Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Richelieu (Steamboat), C33476, boiler explosion, 21 Sep 1882
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Montreal, Sept. 21. -- The steamboat disaster at Lachine today is the topic of conversation here. From a visit to the spot The Globe correspondent, gleamed some particulars of the affair. It appears that the "water jacket" on the boiler of the steamer RICHELIEU exploded, and the result was the death of four of the persons on board and the serious wounding of seven others. The RICHELIEU is owned by Captain Filgate, of this city, and runs as a ferry between Lachine and Caughnawaga. During the fall and spring months, however she makes a trip each evening to Chateauguay Basin, and returns to Lachine in the morning. Today she left Chateauguay at about 7 A. M., with about 60 passengers and five horses and vehicles on board. Between Lachine and Caughnawaga the steam ran low, and the rudder almost lost control of the vessel. Captain Duquette, finding that the current was turning the steamer round, went down into the engine room and told the engineer he would have to get more steam somewhere. The engineer then went to the fire hole and investigated. The steam did not seem to improve and the Captain again left the wheelhouse to give instructions to the engineer to do something further to give the boat way. The engineer was just going down the ladder to the stokehole when the engine made half a revolution with great rapidity, a loud sharp report followed by a crash, and flying cinders, smoke and soot were blown among the passengers. All was excitement in an instant, the passengers running about in confusion, believing that the boiler had burst, and that the steamer was sinking. Some had presence of mind enough to make their way to the bow of the boat to lower the anchor. Other lowered the two life boats from the davits, while some clambered on the upper deck and threw down the life preservers stowed there in chests. The tug TIM DOYLE from Lachine saw the accident and towed the RICHELIEU to shore.
The engineer, Michael Frechette, is most dangerously injured, and was delirious for a greater part of the day. His head is bruised fearfully, and so swollen that he is unable to open his eyes. He vomited a great deal of blood, and fears are entertained that he is severely injured internally. He, however, said that he did not feel the least pain. He was married, and his wife and four children live at Quebec. He obtained his second-class engineer's certificate in 1862 and considered himself one of the oldest engineers on the river. He said that at the time of the accident the gauge showed 27 lbs. of steam in the boiler, and that the usual working pressure of the engine was forty-five pounds. He thought the accident was caused by some of the machinery becoming deranged, or by a piece of wood falling between the movements of the engine, but did not realize that there had been any explosion. Poor fellow, he seems to have stuck to his post to the last.
The killed are PIERRE Duquette, Captain and pilot of the RICHELIEU, a married man, and leaves a wife and four young children at Chateauguay Basin; Pierre Duquettem his son, about 18 years old, Purser; P. Amyot, of Montreal, a single man living in Montreal; a fruit dealer, Jas. Richardson, son of a well to do farmer living in the parish of Chauteauguay.
The wounded are Mr. J. Leberge, of Chateauguay, badly bruised about the legs; Michael McCumber, of Caughnawaga, fireman, badly scalded about the face and neck, and has several bruises on his body; James Muir, son of Mr. David Muir, a respectable farmer of Chateauguay, face and head badly bruised, and it is feared that his skull was fractured. He was insensible for the greater part of the day. Michael Caron, son of a Chateauguay farmer, burnt about the face and neck. Dolard Picard severely burnt about his face and bruised on the body. Emile Blanchard burnt about the neck and face. Both of these are young farmers from Chateauguay. Joseph Duquette, nephew of the Captain, was at the wheel at the time of the accident. The shock lifted him from his feet, and he narrowly escaped injury.
The cause of the accident seems to be the corrosion of the water jacket. It is a cylinder about three and a half feet in diameter by seven in length, and encircles the funnel. The boiler and water jacket were tested by Mr. Burgess, the Government Inspector of Steamboats in May last. That gentleman informs our reporter today that he tested both boiler and jacket up to 80 pounds pressure, and the safety valve was weighted at 45 pounds, and it is thought at the time of the accident only 28 pounds was being carried. The water jacket shows both thinness and rust, varying from about one-eighth of an inch in thickness downward. Mr. Burgess ascribes the accident solely to the weakness of the old iron, but cannot explain the immediate cause of the explosion. It might result from the cold water which feeds the jacket to get almost empty, when of course an immense quantity of steam would be immediately generated by the heat. The engineer is unable to give any coherent explanation of the affair at present. It is a wonder that with some sixty people on board there were not more fatalities.
The coroner having viewed the bodies this afternoon empanelled a jury, and also made arrangements for the burial of the bodies.
The RICHELIEU is an old boat, having been built in 1842. She was a sister boat to the FIREFLY, and performed the ferry service between Montreal and St. Lambert. She has always been unlucky. At her launch some of the stays gave way, and falling over she was considerably bruised. She afterwards became the property of the Harbour Commissioners, and while in their service sank between Three Rivers and Le Plateau, and remained over a year at the bottom of the St. Lawrence. She was raised, and bought by her present owner, Captain Filgate, who has run her upon the Lachine and Caughnawaga ferry since last spring.
      The J.W. Hall Great Lakes Marine Scrapbook, September, 1882

Steam Paddle RICHELIEU. Official Canada No. 33476. Of 125 tons gross; 85 tons register. Built at Montreal, Que. in 1845. Home port, Ottawa. 130.0 x 17.9 x 7.1. Owned by S. Filgate, of Montreal, Que. List of vessels on the Registry Books of the
      Dominion of Canada, on Dec. 31, 1898

Media Type
Item Type
Reason: boiler explosion
Lives: 4
Freight: passengers
Remarks: Repaired
Date of Original
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Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Quebec, Canada
    Latitude: 45.43177 Longitude: -73.66899
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Richelieu (Steamboat), C33476, boiler explosion, 21 Sep 1882