The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Mayflower (Steamboat), aground, 16 Dec 1851


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December 16, 1851.- Steamer MAYFLOWER, in the unparalleled gale of this date, broke rudder chains, lost a smoke-pipe, and thus crippled went ashore above Erie---the amount of damage cannot now be ascertained, but must reach as high as $50,000.-- It is hoped the boat may be saved.
      Disasters on the Lakes in 1851
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser. Jan. 2, 1852

      . . . . .

      We learn by Telegraph the following particulars of the MAY FLOWER after her last departure from this port:-
She left Buffalo at 10 o'clock on Monday night, and after a good run of four hours met the storm. She was then put about, and after three hours run on her return, she parted her rudder chains. After rigging a purchase, by which to command her rudder, and the storm seeming to lull, she was again put about, and headed on her course. She continued to strive with the tempest from that time until about 11 o'clock on Tuesday night, without a single observation or a glimpse of the shore, when she struck, about 5 miles below Conneaut. She lies upon a rock bottom, and is scuttled. Before going ashore she had lost one of her smoke pipes, while laboring heavily in the unusually high sea. The passengers and crew are all safely ashore, and probably the boat will go to pieces upon the rocks.
      Morning Express, Buffalo
      Thursday, December 18, 1851

      . . . . .


FROM THE MAY FLOWER :- We saw a dispatch received by "Speed's Line" yesterday, which stated that there was some chances of the MAY FLOWER being gotten off. Her hull is not much injured as yet, but her cabins are badly wrecked. Her furniture has not yet been taken off, but will be today.
      Morning Express, Buffalo
      Saturday, December 20, 1851

      . . . . .

      PARTICULARS OF THE LOSS OF THE STEAMER "MAYFLOWER"
      The following letter from Captain Van Allen, at Girard, Pa., appeared in the columns of the Express this morning. It gives a detailed account concerning the loss of that magnificent vessel.
      LAST TRIP OF THE STEAMER MAYFLOWER
      We left Detroit for Buffalo via Cleveland on the night of the 13th. inst., at 11 o'clock. Wind west, severely cold, thermometer 12 above zero, with 169 tons freight on deck. Arrived at Cleveland at 7 A.M.; winds S.W. snowing. Took on fuel and left for Buffalo at 11 A.M. Snow continued heavy all day, and until 12 o'clock Sunday night, when it cleared away. Made Buffalo Light dead ahead, about five miles off---this being the first object we had seen during the thirteen hours out. Arrived safely, discharged our freight, took on coal with all dispatch possible, with a view of returning immediately, without any regard to passengers or freight. In the early part of the evening of Monday, received a telegraph from Mr. Brooks to say we must hurry home, for it was doubtful even then whether we could get up the river. Sailed at 10 o'clock P.M., wind W.N.W. with all the appearance of it hauling more northerly, calculating to have rather a smooth passage up the north shore---but extremely cold. Two hours out, wind backed W.S.W., with heavy squalls of snow; wind, sea and snow increasing; vessel laboring and making ice rapidly on our deck. We bore up for Buffalo after bein
three and a half hours out, we stood on this length of time, intending to have daylight to make a port. We ran off before the wind four hours, judging in that time to have made about the same distance. Daylight came, but no cessation of storm. Not knowing our position, we were more liable to go on shore than any other place; consequently 'bout ship, and stood up the lake; storm increasing. In about two hours we parted our rudder chains, and the vessel fell off in the troughs of the sea, which made a clean breach through our gangways, carrying
with it what little was in the way. In this position we lay two hours, endeavoring to repair. At last succeeded in finding blocks and line to rove through them. Secured the tiller with a tackle from each quarter; had to work them with six men, three to each. In this way brought her head to wind; very soon after got better chains and repaired.
      The tackle was still used to relieve the strain in the tiller chains. The men at the tackle and the wheels had to be relieved every twenty minutes; but cold as it was, that "man of iron" my first mate, stood thirteen hours, being only twice relieved; 2nd. mate attending to other duties, quite as important and equally exposed. During the time occupied in repairing, the storm broke away for a moment, as if to warn us of our perilous situation. Land ahead! Close into the breakers, was called out by the 2nd. mate. Without thinking of other
