The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Jane Miller (Propeller), sunk, 23 Nov 1881


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FEARS FOR THE SAFETY OF THE "JANE MILLER"
      There has been considerable excitement over the "JANE MILLER" which left here on Friday last for Providence Bay, Manitoulin Island. She was to call at Wiarton, and had a cargo for Lyons Head, but nothing has been hoard of her from either port, though the telegraph has been freely used for news of her whereabouts. There is a rumour that packages of' fish have been discovered on Hay Island, near Wiarton, but no one can tell if they belong to the cargo of the missing boat. Mr. Train of this place has received a letter from Lyon's Head, dated on Monday, and saying that the MILLER had not been there. James Hallock, Lyman, vader, and Jeremiah Walker, of Meaford, are on board. Further news is anxiously awaited..
      Meaford Monitor
      Friday, December 2, 1881

      . . . . .
     
      NOT A SOUL SAVED.
      The Loss Of The JANE MILLER Confirmed.
      [Special Telegram to the Inter Ocean]
Wiarton, Ont., Dec. 4. -- The tug TOMMY WRIGHT left Owen Sound Saturday morning, to look around the islands in Georgian Bay for some trace of the missing steamer JANE MILLER. She arrived here tonight, having on board four bedsteads, three oars, some pins out of the life boat, a piece of a mast, a steamer's gang-plank, and a pair-rack. All were identified as having belonged to the JANE MILLER. She also had some kegs of butter with Captain's Port's brand on them. All these articles were found on White Cloud Island, and are ominous of the fate of the missing steamer. The JANE MILLER left Meaford on the 23d of November, with a heavy load of freight, on her last trip to Michael's Bay, Manitoulin Island. Her last port of call was Big Bay, where she took on freight and left for Sencer's Dock, a short distance off, for fuel, after which she intended going for Lyons Head, for which place she had some ten tons of freight. It was blowing a strong gale from the Southwest at the time, and, as she never made this latter port, it is supposed that she
      FOUNDERED NEAR WHITE CLOUD ISLAND,
and went down suddenly with all on board, some 25 persons, made up of crew and passengers, but it is impossible as yet to ascertain the exact number. So far as can be learned the following were on board: Andrew Port, Captain.
      Richard Port, Mate.
      Fred Port, Purser.
      J. Christison, engineer.
      Alex. Scales, Wheelsman.
And four deckhands whose names cannot be ascertained, all from the village of Wiarton and of the vicinity.
      Passengers: -- James Warner; James Hallock; Lyman Vader, and a man and wife, all from Meaford and bound for Michael's Bay. A number of passengers, also from here, for Lyons Head, to work at Watts' Mills, were on board, but the names are not given.
      The JANE MILLER was built at Little Current, Manitoulin Island, in 1879. She was purchased in the spring of 1880, by Captain Port, and has since been running between here and ports of the south side of Manitoulin island. She was classed by the Lloyds A 2½, valued at $8,000, and insured in the Phoenix Insurance Company for $6,000. The MILLER
      WAS CONSIDERED A STAUNCH LITTLE PROPELLER,
and has weathered a number of severe gales. Captain Port was recognized as a most skillful officer and a man of superior judgment in handling his craft. Her leaves a wife and family of grown up children. The engineer, Christison, also leaves a family.
      The J.W. Hall Great Lakes Marine Scrapbook, Nov/Dec., 1881




      LOSS OF THE JANE MILLER
The loss of the propeller Jane Miller has occasioned more surmises than any lake disaster for years. The fate of the crew has been a matter of wild conjecture. As there is no authentic information to discredit the story, the account of the disaster and survival of twenty-six persons, published by the Toronto News, must be accepted. It is stated that twenty-six of the crew reached Toronto on Sunday. One of these said that the Jane Miller left Big Bay with forty-six persons on board on the 23rd of November, for the Manitoulan Islands. She had fifty-nine plows on her hurricane deck, which, in a heavy sea, slid across, and were held in a fatal position by the iron railing. The ship went on her beam ends and was sucked down. The survivors reached White Cloud Island, some by one life-boat and others clinging to the wreckage. Captain Andrew Fort, First Engineer McKechney, Second Engineer Tom Miller, and Ed Mason, fireman, went down, after helping all to escape that was possible. Mr. and Mrs. Auldo were among the lost. Their infant child was saved by W.J. M. Madoch, who fought for her and his own life through fearful odds. The party was taken from White Cloud to Club Island by an Indian's boat, and from this point landed at Penetanguishene after terrible suffering and adventures.
      The J.W. Hall Great lakes Marine Scrapbook, Nov./Dec. 1881



      PROPELLER GOES DOWN.
Wiarton, Ont., Dec. 4. -- It is regarded certain that the propeller JANE MILLER went down in Georgian Bay, with all on board, twenty-five persons, including passengers.
      Cleveland Herald
      Monday, December 5, 1881

      . . . . .

