The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
E. K. Collins (Steamboat), burnt, 8 Oct 1854


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Steamer E.K. COLLINS, burned at the mouth of Detroit River, with the loss of 23 lives. Property loss $100,000. Considered Total loss.
      Buffalo Democracy
      February 28, 1855 (1854 casualty list)

NOTE :- Later raised and rebuilt as ARK

      . . . . .

STEAMER E.K. COLLINS BURNT.- Under our telegraph head will be found the full particulars of the loss by fire of the new steamer E.K. COLLINS in the Detroit River, during Sunday night. The COLLINS took fire on her boiler deck, and so rapidly did the flames envelope her that nothing could be done to save her. She was run ashore near Malden, but not until twenty-three of her passengers and crew, had perished in the flames. The E.K. COLLINS was built at Newport, by E.B. Ward, of Detroit, and came out last October, just a year ago. She cost $165,000, and was insured for $13,000---$5,000 in the Merchantile Mutual, N.Y., $5,000 in the Atlas, N.Y.,and $3,000 in the North Western, N.Y.
      The Democracy, Buffalo
      Tuesday, October 10, 1854

      . . . . .

      TERRIBLE CATASTROPHE
      E. K. COLLINS BURNED.
      ----------------------------------
      Tribune Office, Detroit, Oct. 9th.
The Steamer E. K. COLLINS, From the Saut for Cleveland, left this city last night between 10 and 11 o'clock. About midnight the boat was discovered to be on fire when a little below Malden, near the light-house at the mouth of the river. Before the boat could be got ashore she was completely enveloped in flames and twenty three persons perished either in the flames of the water.
      Below we give a list of the saved and lost --- Statement respecting the origin of the fire or such other facts as can be obtained will appear in this evening's Tribune.
      Passengers Missing : Mrs. Dibble, somewhere in New York; Samuel Powell, Cleveland; Lawrence Whalen, Cleveland; Thos. Cook, Pittsburgh; R.R. Agt, Cleveland; Mrs. McNeily, wife of waiter; Mrs. Watrous and child, Ashtabula - body of child recovered; colored man from Virginia.
      Crew Missing : Charles Adams, barber; John McKelly, waiter; John Dennis, waiter; J. Trinknes, waiter; John Halstead Mad, waiter; Lyman, barkeeper; Mrs Fanny Lewis, cabin maid; Samuel Brown, fireman; Anthony Allwick, deck hand; Thos. Addison; John A. Gremna; James Garnett, cook (colored); Nathaniel Robbins, cook; one wheelsman.
      Crew Saved : H. J. Jones, captain; Barney Sweeny, mate; Henry Cole, 2nd. mate; Ezra Rust, engineer; J. Recket, 2nd. engineer; John Ferzey, 3rd. engineer; Thomas Luce, Clerk; R.S. Montgomery, steward; J.R. Stoughtenbury, waiter; H. Webb, waiter; John Stookes, waiter; John Dougherty, waiter; J. Carol, waiter; P. Smith, waiter; Daniel Cordott, deck sweeper; William Corner, porter; a wheelsman named Joseph; Tom Damly, fireman; Thomas Henahan, fireman; Charles Stalley, fireman; Pat Brophan, fireman; Pat Quinlam, fireman; Boston Mcafee, barber; Samuel Bolles, head cook; J.W. Brown, second cook' Wm. Cuddy, carpenter; another, name unknown.
      Passengers Saved : A.P. Rogers, Ashtabula, O.; X. Carey, Grand Rapids, Mich; J.D. Patterson, Westfield, Chautauque Co. New York; George W. Farr, Brecksville, Ohio; B.F. Dubois, Philadelphia; Hill Edson, Vermillion, O.; P. Mertz, Dalton, O.; Edward Powers, Cleveland; Bernard M. McDonnell, Cleveland; Miss Laura Smith, Ashtabula, O.; Mrs, Cook, Cleveland; Mr. Lewis Morris and lady, Ann Arbor.
      The COLLINS took fire on her boiler deck, and so rapid was the spread of the flames that the passengers and crew, who had mostly retired, were unable to save anything except a few articles of clothing. She took fire in the Bay, about a quarter of a mile below Malden and nearly abreast of the light house. She was immediately headed for shore, but was unable to reach shallow water before the flames had complete possession of her. The after part of the boat swung around into the river and nearly all on board were driven to that part of the boat and were obliged to jump into the river.
      The current here sets out very strongly into the lake, and had it not been for the timely arrival of Captain Langley, of the propeller FINTRY, nearly all would inevitably have been drowned. Seeing the light, he hastened to the spot, and had his boats all ready to go. As soon as the vicinity was reached this was done, and mostly all who were saved were picked up by him, a few only reached the shore. Some were nearly exhausted. Everything that could be done to relieve the sufferers was done by the crew of the FINTRY, who acted nobly. Some wretch in the tumult stole $80 from a sick man who had been at work at the Saut, and which constituted his earnings. A purse of $20 was made up for him.
The COLLINS came out last October, and cost $105,000, and was insured for only $13,500 in the Mercantile Mutual, New York; $5,000 in the Atlas, New York; and $3,000 in the North Western, New York. She was owned by Capt. E.B. Ward.
      Cleveland Morning Leader
      Tuesday, October 10, 1854

