The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
City of Winnipeg (Propeller), fire, 18 Jul 1881

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The steamer CITY OF WINNIPEG, which was burned at Duluth Tuesday morning, was owned by Messrs. Smith & Keighley, of Toronto. She was valued at $50,000, and was insured for $30,000 in the Western Phoenix and Royal Canadian Companies. Captain Kennedy, of Toronto, was in charge of her.
      Cleveland Herald
      Friday, July 22, 1881
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      Four of the Crew Lost
      Duluth, Minn., July 19.-- At about three o'clock this morning the second engineer of the propeller " CITY OF WINNIPEG," of the Collingwood Line, discovered flames issuing from the fire hold. He at once gave the alarm and applied the fire apparatus, but in an incredibly brief time the entire vessel was enveloped in a sheet of flames. The boat had just arrived and was moored at the Northern Pacific Dock. The Duluth Fire Department very promptly responded to the alarm, but the fire had gained such headway, that their efforts to save the boat was unavailing.
Purser Crawford at once woke the passengers and assisted them to the warehouse, many of them escaped by climbing down the sides of the rigging. Four of the crew are lost, one fireman, one porter and two waiters. The vessel was insured.
      Meaford Monitor
      Friday, July 22, 1881

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      The Particulars Of The Disaster As Related By The Second Mate
Owen Sound, July 26.-- The Steamer "MANITOULIN" arrived here at 2 p. m. today on her return trip from Sault Ste.Marie, Mackinaw Island, and Point St. Ignace with a full cargo of freight and 150 passengers, most of whom were excursionists, having been on the steamer for three round trips. A large number of them were Americans, and expressed themselves in glowing terms regarding the beauties of the scenery through which they passed.
The MANITOULIN brought down most of the crew of the ill-fated steamer WINNIPEG, consisting of the first and second mates, first and second engineers, two wheelsmen, and three deck hands.
Mr. Alexander Brown, second mate of the WINNIPEG, gives the following particulars of the disaster: " We arrived at Duluth at 1.30 a. m.Tuesday the I9th, and I was on watch. My watch ends at I a. m. but as we were only half-an-hour from making port, I did not call the first mate. I turned in about 5 o'clock, and the first mate went on the watch. About 4 o'clock the mate called me, saying, 'the boat is on fire.' He then woke the purser and ran up on deck and blew the whistle to give an alarm and wake the passengers. I ran into the Captain's room, the flames were then half-way between the smokestack and the wheelhouse. I seized his little boy and carried him forward and handed him over the side of the boat to the men on the dock. Purser Crawford by this time was rapidly breaking open the stateroom doors and helping the passengers. I helped to remove the women ashore. Most of them we handed down over the side of the boat to the men on the dock, while others on the starboard side jumped overboard. The last woman ashore was the Captains wife, I helped her out.
At this time the boat's lines were burnt, and she was swinging out from the dock. Six of the crew, including the waiters, were on the main deck, in their room opposite the kitchen. They were all up, but could not get out for the flames and smoke. They broke a small window out, and three of them jumped in the lake and were saved. They tried to persuade the rest to follow, but they said, they would as soon burn as drown, and refused to come out.
The fire originated on the port side along the side of the boiler. It was first noticed by Wilson Palmer, second engineer. We were not racing with any vessel, as appears to have been reported. The "WINNIPEG" and "MANITOBA" left Prince Arthur' s Landing together, or nearly so. The courses of the WINNIPEG show she made less speed than her usual time between the Landing and Victoria Island.
Others of the crew describe the occurrence in a similar manner. An idea of the rapidity of the flames can be learned from the fact that the two firemen had just started to go down the hatch into the hold to do some work. When the first had reached the hold which was gained by descending a ladder, the second handed him a wrench and started to follow, when Wilson, the second engineer, discovered a small flame issuing from the hold, He at once called to Jos. Smith, the firenan, but he had no time to surmount the few steps he had just descended before he was overtaken by the fell destroyer. The crew appears to have worked marvellously, and their heroic efforts in successfully saving the passengers can only be attributed to the great calmness that pervaded every man. The passengers when first aroused from their quiet slumber became frantic, but when they got awake to a full realization of the situation they were more calm, and the work of successful rescue was thus rendered more easily accomplished.
The passengers and crew lost everything in the way of clothing. Some threw their valises ashore. Considerable loose clothing was thrown on the dock, but everything thus disposed of was stolen by some miserable characters that were lounging around for plunder. J. Smith, Collingwood, a fireman; J. Harvey; J. Branscombe, waiters of Owen Sound; and another waiter, name unknown, are those who were lost.
      Meaford Monitor
      Friday, July 29, 1881