consequences than the loss of my beautiful vessel, I backed off easily, taking every sea over our taffrail; men standing aft, holding on the the fall of each tackle, up to their middle in water; brought head to wind and stood up the lake Very soon after this, our starboard hog-chains forward parted; this, of course, weakened our vessel, which began to work our upper cabin on that side very much Storm increasing; vessel laboring heavily; the braces to our starboard chimney gave way, and the chimney went adrift. We were now in danger of fire; but we managed to extinguish the fire in the starboard furnace, and we were now left
with the one chimney and half steam. The attempt to stem the elements with half steam was doubtful and we attempted to ware ship---in the meantime getting up all the steam we could, for this was our only dependence, for the little head sail we had was covered by this time with six inches of ice. We fell off in the troughs of the sea and could make no headway. We made three attempts during Tuesday the 16th., but gave it up. Our only object was to keep her head to the wind and sea.
      With the steam we made we were able to keep steerage way on, and her head to the sea. The wind backing round to the southward, we crawled over towards the south shore, hoping to make a lee when we reached there. We smoothed our water about 7 o'clock Tuesday evening, and hauled off, steering west to keep clear of the land---satisfied ourselves since that we were under Erie Peninsula. Stood to sea 30 minutes, then hauled up southwest; sea heavy, expecting soon again to smooth our water. We expected to keep her off sufficent to clear the land.
      In this calculation we were unfortunate, for the sea was running more from the westward than we had supposed, consequently in our great anxiety to reach the furtherest point up the lake, with the fact we had hugged the shore to get smooth water and save ourselves in case any further accident happened to our vessel, for at that time she had all the ice she was able to carry---both hog- hains gone forward, every seam in her main deck, was working the oakum out and the upper cabin weaving forward and aft 18 or 20 inches and falling to pieces.
In this condition we went ashore about 12 miles above Erie, at 10 o'clock Tuesday night 16th. inst., thermometer ranging from 8 to 10 deg. below zero. Weather thick all day with snow and dense fog so that one could not see 30 feet When we went ashore our bow was within 150 feet of land but we could not see it We waited patiently for daylight, and when it came it was apparent that if the sea continued our beautiful MAY FLOWER would be a total loss. By 9 o'clock by ringing our bell we had brought some of the inhabitants to our assistance---meanwhile we had made three attempts to run a line to the shore and failed, by
which we lost our first boat, and after attempting with the second were compelled to hoist it on board to save our men. Several persons had collected on shore, and a young man threw a stone with a twine attached on board. Attached to the twine we sent a small heaving line ashore and to that a large one which was secured to a tree and the slack hauled on board. When this was accomplished, our third boat, a large one was cleared away and lowered.
      This boat was on the weather side and had to be got to the lee side. To do this we cut away two state-rooms on each side and hauled her across the cabin. Before putting her in the water, passed the painter over the line which ran to the shore and back to the ring bolt, made a line fast at the same place to be used on shore and another on land to haul her backward and forward. In this manner the boat was kept head to the sea. Notwithstanding all this care a large boat capable of carrying 50 persons in ordinary weather, was nearly filled three or four times. By 3 o'clock P.M., we had all on shore safe, though many were
frozen.
      Those frozen were Capt. feet, ear and hands slightly---1st.mate feet and face; 2nd. mate both hands, badly; one wheelsman hands slightly; and three firemen slightly. One of the wheelsman considerably injured by being thrown over the wheel. The crew all behaved and did their duty like men, except two deckhands, Irishmen, who skulked and hid in the coal bunkers until the vessel struck.
      H. Van Allen
      Late Master of the Steamboat MAY FLOWER
      Buffalo Daily Republic
      Wednesday, December 24, 1851