      . . . . .

      THE BURNING OF A STEAMER.
      We hear various reports of the cause of the fire, and the conduct of the officers. One course only remains -- a rigid examination. It is said the boat was fired by the passengers carelessly throwing the contents of their pipes about; but this is not credited. Indeed, "the mentioning of such an origin of the fire is well calculated to excite suspicion." No matter, let there be a most searching examination.
      Probably, the lost are correctly given; but this is not certain. Nor is it certain that all those reported missing have not been saved. The Clerk had to give the names from memory, and it is not likely, that he could report all.
      The Tribune Says:
      "The fire engines were all in readiness, after the alarm, with the hose screwed on, and were brought to bear on the fire in less than a minute; but the smoke and flames soon drove every man from the engines. In less than two minutes the whole boat was in flames, and the passengers and crew were compelled to leave.
      The life-boats, which were in perfect readiness, were reached about the time the flames reached the quarter deck, but the men who went to launch them, were immediately driven away by the intensity of the heat.
      There were life-preservers, floats and boards sufficient to sustain 600 people, but in the fright and consternation of the passengers, they failed to use them, and in some cases threw themselves into the water without even an effort to secure support.
      It is supposed that nine passengers and fourteen of the crew were drowned -- but it is at present difficult to ascertain, as some swam on shore, and left the scene of disaster immediately.
      The boat was headed for the shore, and the engine stopped as soon as possible, but the passengers commenced jumping overboard as soon as the flames burst out -- the boat's headway took her to the shore where she now lies burned to the water's edge.
      Fortunately, the propeller FINTRY, Captain Langley, was but a little way out in the lake, on her way to this city with a large cargo of freight. Captain Langley immediately started for the scene of disaster and death. As soon as he perceived that it was a steamer on fire, he ordered up all his crew, and stationed men at his boats ready to launch them at a moment's notice. As soon as he reached the spot the boats were lowered, and the struggling passengers in the water exhorted to keep up courage, as assistance was near. The current at this point sweeps out strongly into the lake, and most of the survivors had jumped over from the after part of the boat, which had swung round into the stream. Had it not been for the propeller and her boats, they must have been immediately drowned. The Clerk, Engineer, and others of the crew and passengers, were hauled on board nearly exhausted, and some of them burned more or less badly.
      The entire crew of the FINTRY behaved nobly, and did everything in their power to relieve the unfortunate. Clothing was provided, and those who were entirely exhausted were wrapped up in blankets and put to bed. The rescued passengers speak in the warmest terms of Captain Langley and his crew.
      Mr. Carey's statement in the Herald, does not corroborate " the good conduct" of the officers of the COLLINS, as declared by the Detroit Tribune. He was the only passenger up and dressed when the alarm was given. He went immediately to the Pilot House, and desired the pilot to direct the steamer to the shore. In vain. Even when the flames burst forth, and they could be seen from the Pilot House, he refused. Nor was it done, or attempted, until the headway of the steamer was lost and the engine stopped.
      The dead are past recovery. But there are duties to be performed by the living, nevertheless, and one of them is to ascertain the cause of this terrible disaster, and if there be any guilty of neglect, to punish them. Let us have the facts. Without fear or favor let them be ascertained.
      Cleveland Morning Leader
      Wednesday, October 11, 1854

      . . . . .

