The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Rothesay (Steamboat), sunk by collision, 12 Sep 1889


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Sidewheel steamer ROTHESAY, registered at the port of Prescott; and bound from Brockville to Prescott on September 12, 1989 collided with the tug MYRA, a 1/4 mile above Prescott. A total loss. Vessel was 22 years of age and her loss valued at $1,500.
      Statement of Wreck & Casualty, 1889
      Department of Marine & Fisheries

      . . . . .

     
      Prescott, Ont. - The excursion steamer ROTHESAY collided last night with the tug MYRA of Ogdensburg. The MYRA sunk and the ROTHESAY was beached, the 60 passengers escaping. Samuel Jardine and Wm. Sullivan, of the MYRA were drowned.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Friday, September 13, 1889

      . . . . .

      THE "ROTHESAY" COLLISION - Prescott, Sept. 19 - The firm of John Donnely & Son, Wreckers, of Kingston, have the contract for raising the tug MYRA, which was sunk in collision with the steamer ROTHESAY on the evening of the 12th. inst. and will commence operations at once. The body of Samuel Jarden, an engineer on the ill-fated tug, was found this morning about one mile below this town in a fearfully scalded state. An inquest will be held this evening. The body of fireman Wm. Sullivan has not been recovered yet. The ROTHESAY is still lying in the same position as when beached. No arrangements have been made for raising her as yet.
      Toronto Globe
      Friday, September 20, 1889

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      The wrecked steamer ROTHESAY is in the same position, with stern down in the mud. The boats owners have turned her over to the Insurance Company. She was inspected by Capt. Donnelly of Kingston, and other well known wreckers. Some of these gentlemen were of the opinion that the ROTHESAY could be put on the Marine Railway for $3,000. The stories being told as to the hull, Captain McLeod brands as falsehoods. He says during the past summer he carefully examined the ROTHESAY and found her in such excellent condition, as to warrant him rating her B 1.
      Toronto Globe
      Saturday, September 21, 1889

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      The steamer ROTHSEY has been considerably racked by winds, and unless raised immediately will go to pieces. Her upper works are caving in, the staunchions are giving way, the hurricane deck is beginning to lop, and a general caving in is liable to take place should a heavy sea set in. The insurance companies offer her for sale to the highest bidder.
      Toronto Globe
      Tuesday, October 8, 1889

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      In legal parlance the old hulk of the steamer ROTHESAY has been "arrested," on the grounds that she is rapidly deteriorating, and if repaired, would be unsafe for the transport of freight or passengers. The crew has claims to the amount of $1,300 and a general claim for $250.
      Toronto Globe
      Saturday, October 12, 1889

      . . . . .

      IN THE MARITIME COURT OF ONTARIO
      John Lasha and others, Plaintiffs, against the steamship ROTHESAY
      Pursuant to the order of this honorable court, herein dated 21, Oct. 1889, and the commision of sale issued pursuant thereto, the steamship ROTHESAY, together with her furniture, cables, anchors, and small boats, will be sold at Public Auction, by James Robertson, Deputy Sheriff of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville on Wednesday the 30th. day of October 1889 at the Town Hall of Prescott.
      Toronto Globe (Advert)
      Thursday, October 24, 1889

      . . . . .

      The captain and crew of the steamer ROTHESAY, have received their pay, $1,300.
      Toronto Globe
      Monday, October 28, 1889

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Kingston, Ont., Nov. 12 - The Donnelly Wrecking Company has purchased the steamer ROTHESAY, sunk near Prescott. They will raise her and use her for excursion purposes.
      The Marine Review
      November 12, 1891

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      Brockville, Nov. 16. - The steamer ROTHESAY, ashore near Prescott, is rapidly breaking up. Nothing has yet been done towards raising her.
      Toronto Globe
      Saturday, November 29, 1902

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      The sunken steamer ROTHESAY was blown up at Prescott by R.M.C. officers. The wreck was considered a dangerous navigational obstruction. Cost $368.96
      Removal of Obstructions
      Marine & Fisheries Report
      Sessional Papers, Federal
      2-3 Edward V111.,A. 1893

      . . . . .