      . . . . .

      MAYFLOWER. - We are happy to state that this steamer is not so badly damaged but that she can be rescued from her present situation and again put in order. J.W. Brooks, Superintendent of the Michigan Central Railroad, has made an examination of her, and finds that her hull is not so seriously injured as to prevent rebuilding and putting her in as good order as ever. This is happy news for her friends. Mr. Bishop, of "Derrick," repute, is getting everything in readiness to raise her. We look for her taking her old place in the line at the opening of navigation. Success to the magnificent boat and her noble crew, say we.
      Buffalo Daily Republic
      Saturday, December 27, 1851

      . . . . .


PARTICULARS OF THE LOSS OF THE STEAMER MAY FLOWER we received last evening by mail from Girard, Pa., the following particulars from Capt. Van Allen of the loss of his splendid steamer.

      LAST TRIP OF STEAMBOAT MAY FLOWER.
We left Detroit for Buffalo, via. Cleveland on the night of the 13th. inst. at 11 o'clock. Wind west, severely cold, thermometer 12 above zero, C with 160 tons of freight on deck. Arrived at Cleveland at 7 A.M. Wind, S.W. moving. Took on fuel and left for Buffalo. at II A.M. Snow continued heavy all day and until 12 o'clock Sunday night, when it cleared away. Made Buffalo Light dead ahead, about 5 miles off this being the first object we had seen during the 13 hours out.. Arrived safely, discharged our freight, and took on coal with all dispatch possible, with a view of returning immediately, without any regard to passengers or freight. In the early part of the evening of Monday, received a telegraph from Mr. Brooks to say we must hurry home, for it was doubtful even then whether we could get up the river -- Sailed at 10 o'clock P.M., wind W.N.W. with all the appearance of its heading more northerly, calculating to have a rather smooth passage up the north shore but extremely cold. Two hours out, wind backed around W.S.W. with heavy squalls of snow; wind, sea and snow increasing; vessel laboring and making ice rapidly on our decks; We bore up for Buffalo after being three and a half hours out; we stood on this length of time, intending to have daylight to make a port. We ran off before the wind four hours, judging in that time to have made about the same distance. Daylight came., but no cessation of the storm. Not knowing our position, we were more liable to go on shore than any other place; consequently 'bout ship, and stood up the lake; storm increasing. In about two hours we parted our rudder chains, and the vessel fell off in the trough of the seas, which made a clean breach through our gangways, carrying with it what; little was in it's way. In this position we lay two hours, endeavoring to repair. At last succeeded in finding blocks and lines to reeve through them. Secured the tiller with a take, from each quarter; had to work them with six men, three to each. In this way brought her head to wind; very soon after got better chains and repaired. The tackle was still used to relieve the strain in the tiller chains. The men at the tackle and the wheel had to be relieved every twenty minutes; but cold as it was, that man of iron, my first mate, stood thirteen hours, being only twice relieved; 2nd. mate attending to duties quite as important, and equally exposed. During the time occupied in repairing, the storm broke away for a moment, as if to warn us of our perilous situation. Land Ahead Close into the breakers, was called out by the second mate. Without thinking of other consequences than the loss of my beautiful vessel, I backed off easily, taking every sea over our taffrail; men standing aft holding on to the fall of each tackle, up to their middle in water; brought head to wind and stood up the lake Very soon after this, our starboard hog chains forward; this of course, weakened our vessel, which began to work her upper cabin on that side, very much. Storm increasing; vessel laboring heavily; the braces to our starboard chimney gave way, and the chimney went adrift. We were now in danger of fire but we managed to extinguish the fire in the starboard furnace, and we were now left with the one chimney and half steam. The attempts to steam the elements with half steam, was doubtful and we attempted to ware ship in the meantime getting up all the steam we could, for that was our only dependence, for the little head sail we had, was covered by this time by six inches of ice. We fell off in the trough of the sea and could make no headway. We made three attempts during Tuesday the 16th, but gave it up. Our only object was to keep her head to the wind and sea.
With the steam we made we were able to keep steerage way on, and her head to the sea, the wind backing round to the Southward. We crawled over towards the south shore, hoping to make a lee, when we reached there. We smoothed our water, about 7 o'clock Tuesday evening, and hauled off, steering west to keep clear of the land (satisfied ourselves since that we were under the Erie Peninsula). Stood to sea 30 minutes, then hauled up South west; sea heavy, expecting soon again to smooth our water. We expected to keep her off sufficient to clear the land.
In this calculation, we were unfortunate, for the sea was running more from the westward than we had supposed, consequently in our great anxiety to reach the furtherest point up the lake, with the fact we had hugged the shore to get smooth water and save ourselves in case any further accident happened to the vessel, for at that time she had all the ice on she was able to carry both hog chains gone forward, every seam in her main deck, was working the oakum out, and the upper cabin, weaving forward and aft 18 or 20 inches and falling to pieces. In this condition we went ashore about 18 miles above Erie, at Ten o'clock Tuesday night, 16th. inst. Thermometer ranging from 8 to 10 degrees below zero. Weather thick all day with snow and dense fog so that no one could see more than 30 feet.. When we went ashore, our bow was within 130 (?) feet of land, but we could not see it.
We waited patiently for daylight, and when it came, it was apparent that if the sea continued our beautiful MAY FLOWER would be a total loss By 9 o'clock by ringing our bell we had brought some of the inhabitants to our assistance meanwhile we had made three attempts to run a line to the shore and failed, by which we lost our first boat and after attempting with the second, were compelled to hoist it on board to save our men. Several persons had collected on shore, and a young man threw a stone with a line attached, onboard. Attached to this twine we sent a small heaving line ashore and to that a large one which was secured to a tree and the slack hauled on board. When this was accomplished, our third boat, a large one, was to be cleared away and lowered.
This boat was on the weather side, and had to be got to the lee side To do this we cut away two state rooms on each side and hauled her across the cabin. Before putting her in the water, passed the painter over the line which ran to the shore and back to the ring bolt, made a line fast to the same place to be used on shore and another on land to haul her backwards and forward. In this manner the boat was kept head to the sea. Notwithstanding all this care, a large boat capable of carrying 50 persons in ordinary weather, was nearly filled three or four times. By 3 o'clock P.M. we had all on shore safe, though many were frozen. Those frozen were Capt., feet, ear, and hands slightly; mate, feet and face; 2nd mate, both hands badly; one wheelsman, hand slightly; and three firemen, slightly; one wheelsman, considerably injured by being thrown over the wheel. The crew all behaved and did their duty like men, except two deckhands, Irishmen, who skulked and hid in the coal bunkers until the vessel struck.
      H. Van Allen
      Late Master of the steamboat MAY FLOWER
      Buffalo Morning Express
      December 23, 1851
      . . . . .

MAYFLOWER. -- The MAYFLOWER has been righted up and her hull found uninjured. She will be out as good as new by the first if April, and take her place in the North Shore Line.
      Buffalo Daily Republic
      Saturday, February 7, 1852
     


Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Notes:
Reason: aground
Lives: nil
Hull damage: $50,000
Remarks: Got off
Date of Original:
1851
Subject(s):
Local identifier:
McN.W.9730
Language of Item:
English
Geographic Coverage:
  • Pennsylvania, United States
    Latitude: 42.12922 Longitude: -80.08506
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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Mayflower (Steamboat), aground, 16 Dec 1851