The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Colorado (Propeller), U4267, exploded boiler, 29 Sep 1883

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Buffalo, N.Y., Sept. 30. -- Thousands of people visited the wreck of the propeller COLORADO today which burst her boiler about six miles out last night.
      The wrecked propeller belonged to the Commercial Line, and was one of those about which there have been so much litigation recently in the Holt-Ensign suits. She was built in 1860. She carried two boilers with a compound engine. It was the boiler on the starboard side that burst.
      The vessel was valued at between $50,000 and $60,000, and is insured for $50,000. This does not cover the loss by explosion. The cargo was a mixed one. It is not considered to be injured much.
      The bodies of two missing men have not been found yet. It is believed they were blown to atoms and into the lake. The boiler turned a complete somersault and landed fifty feet distant in the stern of the boat. The missing are David Ellis, porter, of Buffalo, and James Farrell, deck-hand, of Chicago.
      Killed -- Henry Allen, greaser, of Buffalo.
      Injured and Scalded -- Thomas Lovett, First Engineer.
      Alexander Rush, second engineer.
      Henry Ackert, deck-hand [probably fatal].
      Patrick Rouser, deck-hand, of Buffalo.
      Fred Smith, deck-hand, of Williamsport, Pa.
      Christian Rudolph, deck-hand, of Buffalo.
      John Morgan, fireman, of Buffalo [seriously scalded]
      The mate, W.H. Cobat, is slightly injured about the head. All injured are improving with the exception of Henry Ackert.
      J.W. Hall Great Lakes Marine Scrapbook, September, 1883

      The Buffalo Courier of the 29th. September, gives the following account of the explosion of one of the boilers of the steamer COLORADO, of the Commercial Line of Propellers.:
      About 8 o'clock last night a loud report was heard in the section of the city lying near the foot of Erie Street and along the lake shore. Capt. Mallon of the Tug J.B. GRIFFIN, which was out in the lake, not only heard the report, but saw the cause of it. Only a quarter of a mile from him the Commercial Line propeller COLORADO, Captain C.M. Fellows, had exploded her starboard boiler, and, as it proved, with disastrous results. The GRIFFIN at once put to the steamers assistance, and summoning help, the tug G.R. HAND responded. The two tugs towed the COLORADO into the Colt slip, and the R.F. GOODMAN assisted in getting her alongside the old Western Transportation Company wharf. The Tug DORR was sent to notify the police and call physicians. Doctors Halbert; Daggett, McBeth and Potter were soon on the boat, and their services were sadly needed. It was found that several lives had been lost and nine men injured, some of them terribly. James Farr, one of the deck hands who shipped at Chicago on the boat last down trip, was also missing, Henry Allen, was so terribly scalded and injured that he died just after being removed from the steamer and while being placed in an ambulance. Thomas Lovett, first engineer, and Alexander Rushlow, second engineer, who were in the engine room, were badly scalded and bruised, Patrick Rancer, Henry Ackert, Fredrick Smith, and Christian Rudolph, were severly burned and bruised. Rancer was frightfully scalded about the head and chest, and moaned piteously. John Morgan, the fireman on duty at the time of the disaster, was hurt in the back, but not seriously The scene in the cabin of the COLORADO, with the injured men lying and sitting in different positions, was sickening. The faces of all were charred and balckened, and from some clothing had been torn and their bodies plainly showed the effect of scalding water. The police and others rendered good assistance in carrying the poor fellows off the boat.
The deck hands were on the upper deck when the explosion occurred, and were engaged in hauling up the fenders. The force of the concussion was upwards, and hence these men were injured more than if they had been below. In the dark and confusion it was impossible to discover just how badly the boat had been damaged. It was apparent, however that her upper works aft of the cabin had been completely demolished. Her hull was thought to be little damaged, as she was not leaking.
The COLORADO left Lackawanna dock at about 7:30 o'clock, laden with merchandise for Chicago. The explosion occurred a half hour later, while some miles out. Her crew consisted of twenty-two men. She was built in this city in 1867 by Mason & Bidwell, but has received considerable repairs since, and was in good condition with a rating of A 2. She carried two boilers, which have been kept in repair and are believed to have been in a safe condition when the fatal disaster occurred. She had a carrying capacity of about 1,400 tons, and had latterly been running in connection with the Lackawanna railroad between this port and Chicago.
John Morgan, the fireman, while he was waiting to receive attention at the hospital. When asked what he knew about the explosion, he said that before leaving port considerable trouble had been experienced by steam escaping from the government valve of the starboard boiler, the weight being too light. Lovett, the first engineer, and his greaser were, he declared, under the influence of liquor. After getting outside Lovett ordered Morgan to rake down his fires, but after he had done so wanted to know what he had done so for, at the same time directing him to at once freshen the fire and get on a full head of steam. The boiler was then carrying fifty eight pounds. Lovett and his greaser then undertook to adjust the trouble with the valve, but without accomplishing anything. The explosion occurred while they were working with the valve. They were up over the boiler and it is remarkable that they did not meet with instant death. Morgan, as previously stated, was hurled against the bulkhead.
This statement of Morgan is given for what it is worth. His charge against the engineer is a serious one, and not to be accepted as true until all parties interested are heard and the case investigated.
The COLORADO was built in 1860, carried two boilers with a compound engine and was valued at between $50,000 and $60,000. Insured for $50,000. This does not cover loss by explosion. - Buffalo Report. (partly condensed)
      Marine Record
      Oct. 4, 1883

Steam screw COLORADO. U. S. No. 4267. Of 1470.55 gross tons; 1321.78 tons net. Built Buffalo, N.Y., 1867. Home port, Buffalo, N.Y. 254.6 x 35.0 x 13.0.
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1885

NOTE :- Built 1867 not 1860

Media Type:
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Reason: exploded boiler
Lives: 3
Freight: merchandise
Remarks: Damaged
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Geographic Coverage:
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 42.88645 Longitude: -78.87837
William R. McNeil
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Colorado (Propeller), U4267, exploded boiler, 29 Sep 1883