The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Tonawanda (Propeller), U24110, burnt, 1 Jun 1857

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Propeller TONAWANDA, took fire on Lake Huron, and was seriously damaged. Property loss $5,000
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      January 28, 1858 (1857 Casualty List)

      . . . . .

      The prop. TONAWANDA caught fire on her last trip down on Lake Huron, in her firehold, and burnt through one of her bulkheads and the main deck. It got well under way, and was only by superhuman efforts of Capt. Palmer and engineer, Mr. Southwick, seconded by a crew kept in good order by the energy of Capt. Palmer that the propeller was saved from total destruction, and the whole crew perhaps from death. Such a commander and such officers should be well remembered. All honor to them for the noble performance of their duty.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      July 7, 1857 2-6

      . . . . .

PROPELLER TONAWANDA. --This vessel, on her last trip to this port from Chicago, took fire about 10 o'clock at night, when off Presque Isle, Lake Huron, and had a remarkable escape from destruction. The Express says she took fire in her fire hold, at the forward end of her boilers, the wind off the land, not blowing very strong. It was first discovered by the engineer. He immediately turned the steam from the boilers into the hold, but he thinks it accelerated the flames, as from the moment he turned the steam cock, the flames burst out of the hold nearly to the top of the chimney. The steam cock in this instance is well up to the top of the steam chimney, and consequently the steam is very dry. Capt. Palmer immediately had the engine stopped; sent the engineer into the room abaft the boilers below; ordered the mate to clear away the boats and lower them, to be used in case of last resort, told him to preserve order among his men, and to strike down with an axe, any man who disobeyed an order, he himself taking the large hose from the Pony Pump, and endeavored to reach the forward part of the boilers. Mr. Southwick, the engineer, joined him, as he could not control the fire abaft at all. They succeeded in getting into the hold forward of the boilers, although the flames burst out when the hatches were lifted, and by almost superhuman efforts, succeeded in cutting holes through the bulkheads to pay the hose through, and though the burnt holes, after nearly five hours incessant, strenuous exertion, they succeeded in putting the fire out, and thus saving the boat and cargo, which she brought forward and delivered here with but slight damage. This is probably the most remarkable case of putting out a fire, on board of a vessel, on record, and the captain, officers and crew deserve special commendation. It goes to show what good seamanship, coolness in an emergency, thorough discipline and a determination to win, seconded by united, well directed effort, can accomplish in the hour of peril; and should remind the community how important it is to have men of character and known skill to command vessels -- the saving of a valuable vessel and cargo, and perhaps the lives of the whole crew, are attributable directly to the wonderful efforts of Capt. Palmer, Mr. Southwick, Chief Engineer, and the mate, seconded by the whole crew, which were composed, in this instance, mostly of blacks.
      There were two ladies on board, the wives of the captain and engineer. They both worked like heroines, getting water from the tanks on the upper deck in buckets, and throwing it on the wood work around the chimney. The vessel is now here, and well worthy a visit, to see what a narrow escape she had from destruction. We should mention that one of the principle causes of being able to save the vessel, was the perfect arrangement she had to put out fire -- steam pump, hose, &c. -- and it being all in perfect order for immediate use. Without this, the efforts of all the brave men on board would have been entirely useless.
      Buffalo Daily republic
      Tuesday, July 7, 1857

Steam screw TONAWANDA. U. S. No. 24110. Of 935.62 tons. Home port, Buffalo, N.Y.
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1871

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: burnt
Lives: nil
Hull damage: $5,000
Remarks: Repaired
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 45.3514 Longitude: -83.48887
William R. McNeil
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Tonawanda (Propeller), U24110, burnt, 1 Jun 1857