     
      THE FATE
      Of the Missing Propeller JANE MILLER.
      - - - - - - - - - -
      As Conjectured by Wreckage Picked Up
      Near White Cloud Island, in Georgian Bay - A sad Tale of the Lakes.
Wiarton, Ont., Dec. 4. --The tug Tommy Wright left Owen Sound Saturday morning to look around the islands in Georgian Bay for some trace of the missing steamer, JANE MILLER. She arrived here tonight, having on board four bedsteads, three oars, some pins of the lifeboat, a piece of a mast, a steamers gang plank and a small rack.
      All Were Identified
as having belonged to the JANE MILLER. She also had some kegs of butter with Captain Port's brand on them. All these articles were found on White Cloud Island and are ominous of the fate of the missing steamer. The JANE MILLER left Meaford on the 23d of November with a heavy load of freight on her last trip to Michael's Bay, Manitoulin Island. Her last port of call was at Big Bay, where she took on freight and left for Spencer's dock a short distance off, for fuel, after which she intended going for Lion's head for which place she had some ten tons of freight. It was blowing a strong gale from the southwest at this time, and as she never made this latter port it is supposed that she foundered near White Cloud Island, and went down suddenly with
      All on Board,
some twenty-five persons, made up of the crew and passengers, but it is impossible, as yet, to ascertain the exact number. So far as can be learned the following were on board: Andrew Port, captain; Richard Port, mate; Fred Port, purser; J. Christison, engineer; Alex Scales, wheelsman, and four deck-hands whose names cannot be ascertained, all from the village of Wiarton and of the vicinity. Passengers: James Walker; James Hallock; Lyman Vader, and a man and wife, all from Meaford, and bound for Michael's Bay. A number of passengers, also from here for Lion's Head to work at Watts Mills, were on board, but the names are not given. The JANE MILLER was built at Little Current, Manitoulin Island, in 1879. She was purchased in the spring of 1880 by Captain Port, and has since been running between here and ports of the southside of Manitoulin Island. She was classed by the Lloyds, A 2½; valued at $8,000 and insured in the Phoenix Insurance for $6.000. The MILLER was considered a
      Staunch Little Propeller,
And has weathered a number of severe gales. Captain Port was recognized as a most skillful officer, and a man of superior judgement in handling his craft. He leaves a wife and family of grown up children. The engineer, Christison, also leaves a family.
      Cleveland Herald
      Tuesday, December 6, 1881

      . . . . .

At least one defect in our Navigation laws is brought out prominently in the case of the JANE MILLER as it was also in that of the WAUBUNO, viz. the want of any record at each port of the names of persons who take passage on a boat from that port. As in the WAUBUNO disaster so in that of two weeks ago, it is impossible to find out the names of many of those who are believed to have been on the lost vessel. It is said ten laborers shipped on the JANE MILLER the names of not one of them can be given. At first it was stated that only three from this neighborhood were on board; now it transpires there were six. This registration of passengers can easily be done, and the attention of the proper authorities should certainly be called to it's necessity.
      Meaford Monitor
      Friday, December 9, 1881
     
      . . . . .
     
The propeller JANE MILLER lost on Georgian Bay, had left Big Bay at the entrance of Colpoy's Bay for Spencer's dock, about 5 miles up the bay last Friday night but never reached there. 28 or 30 were lost. She was probably overloaded.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Friday, December 9, 1881
     
      . . . . .

      ALL HOPE ABANDONED
      THIRTY LIVES LOST ON THE "JANE MILLER"
      SIX FROM MEAFORD AND VICINITY.
      In our issue of last week we mentioned that grave fears were entertained for the safety of the JANE MILLER, which left this port on the 25th. november, heavily loaded, and having on board a precious freight of human lives. Since then these fears have been sadly realized. No trace has been discovered of the missing steamer, excepting a few relics which tell only too surely of her certain fate.
      The facts are as follows:- The " JANE MILLER," left this port on Friday the 25 th. November, bound first for Wiarton and Lion's head, where she was to have discharged her cargo, and then for Michael's and Providence Bays, on Manitoulin Island. On her way she called at Big Bay, about ten miles from Wiarton, and at Cameron Dock, one and a half miles further on, where she was about 10 o'clock on Friday Night. At that place it is now stated that it was known the steamer had water in her hold, and that the Captain was urged not to venture further, but he determined to go out, trusting to the pumps to overcome the leak.
      The passengers seemed not to have realized their danger, trusting implicitly to the discretion of their commander. The JANE MILLER steamed away from Cameron's Dock, intending to call at Spencer's dock only two miles off, and that was the last of her. Since then only three men's caps, two of cloth and one of fur, with several tubs of butter, part of a mast and other small portions of a vessel, and two oars marked JANE MILLER have been found on White Cloud Island, at the enterance to Colpoy's Bay. One of these caps have been recognized as belonging to a man named Cameron, who was one of the crew. The tug TOMMY WRIGHT of Wiarton has been searching for the bodies but up to the present time nothing further than above stated has been discovered. The length of time, however, and the articles already found, set all doubts at rest as to the fate of the vessel and her unfortunate crew and passengers.
      The list of names so far as known at present are as follows;-- Passengers -- J. B. Hallock; Lyman S.Vader: Jeremiah Walker,of Meaford; Stewart Thompson; Gilbert Corbett,Jno.; Jesten of St. Vincent Township; Capt. Malcolm McLeod of Detroit; Hill of -----; L. Butchart and wife, of Tobermory; and ten laborers who were going to the lumber shanty at Tobermory, names unknown. The crew was as follows; -- A. Port, Captain; R. D. Port, Mate; Fred Port, purser of Wiarton; Jas. Christison, of Red Bay, engineer; and Alex. Scales of Keppel, wheelsman; In addition to these there were three deck hands and two firemen whose names have not been ascertained. This makes thirty in all who have found a watery grave by this catastrophe...
      Meaford Monitor
      Friday, December 9, 1881

      . . . . .

