The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Charles W. Parker (Tug), U125222, scuttled, 9 Oct 1891

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A boiler explosion aboard the tug C.W. PARKER killed seven persons and seriously injured many others in the neighborhood of the Archer Ave. bridge on the South Branch of the Chicago River about 4:30 Sunday afternoon. Three were dead on the tug, the others were bystanders as the PARKER along with three other tugs were engaged in attempting to tow the coal steamer S.E. PICKANDS out of the drawbridge.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Monday, October 5, 1891

      Chicago, Oct. 9. -- When put in dry dock this morning the lever of the tug PARKER was found reversed. This proved that Sunday night's explosion had been caused by low water in the tug's boiler. A hole ten feet wide and twenty feet long was found in her bottom and the wreck will be towed into the lake and set adrift.
      Buffalo Enquirer
      Friday, October 9, 1891
      We have received a copy of the report of the local inspectors at Chicago, Cyrus H. Sinclair and Stuart H. Moore, to James A. Dumont, supervising inspector general of steam vessel of the United States, on the explosion of the boiler of the tug CHARLES W. PARKER, in Chicago river on Oct. 4. The inspectors deal fully with the accident and attribute it to the use of Chicago river water for making steam. The PARKER with three other tugs was engaged in an effort to release the steamer H. S. PICKANDS from the bottom of the east draw of Archer avenue bridge when the explosion occurred, resulting in the loss of ten lives and injury to others.
"The boat was working with a full head of steam," says the report of the inspectors, "when she blew out the crown sheet of her boiler. The boiler was found about 500 feet from the scene of the explosion, and an examination showed that it was in good condition, except that the crown sheet and stays leading to top of dome and shell had disappeared, the fusible plug being but partly melted out. Three days later, we examined the hull of the boat which had been placed in dry dock and found the missing crown sheet with nearly all of the stays attached. An examination of the engine disclosed the fact that at the time of the explosion, or an instant before it, the engine had been reversed from going ahead to backing up motion. We have made a very careful investigation of the cause leading up to this accident, and find that the captain and engineer of the boat were considered very careful, reliable and experienced men, having had years of experience in this line of work, and they both knew full well the dangers of the locality in which they were engaged. The water in this portion of the river is of a very dangerous character, owing to the proximity of the slaughter and gas houses on the river, and from the facts that we have been able to obtain it is our opinion that this accident was caused by the use of this water for making steam. The effect was to cause. the boiler to foam badly, thereby making it almost impossible for the engineer to keep the water in the boiler at the proper height. The sudden stopping and starting of the engine, if the water in the boiler was low, would be sufficient to cause this accident. This boiler was well built and if well taken care of and under ordinary condition, would have lasted a life-time."
      The Marine Review
      November 5, 1891

Steam screw CHARLES W. PARKER. U. S. No. 125222. Of 36.42 tons gross; 18.21 tons net. Built Chicago, Ill., 1873. Home port, Chicago, Ill. 66.8 x 15.0 x 7.6
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1891

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Reason: scuttled
Remarks: Total loss
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  • Illinois, United States
    Latitude: 41.85003 Longitude: -87.65005
William R. McNeil
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Charles W. Parker (Tug), U125222, scuttled, 9 Oct 1891