The steamer E. K. COLLINS, 950 tons, was built at Newport, now Marine City, Michigan, in 1853 according to Mansfield's The Great Lakes, published at Chicago by J. H. Beers and Company in 1899. In the words of the Detroit Daily Advertiser, she was named after E. K. COLLINS, Esq., founder of the great line of steamships bearing his name.
In the summer of 1854 the COLLINS made a record run which was reported in the Detroit Daily Advertiser of Saturday, June 10, 1854 "The Quick Trip:ùThe steamer E. K. COLLINS is one of the fast boats. She left the Soo on Thursday at 2:30 P. M. She spent one hour and half at Newport to take on wood, and arrived at her dock in this city at five o'clock and 45 minutes last evening. This is the quickest trip ever made between the two points. She made the run from St. Clair to Newport in twenty minutes, a distance of eight miles or at the rate of 24 miles per hour. That will do, we don't know the boat that can beat it." Four months later in the first part of October, disaster befell the speedy ship. In this connection the following account appeared in the Detroit Daily Advertiser of October 9, 1854:
      Burning Of The COLLINS
This fine steamer was burned near Malden last evening between the hours of ten and eleven o'clock. She was on her way from the "Soo" to Clevelandù had no freight on board and but few passengers. She was managed by one of the best crews on the lakes, and enjoyed as high a reputation for speed, safety, and comfort as any boat on the western waters.
The fire undoubtedly originated from the steerage passengers emptying their pipes filled with burning tobacco into the light wood of the decks. When the fire was first discovered it spread with such rapidity that every effort to check it proved unavailing. The fire engines were all in readiness, with the hose screwed on, and were brought to bear on the fire in less than a moment; but the smoke and fire soon drove every person from the engines. In less than two minutes, the whole boat was in flames, and the passengers and crew were compelled to leave.
The life boats, which were in perfect readiness, were reached about the time the flames burst out upon the quarterdeck, but the men who went to launch them were driven from them by the intensity of the flames.
There were life preservers, floats, and boards sufficient to sustain 600 people, but in the fright and consternation of the passengers, they failed to see them and in some instances, threw themselves into the water without an effort to secure support.
is supposed that nine passengers and thirteen of the crew were drowned ùbut it is at present difficult to ascertain for a certainty, as several swam on shore and left the scene of the disaster immediately.
The boat was headed for the shore, and the engine stopped as soon as possible, but the passengers commenced jumping overboard as soon as the flames burst outùthe boat's headway took her to the shore where she now lies burned to the water's edge. The COLLINS was worth $100,000ùhad $15,000 of insurance on her and was owned by E. B. Ward and G. F. Lewis.
A list of the passengers and crew members missing and saved follows in the newspaper account.
Mansfield's history of the Great Lakes, already mentioned, carries a similar account with some additional details. "Ten passengers and thirteen of the crew perished in the flames or were drowned in the river.ù The propeller FINTRY Captain Langley, arrived at a timely moment and saved a number who were struggling in the water. The COLLINS had 24 passengers aboard and her crew numbered 43.ùThere were 384 disasters during the navigation season of 1854, with a valuation of property lost amounting to $2,187,82S."
From the files of the Amherstburg Echo comes an eye witness account of the disaster. William Bartlet, later a well known resident of Windsor, was then a young man living in Amherstburg. Seeing the fire from his bedroom window, he rushed to the waterfront, and in company with William Hedley, paddled a large yawl they found from the shore to the stricken vessel. This operation they performed with one oar and a piece of board. From this point the story is in Mr. Bartlet's own words: We reached her just as she struck the shore (at Callam's Bay just below Amherstburg) with her bow, and by that time there were several small boats on the river trying to save those who had jumped overboard from the stern of the burning boat.
Our first rescue was those hanging on to the rudder chains, there were fourteen of them in all. Some were nearly drowned by others getting on the heads of those hanging on to the chains. However, our boat being large we got them all off and safely landed amidst many cheers, but there were still a great many hanging to the paddle wheels and floating around the seem.
My colleague, Mr. Hedley, being tired out, I asked for a good sculler to get into the boatùCaptain Jones, who was on the shore, immediately responded and jumped into the boat: he was a strong athletic man and a good sculler.
I also asked the people to put some of the life preservers, which were on the shore, into our boat. This was done in a moment, and we were soon on our second effort to save lives.
The first we found was a man not far from shore working with his hands for dear life. I gave him a life preserver and told him to hold on to it, but he did not catch it. I gave him another with the same result. In his efforts to keep afloat, he drove the preserver away from him, so we had to turn back and pick him up or he would have drowned, although not more than thirty yards from shore. The people on the river bank, who had been watching the efforts of this man to keep afloat were excited to fever heat, and three hundred dollars was offered for his rescue (as I was told afterward) when asking why there was so much cheering when I got him into the boat.
We then went to the paddle wheel on the lee side of the boat where there were five hanging to the paddles. This was the most dangerous position we got into as the cabin by this time was all on fire from stem to stern and the heat and fire was intense, and the air consumed so that we could not breathe. We made a dash in below the guards where we were able to breathe when sheltered from the fire, and got to those hanging to the paddles and all safe to land.
We then went to the south or weather side paddle, where five or six were hanging on and got them all safe to land.
There was nothing more to be done to save lives. The small boats manned by the Hackett boys from the lighthouse on the island (Bois Blanc, now called Bob Lo) and Alex Gallam brought in all from the river who were afloat.
There were some sad scenes. A beautiful little girl was found...
And thus comes to a close this stirring word picture loaned to the Echo by Miss Helen Bartlet of Windsor. The occasion for the Echo printing William Bartlet's story was an incident belonging to the summer of 1938. At that time the diver working on the Gallam's Bay clean up came across part of the remains of the COLLINS lying in the river bed.
      Inland Seas
      Winter 1954 p. 271-273


