; the collision was caused by the Ottawa porting her helm in order to gain her proper course when it was too late. The other parts of this witness's evidence corresponded with the testimony given by Capt. Purdy.

Jules LaCote stated that he was in the saloon of the Ottawa when the collision took place; there was dancing going on; saw some ladies dancing, and at the same time saw Capt. Wells looking on; it was his impression that Captain Wells was there when the collision took place, but was not certain.

John Burns was in the saloon when the collision took place; Capt. Wells was there also, and remained there until the collision took place; he then went out. When this witness was asked on his cross-examination how he was so certain of Capt. Wells being present when the collision took place, said he was looking at him at the time, he (Capt. W.) seemed so pleased at seeing the ladies dance.

Capt. Maxwell stated that he had been captain of a steamboat for many years and had taken vessels in and out of the port of Kingston both by day and night. The proper course of a vessel leaving the port of Kingston at night on the downward passage was to steer for the foot of Garden Island and when well out to steer ESE till the channel was opened, and then keep a due east course down channel, keeping to the southward of Cedar Island about 1/2 or 1/4 mile. If the Ottawa had kept that course, she would have passed the place of collision at a distance of 1/4 of a mile. In dark nights it is difficult for vessels running into port to see vessels coming out, their lights being so mixed up with the lights of the town. If the Reindeer had struck the Ottawa at right angles, she would have run 6 feet into her hull.

A number of witnesses were called to prove that the Ottawa could not have kept the course described by Capt. Maxwell and other witnesses, otherwise she would have passed a considerable distance from the place of collision; and most of the witnesses called for the defence agreed that the Ottawa had sunk further from land and in deeper water than where she was struck, and that the course that the Ottawa was steering when the collision occurred was in a direct line for Cedar Island.

Mr. Cameron in a very able and eloquent speech addressed the Jury in behalf of the plaintiffs. His Lordship then charged the jury, recapitulated the evidence, and commented on the merits of the case.

The jury after a considerable absence returned with a verdict for the Plaintiffs.

Counsel for plaintiffs - Messrs. J.H. Cameron, Hagarty, Galt, and A.J. Macdonell. For the defendants - Messrs. Vankoughnet, Campbell, Kirkpatrick and Smith.

This trial occupied the Court from Thursday morning until Friday at noon, and created considerable interest, the Court-house being crowded during the whole time.

Nov. 2, 3, 1852


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Nov. 1, 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), Nov. 1, 1852