      THE RECENT DISASTER
      The inhabitants of this vicinity have seldon had to mourn so sad a calamity as that which occurred two weeks ago today, by which at least thirty human beings were consigned to a watery grave, three being residents of the town and three more of' the immediate vicinity. Today, three widows mourn their husbands suddenly snatched from them in the very prime of life, three families are left fatherless. The sympathy of the people for those bereaved so mysteriously have been expressed by the Town Council officially, and is felt, we are sure, by every individual in the town. But more than sympathy should be shown. Active exertions ought to be put forth to find out if possible the real cause of the disaster. There are many theories spoken of, the most probable of which we believe to be that the engine and machinery of the ill-fated boat shifted during the storm after she left Cameron's Dock, causing her to capsize and go down almost instantly.
      we do not believe the sinking of the boat resulted from the leak spoken of in our report. Captain Port was an old seaman, and would never have ventured out had there been any danger from the leak. It is said now that the engine was not strongly stayed in it's place, and if that be true the cause of the complete disappearance of the vessel is most probably as already stated. On no other hypothesis can the non-recovery of any of the bodies be accounted for. The end must have come suddenly, without warning, when the passengers were in their state-rooms, and none but the man on watch and wheelsman on deck. In the interest of the Public safety an investagation should be held, and everything possible found out to throw light on the cause of this sad event. So many disasters have occurred entailing such fearful loss of life that people cannot but be distrustful of the manner of inspection of vessels on our lakes...
      Meaford Monitor
      Friday, December 9, 1881

      . . . . .

