The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
St. Clair (Schooner), C90523, collision, 18 May 1879

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The Western Transportation Company's propeller VANDERBILT, Capt. Frank Williams, collided with the Canadian schooner ST. CLAIR at 10 o'clock on Sunday night, off Bar Point lightship. The ST. CLAIR was badly damaged, and would have sunk but for the aid rendered by the tug PARKER, which came to her rescue with the schooner AZOF in tow, and took the half sunken vessel to Windsor. The statement of the Captain of the ST. CLAIR is to the effect that his schooner was sailing into the river Sunday night, with all her lights burning, and when nearing the mouth was run into by the VANDERBILT, at that time bound down. The schooner at once began to settle, and when the VANDERBILT was hailed the captain refused to render any assistance, and proceeded on his way without taking any notice of her.
The foregoing statement should, of course, be taken with many grains of allowance, as it is characteristic of vessels sustaining the damage, and particularly Canadian ones, to put a high coloring on their stories. We learn from Capt. Williams, of the VANDERBILT, and others that there was not a single light burning on the vessel and that the failure of the VANDERBILT to render aid was because she thought none necessary and could not give any under the circumstances. At the time of the collision the schooner was entering the Detroit River, going up, and the propeller coming down. When the vessels came together the VANDERBILT was struck on the bluff of the port bow and, the ST. CLAIR on her starboard rigging. Immediately after the collision someone on board the schooner called out that she was sinking, and then the vessel sheered off and steered away towards shoal water. As the channel was narrow and there were but fourteen or fifteen feet of water in it the VANDERBILT could not go to the aid of the vessel in any case, as she would have rendered herself liable to damage by getting out of the course; and even if the vessel had sunk she could not have gone down far under water, neither would there have been any danger of loss of life.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Wednesday, May 21, 1879

      . . . . .

The schooner ST. CLAIR which was injured by collision with the propeller VANDERBILT at the entrance to Detroit River on Sunday evening, was damaged considerably. Her master says a horse and cart could be driven through the schooner's side, and that had she been an old vessel the VANDERBILT would have gone clear through her. The ST. CLAIR is new, this being her first trip, and is a handsome schooner, worth about $7,000. The statement of Capt. MacAuley as to the language used at the time of the collision differs somewhat from that given by members of the crew, but he firmly asserts that his lights were all burning, and that the captain of the VANDERBILT acted as though he did not want to have the name of his boat known. The outgrowth of the affair will probably be a suit for damages, when all the facts will be brought out. Knowing Capt. Williams of the VANDERBILT, we are certain that he will be able to clear himself of all blame in the matter when the proper time arrives.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Thursday, May 22, 1879

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The Detroit Free Press says the result of the survey on the schooner ST. CLAIR, lately in collision with the propeller VANDERBILT, places her actual damages at $1,067.49 -- that is, exclusive of her towing bills, also incurred by the collision, and which will probably be at least another thousand dollars, and may be more. There is a difference of opinion as to some small items named in the survey, but not enough to make the above named amount but little out of the way.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Monday, May 26, 1879

      . . . . .

The repairs to the schooner ST. CLAIR lately injured by collision with the propeller VANDERBILT, in Detroit River, are now so well along that just what was necessary can be reported. She will have about 2,000 feet (board measure) of new plank put in her starboard side, where the breach was made, and twelve new ribs. A new jibboom has been put in, and she is being calked where necessary, which is about all over her hull.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Wednesday, May 28, 1879

      . . . . .

      The Detroit Free Press of yesterday says that Captain MacAuley, of the schooner ST. CLAIR, recently in collision with the propeller VANDERBILT in Detroit river has out a liable on the propeller for $3,700 and she will undoubtedly be seized within a few days. It is understood that the Buffalo Agents of the Line, to which the VANDERBILT belongs, have offered to settle by arbitration, but Capt. MacAuley is not in favor of that way.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Wednesday, May 28, 1879

      . . . . .

      The W. T. Company's propeller VANDERBILT was seized by United States Deputy Marshal at Detroit, on Monday evening, at the instance of the Captain of the schooner ST. CLAIR, which she collided with recently. The propeller was bonded in the sum of $3,760.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Wednesday, June 18, 1879

      . . . . .
Schooner St. CLAIR. Official Canada No. 90523. Of 101 tons reg. Built Picton, Ont., 1875. Home port, Chatham, Ont. 82.0 x 21.0 x 8.0 Owned by Jas. Lamont, of Chatham, Ont.
      List of Vessels on the Registry Books of the
      Dominion of Canada, on December 31, 1886

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: collision
Lives: nil
Hull damage: $3,700
Remarks: Repaired
Date of Original:
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Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 42.055277 Longitude: -83.116388
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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St. Clair (Schooner), C90523, collision, 18 May 1879