The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Montgomery (Propeller), U16467, fire, 10 Jun 1878

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Detroit, June 9. -- A special from Port Huron at a late hour to-night reports the propeller MONTGOMERY, with a full load of corn, burning. It is feared she is a total loss.
      Cleveland Herald
      June 10, 1878

      The propeller MONTGOMERY lying at the dock at Point Edward burned early this morning. The car-ferry INTERNATIONAL towed her out into the stream where she cast her off to drift. She finally was beached opposite Batchelor's Mill on the Canada side by the tugs CRUSADER and J.H. MARTIN. At 10 A. M. she was still burning. The MONTGOMERY is a barge-propeller of 1,104 tons register. She was built in 1856 and is owned by Capt. John Pridgeon. She was well loaded, having on board 29,000 bushels of corn, 320 barrels of flour, 540 barrels of cornmeal, 200 bags of timothy seed, and 111 bales of broom corn, besides other freight. Cause of the fire is unknown and nothing was saved except the Captain's books. There were no injuries. The spectacle presented by the burning vessel, as she drifted down the river, was grand and beautiful. The light was so brilliant that the entire city was illuminated, with all adjacent points on both sides of the river, and hundreds of people were out watching it.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Monday, June 10, 1878

The Free Correspondent at Port Huron sends the following account of the burning of the propeller MONTGOMERY:
      Port Huron, June 10. -- About midnight last night the propeller MONTGOMERY, of Pridgeon's Line, while lying at the Grand Trunk wharf at Point Edward, was discovered on fire amidships, and an effort was at once made to subdue the flames. It was evident at once that the attempt would prove futile, and she was taken in tow by the railroad ferry INTERNATIONAL and towed to the American side, landing against the bank above the water works. The crew managed to escape before she left the dock. The efforts of the INTERNATIONAL to force her on the bank so that a stream of water could be brought to bear upon her were without success, and the burning propeller started for the Canadian shore again, the wind being nearly north and keeping her in the channel. She drifted slowly and presented a magnificent sight. By the time the tug J.H. MARTIN got up steam and, joined by the CRUSADER, they both, by their united efforts, succeeded in forcing the burning propeller on the bank about two miles below Sarnia. The tugs O. WILCOX and BOB HACKETT were alongside this morning rendering what assistance they could, and subsequently the steamer SARNIA, with a steam fire-engine from this place went alongside and endeavored to subdue the flames, which by this time had burned her forward and aft, nearly to the water's edge, leaving a mere shell. The mass of corn meal, broom corn, flour and seed, which composed her deck load, was nearly all destroyed by the fire and water, but it served as a protection to the portion of her hull which contained her cargo of corn. The rescuers, concluding that they would be unable to put out the fire, put lines on board of her and towed her to the American shore where she was scuttled and sunk. The cargo of corn in her hold, or a portion of it, will doubtless be saved in a damaged condition. The fire originated in some broom corn stowed on deck, but in what manner is not known. The MONTGOMERY was built in Marine City in 1856 and was rebuilt in 1869. She was owned by Captain John Pridgeon, of Detroit and Capt. J.C. Nyman, of Chicago, who commanded her. The one-fourth interest held by the latter was insured, and Captain Pridgeon holds policies for $20,000 on his portion, in the following companies:
      Manhattan, of New York ..........$5,000
      Phoenix, of New York .............$5,000
      Providence, of Washington .......$2,500
      Security, of New haven ...........$2,500
      Lancaster, of Lancaster, Pa. .....$2,500
      Fireman's Fund, of San Francisco .. $2,500
Total ........................................................ $20,000
      Detroit Free Press
      June 11, 1878

The wreck of the MONTGOMERY was towed to this side of the river just below Avery's Mill. Whatever of her cargo is left will be taken off and sold. Her engines and boiler are valueless except for old iron because of the intense heat, and they are so badly warped and twisted.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Tuesday, June 11, 1878

      The cargo of the propeller MONTGOMERY, destroyed by fire Monday night, was made up of 20,000 bushels of corn, 850 barrels of flour, and 300 bags of Timothy seed, consigned to the following parties at Chicago:
Corn - J.W. Sykes & Co., 3,000 bushels; J.B. Nutting & Co., 1,775 bushels; T.F. Francis, 6,010 bushels; Hoagland & Co., 2,568 bushels; G.P. Comstock & Co., 15,815 bushels.
      Flour - Norton & Co., 150 barrels; Garile, Crevier & Crepsy, 300 barrels; Church & Patterson, 300 barrels; Smith & Derbrow, 100 barrels.
      Broom-Corn - J.P. Gross & Co., 52 bales; T.T. Dunton & Co., 50 bales. Gallup, Clark & Co., shipped 200 bags of Timothy seed. The value of the cargo is estimated at from $17,000 to $18,000, on which there is insurance as follows:
Marine Insurance Union $7,173
Phoenix $3,200
Orient Mutual $3,100
National Lloyds $1,000
      Total $14,473
      As usual a portion of the corn was shipped on owner's account, and is therefore not included in the above. Aside from this, the insurance will amply cover all losses.
      Concerning the present condition of the MONTGOMERY, the Free Press Correspondent at Port Huron writes June 11: Captain Joseph Nicholson arrived here today and viewed the remains of the propeller MONTGOMERY, and expressed the opinion that she was worthless and could never be of service again. The fire among the deck load of flour, etc., is still smouldering. River pirates were plentiful around her this morning and will continue until some action is taken to keep them away or take away all stealable property.
      Detroit Free Press
      June 12, 1878

