The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Seneca (Propeller), boiler explosion, 1 Sep 1864

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      Another terrible boiler explosion, attended with probably fatal consequences, occurred this morning, about 8 oÆclock, on board the propeller SENECA, lying at the foot of Orleans Street. The boat has been at dock under-going repairs to her boiler for the past two months, and this was the first attempt to get up steam, preparatory to moving down to one of the lower docks to load for Ontonagon. When about 30 lbs. had been generated, one of the lower flues, which had not been braced, was blown out with terrific violence. The Captain and fireman were in the hold at the time the accident occurred. The former was sitting upon a small block near the entrance to the furnace, the fireman was engaged in tightening up one of the hand holes a short distance from him. A dense volume of steam poured from the aperture blown open, and struck the Captain full in the face. In an instant the hold was filled with steam, and the deepest concern was felt by those above for the fate of the unfortunate men below. Fortunately, the forward hatch was open, and towards this the two men had presence of mind enough left to crawl, and were drawn up to the deck, more dead than alive. Their appearance when taken out was terrible to look upon. The skin from their faces, arms and bodies rolled off in great flakes and strewed the deck, presenting a sick-ening spectacle. The Captain's flesh in many parts of his body is literally par boiled. There is not an inch on the body of either man that is not literally scalded. The unfortunate men were conveyed as soon as possible to the Dry Dock Saloon, where their injuries were attended to by Drs. Cobb and Brodie, who labored long and humanely to alleviate their sufferings. The fireman was removed to the Marine Hospital as soon as his wounds were dressed. The Captain now lies in an insensible condition, his injuries being too great to permit of his removal. One reporter was informed by the medical attendants that they do not consider it possible he can live. His name is Morrison, and his wife and family reside in Ontonagon. The fireman's name is Marr, and is, we believe an unmarried man. The Engineer, Jas. Kelley, was engaged in tightening up the bolts in a steam pipe in his room at the time of the explosion. He too, was badly scalded about the hands and face but not seriously.
      The destruction of property by the explosion is not so great as might be expected, and was confined to the hold. The sheet iron roofing was torn to shreads, and driven with great violence against the bow of the boat. A quantity of coal which was lying near the boiler was scattered in every direction. Many pieces of large size were blown through the hatchway and out into the river. The boat was comparatively uninjured. She is owned by the firm of Willard & Co., (Wm. Willard and James Mercer) of Ontonagon. - Det Free Press, Sep.29.

The heart rending accident to the steam tug SENECA, is confirmed, full particulars of which are given elsewhere. Captain Morrison and fireman Marr died a few hours after the casualty. A private letter from Detroit says the portion of the boiler that gave way was of new iron, and it probably occurred from imperfection in the material though the best of Wyandotte was selected.
      Lake Superior Miner
      October 15, 1864

      . . . . .

      The account of the boiler explosion on board the SENECA was sent to me together with some other items pertaining to steamboating in the 1850Æs at Ontonagon, Michigan by the Honorable Charles Williams, Judge of Probate and Juvenile Court at Ontonagon.
      The steam propeller SENECA, US 22559, 105 tons register, was built at Geneva, N. Y. in 1853. First enrollment was recorded at Buffalo, N. Y. in 1857. About that time the vessel went to Ontonagon and was employed in carrying passengers and freight up river to the location of several copper mines that were heavy producers there in the 1850Æs and 60Æs. In 1872 I find notation that the SENECA was sold to aliens, which undoubtedly means to Canadians. I have been unable to find any further reference to her later career.
      It might also be pertinent to offer an explanation of the phrase ôbest of Wyandotteö. The reference here is to the product of the Eureka Iron and Steel Company, located at Wyandotte, Michigan. This plant was organized in 1853 by Captain Eber Ward, who was
one of MichiganÆs most prominent capitalists in those days. Capt. Ward was a shipbuilder and ship owner and was engaged in many other industrial enterprises. At his Wyandotte
mill he installed a Bessemer Converter, and in 1864, made the first Bessemer Steel manufactured in America. This was the steel that had been used to repair the boiler of the SENECAö. -William A. McDonald

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Reason: boiler explosion
Lives: 2
Remarks: Repaired
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William R. McNeil
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Seneca (Propeller), boiler explosion, 1 Sep 1864