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      The Lake Superior Fish Company, of Prince Arthur's landing, has purchased the hull of the burned steamer CITY OF WINNIPEG for $2,000.
      Cleveland Herald
      Friday, October 14, 1881

      . . . . .
Capt. Lloyd of Duluth is again engaged in an effort to raise the steamer CITY OF WINNIPEG which took fire and was sunk in the bay ten years ago. He paid $6,000 for the wreck and expects to get a return from the valuable cargo which the boat had aboard when sunk.
      Marine Review
      August 20, 1891
      . . . . .
Major Clinton B. Sears, Corps of Engineers, U. S. A. is considering the matter of raising the bones of the old steamer WINNIPEG, which lies in shallow water at the bottom of Duluth Harbor, not far from Minnesota Point and not more than half a mile from the ship canal. Every man that navigates that harbor knows well where the sunken hulk lies. Sail boats especially have found the wreck of the WINNIPEG an obstruction. The wreck is out of the course of large boats. It lies in the path of Government improvements and will have to be removed. Old settlers of Duluth often recall the fate of the vessel.
      The steamer WINNIPEG of the Collingwood Line, arrived at the Northern Pacific dock shortly after midnight of the morning of July 19, 1881, after a race up the lake with the steamer MANITOBA, at least it was understood at the time that the boats had raced up the lake to Duluth. The WINNIPEG had a large number of passengers on board, 18 horses and more than 100 tons of merchandise in bond. About 4 o'clock of the morning the WINNIPEG arrived she was destroyed by fire. Four men and a boy and the 18 head of horses lost their lives. The merchandise in the hull went down when the boat was burned to the waters edge. The origin of the fire was never fully explained.
The passengers were all asleep, but were got ashore in their nightclothes. A number of them got excited and jumped overboard. The loss of human lives was confined, however, to the members of the crew. A fireman named Joseph Smith obeyed orders and went into the hold to fight the fire and was lost, the head waiter, James Branscomb, was lost, as was also the second porter, William Harvey, and a pantry man whose name was unknown.
      F. W. Wheeler of Bay City, purchased the sunken hulk of the WINNIPEG from the underwriters and he in turn sold it to Capt. J. D. Howard and Con. Plynn of Duluth. Captain Joseph D. Lloyd then purchased it. The last time the remains of the burnt boat changed hands was in 1882 when Capt. Lloyd came in possesion of it. He paid $5,000 for it on a speculation and after spending $4,000 or $5,000 more in trying to raise the cargo decided that speculation had gone far enough.
The steamer contained 62 barrels of whiskey, each barrel containing sixty gallons. The whiskey was 10 years old at the time of the fire and is now going on 27 years of age. In 1887 Capt Lloyd undertood to raise the hulk and did make a partial success of the job. Four or five barrels of whiskey were procured and evidence was obtained that three others had been destroyed by fire. There are still upward of 50 barrels, or more than 3,000 gallons of whiskey in the sunken boat.
The whiskey was en route from Owen Sound to Winnipeg in bond at the time of the loss of the steamer. There is a tradition that the liquor was of exceptionally fine quality and the people that sampled the liquor that was taken out ten years ago agree that "it was just like oil" It is expected that the greater part of the liquor was saved from fire as it was all under a great quantity of general merchandise with the exception of eight or ten barrels.
      Marine Record
      Feburary 17, 1898

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The work of removing the hulk of the Canadian steamer WINNIPEG burned in Duluth Harbor, and for which a contract was taken by Capt. Inman a short time ago, is now in progress.
      Marine Record
      May 19, 1898

The steamer CITY OF WINNIPEG, 823 tons register, belonging to Collingwood, was totally destroyed by fire at Duluth on the 19th. of July last. She arrived at Duluth on Lake Superior, U. S. A., from Collingwood at half-past one o'clock on the morning of the 19th. July, and at three oclock, one hour and a half after, the second engineer discovered fire issuing from the fire hold. The passengers escaped, but four of the crew lost their lives. The origin of the fire is unknown. The vessel was ten years old and valued at $50,000. The cargo was valued at $20,000. The vessel was classed in Inland Lloyds, and was owned by Messrs. Smith & Riley, of Toronto.
      Steamboat Inspection Report
      Sessional Papers Canada, No. 5. A. 1882

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Reason: fire
Remarks: Total loss
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  • Minnesota, United States
    Latitude: 46.78327 Longitude: -92.10658
William R. McNeil
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City of Winnipeg (Propeller), fire, 18 Jul 1881