Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Bruce Mines (Steamboat), sunk, 28 Nov 1854
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BRUCE MINES Steamer, foundered on Lake Huron, loaded with supplies for copper mines. Property loss $30,000. Lost a man.
      Buffalo Democracy
      Feb. 28, 1855 (casualty list)

      . . . . .

Buffalo, Dec. 12. -- Steamer BRUCE MINES, belonging to Montreal Mining Company, loaded with gunpower and valuable cargo for the mines, was entirely lost in a recent gale on the Upper Lakes. All lives saved.
      Cleveland Morning leader
      Wednesday, December 13, 1854

      . . . . .

LOSS OF THE STEAMER "BRUCE MINE" ---We find by the Toronto Globe, that the steamer BRUCE MINE was totally lost on the 28th. ult., off Cape Hurd, in the recent gale on the upper lakes. She had on at the time a large quantity of gun-powder, for use at the mine, and other valuable freight, a small part of which was shipped at Toronto. The passengers and crew were all saved, except one man, chiefly through the exertions of Capt. Frazer. She belonged to the Montreal Mining Company, and the cargo was insured for $7,250; the vessel for $6,000. Her loss will cause much disappointment and hardship at the mines.
      The Democracy, Buffalo
      Thursday, December 14, 1854

      . . . . .

      In 1848 the Montreal Mining Company began development of' a copper deposit on the north shore of' Lake Huron at what is now the community of Bruce Mines. The site grew rapidly and within two years regular shipments of ore were moving east. The mine depended on marine communication and transportation and the company's steamer BRUCE MINE, a sidewheeler built at Montreal in 1842, operated regularly between the north shore and Montreal. (106) Late in November 1854 Captain Frederick M. Fraser brought her into Goderich from Toronto heavily laden with gunpowder, foodstuff's, and mining supplies. (107) The last part of' the voyage is graphically described in a letter written by an unidentified passenger.(108) "We left Goderich on Monday, 27th; during the night a terrif'ic gale came on, and we sprang a leak; everything that could be got at was thrown overboard to lighten her, but the water continued to gain on us; at daylight it had put out the fires, thus stopping the working of' the engines; the rudder had become disabled, and we were perfectly at the mercy of the waves. At two p.m., we could see land from the masthead, apparently about 20 miles distant, and we were drifting towards it at the rate of' about a mile an hour. At ten minutes to three p.m. (when we all hoped she could be kept afloat at least eight hours longer by means of' the pump) the carpenter rushed up and reported that she could not possibly float five minutes longer. There were 26 souls on board, including three passengers and myself'. There were only two small jolly boats to save us. A rush was made to them, when Captain Fraser (a son of' the late Colonel McKenzie Fraser) produced a brace of pistols, and, cocking them, threatened to shoot down the first man who attempted to get into either of' the boats until ordered to do so; this had the desired effect. I was assisted to the mate's boat with fifteen others; the captain took nine with him; the latter' s boat was launched without difficulty, but ours getting foul, the tackle could not be let go, and the mate with wonderful presence of mind, grasped an axe which was fortunately lying close by him and commenced cutting the four parts of the rope, and as he had severed the last the part to which ib' was attached disappeared below water, and down went the boat with such a crash that, in that fearful gale, it might have been heard two miles off. The "five minutes??, in which to make our reparations to leave the wreck, had hardly expired, when the steamer was rapidly sinking in about 70 fathoms of water. Already we had had two fearful escapes, for if the last stroke of the axe had failed to do its duty, we must all have gone down within five seconds; and secondly, if the promenade deck had not parted from the hull, and that prevented the suction, both boats must have been drawn into the vortex. And now our danger wa&,- apparently, as great as ever, for before we left the wreck, the captain and mate had come to the conclusion that the small boats could not live ten minutes in so heavy a sea - the waves rolling mountains high, and we having at least fifteen miles to go to reach shore. I pulled one of the only two oars in the boat - we of course headed for shore, and I am at a loss to describe the fearful passage in - almost every wave would have filled the boat, but three buckets having been luckily thrown into her, the men were enabled to bail her out in the intervals between the coming of the waves, which were so large that about half a. minute would elapse between them. About 10 p.m. we got among tremendous breakers, which advised us of our proximity to shore, to the surprise of all we got safely through them, and within a minute after we passed close to the point of Cape Hurd - a most fearful iron-bound coast, and to our unspeakable joy, a bay of calm water. If we had touched there even one hundred yards further down than we did, we should have been dashed against rocks and all inevitably lost; and that dangerous coast extends about one hundred miles, but it was the will of the Almighty that we should land on the only spot of all that coast where we could possibly save ourselves, and that in the dark. All hands felt thankful. Our mate (Duncan Lambert, of Goderich) (109) one of the very few men on board who knew anything of Georgian Bay, gave us the unwelcome information that there was not a human being, even an Indian, or an ounce of food within one hundred and thirty miles of us, and that that distance could be accomplished only by boat - that it never could be walked, and if the wind continued we must inevitably starve, for not a pound of anything eatable had we saved. We made a fire, and our all, namely, our clothes in which we had been drenched to the skin, we allowed to dry. upon us. Next morning we walked round the island upon which we landed under .the point, and descried with joy a smoke on a neighbouring island, (110) which we at once concluded to be that of the captain's party, and which was the first news we had of their having reached land. We immediately made a fire, in order to attract their notice, when they came over to us. We were once more all together again, excepting the carpenter, who, poor fellow, having jumped from the wreck for our boat and missed it, was swallowed up in the vortex. It was then decided that we should run for this place (Owen's Sound), and suffice it to say, that after the most dangerous runs from point to point of the coast, (having weathered even a heavier gale than that in..which the ill-fated steamer went down) but feeling that we might perish as well by water as by starvation - the waves vashed over us constantly and we never had a dry thread on us - we reached this place last night (Saturday) at 8 p.m. (4 days and 5 hours from the time the steamer left us), not having tasted food in that time. Captain Fraser reached here with his boats' crew at 3 this morning; we had not seen them after the first day - my position you may imagine, but I will not attempt to describe.
      I, of course, saved nothing but what I stood in, and that the suit I left home in. I had lent the Captain my fur coat the night before the steamer left us, and he having, luckily for me, pitched it into his boat. I got it the next morning after we reached shore. Only one of the 26 lost his life, and he, poor fellow, not two minutes before he went down, rebuked me for using an oath to one of the men who was too frightened to let go the fire-tackle of the boat. I shall never forget this, and I hope it will make not only me, but all of us better men."
      The loss of the BRUCE MINE proved a boon to the migrant Indians who fished and hunted along the west shore of the Bruce Peninsula and portions of the cargo which drifted in were quickly commandeered. In the spring of 1855 a white trader out of Southampton encountered an Indian at Stokes Bay who bartered with butter
and whiskey from the wreck. (111) Kegs of flour and liquor were found farther north with other debris from the foundered steamer.