      THE TREACHEROUS DEEP
      AN APPALLING CALAMITY
      The Propeller JANE MILLER Founders in Colpoy's Bay,
      TWENTY-EIGHT PERSONS PERISH
      The Calamity Involved in Mystery
      Faint Hope of Finding the Wreck or Recovering the Bodies.
      What was foreshadowed in these columns last week has now become an absolute certainty; the propeller JANE MILLER has gone down with every soul on board, leaving nothing behind to mark the spot where the dreadful calamity befell her, and only a meagre remnant has been given up by the cruel treacherous deep to proclaim the awful tidings of the hapless steamer's fate. A broken flag-staff, four or five caps belonging to the crew, some parts of the hurricane deck, a few pieces of freight and four oars identified as belonging to the ill-fated steamer are all that have been found. Though the amount of wreckage this far discovered has been small, yet the fact that the steamer has entirely disappeared, and no human eye has seen her since the night the dreadful disaster is supposed to have happened, leaves not a single doubt in the minds of all that there is one more vessel to be added to the list of mysterious disappearances, and that the waters of Georgian Bay have engulfed another ill-fated WAUBUNO and twenty-eight unfortunate human beings.
      Information concerning the time the steamer left Owen Sound is not very satisfactory but enough has been ascertained to show that she departed from there on the 25th of November for Meaford. It is stated that she then had a very heavy load of freight - all she could safely carry - and at Meaford she took on thirty tons more. She left Meaford on the afternoon of that day for Wiarton, and the last positive intelligence we have of her is from Big Bay, where she arrived about 8:30 p.m. After taking on a small quantity of wood she cast off her lines, with the intention it is stated of calling at Spencer's Landing to "wood up" We have heard that while laying at Big Bay dock Captain Richard D. Port ordered the steamer to start immediately as he said they would require to blow water out of her and it is further stated she was rolling very heavily and that is all. On that particular night there was a heavy gale from the south-west in progress accompanied by a blinding snow storm, which made it impossible to see any great distance. As an indication of the ferocity of the gale we are informed that propellor CITY OF OWEN SOUNDduring a trip from Collingwood to Owen Sound had her anchors ready to let go at any moment, and her captain said it was the wildest night he ever experienced on the georgian Bay. We know that the steamer left Big Bay wharf, but excepting the statement made by Mr. R. Cameron. given elsewhere, and the fact of finding the wreckage described above, we have no further accurate knowledge of the luckless propellor. The rest is only conjecture. But the events thrown together point to a very definite conclusion, - tbat is the JANE MILLER foundered on the near neighbourhood of Spencer's Landing, in that fatal night, and now lies in over two hundred feet of water not half a mile from shore. It is sunnised, and we think correctly, that after taking in the extra freight at Meaford the steamer became top-heavy, and the fact that nearly all, if not all of her load was in the main deck, (part of the hold having been reserved for, the fuel she was to take on at Spencer's) there being no ballast and has simply rolled over without a moments warning, gives ample ground for such a conclusion. That not one of the victims of the dreadful disaster has been found need not be wondered at when it is considered that the strong gale and snow storm which was raging at the time no doubt compelled every gangway and other avenue of escape to be closed against the elements without. Thus completely penned in and before the slightest effort could be made to save themselves, twenty-eight souls were hurled into eternity without time to utter a prayer. The awful scene, as the helpless despairing victims were ruthlessly carried to their doom, no pen can adequately portray. But their agony must necessarily have been brief, and "The stout limbs yield for their strength is past" The trembling hands on the deep are cast. Their white brown gleam a moment more. Then slowly sinks - the struggle is o'er!" The disaster is all the more mysterious... the fact that although a hurricane from the south west might sweep the point where the accident is supposed to have occurred it could not create waves sufficiently strong but that a skiff might pass along in comparative safety as it would be blowing directly off the land. The steamer too was a new and strongly built, and that hardly a vestige of her has been found fully justifies the statement That she has gone to the bottom with her precious freight of human lives is beyond peradventure, and it is saddening indeed to think that almost within her haven and within sight of the homes of many of those on board the catastrophe should have occurred. A watery grave deep and dreadful has been their fate, and we know of no more fitting requiem then the following, by Oliver Wendell Holmes:
      "Well may the eternal waters be
      Their broad, unsculptur'd tomb!
      The wind that rings along the wave,
      The clear, unshadow'd sun,
      Are torch and trumpet o'er the brave,-
      Their last green wreath is won!
      No stranger-hand their banners furl'd,
      No victor's shout they heard,
      Unseen, above them ocean curl'd,
      Save by its own pale bird;
      The gnashing billows heavy'd and fell
      Wild shriek'd the midnight gale;
      Far,far beneath the morning swell
      Were pennant, spar, and sail!"
      To the people of this village the realization of the dreadful calamity that has befallen the JANE MILLER, her unhappy officers and all on board has come with startling effect, and awakening the deepest sorrow. She was a Wiarton steamer, and Captain Port's family reside here. Last Tuesday evening a public meeting was held and a search party organized. The tug TOMMY WRIGHT has made one trip to the scene of the accident, with the party on board and we give below Mr. Wm. Bull's statement of the result of their search:
"Yesterday morning the tug TOMMY WRIGHT in charge of Mr. James Inksetter and Hugh Boyd - with Messrs. D. G. Miller, Samuel Parke and the writer provided with ropes, grappling hooks, and a long lead line, went down the Bay as far as Spencer's wharf. Where we prepared to commence dragging. While this was going on I took soundings and got 33 fathoms about 50 rods from the end of the dock, we dragged with one grapnel out for several hours, and then proceeded to White Cloud Island to see if anything more had drifted ashore, Though we made no definite discovery we gained information which indicates that the vessel has foundered about half a mile from Spencer's wharf. I give the facts that seem to point to this - that on the evening when the JANE MILLER was last seen she left Big Bay between 8 and 9 o'clock on Friday evening with the intention of calling at Spencer's dock to take in wood and then proceed to Wiarton. That same evening Mr. Roderick Cameron and family expected their son from Owen Sound by the WIARTON BELLE and were looking out for her. They saw the lights of a steamer pass their place in a snow storm about nine o'clock or a little after, and watched her till she appeared to be nearly up to Spencer's dock, which is within two miles. She then appeared to be stationery. She never reached Spencer's dock as there was no wood taken. On Sunday last, (being a calm day) Mr. McGregor and two young men started from near Spencer's dock to go to the Island to see if they could find any indication of the missing steamer, and in rowing straight for a bay on the island, they saw some air bubbles rise to the surface of the water, and the water itself slightly discoloured at a particular spot Mr. McGregor roughly took the bearings from certain objects on the shore and proceeded to the Island where, in the bay they found a number of articles belong to the steamer, viz., a bucket rack, cradles of her boats, an oar with the name of JANE MILLER on it, her flagstaff, broken off, and two caps that have been identified and a number of other articles. These were all found within a short distance of each other. On returning from the Island yesterday, in the TOMMY WRIGHT; Mr. McGregor showed me the bearings of the spot where he had seen the baubles rise. And I found that this spot was about half a mile from the end of Spencer's wharf, in a north-easterly direction. The spot where the articles were found on the island was also in a direct line with this, and the wind was south-west that night. This is about the place where Mr. Cameron and his son could have last seen the boat on her way up the Bay. All the indications point to this spot and we can locate it, I think within a circuit of a quarter of a mile. Besides the soundings I took about half a mile above the spot Mr. Inksetter sounded about halfa mile below it, getting about the same depth, so that we conclude she is lying in about 200 feet of water.
      The search will be continued until all hope of discovering the wreck is lost. Meaford will send a tug to co-operate with the party here.
      As far as has been ascertained the following are the names of the lost. A Port, owner, R. D. Port, captain,.F. Port purser, all of Wiarton. J. Christison engineer, Red Bay; Alex. Scales, wheelsman, Keppel; Gilbert Corbet, fireman, Owen Sound; four deck hands, names unknown, J. Jestin, Port Elgin; J. Holeek, S. Thompson, of Meaford, I Hutshart and wife, Tobermorry; R. Gillespie; Jas. Hope, Sydenham; Capt. McLeod, Goderich; Mr. Hill, Collingwood Township. The names of the others are not known but they were a number of labourers engaged in work at Watt's mill, Lion's Head and McLandress shanty Tobennorry.
      Capt. Andrew Port was one of our most respected citizens and his genial and kindly presence will be greatly missed from among us. He was a good sailor and on the fatal night when he met his death, if any act of heroism had been required of him, he would not have been found wanting. He had often braved greater dangers than his last voyage appeared to portend. He came to Wiarton in September, 1878, and, with the tug PRINCE ALFRED; plied between Wiarton, Owen Sound and Lion's Head until the JANE MILLER came on the route. It was in the PRINCE ALFRED that Captain Port attempted his memorable trip to Michael's Bay with r. A, Lyon, M P. P. And party in the winter of 1880, and after being driven back to Tobermorry and getting frozen in there for a month, he, in endeavouring to return to this port, got fast in ice, and for two weeks, without rudder or fuel, drifted about in Georgian Bay, finally arriving in safety. He has made his last voyage, however, and a widow, two grown-up sons and daughter mourn his untimely fate.
      Capt. Richard Dawson Port was the eldest son, aged 24, and a young man of more than usual promise in his calling. He commanded the ill-fated steamer. He will be sadly missed by his many friends here, by whom he was held in high esteem.
Charles Frederick Port, purser, was the youngest of Capt. Port's family. This was his first season. He was a steady promising young man and respected by all his fellows. He was only 15 years of age.
James Christison, of Red Bay was a practical engineer, and held first class papers. He lived in this vicinity upwards of three years, and was greatly respected by all who knew him. He leaves a widow, and four children to mourn his loss.
      Alexander Scales the wheelsman was the eldest son of Mr. Alex. Scales of Keppel, and we understand, a steady, industrious young man.
      The Jane miller was built at Little Current, Manitoulin Island, by James Miller & Sons, and launched in 1879, she was 150 tons, classed A 2-1/2. Capt. Port purchased her in June, 1880, and employed her on the route from Wiarton, Meaford, Owen Sound, and the south shore of Manitoulin Island. We understand she is insured for $6,000.

