The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), April 16, 1868, page 1

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Three Vessels Burned at Clark's Dry Dock
The Propeller Genesee Chief Destroyed

This season has opened very disastrously to steam and sail craft, with respect to destruction by fire. A few days since the Sea Bird burned, as it were in "midstream" and sent down a precious freight of lives to the bottom, besides the loss of the boat.

Yesterday morning about one o'clock, occurred a conflagration just below this city, by which, though no human lives were lost, the destruction of property was much greater. At or about the time mentioned above, the watchman on the steam barge Henry Howard, which was lying for repairs in one of the dry docks of J. P. Clark, in Springwells*, just below this city, discovered a fire issuing from the propeller Genesee Chief, lying, with two other vessels, the schooner J. H. Hartzell and the schooner Republic, the former lying alongside the dock and the latter outside, the Chief being between them, and the three lashed together by the lines by which they were made fast. In half an hour the upper works of the propeller were entirely destroyed, and the flames had fastened to the rigging and went up the tall, tapering masts, licking up the cordage with tongues of flame, and sending showers of burning sparks to seaward before the strong south west wind which was blowing snugly at the time and was the means, no doubt, of saving a large amount of property, including the dock buildings, etc. etc. There were some two dozen vessels lying near the spot, by the flames, which were carried directly away from the most inflammable and exposed portions of the property. After a short time the lines making the vessels fast to the dock, and to each other, were burned off and the Republic and and Genesee Chief drifted up stream for a few hundred feet still burning and showering their hissing sparks into the water, and then floating back over the dock toward the shore. For an hour no means were at hand for extinguishing the flames except a small hand engine, which was kept at work, the steam fire engines of this city not being allowed to go beyond its limits without permission.

This was granted by Mr. Sutton, one of the Fire Commissioners, as soon as it was know how great the danger was of a general conflagration, and Lafayette steamer proceeded to the scene. Shortly, getting several streams on the fire, she kept the conflagration down for some six or eight hours, and finally checked it altogether. The engine did not arrive a moment too soon, as one of the dock buildings or structures had already taken fire. The schooner Hartzell was saved by the steamer from total destruction, and was damaged only from $4,000 to $5,500. The schooner Republic is a total loss, but with some insurance on her. The propeller was ruined except, perhaps, for use after remodeling and forming into a barge of small dimensions. She was worth $25,000, and was owned in this city by Wm. E. Warriner. Insured for $15,000. The schooners were worth some $20,000 each the Republic being owned in Toledo, and the latter belonging to parties in Buffalo. The loss will be about $50,000 in the aggregate.

The origin of the fire is shrouded in mystery, and must have been the work of an incendiary, as no one was on the Chief except by stealth, if at all, during the night.

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*now part of Ecorse, MI
Date of Original:
April 16, 1868
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Dave Swayze
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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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Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), April 16, 1868, page 1