The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Bavarian (Steamboat), fire, 5 Nov 1873


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Bowmanville, Nov. 5. -- A steamer was seen to be on fire about four miles west or Port Darlington, about eight o'clock tonight, and continued to burn until the vessel was apparently consumed. The burned hulk drifted out in the lake with the wind off shore. No particulars of the disaster have been received, but all available boats at this port have gone to the rescue. A tug was seen going from Newcastle to the burning steamer.
      Toronto Mail
      Thursday, November 6, 1873
     
      . . . . .
     
      BURNING OF THE " BAVARIAN " ON LAKE ONTARIO
      -------------------------------------------
      FOURTEEN LIVES LOST
      Three Women And Eleven Men Hurried To Eternity
      Our reporter, who chanced to be on the train from the east which arrived in Toronto yesterday morning, travelled to this city with two survivors from one of the most frightful disasters that have yet marked the history of our Inland Marine. It appears that the steamer BAVARIAN, an iron boat of the Canadian Navigation Company's line, left this port at the usual hour on Wednesday afternoon bound down the lake for Montreal. There were six passengers only on board, a fact attributable to the lateness of the season and the recent inclemency of the weather. Had the accident which befel her occurred at a time when hundreds of passengers travelling between the Falls and Quebec adopt this popular route via the Thousand Islands and the St. Lawrence rapids, the story we have to sketch would have been a tale of a yet more teeming hecatomb ablaze within sight of the shore.
      The crew consisted of Captain Carmichael; John Henderson, first mate; Charles Bradley, second mate; L.A. McPherson, Purser, and twenty six men. Up till 8 o'clock when the steamer was about opposite Oshawa, all went well. There was no high wind, and what there was came from the north, from the land side. The water was a little lumpy, but nothing that a person accustomed to aquatic persuits or amusements would term rough. The mate was in charge, pacing the hurricane deck. The ladies were in the forward saloon and the crew occupied between decks in various ways. On a sudden the cry of F I R E was heard, and
instantaneously, as though the lightning had struck her, the BAVARIAN was wreathed in flames. There were three boats in the davits, one of which was immediately lowered by the pilot, who, with eight of the crew, jumped aboard of her, and pulled off. The second boat was pushed overboard, filled, and swamped The fire fiend was behind and a third was pitched over in the same reckless fashion, and though dipping considerably she righted, and into her got the first mate, and a dozen others. But the plug was out, and some precious moments
passed with the water gaining on those in the boat, when Henderson found the plug and eventually the place in which it fitted. Two hats were brought into play and vigerous efforts made to lessen the water. Meanwhile, floating on a plank, and with a life preserver around him the captain was seen paddling towards the boat, and was requested to wait a moment, till the water was got under; but a boy who had scrambled on to the same plank clambered into the mate's boat; and the captain shoved off, apparently with the intention of making
for the pilot's boat; which was the last seen of him.
      That there was any stampede, or rush, such as might destroy the chance of discipline being enforced, or of the ordinary characteristics of manhood being brought into play does not appear. The number of persons were so limited, the night so comparatively fine, with the moon shining in a clear frosty sky, and the water little more than ruffled by the breeze, that the tragic end which has befallen fourteen persons, including three lady passengers, appears incredible.
The circumstances were all in favor of every life being saved; and once more we pause to think what would have been the result had that cruel fire broken out on an August evening.
      The ladies who were passengers on the ill-fated vessel were Mrs. Sibbald and daughter, of Brockville and Miss Ireland, of Kingston, all lost. The only other woman on board was the stewardess, and she escaped in the mate's boat. The three male passengers were Mr. Hilltar Weir, of Chatham; Mr. J.J. Parmenter, of Toronto, and a young boy named James Clair, who was on his way to Montreal. His parents reside in Manitoba, and the boy was going to join friends of theirs at Montreal, is a pupil at Trinity School, Port Hope. The poor little fellow had very narrow escape, for which he is chiefly endebted to the Purser. Mr. Weir is not among the passengers saved. The ladies being in the forward cabin, would be
