The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), December 6, 1894

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Mackinaw City, December 5. - The steamer Waldo A. Avery, Chicago to Buffalo with grain, burned in the straits to-night. The burning boat was beached at McGulpin's point, five miles west of here, where she is still burning at 11 o'clock. Both steamer and cargo will be totally destroyed. The crew all escaped in safety. The flames lighted up the straits so that the burning boat was sighted from both St. Ignace and Mackinaw Island.

The Avery left Chicago at 3 o'clock Monday morning. She had a very rough trip down Lake Michigan, but reached Waugoshance light, at the entrance to the straits, all right. Soon after passing Waugoshance, fire was discovered in the lamproom. Capt. Chris Smith, who had remained on duty all the way from Chicago to Waugoshance, had retired and turned the boat over to Mate Hollenbeck. He had hardly reached his couch when a dread alarm of fire went over the ship. Rushing on deck he ordered the lamproom closed tightly, and hurried aft to the fire extinguisher. The door was ten opened and an effort was made to extinguish the flames.

By that time, however, all the oil in the room was ignited, and the stream from the hose but scattered the blazing oil, without quenching the flames. It was not long before the crew were driven back.

By this time the forward end of the boat was all ablaze. Capt. Smith ordered the forward yawl moved aft, but just then the flames burned off the falls, letting the boom down, which broke the yawl into splinters. A part of the crew, who were wholly panic stricken, attempted to take the remaining yawl and escape. Capt. Smith stationed himself near the lifeboat, and forcibly forbid anyone from leaving the boat until she should be beached. He then disconnected the wheel chains, slipped the tiller and ran the steamer ashore abreast of McGulpin's Point. For a time the crew continued to fight the fire with buckets, but the strong west wind fanned the flames until they were forced to take to the lifeboats. All the crew, excepting the mate, left all their clothes behind. They reached the shore in safety, arriving there at 9 o'clock to-night. By that time the fire had got in to the corn cargo and was burning fiercely. The flames lighted up the lake for many miles.

"I cannot imagine what started the fire," Mate D. S. Hollenbeck said. "I inspected the oil room this morning and found it in order. When I heard the call of fire I hastened forward and found the lamp room all in flames. Watchman McDonough, who was the first to discover the fire, was in the pilot-house and noticed the smoke coming through the floor. He rushed to the lamp room and found the pile of rags for cleaning lamps on fire. He tried to smother the fire by throwing heavy coats over it, but it was too well started for that. If prompt assistance could have been rendered us, the boat could have been saved, but, unfortunately, all the tugs were at too great a distance to reach us in time to be of any use, and none came to our assistance."

The boat was owned by Hawgood and Avery, of a Bay City, and was valued at $80,000. She was built in 1884. Her cargo consisted of 70,000 bushels of corn, which was to be held on board for winter storage at Buffalo.

Media Type:
Item Type:
WALDO was 204 feet and 1,294 g.t., US#81048. Her cargo burned for several days and was still smoldering when the insurance representative inspected her on the 7th. She was abandoned as a total loss, but was resurrected the following year and rebuilt at her birthplace, the Frank Wheeler yard in Bay City. When she came out again in 1895 she was renamed, appropriately, PHENIX (sic). She carried on profitably until (as LIBERTY) she was abandoned in 1923.
Date of Original:
December 6, 1894
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Dave Swayze
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
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Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), December 6, 1894