The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), Nov. 26, 1873

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p.2 Marine News

Released - A despatch from Cornwall today says the steamer Watertown, which left here to open the Beauharnois Canal and release the ice-bound steamer and barges, had been successful, and will try to open the Lachine Canal.

Port Colborne, Nov. 25th - Down - Prop. St. Albans, Chicago, Ogdensburg, gen. cargo; schrs. Wacousta, Cleveland, Toronto, coal; W. Lewis, do., do.; A.H. Moss, do.; do.; prop Brooklyn, Chicago, Ogdensburg, gen. cargo; Champlain, do.

Up - Schr. Columbian, Toronto, Port Colborne. She lays up here.

Port Colborne, Nov. 26th - Vessels arrived last night and this morning: Schrs. Samana, Anderson, Wade, Madeira, Reindeer, barque Montmorency.

The canal was slightly frozen over last night, but not so as to interfere with vessels moving.

Milford, Nov. 26th - The tug Hiram Calvin brought in the Ocean Wave all right, one a.m. All credit to John Donnelly and his expedition. Three vessels saved in a week by his efforts and timely assistance.

The following telegram was received from Valleyfield yesterday:- "The Wren and three barges, propellers Dominion and Columbia, cleared from the canal at seven a.m. It is snowing heavily. Found ice ten inches thick and very strong, but the Wren was stronger. If she can get through the Cornwall Canal all these craft will likely reach Kingston, to which port they are bound."

The Bavarian Investigation - The Court of Inquiry at Kingston

The following is the continuation of the evidence given before the Commissioner, Mr. Risley, at the Court of Inquiry held yesterday at the British American Hotel:-

Captain Thomas Howard, sworn, said:- I am 46 years of age; reside at Montreal; have been connected with the steamers as mate, master, and general superintendent on the lake and river twenty-six years. My duties as superintendent of the Canadian Navigation Company's steamers are to superintend the building and rebuilding, and the repairs of all the company's steamers. I also engage engineers, stewards, pilots and mates. In selecting mates and pilots, the evidence I have of their fitness is my knowledge of them in such capacities for a number of years, and believing them to be competent and trustworthy men. There are no examinations made of these officers, either by myself or by the Board. DaFours had no duties on the lake, as the Bavarian carried a first and second mate, and he was river pilot. I consider him an officer of the steamer, subject to the orders of the captain and first mate on the lake. There are printed instructions to this effect. In the absence of the captain, the pilot should have obeyed the first mate. The duty of the captain on finding that the fire could not be extinguished would have been to have ordered the boats to be launched, take charge of one boat himself, placing the first and second mates in charge of the other two boats, and then seeing to the safety of his passengers and crew. He is supposed to know that duty from experience for a number of years in following the water for a livelihood, as a purser, mate, or engineer. The duty of the first mate on this occasion was to take charge, in the absence of the captain. It was his duty to go to the captain for orders if practicable. The captain had full control over his officers and crew. I have always found this system of selecting captains to work well, and can quote the names of masters, the highest in the country, who have risen from pursers. The captain and mate always use their own discretion as to the stowage of cargo. The captain and mate engage the wheelsman and deckhands of the steamers, and sometimes I do at their request. They are limited only as to the highest wages going on the steamer. In my opinion the accident was caused by the beam breaking, and the forward portion of it being thrown some twenty-five feet forward of its centre which brought it immediately on the deck where the spirits were stowed, which smashed the casks and caused the spirits to run down into the fire hold, immediately causing the flames, upon the spirits getting down to the fire. The wreck as it now lies at the wharf here is as I first found it, with the exception that I have taken down the smoke stacks and the after end of the beams.

We are obliged to hold over until tomorrow the evidence of John McGowan before Mr. Risley concerning the Bavarian disaster and comments of our own on the evidence and on the letter of our Montreal correspondent published yesterday.


So far as the Government enquiry now going on in Montreal into the loss of the steamer Bavarian has proceeded the evidence tends to show that in the hour of danger, each man looked out for himself and we fear made little effort to save the women. L.A. Macpherson, the purser of the ill-fated steamer, stated in his evidence that he was not aware that any special instructions existed for the storage of combustible freight. This is a most important admission, inasmuch as the twenty-two barrels of spirits stored close to the engine house were the actual cause of the late calamity. Again, he admitted that it was possible for a barrel of gunpowder to be taken on board without knowing it, although he did not think probable. Now this thinking business is not what is demanded from steamboat owners; the public demand that they should not merely think their boats are safe and sound, but that they should use all due care and diligence in making them so. The same witness also testified as follows: "I was on the Athenian previous to the Bavarian, and in neither vessel did I see any instructions given to the men as to the lowering of boats." This we think conclusively proves that no such practice existed, and that a sort of hap-hazard arrangement prevailed throughout. Had the crew of the Bavarian been previously exercised in lowering and handling the life boats, it is scarcely probable that such a scene of dire confusion would have resulted as was unfortunately the case when the hour of danger arrived. The testimony of Annie Gerrehty, the ladies' maid, substantiates the accusation of cowardice against the pilot. She deposed that she was the last to get into the boat, and after she got into the boat the men rowed right away and refused to row back when called to by the purser. She continued as follows: "The boat never stopped after it left the steamer - not even when they pulled in the cook" And again: "The boat could have held more passengers. The water did not increase after I got in. The men in the boat appeared to be very much excited till we got to the shore in three hours and a quarter." In her cross-examination she stated that no effort was made by the pilot's boat to save the others; also, that instead of it taking one hour and a half, as stated by the previous witness, Camille Consineau, to bail the boat out, it did not occupy more than five or ten minutes.

Such is the plain statement made by the ladies-maid who really appears to have been the only one of the party that was not crazed with fear. The evidence, however, of Mr. Alex. Milloy the Secretary and Treasurer of the Canadian Inland Navigation Company reads so strange to our ears that we give it in full. According to the doctrine there enunciated by the representative of the Company the latter do not consider it necessary that their Captains should be practical seamen, (although we are pleased to state Captain Carmichael, of the Bavarian, was a first class navigator.) The following is by Mr. Milloy:-

"Mr. Alex. Milloy, Secretary and Treasurer of the Canadian Navigation Company, was called. He promised to submit to the Commission on Friday, a list of the passengers and crew on the Bavarian at the time of the disaster. He deposed that the Board engaged the captains of vessels, he engaged the pursers, and Captain Howard the engineers and crews. Engineers were selected from men who possessed certificates and had good characters, and the captains were chosen from the pursers who had shown themselves to be active and capable men. A system of promotion by seniority prevails in the Company. Captain Carmichael was in supreme command of his steamer; on the lakes a regular course is run and if the vessel is run at about a regular speed they can always tell near to where they are. Formerly it was thought necessary that captains on the lakes should be sailors, but lake was now quite different to ocean navigation, and since witness had been connected with the company the captains have been selected from the pursers. The company had printed rules setting forth the duties of the various officers, a copy of which would be deposited with the Commission. There was no definite rules as to the launching of boats in case of a disaster like that which had occurred."

Comment upon the above is scarcely necessary, it reveals a class of management not very assuring to the travelling public, and we trust ere this official investigation closes that some practical good will result from the enquiry. [Toronto Sun]

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Nov. 26, 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. 26, 1873