sure to run to the bows, for the fire broke out amidships, and probably arose from the bursting of the steam chest. The boats were at the stern, and they were therefore seperated from the means of escape. When last seen they were huddled together on the forecastle. Our informant declares that he heard neither shreik nor scream from first to last. There was no panic. Those in the mate's boat had all they could do to save themselves and keep the boat afloat.
      Why, the pilot, a Frenchman named Napoleon and his eight messmates, in a boat capable of holding thrice that number, were unable to render assistance, to paddle around the burning wreck and save those who jumped into the water, we cannot say. We presume that the question will have to be answered before a tribunal of competant jurisdiction and pending an official enquiry into the facts we have no wish to pronounce upon the conduct of these man. We are loth to believe that they were such inhuman brutes as to turn their backs on the scene of the disaster while yet a chance remained of their picking up a human creature. The captain; the engineer, Wm. Finucan; the steward, Wm. Spence; Mr. Weir, and seven other men are believed to have perished.
      About two hours after the boats pulled away from the burning wreck assistance was seen to be coming from Bowmanville. One of the boats reached Oshawa about an hour after midnight, and the other landed a couple of miles lower down, the pilot's boat having two oars, and the mate's three to propel her. Our informant declares that he thought that less than five minutes elapse between the first discovery of fire, and the two boats being on the water laden with those who reached the shore. The mate's cheek was burned and the boat he
was in was scorched; so fierce was the progress of the flames.
      The BAVARIAN was a new paddle steamer, well found in all respects and only launched on the 1st. of July last. Her hull was the hull of the KINGSTON, which it will be remembered was burnt, and Captain Carmichael, who was then in command of Mr. Hamilton's boat, earned great credit for his daring behaviour on that occasion. Her cargo consisted of mainly 1,300 bushels of apples, and about 50 tons of bacon. Captain Carmichael was well known on the lakes, having sailed in the CHAMPION and KINGSTON for many years, and more recently on the CORINTHIAN and PASSPORT. In conclusion, we have only to hope that the present awful occurrence may act as a warning to this and other companies; that they will practise their crews in the act of lowering boats and manning them, and will enforce on their officers the great nesessity of preserving dicipline when recourse to the boats is the only means of safety at hand.
      The meloncholy accident chronicled today will carry grief and misery into many a home; but judging from the circumstances narrated, there seems a certainty that had the accident occurred to a crowded steamer, such as any summer afternoon may be seen leaving the wharf at the foot of Yonge Street, the number saved would have been no more than it was on Wednesday night. The upper works of the late steamer presents a prey for the flames, only equalled by a mansard roof such as now-a-days tops every roof nearly in Toronto. Once kindled, the flames would diubtless spread with great rapidity, the light vernished mouldings and slender partitions acting as so many conductors of the devouring elements.
      Of all imaginable horrors a fire at sea has long done the poet duty for the most terrible. It is a crisis when humanity is on it's trial; and whence a man may emerge, branded a chicken-hearted caitiff, or stamped a hero, unselfish and undaunted. The mate Henderson, in the case before us, we believe, did everything in his power, and endeavoured to keep the other boat about the wreck. Sauve QuiPeut ! was not his cry. His hands were full, and his heart in the right place. Self-preservation is undoubtedly an instinct; but was there nobody in the moment of danger to spare a thought for those three helpless shivering women, when we picture in our minds, leaping into the icy lake as the fire-fiend laved the last plank of their refuge ? Poor things ! A lily livered wretch was he who could pull away from that feiry furnace till all was still, and only black iron ribs stood up to mark the charred sepulchre of theburnt and drowned.
      The smoking hull was towed into Whitby by a tug from Newcastle, and when we last heard of her the steam fire engine of the town was playing on the wreck with a view of extinguishing the last remnants of the fire.
      The Toronto Mail
      Friday, November 7, 1873

      . . . . .