      DROWNED
      In Georgian Bay, by the foundering of the Propeller
      JANE MILLER, on the night of November 25, 1881
      ANDREW PORT, aged 52, RICHARD D. PORT, aged 24,
      CHARLES: F.R.EDERICK PORT aged 15 years
      lAS. CHRISTISON, age not given, Together with
      twenty-four others of their fellow beings, who went
      down to death on that awful night.
      The above announcement speaks for itself, and tells to our readers that all hope that this unfortunate vessel might have reached a safe haven is now at an end and there is no room for doubt that she lies at the bottom of the Georgian Bay, having carried down with her at least 28 human being. The calamity, viewed in any light is an appalling one; but the fact that the ill-fated boat went down almost, we may say, within sight of Wiarton adds more poignancy to the sorrow which all must feel at the immense sacrifice of life which has taken place. The JANE MILLER was a new boat, having been built in 1879 at Little Current on the Manitoulin Island, 160 tons burden, classed A 2-1/2, and purchased by Capt. Port in 1880. The pecuniary loss which will be very large falls heavily on his unfortunate family. We have no certain information as to the cause of this disaster, and can only conjecture that it was occasioned by the overloading of the boat, and the shifting of the cargo when she came broadside to the storm. There is no doubt that the JANE MILLER was a good staunch, boat, and this is endorsed by the fact that with the exception of the few loose articles which have been picked up, not a vestige of the ill-fated vessel has risen to the surface. Had the contrary been the fact the rush of the waters as she made the fatal plunge would have broken her to pieces ere she reached the bottom. That she lies within a short distance of Spencer's dock, in about two hundred feet of water, now is all but definitely ascertained. The tug TOMMY WRIGHT has been out trying to locate the exact position of the sunken vessel, as yet without success. A tug from Meaford is expected to co-operate with the TOMMY WRIGHT in the search, and we sincerely trust they may be successful in their endeavours. Captain Port was a thorough and experienced seaman and perfectly well acquainted with the waters of Georgian Bay, and we feel quite sure that all that good seamanship and pluck could do, on his part and on the part of his officers was done to save his steamer with its precious freight of human lives. The sympathy of the whole community is extended to the families of all the unfortunate men in their heavy affiliation.
...the bereaved families, and if necessary by substantial aid, try and alleviate the distress that must invariably follow to those families who have by this sad calamity been deprived of the support of their bread-winners. The affliction falls very heavily on the family of Capt. Port, but more particularly so on that of Mr. Christison, of Red Bay, the engineer, who are left, in a measure unprovided for. We trust that the committee appointed at the public meeting held last Tuesday evening will, if they find it necessary to call upon the people for aid to the distressed family of this unfortunate man, meet with a ready and cheerful response to their appeal, and though we were powerless to avert the disaster we can, by our sympathy and aid, soften the affliction.
      Wiarton Echo
      Friday December 9,1881

      . . . . .

      A Telegram received her yesterday from Wiarton, asking our Council to co-operate with that of Wiarton in searching for the bodies lost from the JANE MILLER. Our Council have agreed to do so...
      Meaford Monitor
      Friday, December 9, 1881

      . . . . .

      Mr. Caleb Hallock brother of the late Jas. Hallock who has been grappling for the steamer JANE MILLER, in the vicinity of Big Bay and Cameron's and Spencers docks for four days, returned on Tuesday entirely unsuccessful. Not a vestige of the missing boat can be found. Dr. Hallock learned that Mr. Spencer saw the light of the JANE MILLER on the fatal night and went to his dock to await her arrival. He noticed the light apparently come to a standstill, and then disappear. Mr. Scales, father of the wheelsman, on the lost steamer, confirms this report. He also saw the light and went out upon a height near his home to watch it. He too noticed it come to a stand, and then lost sight of it. They both think the JANE MILLER went down at the moment they last saw her light. At that part of the Bay the water is about 200 feet deep...
      Meaford Monitor
      Friday, December 16, 1881

      . . . . .

