The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Tuesday, April 25, 1848

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Wreck of the Niagara.

The steamer Niagara, than which there are few finer vessels in the world, left this port for Rochester on the morning of the 18th, under the command of Capt. Childs, with some seventy passengers, among who were a number of ladies. The wind was blowing fresh, (we copy from the Rochester Daily Advertiser,) and continued to increase in force throughout the forenoon, and, at the usual dinner hour, it was found impossible to set the table, or prepare any thing to eat.

The wind continued to increase in violence until the boat got within about four miles of the pier at the mouth of the river, when the rudder of the steamer was carried away, and the boat became unmanageable. An attempt was then made, by force of steam, to run the boat inside the pier, but there being nothing to steer with, the attempt failed. By means of ropes, chains, etc. , a temporary rudder was constructed, and a second and third attempt was made to gain the river, but without success, and the Captain then gave orders to put out into the lake, in order that they might have an abundant sea-room.

The wind was now blowing a perfect hurricane, the boat rocking to and fro, and the waves dashing every instant over the deck. When the boat had got about eight miles from shore, to increase their perils, the smoke-pipe was carried away, and, as a consequence, the fire had to be put out! This was about six o'clock P. M. Without steam to propel, or a rudder to guide the boat, it will be readily supposed that the alarm on board was great, which was doubly increased by the plunging of the boat, the rattling of the broken mirrors and dishes, the dashing back and forth of the sofas, settees, chairs, tables, stands, etc. , as the steamer rocked to and fro by the virulence of the wind, while the waves continued to pour an avalanche of water in at every aperture!

The situation was indeed one of extreme peril. The passengers were enabled to walk with the great difficulty, and in most cases were obliged to go upon their hands and knees in passing back and forth. The anchor was immediately thrown overboard, and, for some three or four hours, the boat continued to drift with the wind and waves, being driven toward the shore, until about three o'clock in the morning, when she grounded violently about half a mile west of the pier, and some fifteen or twenty rods from the shore, where she now lies. The passengers were kept upon the constant watch throughout the night, many of them suffering intensely from the water and cold. About sunrise they were all safely landed on the shore by means of the yawl, and properly cared for by families residing near at hand. For twenty-four hours they had not tasted a mouthful of food, and, during a portion of that time, had been drenched to the skin with water.

The Niagara was commanded by Capt. Childs, a gentleman of experience and courage. Throughout the confusion and excitement that existed on board, he maintained the utmost coolness, and gave his orders with promptness and decision. The passengers speak in the highest terms of the officer-like conduct of himself and mates. Most of the baggage belonging to the passengers was save, although some was washed overboard.

This is certainly one of the narrowest escapes that has ever been known on Lake Ontario. Not a life was lost, although for several hours the passengers momentarily expected to meet a watery grave.

A meeting of the passengers was held on board the boat on the morning of the 19th, James Sterling presiding and O. D. Freeman acting as Secretary, at which resolutions were passed, tendering to Capt. Childs and his officers and men, the grateful acknowledgments of the passengers, averring that "it is owing to the superior skill and coolness displayed by the Captain, and the intrepidity and perseverance manifested by the officers and men, that the lives of all on board were saved. "

The resolutions were reported by a committee of five, among whom, we notice the name of Capt. Matthewson, of Pulaski. The gale, though powerful here, seems to have been much severer at Rochester, for awnings were thee torn to pieces, trees prostrated, and other damage done in various ways.

There appears to be some contrariety of opinion in regard to the amount of injury done to the boat. It was at first supposed that her sides were badly stove in, and that she would be a total wreck; but it was the opinion of those who visited her by the Lady of the Lake on Thursday, that her hull was uninjured, and that 5 or $8,000 would repair her. We have since heard that her injuries are of a far more serious character, and that it is questionable whether much beside her engine will be saved.

She was finished and took her place on the Ontario and St. Lawrence route in the Summer of 1845. She was originally owned by a company residing mostly at Ogdensburgh, French Creek, and Oswego, but we learn from the Oneida Morning Herald that, during last Winter, a consolidation of stock took place between the Ogdensburgh and Utica companies, by which the boats of each became joint property, so that the loss will fall upon both companies. The Niagara cost some $60,000, and was on uninsured. She was the fastest boat on the lake, and a capital sea vessel. We do ardently hope that a good portion of her will be saved, and that we shall soon see her upon the line again.


The Cataract, Capt. Van Cleve, made her first appearance in our harbor on Friday. She looks finely. We believe she is to run regularly hereafter. The Propeller Genesee Chief, is running in place of the Niagara. G. S. Weeks and his corps of men, have gone to Rochester to raise the Niagara. We hope to see her here again in the course of a few days.

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Tuesday, April 25, 1848
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Richard Palmer
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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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Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Tuesday, April 25, 1848