The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Nov 1858

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p.1 The Evidence of the Hercules Inquest before Coroner Worthington

Morrisburg, Oct. 9th, 1858

Edward Russell, of the Township of Augusta, County of Grenville, deck-hand, being sworn - States that the steamer Hercules blew up about 7 o'clock a.m. today, 9th Oct., and that he, (Edward Russell,) was on board. That he recognizes the body of Patrick Malone, now lying dead at the Grand Trunk Hotel, as fireman on the boat Hercules, also recognizes the body lying at Murphy's Hotel, as Tillock Keelon, fireman, and second engineer on the boat, and that they came to their death through the injuries received on the boat when the explosion took place.

Francis Terrio, of Garden Island, near the City of Kingston, being sworn -States that he is first engineer on the boat Hercules; has been engineer 22 years. Started from Morrisburgh wharf this morning about six o'clock. Lay at the wharf all night; left the wharf with plenty of water in the boilers; safety cock full. Boilers were inspected this season and pronounced safe to carry 34 inches of steam; was at his post at the time of explosion; had on 32 inches steam; never carried higher than 33 inches. Saw Mr. Dexter Calvin, Jr. put a hammer on the lever of the safety valve the evening before, weighing about 2 1/2 or 3 pounds; did not know of any person taking it off. Thinks there must have been something wrong on deck, or at the safety valve; told his 2nd to watch the water in boiler, and he (the 2nd) told him there were 3 cocks of water; has been sailing under Capt. Miller five years; Captain always at his post, and attentive to his business. Is a sober man; fixed the ball himself, so that steam blew off at 30 inches, and it raised to 32 this morning, or soon after they started, and about fifteen minutes before the explosion. Hammer was not on the ball this morning at the time he moved it. Had in tow the steamer New Era. Was a very heavy tow. Does not think it was taxing the engine too much to take the New Era up the rapids. States that the two boilers were connected by a steam pipe, and in the pipe were two valves to shut the steam in each boiler, and the steam gauge was connected with the boiler, which now remains sound, and that the other valve must have been shut in some way, so that he could not tell by the gauge, or in any other way, how much steam the boiler unconnected with the gauge had. - Says he wanted the captain to go up through the canal. Captain said he better go up outside. Says the reason was that he did not want to strain the boiler by raising so much steam, but had no fears of any accident, if the steam was raised 32 inches; had been through the locks before. Steers very badly in the Canal; thinks the Captain and Mr. Calvin would raise the credit of boat, by going up outside. Cylinder 57 in. diam., 10 feet stroke. Has been in the employ of Mr. Calvin for 18 years constantly; thinks Messrs. Calvin & Breck had the utmost confidence in him as engineer. Mr. Calvin told him if he got in a dangerous place, he might raise the steam to 40 inches. Captain told him the boiler had been tested to 40 inches, and that he was allowed to carry 34 inches. There were 4 firemen, 6 deckhands, 1 mate, 1 Capt., 1 engineer, and D.D. Calvin, Junr. on board.

James Meagher, of the City of Kingston, Surgeon, being sworn - States that he came to Morrisburgh, by request of Messrs. Calvin & Breck about 6 o'clock this evening, and went at once and saw the bodies of Keelon and Malone. Is satisfied that the deceased came to their death by some hot substance, steam or hot water, nearly the whole of the cuticle or skin is denuded in one case, and extensively in the other -sufficient in either case to produce death. Has been practicing as Physician and Surgeon in the city of Kingston for 23 (28 ?) years.

Oct. 11th, 1858

Edward Russell called again - States that he recognized the body of John Kinsler; assisted in taking him from the wreck of the boat Hercules; that he (Kinsler) was a fireman on the boat, and came to his death by the explosion. He (Russell) was on the stern of the boat, occupied in working the boat, and two other persons with him, saw the Captain and Mr. Calvin on the stern of the promenade deck, about three minutes before the explosion; they walked forward to the wheel-house, and he saw them no more before the explosion. Found Tillock Keelon by the side of the boiler, who called to the engineer to help him out of the hold. After the explosion, found P. Malone sitting on the deck.