      The Deputy Minister of Marine has ordered an investagation into the circumstances attending the loss of the JANE MILLER and other disasters to shipping on the Lakes. This action is taken none too soon for it is, and long been notorious, that the legal provision for the safety of vessels are utterly insufficient In the employment of Officers for the boats, cheapness rather than fitness, is often the desideratum. It is to be hoped that steps will be taken to secure a proper examination of those who are about to assume positions where the lives of others will be in their keeping -- (Toronto World)
      Meaford Monitor
      Friday, January 6, 1882

      . . . . .

      THE LOST PROPELLER
      No Further Tidings of Her Fate -- The Probable Location of the Wreck
      THE PRESS ON THE DISASTER
      Since our last issue very little has transpired to throw light upon the fate of the JANE MILLER, or her hapless passengers and crew. The TOMMY WRIGHT has made several trips to the supposed scene of the disaster, but nothing of a reliable nature was discovered. On Saturday while dragging in the vicinity of Spencer's Landing the grapnels caught several times on some; object about two hundred yards from shore and four hundred from the dock. The object appear to be wood, but the grapnels being very light the hooks would straighten without much effort, and consequently of the obstruction could not be ascertained. Its position is as near as can be located is about the spot where the ill-fated steamer is supposed to have foundered and it is the JANE MILLER. If it is her she lies in opinions of Mr. James Inksetter who conducted the search that it is thirty fathoms of water not over six hundred feet from the shore, and with proper appliance could be quite easily recovered. The weather has necessiated that nothing will be done this seasor to clear up the mystery. A little assistance from Owen Sound or Meaford would have been thankfully received, and there is no doubt that the spot where the steamer went down would have been ascertained to a certainty. The people of Owen Sound took no steps to aid in the search, however, but busied themselves sending despatches to the daily press which would lead the public to believe that they were putting forth the greatest efforts to solve the mystery of the fatal mishap, when as a matter of fact they did not even extend common sympathy. Meaford promised help, but for some cause not stated, failed to redeem its promise. Wiarton has done all in its power but single handed, and wanting proper appliances, it is evident that no satisfactory result can be looked for.
The only noteworthy incident connected with the sad affair, that has transpired during the week, was the receipt at the telegraph office here of a despatch setting forth the survivors of the steamer's passengers had arrived at Toronto from Penetanguishene and, other information of a doubtful nature. The substance of the report it is said, appeared in a Toronto evening paper. We were not favoured with a copy of the telegram, and consequently cannot give our readers the benefit of it, but as the operator here has constituted himself a public dispenser of the contents of press telegrams, we have no doubt he will gratify all who may call upon him with one of his inimitable readings. We can only say the report was a cruel hoax, and reflects discredit on the authors of it.
      At a public meeting held last week to organize a search party the following resolutions of sympathy with bereaved families carried.
      Moved by B. B. Miller, Esq., Councilor, seconded by D. Dinsmore, Esq., Reeve. That recognizing the great calamity that has befallen this village through the loss of the propeller JANE MILLER whereby Capt. Port and two of his officers untimely death and feeling that in the death of Capt. Port the people of Wiarton have lost an esteemed citizen and an honourable and enterprising man, therefore it is resolved; That this meeting in expressing grief at the loss of such a valued citizen as Capt. Andrew Port and his two sons tender its sincere and wannest sympathy to the surviving members of his family in their sad bereavement...
A committee was also formed to canvass for substantial aid to Mrs. Christison who is left in very straightened circumstances by this dire visitation and we believe the people are liberally responding.
Mr. Jas. Christison was formerly a resident of Ingersol, and the Tribute thus spoke of him; Mr. Christison was at one time a partner in the firm of Thos, Brown & Co of the Ingersol Foundry. He was highly respected during his residence here and we regret to say he leaves a family of young children.
      The following are a few of he press comments on the disaster:
      Guelph Mercury, - We are not surprised at the wreck of the JANE MILLER. when we learn the Manitoulin Expositor of the 26th ult. That she ran ashore on Club Island the previous week but got off without injury. On her way up trip the week following her machinery got out of order during a stonn and the vessel was almost ashore on Horse Island before it could be got to work agaIn.
      Toronto News: - Although the JANE MILLER was a small vessel the catastrophe is the most appalling that has ever occurred on the Georgian Bay, the loss of life reaching twenty-eight or thirty and exceeding that on the celebrated WAUBUNO disaster some years ago. The Owen Sound says: "As she was in a comparatively sheltered bay, and the wind off the shore, her foundering must be attributed to overloading" A searching inquiry is needed.
      Parry Sound Star: - Another appalling steamboat disaster has occurred on the Georgian Bay. The steamer JANE MILLER although a new boat, was not in any sense a seaworthy vessel. She was built in the "Balloon" style, hastily thrown together and "too heavy" causing her to be very "Crank." So long as the water was smooth she was a fair boat, but a bad one to overcrowd - but let a sea get up and she was in the language of an old lake captain, a "terror to roll." There are plenty more such coffins afloat, and yet our Governments is apparently heedless and careless. When will such a state of affairs end?
      Meaford Mirror: - At least one defeat in our navigation laws is brought out prominently in the case of the JANE MILLER as it was also in that of the WAUBUNO, viz the want of any record at each port of the names of persons who take passage on a boat from that port. As in the WAUBUNO disaster so in that of two weeks-ago, it is impossible to find out the names of many of those who are believed to have been on the lost vessel. It is said ten labourers shipped on the JANE MILLER, the names of not one of whom can be given. At first it was stated that only three from this
neighbourhood were aboard; now it transpires there were six. This registration of passengers can easily be done, and the attention of the proper authorities should certainly be called to its necessity.
      Toronto Globe: - At present we know nothing as to the seaworthiness of the JANE MILLER anD nothing as to whether her officers were properly certificated. None of her passenger had any means of ascertaining her soundness. If any relative of a victim wishes to sue for damages for loss of a bread-winner, he will find cast upon him the almost impossible task of proving the unseaworthiness of a vessel not one stick of which is to be found. It is wrong that the burden of this task should be cast on the suitor -always a poor person and utterly unable to fight with a vessel owner. It is all wrong that it should ever be possible to cast doubt upon the seaworthiness of a vessel that it canying any person passengers, or sailor, except its owner. The Government ought not to allow life to be risked on my vessel until its seaworthiness has been ascertained. The fact of a vessel being allowed to leave port ought to be a certificate of seaworthiness. It is simply infamous that the present state of affairs should be permitted to exist.
      Toronto Telegram:- The Georgian Bay has long been looked upon by sailors as a treacherous body of water. There have been many casualties upon it, but none so terrible as that of the WAUBUNO two years ago and the JANE MILLER a few days ago In the case of the first vessel over twenty lives were lost and to this day not a body has so far been found, in the case of the second vessel thirty lives have been lost. This deplorable loss of life may not have been unavoidable but the impression is general that the Government has failed in its duty by not enforcing a more rigid system of inspection not simply of boilers of vessels but of their hulls and works as well. Whenever a great accident happens through the unseaworthiness of a boat there is a loud and general demand for interference on the part of the Government These spasmodic demands do not accomplish much. What is wanted is a persistent agitation of the subject until the remedy is provided. Is there no Plimsoll in the Canadian Parliament?
      Wiarton Echo
      December 16,1881



