The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), Aug. 20, 1856

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p.2 Burning of the Propeller Tinto

Adjourned Investigation

The Coroner and Jury met at the Court house in this city on the afternoon of yesterday (Monday 18th) for the purpose of hearing further evidence in the premises. They were assisted on this occasion by Thos. Kirkpatrick, Esq., whose professional services, we understand, were retained on behalf of the Crown.

John McCourt, Examined - Lives chiefly in Kingston; was passenger on the Tinto; went on board at Prescott; first ascertained that the Tinto was on fire at about 10 o'clock, p.m.; was in the forecastle at the time. A large flame had burst out near the engine, cutting off the communication between fore and aft on the main, but not on the upper deck. Made to where the flames burst forth; saw it was no use; then took to the upper deck by the fore stairway and went aft; heard orders given to lower the boat by the captain, or a person I supposed to be him; could not swear it was him, as captain, mate, crew and passengers were all together; heard no other orders given. The Tinto was past the lighthouse at nine mile point, five or six miles; thinks there was a rush made to the boat; believes the women and children got in first; thinks among the men who followed some of the crew passed down the ropes into the boat; I slid down the fender rope into the boat, the Tinto proceeding on her way, the engines still working; she dragged the small boat under the water until it swamped; we were all thrown out when the boat swamped, but I continued to hold on by the fender rope; one man caught hold of me; after the boat capsized she righted again, when four of the men, the one who held me, and I, got into it again; I clung to the rope until we were picked up by a fisherman named McLean. In thirty minutes after the boat capsized the engine stopped working. Previous to the abandonment of the Tinto, she had been brought about, and was, therefore, under full headway for Kingston; had made about a mile towards land when we were picked up. Before I left the boat one strand of the fender rope was burned off, and the rest shared the same fate, therefore I let it go and seized hold of another fender line, which was iron bound.

(McCourt's evidence at this point, and relative to the small boat, being the only one, and amounting in substance to that given by Delaney, the mate, is here omitted.)

The Tinto was a large and apparently good vessel, perhaps a size larger than the Inkerman. Believes there were on board about thirty-nine individuals, consisting of the captain, mate, purser, 2 engineers, 4 firemen, 2 wheelsmen, 6 deckhands, 1 steward, 2 cooks, 1 cabin boy, and 1 lamp boy, etc., besides passengers. The small boat was a good one, and would have saved 15 persons in a calm sea, but in a sea running like that at the time of the fire, would have taken his chance with the wreck, rather than venture on board the small boat with more than twelve companions. There was not accommodation for one half the sufferers; most of the passengers were lost; when the rush was made to the boat, no hindrance was offered by the Captain or other officer, to prevent them entering it. Does not know when he saw the Captain last; did not see the Captain do anything to save the lives or property in his charge. I had property on board, consisting of potatoes and oats in barrels; was anxious about it. When the Tinto was brought about for Kingston, I then thought of the fender rope. Did not notice the Captain or Mate making any more exertions than other men; thinks the Purser was the last man on board the vessel; thinks the boat was partly lowered before the women and children got into it; the stern touched the water first; thinks the women were at the stern; at this time the engines were working; this being the weather side of the Tinto, most of the flames were blown to the other side. A great deal of wood, nearly 100 cords, was on board; assisted in stowing it, some in the hold, convenient to the boilers, the rest on the main deck, so much so as to cut off all communication betwixt the fore and aft part of the vessel; thinks this is the reason why the fire got so far ahead before its discovery. The woodwork of the Tinto was extremely hot; much hotter than I have experienced it on any other steamer; have travelled much on steamers; have been on almost all the steamers on the Lake, and a fireman for ten or twelve years. On some parts of the deck I could not stand more than seven minutes at a time; thinks the cause of the fire was owing to the extreme heat of the woodwork; thinks that a match, or the smallest spark, would have set it on fire; had any reasonable efforts been made to extinguish the flame at first, it was possible to save the vessel, or at least the persons who were on board, but from the moment when she was put for Kingston, no power on earth could save her; there were no fire buckets to be seen; no life-preservers, nor had the boat any fire-engine; there was a fire-engine on board as freight, but no attempt was made to use it; knew from the deckhands that there was a barrel of powder stowed below, forward, but no fear was manifested on his own part or that of others, on that account. Saw a man throwing planks and loose boards over the side of the Tinto; thinks he was a wheelsman. There may have been accommodations for a few cabin, but none for deck passengers. Have talked to one of the deck hands since, as also with one of the owners; was enquiring if I were likely to receive any renumeration for my loss, but was told I would not.

There being no other witness present, the Coroner explained that he expected to receive a sum of money from the Crown to defray the expenses of the other witnesses, who resided at a distance, and for whose appearances summonses have been issued, in hopes to have them all present, and to be able to close the proceedings at their next meeting. The investigation was adjourned until Friday, the 22nd instant.

p.3 Imports - 19; Exports - 18,19.

Steamer Welland Burned

Loss $60,000

We were surprised on learning this morning that the steamer Welland, lying at Port Dalhousie piers, was in a state of conflagration; we immediately proceeded to the spot and found the news correct. Some distance from the wharf, (where she had been hauled by some imprudent persons) and in shallow water, the boat lay - her decks and upper works destroyed, and her hull and solid timbers burning fiercely. She had grounded and broke in the middle; that portion of her hull abaft the wheel-house was, to outward appearance, not much injured, but closer inspection discovered her to be a mere shell, the inside timbers being burnt nearly through. Forward of the wheelhouse, she is burnt to the water's edge, and all that now remains of the once beautiful and fast sailing boat is a heap of ruins; the blackened pipes, charred timbers, and half-burnt wheel-house presenting a different appearance from that of the night before, when she steamed majestically out of the harbor bound on a moonlight excursion with her precious freight of three or four hundred souls aboard. Capt. Donaldson informed us that the fire originated in the forecastle about 7 o'clock, A.M., from what cause is not known; immediately as soon as he discovered it he caused all the necessary precautions to be used to prevent draughts of wind, and set his men to work with the buckets and hand engines belonging to the steamer. At this time the Captain was certain he could easily overcome it, but found out that the fire could not be got at, which spread with rapidity. At this moment the Captain of the propeller Brooks of Ogdensburgh, with an alacrity that deserves the greatest credit, backed up with danger to his own vessel and continued to throw a stream of water from his steam engines on board, until finding the flames were making further headway, he drew off to the piers. The flames spread so fast that the Captain had hardly time to save the books of the steamer, losing his private papers and other articles. We noticed that the Alma Fire Co., of Port Dalhousie worked like men, and it is owing to their exertions that the walking-beam stands in its usual position, and the consequent safety of the cylinders and shaft. The Union Fire Engine went down with a body of firemen from the different companies in town, and were working when we left. A small portion of the furniture was saved. Capt. Donaldson and all present did everything in their power to save the vessel. The entire loss is estimated at $60,000, on which there is an insurance of $20,000. We have been informed that in consequence of the burning of the Welland another steamer will be chartered to run as usual between St. Catherines and Toronto, until a new boat be built by the P.D. & T.R. Railway Company.

[St. Catherines Post, Aug. 15th]

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Aug. 20, 1856
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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), Aug. 20, 1856