The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 23 Jul 1856

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p.2 Imports - July 22nd - Steamer Banshee, Montreal, (gen. cargo).

Str. Ontario, Ogdensburgh, (gen. cargo).


The Northern Indiana Burned


We have already published a notice received by telegraph of the burning of the steamer Northern Indiana on her passage from Detroit to Toledo, on Tuesday forenoon. We have since received the following particulars by the Buffalo papers of Friday evening and one of Saturday morning, with which we were favored by Mr. Riggs of the American Express.

Capt. Ralph, of the steamer Plymouth Rock arrived at Buffalo on Friday morning, and reported that he hailed the steamer Mississippi bound to Detroit, a short time after she left the scene of disaster. He noticed the flags of the Mississippi at half-mast, that her small boats were upon the cranes, and suspected that something was wrong. Capt. Ralph checked his vessel, and brought up as near to the Mississippi as possible in order to ascertain what was the trouble. At the time he was on duty on the pilot house, as was Captain Langley, of the Mississippi, and amid the din and confusion which prevailed among the passengers of the latter boat, most of whom were taken from the wreck of the ill-fated vessel could only learn that the fire originated about eleven o'clock, in the woodwork about one of the chimnies. The flames spread rapidly, and ere fifty minutes had elapsed, the Northern Indiana was burned to the water's edge.

Mr. Wetmore, the first mate, who was on duty as Commander, in absence of Capt. Pheatt ? who had been confined for some time to his bed in Buffalo by severe illness, exercised almost superhuman efforts to save the lives of all his passengers, and was the last one to leave the vessel. He stood nobly at his post, throwing cabin doors, life preservers, stools, pieces of plank, fender guards and everything that would buoy up a person, in the water, to the passengers, who were wild with excitement, and leaping overboard in masses. His men, too, were kept in perfect subjection during the fearful period, and but few exhibited any symptoms of insubordination. The weather was pleasant at the time of the accident, and a dead calm prevailed, and it is the opinion of Mr. Wetmore that had the recklessness exhibited by some of the passengers in leaping overboard, been avoided, none would have been lost. During the exciting period, some of the firemen and deckhands launched one of the small boats, into which several jumped, and it is thought they were drawn under the revolving wheels and were lost. Of the number, none were females, however.

Capt. Ralph informs us that when he hailed the Mississippi, the guards of the steamer were fairly black with human beings; shawls, blankets, and scarfs were waved, and he was fairly deafened with cries of "tell So and So I am safe," "be sure and let my wife know all is right," etc. But he could not distinguish anyone. He further states that the lake was covered with pieces of timber and sections of wreck sufficient to save twice the number of passengers aboard of the Northern Indiana. The vessel was towed into shore by the propeller Republic, and now lies in Pigeon Bay, just above Point Au Pelee, in eight feet of water. Her hull, it is thought, is entirely uninjured, and if the weather proves favorable, can be brought into port without much difficulty.

In regard to the number lost, Capt. R. states, that from what he could gather from the people on the Mississippi, the number telegraphed last evening is greatly exaggerated, though the correct estimate cannot, at present, be made, as the trip sheets of the Clerk were destroyed. Of the lady passengers on board not one was lost. Of the crew, two firemen, two deckhands, and a watchman are missing. One person, taken from the water by a small boat, belonging to the Mississippi, died shortly after being brought on board, whether from exhaustion or fright it is not known - name not learned.

In regard to the report in circulation that the Northern Indiana and Mississippi were racing at the time the fire broke out, it is entirely without foundation, as the latter was a long way in the rear and not attempting to catch up. Two of those who were on board the N.I. were brought down by the Plymouth Rock - a waiter and a fireman - but from them we could get nothing definite, their statement being a confused one.

A later account states that the total number saved from the Northern Indiana and brought up by the steamer Mississippi and propeller Republic is 142. Among the saved whose names were not heretofore given are Rev. Wm. Cathcart and infant child, of Lagrange, Ind.

The Captain of the Republic thinks none were saved except those on board his own vessel and the Mississippi.

Our citizens held a meeting last night and raised $800 for the sufferers, and several more hundreds were raised for them today. Every attention is paid to them. Free Railroad and steamboat passes are furnished them, and the hotels and the telegraph are also free to them.

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23 Jul 1856
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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pd [more details]
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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 British Whig (Kingston, ON), 23 Jul 1856