The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
B. B. Jones (Propeller), exploded boiler, 25 May 1871


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Propeller Tug B.B. JONES, exploded at Port Huron; total loss, with 8 lives.
      Marine Disasters of the Western
      Lakes 1871, Capt. J.W. Hall

      . . . . .

The tug B.B. JONES, which blew up at Port Huron on Tursday, killing 6 men, was built by B.B. Jones of Milwaukee, in 1864. She registered 109 tons new measurement, and was valued at $16,000. She received new engines and boilers last winter, and the explosion is unaccountable except on the presumption of carelessness. She was owned by Messrs. Trowbridge, Wilcox & Co., of detroit, and was insured for $15,000, as follows: Security, $5,000; Fire and Marine of Buffalo, $5,000; National, of Boston, $5,000.
      Buffalo Morning Express
      May 27, 1871 3-5

      . . . . .

      T U G E X P L O S I O N.
      EXPLOSION OF THE B.B. JONES - EIGHT MEN KILLED
      The Vessel Entirely Destroyed.
      At noon today (Thursday) the boiler of the tug B.B. JONES owned by Trowbridge and Wilcox of Detroit, exploded while that vessel was lying at the dock of the Port Huron and Lake Michigan Railroad, in this city (Port Huron). The crew of the vessel, which numbered thirteen men, in all, were at dinner at the time, and only five were saved. Not even the bodies of the rest have been discovered. The scow PREBLE and the schooner ALDEBARAN were lying at the dock not more than a hundred feet from the tug, by which they were to have been taken in tow. From men who were on these vessels that within five minutes after the explosion the wreck was in the same position in which she now lies, broken and scattered, a few feet from the dock and nearly all under water, while the debris is floating down the river. One piece of her boiler was thrown upwards a great distance and it came down in the stern of the ALDEBARAN, and other pieces were scattered in all directions, one of these weighing, we would guess over 100 pound, lies in a grove opposite the residence of Mr. J.F. Batchelor. Still other pieces struck other houses in the western part of the city, fully a quarter mile from the place where the tug was lying, doing considerable damage. The dock at which the boat was lying was not greatly damaged. The boiler of very heavy iron, which was torn and shattered like paper, some of the flues, portions of which are scattered about the railroad yard, were collapsed, and appearances judging from a hasty examination of the wreck, that the explosion was downward throwing the pieces of the boiler and vessel way up in the air. The vessel lying at the rear of the tug were only struck by falling debris. The tug was officered and manned as follows, the list being taken from the books of the owners:
      Captain S.N. Burnham, Sombra, Ontario, considerable injured.
Mate Andrew Rathburn, thought to be a man of family, Algonac, killed.
First Engineer Thomas Blanchard, married man, Detroit, leaves wife and child.
Second Engineer Hugh Campbell, thought to be single, Detroit, injured.
Wheelsman Patrick McGuire, and Melbert Preston, the former was a young man making the trip for accommodation, with relatives in Detroit and Malden, killed. Preston was a young man, single and lived in Detroit, he was also killed.
Fireman Charles Miller and a man unknown. Nothing certain about Miller except that he was a single man of Detroit. The unknown man was shipped aboard the tug as she was about to leave and his name was not on the books, both were killed.
Cook J.W. Jones, negro, man of family, lived in Detroit, seriously injured.
Lookout Charles Marsh, made Detroit his home, seriously injured.
Deckhands Patrick Reed and David Martin, were seriously injured according to some reports, while it is also said that Martin was killed.
      A satchel was fished from the river on Friday morning containing clothing, toilet articles, money, etc. The letters were addressed to David John Martin, Detroit, and were from his father and mother. They were dated at Ashfield, Ontario and were mailed at Kingsbridge. Martin was one of the deckhands on board the tug. Mr. Arthur, the diver, went down several times on Friday afternoon and reports that he found parts of human bodies stuck fast among the flues of the shattered boiler having washed there from some other part of the wreck. No bodies were recovered. An inquest was held upon a body that washed ashore Friday and a verdict returned that the deceased man came to his death by the explosion of the boiler of the tug B.B. JONES. No blame was charged upon anyone.
      The tug was built in Milwaukee in 1864 by B.B. Jones and was 273 tons burthen. She was purchased when new by Trowbridge and Wilcox of Detroit for $22,000. The boiler was put in her new about a year ago at a cost of $6,000. The cylinder and other parts of her machinery were new this spring. Although she was rated first class, her hull being sound and her upper works having been reconstructed a short time hence. She had been running this spring about one month. She was insured for $15,000. The explosion was heard and felt in all parts of the city and Sarnia. The strongest of brick buildings were shaken to their foundations and many persons imagined that they had felt the shock of an earthquake. A piece of the boiler which was thrown over the house of Mr. Batchelor and about 50 yards beyond his house, was found to weigh 115 pounds. The cause of the explosion of course, is not definitely known, but it appears, however, that the pump had been out of order for several days previous to the accident, and that the pony engine had been used in its stead. Just previous to the explosion this engine had been started and the supposition is, we have this statement directly from Capt. Burnham, that a portion of the boiler must have been red hot, which would fully account for the disaster. A gentleman residing in this city had a very narrow escape. Just previous to the explosion he stepped over the rail of the boat, and when upon second thought stepped back upon the dock and started to go away. He had gone but a few steps when the explosion occurred and hurled debris all about him but fortunately did him no injury. It is but just to mention in connection with the disaster Capt. John Fraser of Her Majesty's Cutter PRINCE ALFRED, when the accident became known to him, immediately went to the rescue of the survivors of the wreck, and that his kind attention contributed much to the relief of the sufferers.
      Port Huron Times
      June 3, 1871