BODIES FOUND.- We learn, from the Detroit papers, that nine of the bodies of persons who perished on the ill-fated E.K. COLLINS were recovered on Sunday. They were picked up from three to ten miles below Amherstburg. Among them was the body of Mrs. Watson, of Ashtabula. The steamer PEARL has gone to the scene of the wreck, having on board Captain E. Ward, 2nd. who, we understand, has purchased the hull and engine of the COLLINS, which he intends to raise.
      The Democracy, Buffalo
      Thursday, October 19, 1854

      . . . . .

      We saw this morning, a scow loaded with the walking beam, shaft, and other parts of the machinery of the E.K. COLLINS. Most of it will be recovered, but in a damaged state.
      The Democracy, Buffalo
      Tuesday, November 14, 1854

      . . . . .

      The hull of the E.K. COLLINS, has been raised and rigged up as a sort of lighter. She was taking on yesterday, at the foot of Third Street, from the Locomotive Works, a large boiler, designed for the new boat now building at Newport, to take the place of the COLLINS.---Detroit Free Press
      The Democracy, Buffalo
      Saturday, June 23, 1855

      . . . . .

      LIST OF VESSELS LOST IN THE LAKE SUPERIOR TRADE.
      Since the discovery of copper in the Upper Peninsula, in 1845, and the commencement of the Lake Superior steamer and vessel trade, many craft engaged in the trade have been lost. Previous to the discovery of copper, there was no other trade but that of furs, and one of the fur-trading vessels was lost - the JOHN JACOB ASTOR. We have compiled the following table, which will be found of interest to those connected with the Lake Superior copper trade:
Name of vessel lost Value Value cargo Year Lives lost
Schooner MERCHANT $4,000 $2,000 1847 18
Propeller GOLIATH $18,000 $18,000 1847
Steamer BEN FRANKLIN $15,000 $4,000 1850
Propeller MONTICELLO $30,000 $10,000 1851
Schooner SISKOWIT $1,500 $1,500 -- (SISKAVIT)
Schooner SELBY $500 $500 --
Propeller INDEPENDENCE $12,000 $18,000 1853 3

Steamer ALBANY $30,000 $2,500 1853
Propeller PENINSULA $18,000 $12,000 1854
*Steamer E.K. COLLINS $100,000 $1,500 1854 20
Steamer BALTIMORE $15,000 $4,000 1855
Steamer SUPERIOR $15,000 $10,000 1856 54
Propeller B.L. WEBB $50,000 $15,000 1856
Propeller CITY OF SUPERIOR $50,000 $25,000 18757
Propeller INDIANA $8,000 $2,500 1858
      -------- -------- ---
      $366,500 $125,500 95
      -------- -------- ---
      Making a Grand Total of $492,000. - Detroit Advertiser.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      Saturday, December 11, 1858

      . . . . .


Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Notes:
Reason: burnt
Lives: 23
Hull damage: $100,000
Cargo: $1,500
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
1854
Subject(s):
Local identifier:
McN.W.1789
Language of Item:
English
Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 42.08339 Longitude: -83.04985
Donor:
William R. McNeil
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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E. K. Collins (Steamboat), burnt, 8 Oct 1854