The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), Nov. 25, 1873

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p.1 Montreal Correspondence

Montreal, Nov. 20th - Dear Sir, - The burning of the steamer Bavarian is the great subject not only of interest, but also of investigation. The investigation is carried on by Mr. Risley, a gentleman, an honest and a true man, yet I think the present Government looked upon it more in the light of a sort of gauze to dim the eyes of the people of Upper Canada to the enormity, the monstrous enormity, of the offence, rather than a real investigation of injury. The reason for my opinion is this: That although Mr. Risley is a superior man in his position, yet it cannot be expected that, as Inspector of Steamboats, he should have the experience in examination that a man like Mr. Blake, or many others that I could name belonging to the same party, possess, yet the Government sent Mr. Risley down as Commissioner under a Dominion Statute of 1869, with regard to the investigation of shipwrecks, and made him chairman, investigator and everything. He is judge, questioner, everything for the Government.

Let us look at the facts of the case:

The Bavarian was called the Bavarian, yet she should have been called the Kingston. She was the Kingston's hull, the Kingston's walking-beam, and as the Second Engineer swore today, all her machinery was the Kingston's. All the part that was Bavarian was the new wood work, etc.

The company started that boat, and on her first trip something was the matter. Many witnesses can be produced who will testify that on the first trip of this old Kingston, or new Bavarian, between Prescott and Brockville, something was wrong with her machinery, that although she came out as a new boat, with all her flags flying, the old Bay State, now called the Abyssinian, passed her, although the Bavarian had nearly half an hour's start, the Abyssinian got into Brockville before her. From Brockville to Prescott is scarcely 12 miles.

That the Bavarian at that time was not running more than about six miles an hour. Questions come up now:

1st - This is a Government inspection. Should it not be brought out in evidence whether the Canadian Navigation Company are not running old boats, worthless boats, and making money out of people and sacrificing people's lives, and calling those boats by new names?

The Athenian is the old Bay State with a new name.

The Abyssinian is the old Ontario with a new name.

The Bavarian was the old Kingston with a new name and new wood work.

Now let us hear what the Kingston did in her career.

Old Commodore Howard (in the case of Hayes vs. Canadian Navigation Company, which was tried in the Superior Court of Montreal, and judgement delivered on the 30th day of October, 1873, against the "Canadian Navigation Company," to recover baggage burned by the Kingston,) tried to make out that the Kingston was a first-class boat, "so much so said he" "that it was chosen by the Government to carry the Prince of Wales when in this country."

It did carry him, and carried him so well that it would not let him off at Kingston - this is foreign to the subject, but about as apropos as Commodore Howard's statement.

The history of the Kingston in her fall and decay seems to have been this - in 1868 she caught fire going into Port Hope harbour, and if you look over the files of the Montreal Gazette, or in fact the leading papers of that date you will find that in the autumn of the year, 1868, she did catch fire. No satisfactory reason was ever given for this - it was hushed up.

From 1868 to the 10th of June, 1872, nothing seems to have happened to this remarkable boat. On the 10th of June of that year she started from Montreal, was detained somewhere on the road west - passed Brockville about 2 p.m. on the 10th day of June, where she was due at half-past ten a.m., caught fire at the foot of Grenadier Island, and if it had not been for the providential circumstance of calm warm weather and a good beach, more would have perished than did perish. It is said that the boat was on fire in the canal and was put out, and that was the cause of the detention at Brockville.

What does this righteous company do?

They won't pay any person for their baggage; they sell the iron and stuff together with Mr. Hayes' fine cutlery that was in the bottom of the iron hull to some men on Grenadier Island in payment for clearing the boat out, they towed the hull back to Montreal, they take the same old walking-beam, they put it in the same way in the boat with the connecting rod forward, making the strain much greater, they put a lot more wood on the top of this hull and call it a new name, and out comes the Bavarian with her flags flying, and on her first trip cannot make more than six miles an hour!!!

