The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Rochester Daily Democrat (Rochester, NY), Thursday, April 20, 1848

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Loss of the Steamer Niagara

The splendid Steamer Niagara, Capt. R.F. Childs, was wrecked near the mouth of the Genesee River, on Tuesday evening, in one of the hardest gales for a long time experienced on Lake Ontario. She lost her rudder about three o'clock P.M. of Tuesday, when six miles from port. Capt. Childs then raised the jib and endeavored to steer by the small tiller, but the wind being very strong and the sea heavy, he could not make the piers. He then turned her again into the lake and again failed. This was three times repeated without success, when the smoke-pipe gave way. The utmost confusion and consternation now prevailed among the passengers, about seventy in number, many supposing the boilers had burst. In the midst of the fearful scene, Capt. Childs proceeded to give the proper directions for the management of the boat, with the utmost coolness and deliberation. All the fire on board was immediately quenched, and he succeeded in producing order, and some degree of calmness among the passengers, by assuring them that he would SEE THEM ALL SAFELY ASHORE!

The vessel was now at the mercy of the waves. She floated towards the shore, rolling to and fro, and every few minutes shipping a heavy sea. She soon had two or three depth of water in the lower cabin. As soon as she came to water six or eight fathoms deep, the anchors were thrown over. She rode the sea for about an hour, but the storm increasing in violence, she began to drag her anchors, and between eight and nine o'clock in the evening, she grounded within twenty or thirty rods of the shore.

The waves were beating with terrific fury against the steamer, and the small boats could not be passed to the shore. The night was thus passed in the most dreadful suspense - escape or assistance until morning being impossible, and the boat liable at any moment to go to pieces. She was thrown about and constantly striking, which kept the passengers, many of them females, in a state of alarm and confusion.

At nine o'clock, Wednesday morning, the effort to send a boat to the shore was successful. A strong rope was then secured ashore, a small boat was fastened to it by a noose, and by this means all the passengers and their baggage, the latter in a wet and damaged condition, were conveyed safely from their perilous condition to the shore. The work was long and tedious, as only four or five could be carried at a time; but the Captain and crew labored with an energy and coolness worthy of all praise. And well were they rewarded. They have saved the lives of seventy-five passengers, who testified their gratitude and obligations to Capt. Childs in the most warm-hearted and enthusiastic expressions of admiration for his conduct. The scene was one of deep feeling and interest, and will not soon be forgotten by those who witnessed it.

The noble steamer lies broadside upon the shore, about half a mile above the piers. When we last heard from the spot, the wind was still blowing in all its fury, and the boat fast becoming a wreck. It is as yet impossible to tell how much of her machinery, &c., may be saved, but it is likely the loss to her owners will be from thirty to forty thousand dollars. She was an excellent boat, and under the command of Captain Childs, had attained a reputation second to no other on the lake. The Niagara was owned by persons in Oswego, Utica, &c. There was no insurance. We learn that Capt. Van Cleve, of the Cataract, will be here to-day from Oswego, with the necessary machinery for raising the wrecked boat and towing her to Oswego, if she is found to be in a condition to render it practicable.

While we deplore the calamity to her owners and commander, they have cause to rejoice that not a single life was lost in this dreadful storm. The passengers, after landing, were kindly and hospitably received at the house of Mr. Geo. C. Latta, near whose residence the disaster took place.

At a meeting of the passengers of the Niagara, on Wednesday morning, on board the boat, James Stirling, Esq., being appointed Chairman, and O.D. Freeman, Esq., Secretary, it was unanimously - Resolved, That a committee of five persons be appointed to draw up and publish a testimonial of their gratitude and respect to Capt. Childs, and his officers and men, for their successful exertions in saving the lives of all on board, during the very severe gale and storm which took place on Tuesday, the 18th of April, 1848, on their passage from Oswego to Rochester.

The undersigned committee, in pursuance of the said resolution, beg leave to express through the columns of your paper, for themselves and in behalf of the said passengers, to Capt. Childs, all his officers and men - without exception - their grateful acknowledgments for their exertions in the hour of danger, the boat having been deprived of her rudder, and her smoke pipe having been carried away by the gale, in consequence of which she was deprived of steam, rendered unmanageable, and drifted on shore and stranded one mile west from the Genesee River. It is owing to the superior skill and coolness displayed by the Captain, and by the intrepidity and perseverance manifested by the officers and men, that the lived of all on board were saved.

The undersigned tender to Capt. Childs their unfeigned gratitude, with their best wishes for his health, prosperity, and a long life of future usefulness in his vocation.

(Signed) C. Durfee, Rochester
E.W. White, Morristown
E. Howard
Luther Griswold, Lyme
Thos. Ellis, Cleveland
Capt. Matthewson, Pulaski,
O.D. Freeman, Secretary.

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Thursday, April 20, 1848
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Richard Palmer
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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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Rochester Daily Democrat (Rochester, NY), Thursday, April 20, 1848