The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
General Vance (Steamboat), Exploded Boiler, 25 Jun 1844


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AWFUL EXPLOSION.
Detroit, June 26. - Our city was yesterday shocked by the most terrible and mournful accident that has ever occurred in its vicinity. Yesterday morning, the steamboat GEN. VANCE, Capt. S. D. Woodworth, left the wharf of J. N. Elbert, at 8:30 o'clock, with a full load of passengers and freight for Toledo. She proceeded across the river to Windsor, and just as she stopped at the wharf, and was letting off steam, the boiler exploded. The sound was like the report of a cannon, and was heard with fearful distinctness on this side. The fore part of the boat immediately sank, and the aft soon followed. But this was of little consequence, compared with the melancholy loss of life.
      Four persons at least, are supposed to have lost their lives. Mr. Samuel D. Woodworth, the captain of the boat, the eldest son of Mr. Benjamin Woodworth, the late well known proprietor of the Steamboat Hotel, was thrown into the air and killed. His body was found some hours afterwards, in the river. The body of George Sweeney, of Chatham, C. W., formerly employed on the KENT, has also been found. Robert Motherwill, engineer of the ferry-boat UNITED, who had just stepped on board the VANCE, is also supposed to be killed, though his body has not been found. Major A. C. Truax, of Truago, one of the oldest and most respected citizens, was frightfully and mortally wounded, and though living at the moment, cannot survive. Mr. Gaylord, the engineer of the VANCE, was severely but not dangerously injured; and also two of the firemen, whose names we have not learned. Some 30 or 40 passengers were on board, and their preservation is almost miraculous.
      The boat is of course an utter wreck, and her cargo all or nearly all lost. It is or course, too early to judge calmly of the cause of the explosion, but it is due to Mr. Gaylord to say, that he is an engineer of skill, experience, and of the highest integrity and fidelity, in whom our citizens repose entire confidence. The following statement by him has been furnished to us for publication:
      Mr. Gaylord, the engineer, says her steam was low, and not so as to blow off, when she left the wharf on this side, but as usual on leaving port, he caused the fires to be replenished, not knowing that the boat was to land on the other side. But on coming to the dock, he had her fire doors opened, and himself raised the safety valve and tied it up, so as to blow off freely. At the moment of the explosion he was standing upon the rail, with his hands having hold of the shroud, saying to Captain Woodworth, "That he should have given him notice of his intention to land there, that the steam was making fast, and he must not stop long." Mr. Gaylord was blown from the rail where he was standing, on to the forward deck of the ferry boat UNITED, and was badly bruised, and somewhat scalded, but not dangerously.
P. S. Major Traux has since died. - Daily Ade.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      June 27, 1844 2 - 6
      . . . . .

GENERAL VANCE Steamboat, exploded her boiler and sunk at the dock at Windsor, C.W. with the loss of 5 lives, including the Captain and Owner Samuel D. Woodworth and his eldest son. The boat was badly shattered and sunk, she had left Detroit for Toledo but put in at Windsor briefly when the explosion occurred. The vessel had a high pressure engine and had over the winter been completely overhauled. (Free Press )
      the Mirror, Toronto
      Friday, July 5, 1844