This boat runs all the season, and carries between 100 and 120 passengers sometimes, and sometimes greater, it has in all boats, that will only hold 49 people; it has a lot of French Canadian deck hands, that according to Mr. Girouard's (French Solicitor of the Company) translation become "half-cracked fools" in case of an emergency, it promotes pursers to be captains "as they are more gentlemanly" according to Mr. Milloy; although according to Mr. Macpherson (the purser on this Bavarian), "he did not know anything about boats, and was not likely to learn anything as he had nothing to do with the sailing of the vessel." This boat we say starts from Hamilton - takes a large cargo - takes six passengers on a calm night on Lake Ontario - the old walking beam of the old Kingston breaks, smashes in a lot of spirits, sets fire to the boat and the deck hands go for it, sauve qui peut, each man for himself, takes the largest boat and leaves a lot of people to perish in the flames and water.

That is the history of steamer Kingston, and that is the history of the Canadian Navigation Company's management. The men are great men for making money, but what do they care for lives? Let the public judge.

Now we will tell what they care for money.

Not one of the passengers on board the old Kingston have been paid for their luggage yet. The company have fought their right through. Partly on account of either ignorance or considerable laziness in a County Judge in Upper Canada, who would not look into the case, and partly on account of the miserable procedure in Lower Canada, which permits appeals to a set of judges that know nothing about the case, and have never seen the witnesses, it has been difficult to get justice.

But justice will come. Already in the case of Hayes vs. Canadian Navigation Company, Judge McKay, one of the best commercial judges in Lower Canada, has delivered his judgement against the company, and already the feelings of the whole people in Upper Canada are beginning to be stirred, and when it is known to the Americans that the Canadian Navigation Company have been accustomed to carry 200 Americans or so through the lakes with accommodation for 49 in the small boats, they will either leave this route entirely, or else, as the St. Lawrence is free to them, build good boats for themselves.

Yes, justice will come. We cannot afford to have a lot of Upper Canadians burnt to death because the Canadian Navigation Company choose to have a lot of French Canadian deck hands that they get cheap, and who run off with the only means of safety. We cannot afford to have Upper Canadians burnt to death because the Canadian Navigation Company choose to put in an old walking beam, and serve an old boat with a lot of wood on top under a new name.

Matters are getting too serious, and if this Government, this Government par excellence of Upper Canada knew what they ought to do, or did one hundredth part of what they have promised to do as soon as they got power, they would have sent a good lawyer from Toronto or appointed a good one here to help Mr. Risley; they would have told Mr. Risley to employ a good translator, so that the court would have known what these Frenchmen said without calling upon counsel employed for private parties.

Pshaw such a "Liberal" Government as this, this affair of Mackenzie's is. It has no back bone, it is a "whited sepulchre, full of dead men's bones."

Such a Government sends an Inspector of Steamboats to carry on an investigation, to examine 12 Frenchmen, does not give him funds enough to employ a French translator, does not give him funds enough to employ an independent reporter, but compels him to ask the assistance of counsel employed by other parties to help him to understand.

Yet this is the new Government of Ontario.

If the people of Upper Canada want to be burnt to death without proper redress let them vote to sustain that Affair of Mackenzie's.

Sir Herbert.

p.2 The Bavarian Investigation - The Court of Inquiry at Kingston

Mr. Risley, chairman of steamboat Inspectors, was in town today and has been engaged at the British American Hotel in taking evidence bearing on the destruction of the Bavarian. The following persons were examined:-

Joseph Taylor, steam-boat inspector, Kingston, examined, said: I had charge of the engine as chief engineer for eight or nine years, when in the steamer Kingston. The engine is eighteen years old. I had charge of the engine between 1855 and 1865. The highest pressure of steam I carried on the engine during that time was 40 lbs. Was not in charge of the steamer Kingston when she was burned. Did not inspect the engine of the Kingston since she was burned except when the wreck came down about a week ago, and this morning. During the time I had charge of the engine there was no sign of weakness in the beam. I would have had no hesitation in carrying 45 lbs. pressure of steam. The beam would have been quite safe at that. I examined the beam this morning. I also examined it when the boat first came down, about a week ago. It seemed to me that it (the beam) had been cracked at the top and bottom prior to the late accident. It appeared as if there had been a flaw in the beam previous to the break. Could not say that it was so, but it presented that appearance from its discoloration as if made by the saturation of oil. As an old experienced engineer, I think such a flaw would escape the notice of the engineer in charge or the inspector, and that it would not have presented itself. I last inspected the boat, I think, in 1868 or 1870. From what I know of the engine I would have had no hesitation in carrying 40 or 45 lbs. pressure of steam upon it. I had no knowledge that the beam had suffered injury from the fire it was exposed to in the Kingston last year, not having examined it since until the wreck first came here about a week ago, and this morning.

