The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Roanoke (Propeller), U21145, fire, 7 Aug 1894

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August 9, -- The ROANOKE was destroyed by fire last night 20 miles off Four Mile Point. The fire was started by the explosion of a lamp in the engine room and crept along the wooden arches, The cabins burned like paper. The ROANOKE was built at Cleveland in 1867 and rebuilt in 1890. She was enroute from Port Huron to Ashland with salt.
      Chicago Inter Ocean
      August, 1894

The steamer ROANOKE seemed destined to burn. The boat suffered two major fires and was destroyed on Aug. 7, 1894, on Lake Superior's - Fourteen Mile Point.
The first fire happened in May 1890, while the ship was moored at Buffalo harbor. The blaze started from an overturned lamp in the hold, where 300 bales of jute were stacked. The jute burned hot and the fire spread quickly upward through the midship hatch, where the painted woodwork between decks spread the fire. Because the ROANOKE was in port, all the gangway hatches were open and the fresh breezes sent flames racing through the wooden superstructure. For a time it appeared that the 23- year-old vessel was doomed, but harbor tugs soon had the fire under control. The ROANOKE was saved to sail again.
The final fire started four years later while the boat was steaming from Marine City to Washburn, Wis., with 4.000 barrels of salt in her hold. Capt. Alonze Cox, the ship's master, said a lamp exploded in the engine room. When the fire hit the oil and grease-soaked wooden deck, he said the engine room was instantly ablaze.
The engineer and firemen fled for their lives. They didn't take time to shut down the engines or start the pumps needed for fighting the fire. This mistake was discovered after the crew gathered on deck to run out fire hoses.
One brave sailor, whose name was never told, successfully returned to the fiery engine room and got one of the two fire pumps operating. In the meantime, other crew members formed an old-fashioned bucket brigade and began throwing water on the flames. It was a futile effort. With the engines still running, the moving boat was creating its own wind which fanned the fire. And with only one pump operating, fire fighters couldn't get enough water flowing through fire hoses to be effective.
As the fire worked its way forward, the ship's wooden arches made a pathway for the flames to creep, until they reached the deck house. By then, Cox was ordering the life boats lowered before the fire consumed them.
The men escaped without injury, and then watched the old steamer burn for about an hour before she sank, sometime around midnight. Cox estimated that it went down in one of the deepest parts of the lake, in over 1,200 feet of water, about 17 miles off Ontonagon.
The crew drifted all night in the open boats until the steamer GEORGE SPENCER picked them up the next morning and took them to Washburn.
      Port Huron Daily Tribune
      Undated article by James Donahue
      . . . . .
      The hull of the burned steamer ROANOKE lies in 202 fathoms of water fifty-five miles west of Eagle Harbor and seventeen from Ontonagon, the nearest shore.
      The Marine Review
      August 16, 1894
Steam screw ROANOKE, U. S. No. 21145. Of 1069.82 tons gross; 956.68 tons net. Built Cleveland, O., 1867. Home port, Port Huron, Mich. 217.5 x 31.2 x 12.5
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1892

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Reason: fire
Lives: nil
Freight: salt
Remarks: Total loss
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William R. McNeil
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Roanoke (Propeller), U21145, fire, 7 Aug 1894