The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), Oct. 13, 1854

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p.2 Burning of The Steamer E.K. Collins

A Detroit paper gives the annexed particulars of this calamity:-

The E.K. Collins, from the Sault for Cleveland, left this city last night between 9 and 10 o'clock.

About midnight the boat was discovered to be on fire a little below Malden, and near the lighthouse at the mouth of the river. Before the boat could be got ashore she was completely enveloped in flames, and 23 persons perished either in the flames or the water.

She was managed by one of the best crews on the lakes, and enjoyed as high a reputation for speed, safety and comfort as any boat on the western waters.

The fire undoubtedly originated from the steerage passengers emptying their pipes, filled with burning tobacco, into the light woodwork of the decks. When the fire was first discovered, it spread with such rapidity that every effort to check it proved unavailing. The fire engines were all in readiness, with the hose screwed on, and were brought to bear on the fire in less than a minute; but the smoke and flames drove every man from the engines. In less than two minutes the whole boat was in flames, and the passengers and crew were compelled to leave.

The life-boats, which were in perfect readiness, were reached about the time the flames reached the quarter deck, but the men who went to launch them were immediately driven away by the intensity of the heat.

There were life-preservers, floats and boards sufficient to sustain 500 people, but in the fright and consternation of the passengers, they failed to use them, and in some cases threw themselves into the water without evan an effort to secure support.

It is supposed that nine passengers and fourteen of the crew were drowned - but it is at present difficult to ascertain, as some swam on shore, and left the scene of disaster immediately.

The boat was headed for the shore, and the engine stopped as soon as possible, but the passengers commenced jumping overboard as soon as the flames burst out - the boat's headway took her to the shore, where she now lies burned to the water's edge.

Fortunately the propeller Fintry, Capt. Langley, was but a little way out in the lake on her way to this city with a large load of freight. Capt. Langley immediately started for the scene of disaster and death. As soon as he perceived that it was a steamer on fire, he ordered up all his crew, and stationed men at his boats ready to launch at a moment's notice. As soon as he reached the spot the boats were lowered, and the struggling passengers in the water exhorted to keep up courage, as assistance was near. The current at this point sweeps out so strong into the lake, and most of the survivors had jumped over from the after part of the boat, which had swung round into the stream. Had it not been for the propeller and her boats, they must have been immediately drowned. The clerk, engineer, and others of the crew and passengers, were hauled on board the boats nearly exhausted, and some of them burned more or less badly.

The entire crew of the Fintry behaved nobly, and did everything in their power to relieve the unfortunate. Clothing was provided, and those who were entirely exhausted were wrapped up in blankets and put to bed. The rescued passengers speak in the warmest terms of Captain Langley and his crew. One thing occurred which demonstrates how infernally mean beings, men shaped, can be. One poor man, who had been at work all the summer at the South, was taken sick, and obliged to leave for home. He was sick on his passage down, and had all his summer's savings - about $80 - in the pocket of his pantaloons. He was taken from the water in an exhausted condition, and was put to bed, his clothes being hung up in the propeller. In the confusion, some wretch stole the whole amount from his pockets. This coming to the attention of Capt. Langley, he started a subscription, himself and the clerk, Mr. Wiley, subscribing $10, and some $25 was raised on the spot for the poor man.

How much of the machinery of the boat can be saved, we cannot yet tell. Parties have gone to the spot, who will return tonight or tomorrow, from whom further particulars will be gathered.

The Collins came out a year ago this month. She cost $105,000, was as good as new, and doing a large and profitable business on the route between Cleveland, Detroit and the Sault. There was only $13,000 insurance on her - $5,000 in the Mercantile Mutual, N.Y., $5,000 in the Atlas Mutual, N.Y., and $3,000 in the North Western, N.Y. She was owned by Capt. Ward and G.F. Lewis.

-large quantity of peaches shipped by American line of steamers for Oswego, Sacketts Harbor and Ogdensburgh, and by Maple Leaf for Canada. [Rochester Union]

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Oct. 13, 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), Oct. 13, 1854