John Crowley, of the Town of Prescott, being sworn - States that he is Wheelsman and clerk on the America. Was on the Hercules at the time in place of some that were absent; corroborates the statements of Edward Russell, whom he was helping at the time of the explosion; does not know anything more relating to the cause of the accident than Russell.

Peter Valley, of Hogansburgh, Franklin County, State of New York, being sworn - States that he was on the stern of boat Hercules, at time of explosion. Saw the Capt. and Mr. Calvin on the promenade deck, a few minutes before the explosion. Looked at the steam gauge, about ten minutes before, and there was then 27 inches of steam. Is a deck hand and wheelsman. Corroborates the testimony of Edward Russell and John Crowley. Lives in Ogdensburgh in the summer.

D.W. Loucks, of Morrisburgh, Telegraph operator, being sworn - States that there was no despatch to his office, from Mr. Calvin, to his son here, that he should run the Hercules up the Rapid du Platt, but the son telegraphed to Mr. Calvin, in Kingston, that they had tried Rapid du Platt, and were going to try it again in the morning. Got no reply from Kingston. The Captains are in the habit of telegraphing to Proprietors, where they are and what they are doing.

Morrisburgh, Oct. 15th, 1858

Alexander Stark, of the Town of Prescott, being sworn - States - Thinks that there has been a want of water in the boiler. Thinks the water was low by the way everything is torn. Nothing bad about the make or iron; throttle valve was all right. If fitted right could not get wrong. Safety valve all right, if the water was low there will be marks on the top of the return flues and furnace. Has been on the wreck, and examined all that could be examined. Thinks pump was sufficient to furnish the boilers with water. Smaller pumps are used for boilers of equal size. Can regulate the pump so that a small or large quantity of water enters the boiler. A lock up valve could have done no good nor any other safety valve, if water was too low; if the flues had been covered with water, it would not have exploded, to that extent, merely burst. Cannot be deceived by appearance of water in the cocks. Engineer's duty to know just what water is in the boiler. His duty was to examin himself if doubtful. There is a burnt smell if bran has been put in if water is low, if water is very low and water immediately let in, would instantly explode, customary to shut off the water for a little in order to keep up steam for an emergency as long as safe. Thinks that there is nothing wrong with the valves in the steam pipe between the boiler. Is scarcely possible for valves of that construction to shut by pressure of steam. Are partly self-regulated. No connection of water between the boilers except by the feed pipe; has used bran to tighten the seams, and potatoes to take off the scale and save the boiler from getting hot. Thinks there would be no danger if plenty of water, even with full steam. If water in boiler was pointing or foaming would stop the engine immediately, to ascertain the true state of the water, but would pump in more water, as the water would not be too low in that condition for any danger. Is his opinion that the ball on the lever of the safety valve had been moved back and forth from the appearance of new marks on the lever made by the pinching screw. Thinks that any condition of the safety valve would make no difference with the exploding of the boilers, if there was a want of water in it, and a large quantity of steam. 2nd Engineer is to report at once if anything is wrong. Thinks it would be sufficient precaution by telling his 2nd to watch the water in the boilers, and he would attend to the engine; if there was no water in the lower gauge cock, would stop the engine immediately, and put out the fires, and let the boiler cool gradually, and blow off the steam much as possible. The two safety valves are common to each boiler.

Morrisburgh, Oct. 22nd

Edward Russell, recalled - States that Mr. D.D. Calvin, Junior was on the boat at the time of the explosion, and that he recognized the body found on Tuesday afternoon, the 19th inst., in the bay opposite this place as being the body of D. Dexter Calvin, Junr.

George Miller, of the Town of Prescott, being sworn - States - Recognized the body of Daniel Doyle as being one of the firemen on the Hercules, and assisted in taking him from the wreck dead on Tuesday, the 12th inst., and brought him to Morrisburgh.