      106 John M. Mills, Preliminary List of Canadian Merchant Steanships (Coastal &
Inland), 1809-1930, World Ship Society [Toronto, 1962].
      According to the Board of Lake Underwriters Register of British Shipping;
Inland Waters, [Toronto, 1854], the BRUCE MINE was built at Montreal in 1854
by William and George Tate and owned by the Bruce Mining Co. This may have
been a rebuild, although she is listed as a "New steamer".

      107 E.B. Borron, general manager of Bruce Mines [1852-57], stated in Report Of The Royal Commission On The Mineral Resources of Ontario, (Toronto, 1890), p. 95, that the BRUCE MINE was transporting "nearly all the materials and machinery required for mining and ore dressing operations during the winter."
108 Published in the Toronto Globe, Dec. 16, 1854.
109 Duncan MacGregor Lainbert (d. 1880), keeper of the Chantry Island light at Southampton, 1858-80.
110 Devil Island and Russel Island respectively.
111 Anonymous, Reminiscences Of The Sauqeen Peninsula, Wiarton Echo, July 4, 1879.
      Shipwrecks of the Saugeen
      by Patrick Folkes
      . . . . .

Media Type
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Reason: sunk
Lives: 1
Freight: supplies
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original
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Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 45.220277 Longitude: -81.7275
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Bruce Mines (Steamboat), sunk, 28 Nov 1854