Awful Explosion - Our city, yesterday, was shocked by the most terrible and mournful accident that has ever occurred in its vicinity. Yesterday morning, the Steamboat GEN. VANCE, Capt. S. D. Woodworth, left the wharf of J. N. Elbert, at 8 1/2 oÆclock, with a full load of passengers and freight for Toledo. She proceeded across the river to Windsor, and just as she stopped at the wharf, and was letting off steam, the boiler exploded. The sound was like the report of a cannon, and was heard with fearful distinctness on this side. The fore part of the boat immediately sank, and the aft soon followed. But this was of little consequence, compared with the melancholy loss of life.
Four persons, at least, are supposed to have lost their lives. Mr. Samuel Woodworth, the captain of the boat, the eldest son of Mr. Benjamin Woodworth, the late well-known proprietor of the Steamboat Hotel, was thrown into the air and killed. His body was found some hours afterwards in the river. The body of George Sweeney, of Chatham, U. C. formerly employed on the Kent, has also been found. Robert Motherwell, engineer of the ferry boat, United, who had just stopped on board the Vance, is also supposed to be killed, though his body has not been found. Major A. C. Truax, of Truago, one of our oldest and most respectable citizens, was frightfully and mortally wounded, and though living at the moment of writing, cannot survive. Mr. Gaylord, the engineer of the Vance, was severely, but not dangerously injured, and also two of the firemen, whose names have not been learned. Some 30 or 40 passengers were on board, and their preservation is almost miraculous.
The boat is of course an utter wreck, and her cargo all or nearly all lost. It is, of course, too early to judge calmly the cause of the explosion, but it is due to Mr. Gaylord to say, that he is an engineer of skill, experience, and of the highest integrity and fidelity, in whom our citizens repose entire confidence. The following statement by him has been furnished to us for publication:
Mr. Gaylord, the engineer, says, her steam was low, and not so as to blow off, when she left the wharf on this side, but as usual on leaving port, he caused the fires to be replenished, not knowing the boat was to land on the other side. But on coming to the dock, he had her fire door opened, and himself raised the safety valve and tied it up, so as to blow off freely. At the moment of the explosion, he was standing upon the rail, with his hand having hold of the shroud, saying to Capt. Woodworth,"that he should have given him notice of his intention to land there, that the steam was making fast, and he must not stop long," that instant, the explosion took place; Mr. Gaylord was blown from the rail where he was standing, on to the forward deck of the Ferry Boat United, and was badly bruised, and somewhat scalded, but not dangerously.
      P. S. Major Truax has since died.
      Detroit Daily Advertiser
      June 26, 1844


The Explosion.--Various rumors were circulated yesterday, in relation to the discovery of more bodies--two at Sandwich--but we can trace them to no authentic source. We were across the river at Windsor, yesterday, in the afternoon, but could learn nothing new. No more bodies have been found, and the better opinion there, is, that there are none in the boat, except that of Robert Motherwill, which has not yet been found. If there are any, they must be those of persons in the lower or dining cabin, at the time of the explosion. A portion of a ladyÆs dress was brought ashore, caught in a pair of folding doors, but it is believed that no female was lost. There is a general desire that the boat may be raised, that it may be fully examined, and if any bodies are found, that the last rites of humanity may be paid to them.
We understand that the engine and boiler were inspected and certified to, at Sandusky, and not in this city.
      Detroit Daily Advertiser
      June 27, 1844


The Funeral of Samuel D. Woodworth, whose melancholy fate on the VANCE, we have already announced, took place yesterday afternoon. A large concourse of our citizens, to whom the deceased was pre-eminently endeared, attended on this mournful occasion. Mr. Woodworth had grown up to manhood, in the bosom of our community, and no event could have caused a greater shock in this city, especially among its young men. We have known him well ever since our residence in Detroit, and we mingle our tears with others in unaffected sorrow over the early grave of our departed friend. May his surviving relatives, and above all, may she whose loss is irreparable, find consolation and peace.
      Detroit Daily Advertiser
      June 28, 1844


The GEN. VANCE.--The VANCE has been raised and brought to this side of the river, at the lower end of the city. A thorough examination has not been effected, but the body of Robert Motherwill the engineer of the steamer UNITED, has been found near the place of the boiler. A bolt or something of the sort seemed to have passed through the forehead, and the left arm was gone, but has since been found. The watch of Mr. Gaylord has also been found.
      Detroit Daily Advertiser
      July 2, 1844


Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Notes:
Reason: Exploded Boiler
Lives: 5
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
1844
Subject(s):
Local identifier:
McN.W.3125
Language of Item:
English
Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 42.30008 Longitude: -83.01654
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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General Vance (Steamboat), Exploded Boiler, 25 Jun 1844