The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), Oct. 15, 1863

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St. Catherines, Oct. 12th - On Friday evening last, between the hours of nine and ten o'clock, the inhabitants of the villages of Allanburg and Port Robinson, on the Welland Canal, were startled by a terrific explosion, which caused the houses to jar and shake as if smitten with an earthquake, as many persons at first thought attributing the shock to that cause. Presently, however, an immense flame shot up from the centre of the canal, about the middle of what is known as the "deep cut," showing out in bold relief everything within a circumference of a quarter of a mile. The fire proceeded from the schooner Orion, of Hamilton. The cargo consisted of Petroleum. How the fire originated has not yet been determined, but it is most likely to have been the result of accident. The schooner was passing down the canal, during Friday, and about noon on that day had arrived in safety about half way through the "deep cut," just about midway between Port Dalhousie and Allanburg. At this point the schooner got aground, and during the afternoon the crew had been busily engaged in trying to get her afloat, but had not succeeded up to the period of the fire. The captain and crew were aboard the vessel, and had doubtless retired for the night, in order to start early next morning to liberate their vessel.

However this may be, their first intimation of the fire was a dense volumn of thick blinding smoke which filled every nook and cranny in the vessel. Immediately afterwards a terrific explosion took place which shook the schooner from stem to stern, and hundreds of vessels filled with oil were shot up to an immense height in the air, and came down again in showers of oil, and broken staves, covering the vessel and the surface of the canal with a coating of oil. With the rapidity of lightning, flames burst up through every part of the vessel, and the Captain and crew seeing the hopelessness of saving the schooner jumped overboard, and endeavored to reach the shore. Some of the latter got away in safety, but three seamen and the Captain were not so fortunate, for before they could reach the shore, the flames had communicated with the petroleum on the surface of the water now about them, and which burnt with a fierceness and strength fully equal to "Greek fire." The Captain struggled manfully to save his own life, but in the midst of his struggle, surrounded by fire and water, he sank to rise no more. Though his struggles were witnessed by many persons who lined the banks of the canal, with ropes at hand to aid the sufferers, they could not possibly give him the least assistance. It was a heart-rending sight, and one that will not readily be forgotten by those who witnessed the painful scene. Through the intervention of two seamen from the schooner Breden, which was not far off, those in the water were rescued, though the rescuers were themselves burnt during their humane exertions. The vessel burnt to the water's edge and is a complete wreck. Apart from the nature of the fire, the scene was inconceivably grand, and outshone many an elaborate pyrotechnic display. As the fire progressed, barrels of oil would shoot up in the air, wicket-like, and bursting at a great height the fire would radiate in every direction, illuminating the sky with a vivid light. The glare of the fire was plainly visible at St. Catherines, some seven miles distant, and was thought by some to be a brilliant display of our northern lights, or other natural phenomenon. Unfortunately, as the sequel proved, it was a very serious and disastrous fire, and one it is to be hoped that may never again occur. [Cor. of the Leader]

p.3 Imports - 13.

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Oct. 15, 1863
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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. 15, 1863