The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Erie (Steamboat), steam pipe burst, 4 Aug 1840

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Explosion on the ERIE and Loss of Life.--By passengers who came down on the GREAT WESTERN this morning, we learn that while the Steamboat ERIE from Buffalo was passing up the Detroit River yesterday, one of her steam pipes exploded, by which some four or five of the hands on board were severely scalded. A Mr. Beaubion, of Malden, U.C., a passenger on the boat, was so frightened in the confusion of the moment that he jumped overboard and was drowned. We understand Mr. Beaubion was out of danger, but in his fright attempted to drag a lady overboard also. (part)
      Cleveland Daily Herald
      Wednesday, August 5, 1840 p.2 col.1

      . . . . .

      POSTSCRIPT. --STEAMBOAT DISASTER. -- After part of our edition was worked off, we received the painful news by passengers in the GREAT WESTERN, that on Tuesday last about 12 o'clock, M., in Detroit River, near the mouth, the steamboat ERIE burst one of her connecting pipes, by which seven persons were badly scalded, one of whom jumped overboard and was drowned, and three others died before the GREAT WESTERN left. The other three were not expected to live. They were all hands employed on the boat, and we have not learned their names. Particulars next week.
      Erie Gazette
      August 6, 1840

      . . . . .

      One of these unfortunate occurrences, hitherto almost unknown on our lakes took place at 11:30 Tuesday morning on board the ERIE, Capt. Titus. When ascending the Detroit River about 3 miles below Maiden, the steam chimney, one letter we have, says steam chamber, burst by which 6 persons were scalded. Of these 4 belonged the crew of the boat. Their names are furnished by a correspondent are:
      Wm. Dely - fireman - slightly scalded
      Charles Hamborlin - do. - not dangerously
      Edward Erwin - deck hand - dangerously
      Timothy Buckley - do. - do.
      Andrew Looney, a resident of Fort Cratiot, badly scalded. James Corey of Huffalo, deck passenger, has a family here also badly scalded. The GREAT WESTERN, Capt. Walker, coming down met the ERLE soon after the accident, riding at anchor in the stream, her colors at half mast, union down. Capt. W. ran alongside, and having learned the nature of the accident, turned about and took the ERIE in tow. A passenger on board the GREAT WESTERN informs us that the scalded men presented a horrible appearance. Part of their bodies looked liked boiled meat, their faces blackened by the soot of the pipe, their eyes scalded, their hair crisp and dry as is dead, and their mouths raw and bloody. All those injured were in the hold, and the pipe burst in such a way as to force the steam down upon them. One man had the presence of mind to throw himself instantly flat on the face, and the greater portion of the steam passed over him without doing essential injury. Another sprung up and jumped overboard, he was rescued, and found to be slightly scalded.
      Mr. Baby, Sherif of the Western District, U. C. was sitting on the promenade deck in conversation with his niece, he heard the explosion, and exclaimed, "my God Eliza, we are lost," attempted to throw her overboard. A person near by caught her by the arm, and Baby, in the cosacy of his fear, jumped overboard himself. He sank before assistance could be rendered him. One of the scalded men, Looney, died before our informant left the boat, and another was thought to be dying.
      The highest praise is awarded Capt. Walker, for his promptness and kindness. He towed the ERIE up the river until her met the MILlWAUKIE, which had been dispatched from Detroit for the purpose ol rendering assistance, and then reluctantly resumed his course so unhappily interrupted.
      Mr. H. R. Williams, of this city, in a letter he was kind enough to send to me says, "No blame can possibly be attached to the Engineer, Mr. Edgar Clements, or any of the Officers of the boat. A few minutes before the explosion took place, I noticed we were only carrying 10 or 20 inches of steam. Mr. A. B. Hinsdale of Elgin, Illinois, looked at the gauge after I did, and be says it ranged from 19 to 20. The Engineer was at his post and his escape unhurt is truly wonderful. The passengers, while they lament the accident, do not attach the least censure to the officer of the boat."
      Our readers may remember an article on the subject of steamboat explosions, published in this paper 2 or 3 months ago. In that article we pointed out some of the causes of explosions, and showed how they might occur when the gauge indicated but a small and safe amount of steam. The explosion on board the ERIE is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of the views then thrown out. The bursting of a boiler is a very rare occurrence, the danger to be apprehended of from the steam in the pipes. The steam may be, and often is heated so as to make the pressure enormous, when the gauge will show but 18 or 20 inches. The tenacity of iron or other metals, it is well known, is greatly lessened by extreme heat and hence an explosion, fatal as in the present case, takes place when all are lulled into a feeling of entire safety. The letter addressed to the Hon. Daniel Webster on this subject should be carefully studied by every engineer. (2-1)
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      August 6, 1840

      The MILWAUKIE is in from Detroit, bringing papers of Wednesday morning. A post script in the Advertiser gives an account of the explosion but no particulars in addition to what we have published yesterday. We learn verbally however, from passengers that 4 of the scalded men died before the MILWAUKIE left. ( 2-2 )
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      August 7, 1840

      We have been informed that Capt. Titus, master of the ERIE, was not on board at the time of the late explosion. The boat was in charge of the mate. (2-1)
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      August 7, 1840

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Reason: steam pipe burst
Lives: 2
Remarks: Repaired
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 42.081944 Longitude: -83.125555
William R. McNeil
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Erie (Steamboat), steam pipe burst, 4 Aug 1840