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THE TUG EXPLOSION. - The body of another one of the victims of the tug explosion was picked up in the river. The coroner held an inquest and returned a verdict substantially as the former case. The body was identified by one of the survivors as that of Andrew Rathburn, first mate of the tug JONES. When found the body was floating on the surface of the water a short distance below the tug. The head was crushed and mutilated terribly and presented a shocking appearance. The two survivors are reported doing finely. The one at the Leonard House is convalescent and when he started walking discovered that he could not walk forward but was able to walk backwards rapidly. The body of the mate is the third one that has been found, which leaves four more to be recovered.
      Port Huron Times
      June 8, 1871

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      The hull of the tug B.B. JONES has been raised and it is not very valuable.
      Port Huron Times
      June 29, 1871

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      The schooner MONT BLANC, in tow of the tug NIAGARA, while rounding to, Thursday afternoon, to pick up the schooner REINDEER, near the head of Stag Island, struck the wreck of the tug B.B. JONES, which blew up at Port Huron on May 25, 1871, and which was raised and towed on the head of Stag Island. The MONT BLANC sunk near the wreck after striking. The MONT BLANC was ore laden and built at Clayton, N. Y. in 1864 by Johnson and rebuilt in 1880 and 1883. She is owned by H. Esseltyn, et al, of Detroit, and has a burthen of 274 tons.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Saturday, June 27, 1885

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On the 25th. May, 1871, the Tug B.B. JONES exploded her boiler while lying a the railroad dock at Port Huron. Instantly killing 7 of the crew and scalding one other so that he died a few days after. Two others were injured, but not severely. The boiler was literally torn to pieces and scattered in all directions, making a complete wreck of the boat, which sank immediately. The hull was worthless and was not raised. The local Inspector at Detroit inspected this boiler on the 20th. of April, only 24 days previous to the explosion, and gave a certificate allowing 82 pounds of steam.
A thorough investigation was held at Detroit, and it appears from the evidence that the tug had been laying at the dock about two and a half hours; that the pony pump for supplying the boiler with water was working when the explosion occurred, and had been working most if not all the time the tug was a the dock, and that just before the explosion the steam gauge indicated sixty pounds. After a careful consideration of this matter, and finding some of the return tubes partially collapsed, the board gave the opinion that low water was the cause of the explosion, and that Thomas Blanchett, the first engineer, who was killed, was the only person to blame, he having charge of the engine at the time, and had been on watch some four hours previous. Value of the tug $16,000
      "Hist., of lake Navigation"
      Marine Record
      February 17, 1887 p.6


Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Notes:
Reason: exploded boiler
Lives: 8
Hull damage: $16,000
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
1871
Subject(s):
Local identifier:
McN.W.5473
Language of Item:
English
Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 42.97086 Longitude: -82.42491
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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B. B. Jones (Propeller), exploded boiler, 25 May 1871