      Meaford Monitor; - Mr. Caleb Hallcock brother of the late Jas Hallcock, who had been grappling for the steamer Jane Miller in the vicinity of Big Bay and Cameron's and Spencer docks for four days returned on Tuesday entirely unsuccessful. Not a vestige of the missing boat can be found, Mr. Hallock learned that Mr. Spencer saw the light of the Jane Miller on the fatal night and went to his dock to await her arrival. He noticed the light apparently come to a standstill and then disappear. Mr. Scales, father of the wheelsman on the lost steamer confirms this report. He also saw the light and went out upon a height near his home to watch it. He noticed it come to a stand, and then lost sight of it. The both think the JANE MILLER went down at the moment they last saw her light. At that part of the bay the water was about 200 feet deep.
      Enterprize
      December 22, 1991
     
      . . . . .
     
      The wooden steamer JANE MILLER, 143 tons register, was lost Friday night 25th. November last, between Big Bay and Spencers Landing (wood dock), about 5 miles from Big Bay. It appears that she left Meaford in the Georgian Bay about one o'clock P.M. on the 25 th. November, with a general cargo which she carried on deck, bound for Manitoulin Island . She arrived at Big Bay and took on some wood and left for Spencer's Dock to complete her quantity of wood for the voyage, and was lost on the way there. A light supposed to be hers, was seen from the shore, about 2 miles from Big Bay. The wreck is said to have been discovered about 200 yds. from Spencer's wood dock, which she was trying to make, in about 25 fathons of water. It would appear that she had almost reached her point of destination, and is supposed to have capsized in turning to make the dock, the wind being then on her broadsides and blowing a gale, having her cargo on deck and nothing in her hold. It is also stated that she listed considerable, and had water in her hold, which the mate wished to have pumped out before leaving, but was told by the master to wait until they arrived at Spencer's Dock, and relieve her of the water then and fill up with wood which would also act as ballast, the vessel was two years old and was registered at Collingwood, and was valued at $10,700. She was owned by Mr. Richard D. Port of Wiarton, Ontario, who was mate of the vessel. 25 lives were lost by this casualty, the value of the cargo is unknown..
      Report of the Chairman
      Steamboat Inspection for 1881
      Sessional Papers (No. 5) A.. 1882
      . . . . .

      JANE MILLER. 18.63 Horse Powered Propeller of 145 tons reg. or 210 tons gross, she was built of wood, at Little Current, Ont., in 1879 and was listed as a freight and passenger vessel operating between Owen Sound and Manitoulin Island.
      Steamboat Inspection List 1881
      vessels Lost, wrecked, or otherwise Laid up.

      . . . . .