      THE " B A V A R I A N "
      Inspection Of The Wreck - The Cause Of The Disaster Ascertained.
      Captain Howard, General Superintendent of the Canadian Inland Navigation Company, returned from Whitby last night where he made a thorough examination, taken in conjunction with the statements of some of those who were on board the ill-fated vessel, leads us to the conclusion that the burning of the steamer was due to the breaking of the walking-beam. To understand how a mishap of this nature could lead to the dire calamity which followed, it is necessary to make few explanations as to the position of the machinery, and a portion of the cargo. The BAVARIAN was a side wheel steamer, with a walking beam above the hurricane deck, and the beam was reversed so that the connecting rod worked in front and the piston behind. On the main deck were stored 25 barrels of spirits. The accident occurred in this manner: - From some unexplained cause the main center of the walking beam broke, was thrown forward and carried with it a portion of the connecting rod. This heavy mass of iron was precipitated through the saloon to the main deck and fell among the barrels of spirits. The barrels were broken open, their contents ran down into the boiler room in the hold, comminicated with the furnaces and immediately the vessel was enveloped in the blue flames of the burning liquid.
By the breaking of the walking beam the piston head was driven through the cylinder and the steam was thus allowed to escape.
      Captain Howard speaks in the highest terms of the mate's conduct Mr. Henderson, of Charlotte. He did everything in his power for the rescue of the passengers and crew, but the great rapidity with which the flames spread prevented him or anyone else remaining on the boat. It was under his orders that the first boat was launched, and Captain Howard states that all the passengers would, in all probability, have been saved had it not been for the injuman conduct of the pilot who was placed in charge of this boat. The mate ordered nine men into the boat under the pilot, and told them to stand by while he endeavoured to fill her with the full complement, namely 25. Instead of standing by, however, the pilot ordered the men to pull off, and this he did in the face of the mate, who appealed to him, as strongly as he knew how, to remain. The Company have determined to give the pilot the full benefit of the law, and proceedings have already been instituted with that object in view.
      The BAVARIAN was valued at $100,000, and was insured for $60,000, all of which is in American offices, except $5,000, which is held by the Citizens Company of Montreal. The engines and the hull are very much damaged, and will be of little value. The hull will be taken to Montreal about the end of next week, and during the winter will be rebuilt.
      The Toronto Mail
      Saturday, November 8, 1873

      . . . . .

The stm. BAVARIAN, Capt. Carmichael was injured last evening about 4 miles off port Darlington, on Lake Ontatio, and 14 lives are reported lost, including the captain. The BAVARIAN belongs to the Royal Mail Line, running between Hamilton and Montreal. The dispatch came from F.A. Ball, Manager of the British American Assurance Co. at Toronto, to L.B. Fortier.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      November 6, 1873 3-5

      . . . . .

      Oshawa, Nov. 17 - The iron hull of the ill-fated BAVARIAN left this port this afternoon for Montreal, in tow of the tug EMMA MUNSON, with the steamer NORSEMAN as consort. The NORSEMAN accompanied the tug on account of the storm
      The Toronto Mail
      Tuesday, November 18, 1873

      . . . . .

The hull of the stm. BAVARIAN arrived at Kingston Wednesday, and was visited by a large number of persons. It will probably remain there for the winter.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      November 21, 1873 3-6

      . . . . .

      THE "BAVARIAN" DISASTER - The body of the late Captain Carmichael who was drowned at the time of the BAVARIAN disaster, arrived here last night by train, in charge of Captain Thomas Leach and Mr. Donald Milloy, who volunteered to his widow to bring his remains from Oak Orchard, N.Y. The body was kindly cared for by the American authorities, and all papers and valuables handed over to the above
gentlemen.
      The Toronto Mail
      Friday, December 12, 1873

      . . . . .

The body of William Finucane, first engineer o the stm. BAVARIAN, burned on Lake Ontario, Nov. 5th, was washed ashore at Kendall, Orleans County, on Friday last. A life preserver was attached to the body, on which the name of that boat was marked. A letter from his wife, dated Trooptown, June 16, 1873, and 2 bills of goods purchased in Montreal by Wm. Finucane were in the pocket of the outer clthing.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      December 17, 1873 3-2
      . . . . .


Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Notes:
Reason: fire
Lives: 14
Freight: produce, spirits
Remarks: Rebuilt as ALGERIAN
Date of Original:
1873
Subject(s):
Local identifier:
McN.W.15096
Language of Item:
English
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.8675 Longitude: -78.825555
Donor:
William R. McNeil
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Bavarian (Steamboat), fire, 5 Nov 1873