The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Commercial Advertiser & Times (Oswego, NY), Friday, Aug. 5, 1870

Full Text
Shocking Casualty!
Explosion of the Steam Tug Tornado!
Three Lives Lost!
Total Destruction of the Tug!

Shortly after three o'clock this morning, a large proportion of people in the city were suddenly aroused by a deep jarring report of a heavy explosion, which sounded as if a whole battery of artillery had been discharged simultaneously, and many people arose to enquire the cause of the disturbance, apprehending that a serious casualty of some nature had occurred.

As those who had consulted the time agree, the explosion was heard at ten or twelve minutes past three, but it was not until about 7 o'clock this morning that the shocking intelligence was received and spread through the city, that the tug Tornado had exploded her boiler on the lake, attended with terrible destruction and loss of life.

The Tornado went out of port about 1 o'clock this morning, and made a short run up the lake, as customary with the tugs, coming too about a mile and a half from the shore, off Sheldon's Point, to await the approach of downward bound vessels. There were on board Capt. Wm. H. Manwarring, the commander, Capt. George Ferris, Moses Ackerson, engineer, Patrick Clark, fireman, Zebulon Stone, deck hand, and Mary Stone, cook.

After lying still in the lake for about two hours, at the time indicated, the engineer received orders to start up, and the steam being let on and the pumping of water into the boiler simultaneously commenced, the engine had barely made three revolutions before the explosion occurred with terrific power, rending the boat into atoms, with the exception of the stern.

Captain Manwarring was standing at his post in the wheelhouse, Zebulon Stone was on the lookout in the bow, and Ackerson, the engineer, was in the engine room. All three of the doomed men were instantly sent to their last account, and their mutilated remains have gone down with the wreck.

Captain Ferris was sitting at the stern of the boat, the fireman Clark was standing aft, and the cook, Mary Stone, was asleep in the cabin, also at the stern. The lives of those three was providentially preserved. Capt. Ferris relates that immediately after the explosion he perceived that the boat must go down, and hardly a minute's time was left for preparations for saving himself and others that might have survived the shock. The air was filled with falling fragments, and the shower had not more than descended before the tug gave a lurch and went down bow foremost. The bow and middle portion of the boat seemed to have been blown entirely out.

Capt. Ferris found that Clark was partially disabled by being struck with a flying splinter, and hastened him overboard before jumping himself, to render Clark assistance, and at the same time he heard a shriek from the cook, who was still in the cabin when the boat went down. Ferris speedily gathered fragments of the wreck and assisted Clark to lay hold and support himself in the water, and soon larger pieces of wood came to the surface, from which with considerable labor he was enabled to construct a raft, and obtain a secure lodging for himself and Clark.

A moment after the boat had gone down, the voice of the young woman Stone was heard on the surface, she having come up and caught hold of a large piece of the upper works which had been detached from the wreck. She was remarkably self-possessed, recognized Capt. Ferris by his voice, and called the names of others to ascertain who had survived the explosion. She also called out that she was all right, and had hold of a piece of the cabin.

As daylight approached, Capt. Ferris erected a staff with a signal of distress on the raft, and the position of the survivors was shortly discovered by those on board the tug Dodge, which had run out into the lake, and which arrived to their assistance at about half past 5 o'clock. On reaching port, Mary Stone was conveyed to the Hamilton House, greatly overcome by the nervous shock caused by the disaster and the chill by several hours exposure in the water; but her condition is not serious. Patrick Clark was conveyed to his home, on 7th street, in the 2d Ward. His injury is quite slight and only disabled him for the time. Capt. Ferris escaped entirely unharmed.

The Lost.

Capt. Wm. H. Manwarring, commander of the Tornado, was an old and estimable citizen, and widely known on the Lakes. He had been connected with the tugs since their first introduction in the harbor, and on Oneida Lake, twenty years ago or more, and was esteemed one of the most careful and skillful commanders. He resided on East 2nd street, and leaves a wife and one daughter, who have been plunged into the deepest anguish of grief by their sudden and terrible calamity. The sad intelligence was broken to them by a lady neighbor this morning, and the effect may not be depicted.

Moses Ackerson, the engineer, was a young man 23 years of age, and his parents reside near Brockville, Ontario. he was engaged on the Tornado at Saginaw, where she was employed last season.

Zebulon Stone was a young man about 27 years of age, and brother of Nelson Stone, Esq., grocer. He had been absent from the city for some years, and returning this spring to attend the funeral of his brother, he concluded to remain here at the wishes or his mother, and procured employment on the tug.

Cause of the Accident.

There can be little doubt that the explosion occurred, by the carelessness of the engineer in allowing the water in the boiler to get too low during the time the tug was lying still in the lake, and it is thought probably that he fell asleep. The instant and terrific explosion that followed the introduction of cold water by the pump indicates that the boiler was charged with the dangerous gas which generates with little water and great heat. The boiler was nearly new, having been built last season at the works of Desatel & Hutton, at Detroit, and was considered one of the best and strongest of its size on the lakes. It had been tested with hydraulic force up to a pressure of 150 pounds per square inch, without exhibiting the slightest leak.

The Tornado was a first class tug, and was built at the yard of Miller, Kitts & Moore in this city some nine or ten years since. She was owned by Messrs. Smith & Post, and valued at $12,000. There was no insurance upon the boat, the owners assuming their own risks in tug property.

Picked up.

A party on board a tug, searching among the floating fragments of the wreck this forenoon, picked up a vest, which was identified as the one worn by Zebulon Stone. It was much torn, and was probably blown from the person of the deceased by the explosion.

By sounding in the locality it was found that the Tornado went down in about 12 fathoms, or 72 feet of water. Great praise is accorded to Capt. Ferris, to whose heroic exertions the two remaining survivors of the disaster doubtless owe their preservation. And most profound sympathy is felt for the family of Capt. Manwarring, and the relatives of young Stone, so recently bereaved by the death of his younger brother.

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Friday, Aug. 5, 1870
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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 Commercial Advertiser & Times (Oswego, NY), Friday, Aug. 5, 1870