Cross-examined by Captain Howard - It is impossible to tell whether it was a flaw of long standing, or a crack of late date, but if the skin of the metal was good, it would not be perceptible. I considered the walking-beam a strong casting, if sound all through, but that is impossible to tell, but from its heft of metal and outward appearance, I considered it a strong casting. I was personally acquainted with Mr. Finucan, the First Engineer, and considered him a good, careful man.

By Mr. Risley - From the appearance of the break, there is the appearance of an imperfect casting. There is a hole in it, probably arising from the shrinkage of the metal in cooling. There was a hole in the heart of the casting, which was not perceptible to the eye until the beam was broken.

James Howden, of Montreal, sworn, said: I am foreman for Mr. Gilbert, Montreal. I had charge of repairing the engine; first taking it out of the Kingston steamer and erecting it in the Bavarian. The engine had suffered in many parts from the fire which happened to that steamer, but none of the parts which had suffered by the fire were used in the Bavarian's engine, except such as were thoroughly repaired. I tested the engine with the highest pressure of steam that it was intended to carry, viz., 45 lbs. I don't know anything of the fire that occurred on the Kingston. The centres were not taken out of the beam, having all been examined and found true.

To Captain Howard - When we went to remove the engine from the Kingston the walking beam retained its original position. From its height above the hull as well as its position I am of opinion that the beam had not suffered any damage. I made a trial trip on the Bavarian, and was in charge of the engine upon that occasion. The trip was from Montreal to Prescott, and back. We carried 45 lbs. pressure of steam on that trip. The engine worked well, and to my entire satisfaction. From my long experience in the erection and running of engines I think it would have been quite safe to carry 60 lbs. pressure steam.

We will give the evidence of Mr. McGowan and Captain Howard tomorrow.

Marine News

South Bay, Nov. 24th - The schooner Ocean Wave, loaded with rye, went ashore last night in a snow squall, seven miles west of South Bay Point.

Port Hope, Nov. 24th - Navigation has closed here for this season. The steamer Norseman made her trip from Rochester on Saturday last, and has gone into winter quarters.

Milford, Nov. 24th - The steamer Hiram Calvin leaves South Bay at 11 o'clock p.m., with the schooner Enterprise in tow for Kingston. She returns tomorrow to take the schooner Ocean Wave off Poplar Point.

Port Colborne, Nov. 24th - Down - Prop City of Montreal, Chicago, Kingston, general cargo; schr. Smith & Post, Detroit, Oswego, wheat; Anne Mulvey, Chicago, Toronto, corn; prop. Empire, Toledo, Ogdensburg, gen. cargo; schr. Harvest Queen, Cleveland, Toronto, coal; China of Detroit, Detroit, Oswego, wheat; brig Sea Gull, Cleveland, Toronto, coal; schr. M.L. Breck, Cleveland, Toronto, coal; J. Biglor, Chicago, Oswego, corn; Ayer, Bay City, Kingston, timber; Grace Murray, Cleveland, Toronto, coal; tug Anna P. Dorren, Pt. Colborne, mud scows in tow.

Up - Schr. Miami Belle, prop. Cleveland, Ogdensburg, Chicago, gen. cargo; Lawrence, Dodoch, schr. L.H. Howland, Fair Haven, Chicago, coal.

Wind north, light. Canal clear of ice.

Arrivals from Buffalo to lay up: Schr. M.R. Goffe, N.C. West, Union Jack. Also came for winter quarters. The schr. L.H. Howland and China had a collision in the canal near Romey's Bend, carrying away the Howland's jib-boom and bowsprit and China's main rigging.

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Nov. 25, 1873
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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), Nov. 25, 1873