The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
St. Joseph Saturday Herald (St. Joseph, MI), 5 September 1914, page 1

Full Text
Steamer Burns Off Chicago
Panic By Captain And Crew
Captain Bjork Heads Blazing City Of Chicago For Pier; Passengers Are Rescued

The steamer City of Chicago of the Graham & Morton fleet was burned to the water's edge Tuesday a.m. off the Chicago harbor. The big steamer laden with passengers and a heavy load of freight crashed into the breakwater south of the harbor entrance, on fire from bow to stern, and all the passengers were transferred from the boat to safety when she became wedged in timbers of the structure and Capt. Oscar Bjork was the last man to leave the ship.

Fire Discovered Fifteen Miles Out.

The alarm of fire was sounded when the steamer was about fifteen miles from the Chicago harbor, and the passengers were ordered to assemble on deck. The officers and the crew moved among the passengers thereby averting a panic while the fire fighters threw volumes of water on the constantly growing fire which successfully combatted every effort to subdue. Capt. Bjork headed the steamer for the breakwater and assured the passengers that the burning craft would be beached in time to save them all. Engineer William Johnson opened the engines and the liner shot ahead under double head of steam for the piers.

Wireless Brings Help.

The wireless operator who stuck to his post, flashed the news of the fire to Chicago lifesavers and officers of the Graham & Morton company, and soon a number of fire tugs and the lifesavers in the motor boats were rushing to the scene. As the passengers huddled upon the forward decks watching the fire creep upon them, the Chicago was rushing on toward the breakwater and soon, in the fastest time the boat ever made, crashed into the pier, with her load of human freight. Despite the fact that the fire tugs poured streams of water upn the burning boat, the upper works were soon burned away to the water's edge, and the steamer was a complete loss.

Origin of the Fire.

The fire is reported to have started near the engine room, presumably in the bunkers, and gained great headway in a short time. The cause of the flames which destroyed the boat is not reported. The steamer carried about 200 passengers and a heavy load of fruit. the [sic] steamer was loaded to its gunwale and to its capacity. It was the biggest load of fruit taken out by the steamer this year, and the loss is complete. The loss is estimated at $200,000 fully covered by insurance. A limosine owned by Mrs. A. W. Hanna of Chicago was destroyed by the flames. The cargo insurance carried by the Graham & Morton company protects the steamship company as well as the shippers of the freight destroyed. Lake transportation companies generally carries two kinds of insurance policies on their boats, one a general form covering the hull and the machinery, the other a policy on the cargo. The G. & M. company carry both and are amply protected against the loss although the steamer was totally destroyed.

Left Here Monday Night.

The burned steamer left here about 11 o'clock Monday night for Chicago and when an hour out of the harbor across the lake, was discovered on fire. She was one of the most trustworthy boats owned by the Graham & Morton line and had a reputation among marine men for being seaworthy and freight carrier. She was built in West Bay City, Mich., twenty-four years ago.

The Chicago had a gross tonnage of 1,439 and a net tonnage of 1,012. She was 254 feet long, thirty-four feet wide and had a depth of 13.6 feet. She was licensed to carry a crew of forty persons and had an indicated horsepower of 1,300.

U. S. Investigation Started.

Federal investigation into the fire was begun by Capt. Ira B. Mansfield, chief steamboat inspector.

Capt. Mansfield was notified of the fire soon after the vessel struck the pier in front of the life-saving station. He immediately left the federal building for the scene.

William Nichols, chief assistant also went to the pier. Mr. Nicholas said that an inquiry would be made.

"We will try to find out the cause of the fire and who, if any one, is to blame for it," he said.

Media Type:
Item Type:
The City of Chicago was completely gutted, but Graham & Morton rebuilt her and renamed her the City of St. Joseph
Date of Original:
5 September 1914
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Robert C. Myers
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
WWW address
Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.

St. Joseph Saturday Herald (St. Joseph, MI), 5 September 1914, page 1