The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), July 5, 1854

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p.2 launch of Ogemah at Fenelon Falls on June 9th, towed to Port Perry by str. Woodman, 200 x 18 x 6 feet, 35 h.p.; owned by James Wallis of Peterborough. [Oshawa Freeman]

Steam Boat Racing

(We have received another communication on the subject of steamboat racing on the Bay, to which we give place below. We do not share in the fears of our correspondent, as to actual danger to life and limb from the practice which he so strongly deprecates, but the less there is of this sort of rivalry the better. The challenge alluded to we take to be for a race between the two boats without any passengers - a very good way of settling once for all the question of relative speed.)

To the Editor of the Daily News

Sir, - When some fearful catastrophe resulting from reckless indifference to human life occurs, every one denounces in the strongest language the individuals who caused it. There is usually a burst of indignation throughout the country, and he would be a bold man who would venture to defend the captain or engineer to whose recklessness it can be attributed. The voices of the poor widows and orphans, of relatives left destitute, of men, women and children maimed for life, if they have escaped an agonizing death, cry for vengeance when it is too late to save.

In your paper of this day it was with astonishment that I discovered an advertisement from Capt. Chambers and the owners of the City of the Bay, to race against the Bay of Quinte for one thousand dollars. For over a month has this racing been continued, and as I had the misfortune to travel in one of these boats, I trust you will allow me to state what I then witnessed, so that those who contemplate a trip through the beautiful scenery of the Bay of Quinte may know what they must endure.

Unacquainted with the boats or their capabilities, I made my way through a crowd of boys, who were annoying passers-by with the tickets of the rival steamers, and with difficulty got on board of one of them. The ominous roar of the steam as it rushed out of the pipe showed what pressure was upon the boiler beneath, and reminded us that each of these was a volcano which at any moment might scatter death and destruction around. Before the clock struck the steamer was off from her wharf - she had gained a moment by this - and those in charge were determined to keep ahead of the rival.

"Are you racing," I asked the clerk, and received an equivocating answer, as the fact could not be denied. "Do you know what your pressure is," I asked a man who was urging the firemen to pile on their lightest wood. "Yes," was the answer, "and the mischief is we can't force it high enough." Those who have travelled on the Mississippi, may remember that peculiar smell of hot steam escaping from crevices about the engine, when this is strained to pass some rival boat, and which too often preludes some awful catastrophe. Driven from below by this and from the cabin by the suffocating heat, I tried the deck but found that equally untenable. The light wood under the boilers was flying in black cinders from the chimney, and covered all with a pall seemingly typical of the death which might be hidden beneath. On board were groups of men laying their bets upon the boats, and venting horrid imprecations upon their rival, terrifying the helpless ladies around, but little accustomed to such scenes. On shore I found the same excitement even more intense, taverns and bar-rooms filled with disputants who were staking freely their money and their liquor upon "the day's race."

Sir, I do not wish to be an alarmist, but I trust you will allow me to ask if these things can go unchecked in this country. Quem Deus vult pardere prius dementit. If reckless men will court destruction, at least, let them know that they must not risk innocent lives also. I know not an individual connected with either boat, and have no interest in the matter beyond a fear that each day will call upon you to record some awful disaster.

Your obedient Servant,

Kingston, 3rd July, 1854. An Eye Witness

July 6, 1854


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July 5, 1854
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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), July 5, 1854