The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 20 Sep, 1867, page 1

Full Text
Explosion of the Tug W. K. Muir.
Seven Lives Lost - All the Crew Killed or Wounded
Particulars by Telegraph

Special telegrams received at the office of THE FREE PRESS yesterday from Port Huron, announced the terrible explosion of the boiler of the tug W. K. Muir, in the river just below that city at a late hour on the night previous, by which seven persons on board were suddenly hurled into eternity, and the five others composing her crew were severely, and some of them it is feared, fatally injured. It seems that the tug, which was considered one of the best in the service, owned by Capt. John Pridgeon of this city, and commanded by a brother of the owner, another brother being first officer, had just taken up a tow consisting of the bark City of Buffalo and another vessel, name not known, and was proceeding down the river. When about a half a mile below the city of Port Huron, a startling and stunning report was heard, and as quick as thought followed the fearful cry and conviction that the tug had burst her boiler. The tug Red Eric immediately went to the scene and there, among the floating fragments of the wreck, the most of which had disappeared beneath the waves, picked up all that were left of the crew, five poor mangled and scalded persons; the others, including the captain, mate, 1st engineer, the clerk, cook and two firemen, were all gone, ushered into the presence of their maker without a note of warning, or an instant of preparation. The first special dispatch referred to is as follows:

Port Huron, Sept. 19, 8:45 a. m.

A terrible explosion occurred half a mile below here about ten o'clock last night. The tug W. K. Muir had picked up a tow and started down the river, when her boiler exploded, killing Captain Robert Pridgeon, Elijah Pridgeon, Bampton, the first engineer, two firemen and the cook; five are wounded, one seriously. Capt. Wm. O'Neil, of the tug Red Eric, went to the rescue of the wounded, who are now being kindly taken care of at the Larned House. None of the drowned have been recovered. The tug is a total wreck. No Particulars as to the cause of the explosion. T. J. C.

Capt. John Pridgeon left for the scene immediately upon receipt of the appalling announcement to him trebly terrible, to ascertain the true facts of the case, and to aid the remaining sufferers, who, it will have been seen, were properly and kindly cared for by the people in the vicinity.

The unfortunate captain and mate, Robert and Elijah Pridgeon, were well known, and had for a long time been connected with the boat. They were both married, and leave families in this city. The engineer had served for some years in the subordinate station, and had just been promoted to the first place in that service. Of the others killed but little is known at present, they being for the most part recently attached to the boat. Only surmises as to the cause of the catastrophe can be indulged in; it comes almost like the sudden crash of an unseen irresistible fate. It comes with a suddenness, and the appalling consequences with which death often loves to deal - who, like other tyrants,

" -- delights to smite what, smitten most proclaims the pride of power and arbitrary nod."

For what more arbitrary than the irrevocable decree whose execution works such ruin, terror and dismay!

The officers of the steamer Reindeer, which came down yesterday, report the river filled with the floating fragments for a long distance. The explosion must, evidently, have been of terrific force, and it is thought that the boiler must have shot forward and upward, throwing the deck of the boat completely over to the rear.

The following is a


Those drowned by the explosion of the tug W. K. Muir were Rob't Pridgeon, Captain; Elijah Pridgeon, mate; John Kirchean, 1st engineer; Wm. Bampton, clerk and lookout; Charlie, the cook; Jim and John, firemen; the surnames of the three latter unknown. The wounded are Thos. Daniels, of Buffalo, face seriously scalded and bruised; Walter Cartwright, spine severely injured; Oscar Cartwright, wheelsman, foot and back injured; Michael McQueeny, slightly in foot; James Scofield, 2nd engineer, feet scalded. No insurance on tug. None of the killed have been found yet. T.J.C.

Media Type:
Item Type:
It is debatable whether this medium-sized tug (110 ft., 123 t.) was named W. R. MUIR or W. K. MUIR. There was another tug named W. K. MUIR, operating out of Milwaukee at this time. Extracts of official records show the spelling W. R. MUIR though she always shows in the papers as W. K. and the tug's actual name was probably W. K. MUIR. The bodies of the captain and four others were recovered several miles downstream a few days later. The tug was later raised and rebuilt.      
Date of Original:
20 Sep, 1867
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Dave Swayze
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 20 Sep, 1867, page 1