      THE TRAGEDY OF THE JANE MILLER
      In 1879 there was launched at Little Current on Manitoulin Island the propeller JANE MILLER, a small stubby craft designed for the coasting trade of Georgian Bay. James Miller & Sons built, owned, and sailed her, and she was soon a familiar sight to the isolated way-ports of the Bruce Peninsula and North Channel. Until a final climactic tragedy she sailed for the most part a casual uneventful course. In the summer of 1879 she became the first boat to call at McKeown's Dock, west of Gore Bay, and was loudly cheered upon her arrival and departure by most of the local settlers. In September she rammed and heavily damaged the schooner MOUNTAINEER in a night-time encounter on Owen Sound. This was perhaps her only mishap and Captain Miller claimed that the unfortunate schooner was running without lights. In November the JANE MILLER spent four days beating a course through heaving seas from Owen Sound to Manitowaning, darting from one sheltered bay to another where passengers gathered beach-nuts and hoisted cordwood. There is a hint that she may not have worked up to the expectations of her owner for that autumn she was put into the Owen Sound dry-dock and fitted with a new propeller. In June of 1880 the JANE MILLER was sold to Andrew Port of Wiarton who put her on a route from Wiarton and Owen Sound east to Meaford and then north as far as Providence Bay on the south shore of Manitoulin Island. A brisk newspaper advertisement proclaimed to the prospective passenger, "The scenery along the route is of unsurpassing beauty and Grandeur, and excursionists, pleasure seekers, tourists and travellers cannot fail to find the short trip the most enjoyable and least expensive of any now offering." Meals were supplied on board and the public was promised "every comfort and convenience as well as courtesy and attention."
      On the 25th of November 1881 the JANE MILLER departed Owen Sound under a grey sky on her last schedueled trip of the season. Early in the afternoon she arrived at Meaford and augmented an already heavy load with additional passengers and thirty tons of freight. At twilight the JANE MILLER was again rolling to the rising chop of Georgian Bay. As darkness came on the temperature fell and the wind began to freshen out of the southwest.
      Although the exact number was never to be determined at least thirty persons sailed from Meaford. These included Andrew Port, the owner, his sons, Captain Richard Port, age twenty-four, and purser Frederick, at the age of fifteen probably the youngest person on board. Two of the crew, engineer James Christison of Red Bay and Alexander Scales of Keppel township, came from the Wiarton area. At least five deck hands shipped at Owen Sound and only one, Gilbert Corbett of that town, is identified. The passengers numbered more than twenty and were bound to Tobermory and Michael's Bay. Among them was a gang of unidentified workmen on their way to Watt's sawmill at Lion's Head and McLander's lumber shanty near Tobermory.
      At 8:30 in the evening the JANE MILLER hauled into the dock at North Keppel, a tiny hamlet near the entrance to Colpoys Bay. A terrible gale, with snow, was now blowing and a shore party quickly brought a load of cordwood requested by the captain. He was heard to remark that the steamer had been rolling hard and had taken in a noticeable amount of water. His last words were that there was not enough wood and that he would proceed on to Spencer's wharf on the south shore of Colpoys Bay for more.
      About 9 o'clock Roderick Cameron and his wife stood on the wind swept beach at what is now Cameron Point in anticipation of seeing the steamer WIARTON BELLE which was bringing home their son from Owen Sound. They spotted the JANE MILLER beating her way through the narrow strait between White Cloud Island and the mainland and watched as she pitched into the giant seas funneling out of Colpoys Bay. The Camerons saw her turn to port, evidently to approach Spencer's dock, when her lights suddenly went out. The snowstorm closed in and the fate of the JANE MILLER was swallowed by the howling darkness.
      For five days the whereabouts of the JANE MILLER remained a mystery. There was little concern until debris was found on White Cloud Island in Kidd Bay. On the 3rd of December Mr. Scales, father of the wheelsman, returned from the island with two oars marked "Jane Miller", two kegs of butter, pieces of furniture, and the steamer's gang-plank. The next day the tug TOMMY WRIGHT arrived at Wiarton from an extensive search with more wreckage, all identified as belonging to the missing steamer. Meanwhile, a Mr. McGregor and two young men set out from Spencer's wharf in a small boat and in rowing for Kidd Bay they spotted "some air bubbles rise to the surface of the water, and the water itself slightly discoloured at a particular spot. The "spot" was "about half a mile from the end of Spencer's wharf, in a northeasterly direction," and on a straight line to Kidd Bay. The T0MMY WRIGHT, and later the tug RESCIIE sent up by the mayor of Meaford, searched the area with grappling irons but found nothing .
      The JANE MILLER was now officially given up as lost. It was believed that she sailed without ballast and being too heavily laden with an improperly stowed cargo became dangerously unstable. On making the final turn into Spencer's landing she took a fatal beam sea, rolled over and sank.
      The tragedy struck hard at Wiarton and left a lasting memory. The survivors of the stricken Port family departed soon after the wreck and moved into York county, north of Toronto. Of the crew and passengers none were ever found. They still lie entombed at the bottom of a forty fathom trench. The sole memorial to their fate is a commemorative plaque standing in the small park which overlooks the site of Spencer's dock.
      from Shipwrecks of the Saugeen
      by Patrick Folkes






Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Notes:
Reason: sunk
Lives: 25
Freight: general
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
1881
Subject(s):
Local identifier:
McN.W.21773
Language of Item:
English
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.75009 Longitude: -81.14973
Donor:
William R. McNeil
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Jane Miller (Propeller), sunk, 23 Nov 1881