The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Trilby (Steam yacht), capsized, 25 May 1895

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BOAT UPSET - Crowds Jumped into the TRILBY[BY and Turned Her Over.
The steam yacht TRILBY was capsized in the harbor at the Michigan street bridge this morning and it was thought two or three men were drowned.
The accident occurred at 6:-0 o'clock and men dragged the bottom of the harbor for the bodies up to 10 o'clock, but none had been found at that tine and the search was given up.
About 30 or 35 men were aboard the yacht when she was capsized. They were all Poles and were crossing over to the island where they were employed at various places.
The bridge at Michigan Street is being repaired and the only way for crossing there is by ferry. The yacht TRILBY and a number of scows have been carrying the people across since the bridge was condemned. Small docks have been built at the buttresses of the bridge and all of the ferrying craft have been kept very busy since the passage across the bridge was stopped. Especially at night and morning large numbers of workingmen cross here and several accidents have been narrowly averted.
This morning something more than the usual crowd of Poles swarmed up to the dock and began to clamber into the boat like a flock of sheep. The TRILBY took three loads of them across safely, but when she came back for the fourth load a great bunch of the Poles made a rush for her and when they all jumped upon one side of her she quickly lurched over and went to the bottom. All of the men were thrown into the water and for several minutes were scrambling and struggling, shouting, and clutching at each other like so many crazed animals. The dock being within easy reach very many of them were able to clutch it and were very soon out of danger, others who had been drawn further away from the boat as she went over and dragged down by their companions had to struggle for some time before they got out. The boat turned bottom side up and went to the bottom. She was a new yacht and was owned by Connoly Brothers. She is large enough to carry about 35 persons with all safety, but when the combined weight of the crowd of men struck her this morning all on one side she turned over as though she had been a tin basin. It was the fault of the men and not of the boat.
In the water were found any number of hats, coats, dinner pails and such tools and implements as the Poles had in their hands when they were capsized.
The story of the accident was rapidly told about the neighborhood and within half an hour several thousand people had gathered there. It was soon necessary to send out an extra Force of police to keep the people back. By 9 o'clock every inch of the docks all about the scene of the accident was crowded with people and stories of the most extravagant sort were being told. In one place it was said that 15 were drowned. In another one heard that 10 bodies had already been recovered; from other lips came the startling information that Harbor Master Soper was among the victims.
The TRILBY was soon lifted part way out of water. She is now badly soaked but not otherwise injured. It was at first rumored that the engineer had been drowned, but this was disproved by the statement of the police that he had been found and given all of the reliable information as to how the accident occurred.
Harbor Master Soper said to a NEWS reporter this morning. " I have expected something of this sort for several days. It has been almost impossible to control the Poles and to keep them within the bounds of safety. What I most feared was the capsizing of the scows, but the steam yacht was little safer when such a crowd was thrown onto it all on one side. I am now going to have turnstiles put in here and have an officer stationed at this place to keep the men in shape. The Poles use no reason whatever when they are eager to get to their work and it is even a difficult matter for the police to control them. They make a rush for the boats in a body and it is really a wonder that something of this kind has not happened before.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Saturday, May 25, 1895
      . . . . .

      Upsetting of TRILBY has no fatal Results, No Blame Attached to Harbor Master Soper.
Nobody was drowned by the overturning of the steam yacht TRILBY, at the foot of Michigan street Yesterday. Men were kept grappling for bodies all day, but at night none had been found and none of the workingmen had been reported missing.
No blame whatever is attached to Harbor Master Soper or the engineer of the yacht for the accident. It was caused by a crowd of the Poles jumping on to one side of the boat and tipping her over.
Harbor Master Soper is having turnstiles put in at the dock and hereafter a sufficient force of police will be stationed there to prevent the Poles from all clambering on to the boats at the same time and drowning themselves.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Sunday, May 26, 1895

Media Type:
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Reason: capsized
Lives: nil
Remarks: Raised
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Geographic Coverage:
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 42.88645 Longitude: -78.87837
William R. McNeil
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Trilby (Steam yacht), capsized, 25 May 1895