The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
St. Catharines Journal (St. Catharines, ON), November 24, 1842

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Steam Boat Vermillion Burned

The steam boat Vermillion, Capt. Brundage, was burned at the Huron pier, about 1 o'clock on Sunday morning, the 6th instant. The following statement touching the melancholy catastrophe, has been furnished us for publication:

Huron, November 6, 1842

The undersigned, being a committee appointed by the citizens of Huron, to take measures to relieve the distress of the sufferers, and make arrangements for the decent interment of the dead, in the unfortunate burning of the steam boat Vermillion, which took place at our port, this morning, report the following facts as having come to our knowledge, by the report of others, and from personal observation.

The Vermillion, Capt. Brundage, arrived here, from Detroit, this morning, about 1 o'clock, and stopped at the end of the pier, near the light house. Among the freight they were taking on, was a can of turpentine, which, by some means, was turned out and spread over the deck, and coming in contact with the chimney, took fire, and in a moment the boat was on fire, from stem to stern. The passengers, some forty of fifty in number, were asleep in their berths. They were soon aroused, but before they could get onto the pier, the fastenings of the boat were burned off, and the boat drifted out into the lake. Her boats were soon lowered. One immediately swamped - the other was the means of saving many lives - but others were doomed, some to a watery grave, and others given to a prey to the devouring element.

The following are known to be lost. The body of one man has been found, his name supposed to be (from his papers) Alexander Robinson, Captain or Mate of the schooner Ohio. He is supposed to have had a wife on board, who was also drowned. The body of Mrs. Charles Hoskins, of Kingston, Canada, has also been found. Her husband is among the living. He saved himself by swimming to the dock, after being separated from his wife, by some one seizing him around the body and dragging him under. The cabin maid is known to be lost, probably burned to death. The clothing of a man is found, and from the papers in the pockets, supposed to belong to Herman Ely, of Rochester, N.Y.. The above are all that are known to have perished; it is to be feared that others have perished, whose names will not be known until their places shall be found vacant among their friends.

The following are known to be among the living:
Wm. B. Clark, South Lansing, Thompkins County, N.Y.
Mrs. Edward Clark and two daughters, do.
A. Duff, Malden, Canada
Mr. Wm. Watkins, Leroy, N.Y.
Mr. Charles Hoskins, Canada
Miss Hannah Torry, New Hartford, N.Y.
Miss A.T. Smith, New York city
Mr. R.B. Carhart, Bloomfield, Michigan
Mr. Hampton E. Field, Troy, N.Y.
Mr. Henry Grinnell, Bloomfield, Michigan
Master Ephraim Barrows, do., do.
Dr. A.T. Boardman, and son, White Pigeon, Michigan
Mr. N.S. Godfrey, Batavia, N.Y.

We are not able to give the names of all those known to be living, as some went down on the steam boat Com. Perry, that was in about sunrise; how many, is not known.

The officers and crew of the boat are all saved, and it is no more than justice to say, that they conducted themselves with the great firmness and presence of mind, and were the last to leave th boat. Capt. Brundage rushed into the hottest of the flames and rescued a female from certain destruction.

The steam boat Chicago rendered timely assistance, and saved several that were drowning, and also towed the sinking boat into the river, where she rests on the bottom, a perfect wreck, except the engine, which will be saved. Her principal cargo consisted of 8 or 900 bbls. of flour, which will be nearly a total loss.

Our citizens have showed a becoming zeal in saving the lives of the passengers, and their property, as well as that of the boat, and are now engaged in raking the bottom for the bodies of the other unfortunates and fitting the dead for interment, and relieving the wants of the living. The effects are in the hands of J. Tracy, and will be faithfully kept for the friends of the deceased, or the survivors.

J. Tracy,
J. Fluharty,
J.B. Wilbor,
J.W. Wickman,
Tower Jackson

Mr. Ely, supposed to have been lost, was saved, and came down in the Perry. Mr. Robinson, mate of the schr. Ohio, we learn, was but recently married, in Michigan. His lady was on board the Vermillion, and is no doubt lost. At our latest intelligence from Huron, the loss of four lives was certainly known. Probably the other bodies will be found.

We learn from Mr. Robinson, clerk of the Great Western, who was on board the Vermillion at the time the catastrophe occurred, that the lake was calm, and but a very slight breeze prevailed from land. Still the spread of the flames through the boat was instantaneous, and the only passage from the boat to the pier, was by the forward gangway. From this the cabin passengers were cut off by the flames. Some leaped overboard, and others were taken off by the yawl. One many, who could not swim, clung to the burning wreck, in the water, for more than half an hour, before discovered and taken off. The passengers who escaped, saved nothing, but their night clothes. The books and papers belonging to the boat, are all destroyed.

The turpentine, which caused the fire, was in a retail can, and formed part of a lot of oils, &c., the hands were taking on board. The plank from the pier to the gangway, was very steep and by some mischance or carelessness the can of turpentine was upset while being passed down it. The contents ran directly upon the fire below, and instantly the flames burst forth with uncontrollable fury.

The Vermillion was a good boat, and worth about $50,000. Principal owners, Messrs. Gelston & Evans, Buffalo. No insurance, probably. The Vermillion is the fourth boat burned on Lake Erie. The others were at the Washington Week In Review. The Vermillion is the fourth boat burned on Lake Erie. The others were the Washington, Great Western, and Erie. - Cleve. Her.

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November 24, 1842
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Peter Warwick
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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St. Catharines Journal (St. Catharines, ON), November 24, 1842