THE OLD MONTGOMERY - The burned propeller MONTGOMERY still lies in her old position, a few miles below Port Huron, on the American side, and it is probable she will never be moved away from there. No more is to be seen above the surface than before her grain was taken out, it having been replaced with water.
      Detroit Post & Tribune
      Tuesday, July 30, 1878

The remains of the propeller MONTGOMERY were sold today for $625. Henry McMoran of this city was the purchaser.
      Detroit Post & Tribune
      Sunday, November 17, 1878
      . . . . .

THE OLD MONTGOMERY. -- Deputy United States Marshal Penney, of Port Huron, who was in Detroit yesterday, stated that Mr. McMoran will soon commence to take the engines and boiler out of the hull of the old propeller MONTGOMERY, but to what use they will be put, if any, he did not know. Mr. Penney also intimated that the contract for taking them out had been let to Capt. Frank Merryman, of Coast Wrecking fame.
      Detroit Post & Tribune
      Thursday, November 21, 1878

      The propeller MONTGOMERY, which burned last spring, was raised Wednesday for the purpose of getting out her boilers and engines. She will probably be converted into a barge.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Friday, November 29, 1878

      . . . . .

      The burned propeller MONTGOMERY is at Algonac where the work of planking her new from the burned edge up, will occupy the attention of ship carpenters there.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Saturday, August 9, 1879

RIG: Steamer (Pre-list; 1869); Steamer, screw (1870; 1871; 1872; 1873; 1875); Schooner (1882;
1883; 1884; 1885
LOA: 204.0
BEAM: 34.0
DEPTH: 13.8
GROSS: 1,104.05 (Pre-list; 1869; 1870; 1871; 1872; 1873; 1875); 709.19 (1882; 1883; 1884; 1885
NET: 676.81 (1885
CITY: Newport
HOME PORT: Detroit, MI (Pre-list; 1869; 1870; 1871; 1872; 1873; 1875); Algonac, MI (1882; 1883; 1884;
YEARS LISTED: Pre-list; 1869; 1870; 1871; 1872; 1873; 1875; 1882; 1883; 1884; 1885

The burning ship MONTGOMERY made a spectacular show during a early morning hours of June 10, 1878, as it drifted slowly down the St. Clair River. The boat was docked at the ,Grand Trunk wharf in Point Edward, on the Canadian side of the river, when it caught fire shortly after midnight. The steamer had just arrived from Chicago with a cargo of corn, flour, corn meal, timothy seed and broom corn all slated for unloading that day at Sarnia.
      Passengers apparently left the ship upon docking.
The source of the blaze was unknown known. Smoke was first noticed in the dry bales of broom corn stowed on the deck amidships. The fire burned so hot it quickly spread to the wooden deck and cabins.
Crew members, most of them roused from sleep to fight the fire, soon knew the ship was doomed. The railroad car ferry INTERNATIONAL, pulled alongside and made a last ditch effort to save the MONTGOMERY.
The ferry put a line to the blazing boat and towed it across the river to the Port Huron waterworks. A stream of water was directed on the fire from the waterworks. It didn't work, so the ship was allowed to drift off into the river. There the fire engulfed the 204-foot-long ship, turning it into a fiery specter as it drifted slowly down stream.
About 4 miles downstream, the tugs J.H. MARTIN and CRUSADER caught up with the MONTGOMERY and pushed it into the Canadian river bank. There the tugs O. WILCOX and BOB HACKET joined the MARTIN and CRUSADER. and the steamer SARNIA brought a steam powered fire engine up from Detroit.
The fire was finally extinguished when the hull was pulled back out into deep water and scuttled.
The hull was rebuilt as a barge at Port Huron the following spring. The vessel later was converted to be a schooner in 1881.
The MONTGOMERY remained in service until October 1901, when the boat broke loose from a tow barge and grounded on Lake Superior's Crisp Point. (Part of a series of articles done by James Donahue.)
      Port Huron Daily Tribune
      November 3, 1997

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: fire
Lives: nil
Freight: grain
Remarks: Rebuilt as barge 79'
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 42.97086 Longitude: -82.42491
William R. McNeil
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Montgomery (Propeller), U16467, fire, 10 Jun 1878