      The wreck of the steamer ROTHESAY which lay in about 25 feet of water, 500 feet from shore, in the bay between the upper wharf at Prescott and the wharf at McCarthy's Brewery, has been blown up under the direction of Capt. C.D.O. Symond R. E. acting for the Dep. of Marine & Fisheries of Canada, and no portion of the wreckage now remains within 20 feet of the surface of the water.
      Toronto Globe
      Monday, November 18, 1889

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      THE ROTHESAY FOUND?
      A Baldwinsville Businessman and three fellow members of the Syracuse Skin Divers Club recently discovered what is believed to be the hulk of a cruise ship which sank in the St. Lawrence River near Ogdensburg some 72 years ago.
The quartet recovered a set of matched anchors, weighing about 650 pounds apiece, there considered to be quite a "find" among amateur salvagers.
Theodore (Ted) White of Parkway Dr., Baldwinsville, known widely in the area through White Signs Co., was accompanied on the expedition by James Sprague, Philip Keneson and Philip Volmer, all of Syracuse.
The matched pair of anchors, believed to date to the War of 1812, are now at the White Signs building on River Rd., Town of Lysander. They are destined to decorate the grounds of The Castaways Restaurant at Brewerton, according to Mr. White.
While identity of the wreckage has been open to widespread speculation in the north country, Dr. J. L. Carroll, first vice-chairman of the Ontario St. Lawrence Development Commission produced a photo and information of the steamer ROTHESAY, which sank in 1890 after colliding with a tug boat. Mr. White said that the sunken bulk resembles the photo and that he is satisfied the wreck is that of the ROTHESAY.
According to information gathered so far, Mr. White said the ROTHESAY was a 200 foot cruise ship, originally used on the River Clyde in Scotland. She was transferred to the St. Lawrence River service in 1887.
On the down run from Kingston to Prescott in 1690, the side-wheeler collided with a tug boat the MYRA or MOIRE. The ROTHESAY was returning from the Thousand Islands late at night while on a moonlight excursion trip when the collision occurred.
The captain and chief of the tugboat were drowned, and attempts to beach the excursion vessel on the Prescott shore proved futile.
The ROTHESAY was considered at that period in river history to be one of the most palatial of St. Lawrence passenger ships.
Mr. White said the ROTHESAY lies in about 35 feet of water. At the time of her sinking, most of the navigational equipment was salvaged, but heavier gear remained aboard, probably because modern salvage and skin diving gear was not available in those days.
White said time and current have worked the hulk into deeper water. For the most part, he said, the lower portion of the ship is still intact. It is kept company in its silent grave by numerous eels and a family of bass. Some pottery was found, marked "Parisienne Granite."
White said he and his companions raised the heavy anchors by use of 55 gallon drums, which floated the prizes when filled with air.
      Baldwinsville Messenger, August 10, 1962
      Inland Seas
      Winter, 1962
      . . . . .

To the Editor, Inland Seas:
      I, for one, am convinced that the wreck explored by the Syracuse Skin Divers Club (See INLAND SEAS, Winier 1962, p. 329) in not the steamer Rothesay. Here are my reasons for disagreeing with the story.
To begin with, the Rothesay was not a cruise ship, nor was she built on the River Clyde in Scotland. Instead she was a river steamer, built for day trips on the St. John River between St. John and Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Rothesay was built by J. and S. E. Oliver at their shipyard at St. John, N. B., being launched there February 2, 1867. On July 20, 1877, registry was transferred from Fredericton, N. B., to Prescott, Ontario. MacDonald and Lunt, owners, put her on the Toronto-Niagara River run in 1878 and continued the operation for the following two years, finishing on September 15, 1880. The following Spring Rothesay collided with the tug Myra a few miles above Prescott, Ontario. The Myra sank and Rothesay was beached and later sank in shoal water. The wreck was abandoned as worthless and was stripped of everything of value. In 1901 the hulk was blown up by officers from the Royal Military College at Kingston, the cost to the Canadian Government being $368.00. The wreck was then lying 1/4 mile offshore. (Sec picture, this journal, p. 40.)
Now about the anchors found at the wreck. A close look at the picture (p. 297) will show that the anchor is stowed inboard, on an anchor table with the stock (cross arm) outside, the shank resting on the bulwark cap. This type anchor war not in existence during the War of 1812. In that period the stock was made of wood and was firmly fixed in place. The anchor shown has a metal stock which could slide back and forth through the shank.
I also think that the author of the story has confused the Rothesay with another steamer, namely, the iron side-wheel steamer Rothesay Castle, built at Renfrew, Scotland, in 1861, and brought over as a blockade runner for the Confederate States during the Civil War. She was brought to Lake Ontario and renamed Southern Belle, April 1876.
Another wreck in the vicinity is the American steamer Toltec. This steamer burned and sank near Prescott on September 4, 1919. The Toltic, also about 200 feet in length would have the same style anchors as shown in the picture of Rothesay. Another look at the wreck might convince the divers that they had found the propeller Toltic instead of the side wheeler Rothesay.
      CAPTAIN FRANK E. HAMILTON
      Inland Seas
      Spring 1963


Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Notes:
Reason: sunk by collision
Lives: nil
Hull damage: $1,500
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
1889
Subject(s):
Local identifier:
McN.W.16329
Language of Item:
English
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.71681 Longitude: -75.51604
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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Rothesay (Steamboat), sunk by collision, 12 Sep 1889