The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily Review (Collingwood, ON), August 22, 1863

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Accident to the Steamer Ploughboy



Great anxiety being felt in this Town at the non-arrival of the steamer Ploughboy which was due on the 4th day of August inst., the Angus Morrison, with Messrs W. Miller W. G. Paterson, John Albistou, William Watts, and David Miller was dispatched to seek the missing vessel. Contrary winds, however prevailing, the craft made little headway, the anxiety becoming greater, a small boat was despatched to the Severn for the Propeller Nicolet where she was engaged in towing out some vessels laden with lumber, in order to send her out to look for the now generally supposed lost steamer. The Nicolet returned from the Severn on Friday, and immediately made preparations for her departure, which she took on Saturday, morning about four o'clock. In the meantime however news had reached this Town that the Ploughboy had injured her machinery and was laying at anchor about fifty miles above Little Current, when the Nicolet steered her course for The news of the disaster was brought here by the engineer who had travelled wit three Indians in a canoe a distance of some two hundred miles, in order to procure some assistance, he having left the Ploughboy on Wednesday about noon, reaching Collingwood about midnight on Friday.

On enquiry, we learn that the Ploughboy met with her accident at midnight on Monday when about fifty miles above Little Current and eighty miles from Detour immediately off John Point-Barrie Island. The accident was caused by the breaking of the connecting strap of the main connecting rod drawing the piston rod through the cylinder, breaking the piston head and condenser, and completely smashing up the portions of the engine. The only wonder is that the ponderous walking beam had not gone completely through the bottom of the ill-fated vessel hurling death and destruction to all on board... not to know that the connecting strap on the main connecting rod was for a month or perhaps two almost severed, there not being one square inch of round metal holding this ... machinery in its place, thereby endangering the lives of all on board.

On the appearance of daylight, two boats wee dispatched, one to Detour to procure the assistance of a tug, and the other to Cloche Island to seek provisions for the steamer. The first boat was manned by Mr. Herbert Parks, Purser, Mr. Duncan McLean, 1st Mate, Daniel McHugh, Wheelsman, Louis Bouche Alex McLean, Deck-hand, who alas were destined never to touch the end of their journey. About nine o'clock a.m. and when about thirty-five miles from the vessel, and immediately off Mildrum Point, Straits of Mississagua, a tremendous storm arose, which upset the yawl boat, precipitating the crew into the water, and after some difficulty they got her righted again, although full of water, and got into her, but had only proceeded a short distance when she again went over, this was repeated four times, when Mr. Parks sank to rise no more; again the boat was righted, and again the men got into her, and proceeded in this way for about two hours more, when she again upset, and Bouche and McLean becoming exhausted could not regain the boat, and disappeared forever from mortal view. The remaining two once more righted the boat and got into her about this time the wind clipped round and the boat began drifting towards shore, which revived the hopes of those remaining, but when about half a mile from land sad to say, McHugh became so exhausted, that a wave washing over him drowned him in the boat, and another following immediately after, washed him overboard. In the course of a short time now, more, the breakers had carried the boat high and dry on the beach when the only survivor of the unfortunate crew Mr. McLean, the 1st Mate, managed to crawl out of her and lay down on the shore to revive himself a little, having been over ten hours in the water. Night setting in, Mr. McLean found it necessary to stir himself and make for an Indian village named Shesagawaney, which he supposed to be only a short distance off, but to reach it he had to walk over forty-miles, arriving there at ten o'clock the following day, on coming to the village the Indians showed him every kindness, and after resting a little while, they took a canoe and paddled him to the boat, which he reached again on Wednesday afternoon, conveying the melancholy intelligence to the officers on board.

The second boat, with Mr. Thomas Collins, Steward, Neil McCorvie, Wheelsman, D. Lane, Waiter, Messrs. Dupont and Frazer, passengers proceeded to Closhe Island, for provisions, which they succeeded in reaching after a good deal of difficulty, returning to the steamer on Thursday morning.

On Tuesday last the propeller Nicolet reached he Ploughboy, in Clapperton Bay where she had been towed by two boats of the Hudson Bay Company, under the charge of Mr. Bell the Company's agent at Lacloche. The Nicolet immediately took the Ploughboy in tow, reaching Collingwood about half-past five on Thursday morning, the passengers looking not very much the worse for their ... voyage.

Mr. Watt, the owner of the Nicolet, is deserving of great praise for the prompt manner to which he assistance was tendered to the Ploughboy even at a great risk to his own boat, and to Captain Mills of the same vessel, are we deeply indebted for his energetic kindness in the hour of need. Mr. William Miller also behaved in a very handsome manner in despatching the Angus Morrison as the only available vessel at the time in port to seek the supposed wrecked steamer. To those gentlemen are the public deeply indebted for the disinterested manner in which they risked their lives and property for to render aid to those in trouble.

...We cannot allow this sorrowful opportunity to pass without expressing our opinion that this sad accident might have been avoided. We do not set ourselves up as a judge whose dictum is law in nautical matters. We confess our painful ignorance in not knowing the Port and Starboard Tacks, but we do pretend to set up the assumption that there must be a wonderful difference and efficacy between steering a boat in a heavy sea with a Rudder instead of an Oar There is every reason to believe that if the boat had been provided wit a rudder, those four unfortunate men would still have been living. As it was, the boat was half the time unmanageable, owing to the oar being so often out of the water, and the great difficulty encountered in getting it back to its proper position again. Our opinion is strengthened from the fact that the other boat which left the Ploughboy to go to Lacloche was nearly meeting with a similar fate. We are informed by the Steward, Mr. Thomas Collins, who was one of her crew, that it took three men to steer her, and in the operation they limbered up three oars to such an extent as to be useless for the purpose, and had it not been for the coolness and experience of the steersman-an ancient mariner there would have been no hope for them.

It is highly necessary that these facts should be made patent to all, and that owners of steamboats particularly, should be controlled to have all their boats furnished with a simple inexpensive and obvious a requirement.

We tremble to think of what the consequence might have been if the accident had occurred to the Ploughboy in the open lake and the passengers had to embark in the boats with such a sea running. It requires no gift of prophecy to predict that not one would have been left to tell the tale. That human lives should be sacrificed in this manner where the simplest precaution might have saved them we look upon as being the effect of wanton negligence.


The Steamer Michigan from Detroit arrived here yesterday having been dispatched to render what assistance she could to the Ploughboy, but got there too late.


A very serious accident occurred to the steamer Clifton, while on her way to take an Excursion party from Penetanguishene to Owen Sound, on Thursday morning the 13th instant. It appears that while proceeding on her way about 4 o'clock a.m. and immediately opposite the Reformatory Prison she ran on a shoal that extended some distance out into the harbour, where she remained until the next day, when fortunately. The water rose some ten inches on the bar, which enabled her to be once more floated. Her bottom was seriously injured, so much so that it was find necessary to take her to the dry dock at Detroit, to have her injuries repaired. We expect to see her on old route this day again.


The Corner's Jury is still engaged in investigating into the cause of the death of Mr. W Gibbard Several witnesses were examined Thursday morning last, when the Inquest was adjourned until Monday next. The two witnesses subpoenaed at Shebananning viz Fraser Scholer and the Indian Little Jack Thunder Cloud have not yet made their appearance although served by Chief Constable Dudgon on the upward trip of the Ploughboy three weeks since...

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August 22, 1863
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Bill Hester
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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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Daily Review (Collingwood, ON), August 22, 1863