The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
United States (Steamboat), aground, 28 May 1836

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      During the very dense fog which shrouded the lake on Saturday morning, the steamboat UNITED STATES, which left this harbor on Friday evening last, for Detroit, when about four miles above Portland, struck upon a sunken rock known by the cognomen of the "nigger head," which stove in her bottom, and caused her rapidly to sink. There was a large cargo on board, and a great number of passengers, comprising many ladies and gentlemen from this city, the whole of whom, with the crew and cargo were safely landed on the beach. A part of the passengers proceeded directly by land to Erie, the remainder were taken off by
the steamboat COMMODORE PERRY. The goods landed on the beach, it is hoped, wil
be removed with little injury, provided it be done ere any gale arises on the Lake. The UNITED STATES is a well built vessel, and it is hoped will be got of without the anticipated damage, but that will depend in a great measure on the continuance of calm weather.
      The steamboat WILLIAM PENN, also went on shore, about the same time, a few miles below Erie; being an old vessel, it is feared she will become a total wreck. When the THOMAS JEFFERSON, bound for this port, passed yesterday, the passengers had mostly gone ashore. As far as we have yet been able to learn, no lives have been lost in either case.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Monday, May 30, 1836 p.2, c.3

      . . . . .

      UNITED STATES Steamer, This well known boat, we regret to say, ran aground and sunk, and is probably a total wreck, about 20 miles East of Erie, on Friday last. She had about 600 passengers, and a great amount of freight. Most fortunately she had in tow a large river boat, destined for one of the upper rivers, in which the passengers with their baggage, were conveyed to the shore; otherwise, the situation of the passengers would have been perilous, and the goods must be entirely lost. The UNITED STATES sunk in about 10 feet of water. A friend who was a passenger, and from whom we have these particulars supposes there must have been at least $100,000 worth of goods on board, sunk with the boat. The fate of the vessel is not certainly known; but there is little doubt of her entire loss.
      We should be glad to say that no blame is attached to any one for this misfortune. It is not so represented to us. - Daily Gazette
      Cleveland Weekly Advertiser
      Thursday, June 2, 1836

      . . . . .

      We have much pleasure in announcing that the Steam boat accidents during the fog on Lake Erie, have been less extensive than was a first anticipated; the WILLIAM PENN having been got off, has resumed her voyage. The UNITED STATES had been, after lightening her loading, equally fortunate, and is now under repair in our harbor. We hope shortly to intimate that she is again in active operation.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Wednesday, June 1, 1836 p.2, c.2

      . . . . .

STEAMBOAT ACCIDENTS. -- The steamboat UNITED STATES which left Buffalo on Friday evening for the Upper Lakes, struck upon a rock in a fog on Saturday morning, about four miles above Portland Harbor, and sunk in about eight feet water. The passengers, an unusually large number of whom were on board, the crew and the cargo, were with some difficulty safely landed on the beach. By the unwearied exertion of capt. Hart, and his crew, she has since been raised, and, on Tuesday evening, arrived in Buffalo in tow of the NORTH AMERICA. She will be able to resume her trips in about ten days.
The steamboat WILLIAM PENN went on shore the same morning a Few miles below Erie, but fortunately got off the same day without material damage.
      Black Rock Advocate
      June 2, 1836, p. 3, c, 1

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: aground
Lives: nil
Freight: goods, passengers
Remarks: Got off
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Pennsylvania, United States
    Latitude: 42.12922 Longitude: -80.08506
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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United States (Steamboat), aground, 28 May 1836