Burning of the E. K. Collins
Between ten and eleven o'clock, on the night of October 9, 1854, the steamboat E. K. Collins was burned to the water's edge on Lake Erie, nearly opposite the lighthouse below Mauldin. At the time the fire broke out, she was on her way from Sault St. Marie to Cleveland. Before she could be run on shore, she was completely enveloped in flames. Twenty-three of the passengers and crew were either drowned or burned to death. The fire broke out on the boiler deck, and spread so rapidly that the passengers and crew, most of whom were in bed, [p. 250] had not time to dress themselves, before they ran on deck to seek the means of escape. As soon as the boat had reached shallow water she became unmanagable, and while the head was embedded in the sand the stern projected over the deep water, and all who happened to be abaft the machinery were reduced to the necessity of throwing themselves overboard, or remaining in the boat with the certainty of perishing in the flames. Had it not been for the timely arrival of the propeller Finertz[sic: FINTRY], scarcely any would have been saved. The current set strongly from the shore, so that several men who attempted to save themselves by swimming were carried back and drowned. The Captain of the Finertz , seeing the light, hastened to the wreck, and had all his boats ready for service by the time of his arrival. Nearly all who were saved owe their preservation to the prompt assistance rendered by this vessel. As a surprising example of human depravity, it is mentioned that some wretch, in the very height of the consternation on board, stole eighty dollars, the hard earnings of a poor invalid, who had been working at Sault St. Marie, until his declining health obliged him to return to his family, at Cleveland. A purse of twenty dollars was contributed by the passengers for the relief of the unfortunate man who had been victimized by this atrocious and inhuman robbery.
Names of those who perished by this Disaster.— Mrs. Dibble; Samuel Powell ; Lawrence Whalom ; Thomas Cook ; Mrs. McNailly; Mrs. Watrums and child ; a colored man from Virginia, name unknown ;Charles Adams ; John McNeely ; John Ennis ; P. Tinker John Halstead ; Mr. Lyman ; Mrs. F. Lewis ; Samuel Brown ; A. Alwick ; Thomas Anderson ; J. A. Grinnan ; James Grimmet ; Nathanial Robins, and one of the pilots, name not mentioned.