Thomas Parsell, of the township of Scarboro, County of York, being sworn -States that he is 1st engineer of the Steamer New Era; has been Engineer, since the year 1842 in Canada, and commenced as Engineer in the coal mines in England when a boy; states that he was not looking at the Hercules at the exact time of the explosion, but immediately after looked out and saw a man in the wheel house, floating on the water - was blowing off steam from the larboard safety valve, immediately before the explosion, that he noticed nothing in particular as wrong before the explosion, that he was on the wreck the next day after the explosion, (on Sunday) saw a small piece of the steam drum, found some white lead and borings of iron, mixed together, and put there to stop leaks. Looked as though it had been hot, but was likely to get so from its position. He examined the boiler today, and cannot find anything to say that the boiler has been red hot. Thinks that the flues are blown away. Could not form an opinion, from the parts examined as to quantity of water in the boiler, at the time of explosion, did not think from the appearance of the boiler and smoke, that any unusual means had been used to increase steam. Thinks it was a lack of water in the boiler which caused the accident. Does not think she was going at an unusual rate of speed. States that he has a second Engineer under him. Has sufficient confidence in his 2nd to give him charge of the engine in his absence. It is usual to take the word of 2nd as to the quantity of water, etc. Some boats have gage cocks in the engine room, for trying the water. Might be deceived, if the water was foaming by listening, but could not, if all the cocks were tried, and was looking at them. Does not think that the steam gauge or safety valve could give any indication of the amount of steam, that would be required to burst that boiler. Thinks that 15 revolutions was about the number, and the engine that was working the pump would supply sufficient water. Has not measured any safety valves, thinks that the safety valve was sufficient to blow off all the steam from the boiler, if all was right. Engineers and seconds have their regular watch, and if the 2nd was on watch, it was his duty to attend closely, even if the first was about at the time. Thinks it would be proper precaution to trust the second with the charge of water, while the 1st engineer was attending to the engine.

Dileno Dexter Calvin, Senr., of Garden Island near Kingston, of the firm of Calvin & Breck, being sworn - States that he has been in the forwarding business about 20 years, using steam vessels, that he superintended the building of the Hercules mostly himself. Intended she should be a first class tug boat. Usually selects the Captain and 1st Engineer himself. In this case, it was mutual between himself and 1st Engineer, that Tillock Keelon should be 2nd Engineer. Tillock Keelon has been off and on in his employ about 11 years. Thinks him competent to take charge of an engine, a week, or a month, or more. Has been abstemious for the last eight months. States that Francis Terrio was the second engineer that he ever employed, and has been in his employ eighteen years as 1st engineer, does not think him a proper person to put up an engine. Is not a scientific man, but a competent engine driver. Is a man of sober habits. Felt safe in trusting him with the best boat he had. Has examined the boiler, and thinks it has been red hot. Thinks the boiler has foamed and that the cause of the explosion was want of water in the boiler, the 2nd being deceived. States that the lower cock was 3 to 4 inches above the top of the top flue. States that the 1st engineer was too ill from injuries received, to attend and give his evidence to inquest today. Pump and feed pipes were got up for the express purpose of feeding the boiler with sufficient water at 11 strokes to the minute, and thinks it would feed enough at nine strokes per minute. Never dictated to any of his engineers, as to the amount of steam they should carry.

Thomas Parsell, recalled - States that the cause of foaming might be dirty water. Bran would cause the water to foam. If boiler was foaming would put the feed on. If no water in lower cock, would damp the fire and blow off the steam. If the second engineer found the boiler foaming, it was his duty to put on feed at once.

James Dunigan, of the town of Prescott, engineer, being sworn - States that he is 1st engineer on the Gildersleeve. Has been in Mr. Calvin's employ about four years. Mr. Calvin has lectured him a good deal as to the safety. Thinks Francis Terrio is sufficiently competent and careful to drive any engine. Was acquainted with Tillock Keelon. Had been second under him about five months. Was sometimes in liquor, but did not trust him then. Was competent to drive an engine. Has conducted himself extremely well, since on the Hercules, it is the orders of the Proprietor that there should be no drinking, or gaming on boats, never knew Terrio to drink, has known him ever since he was with Mr. Calvin.

George Davidson, of the City of Kingston, Engineer, being sworn - States that he corroborates Mr. Parcell's statements. Thinks that the boiler had been very hot, that the explosion was caused by want of water in the boiler. He has been in the business of boiler making and engine making for the last eleven years.

Larboard or Whole Boiler

Lever from fulcrum to center of ball, 35 in. would show a pressure of 37.5 lbs to the square inch.

Lever from fulcrum to centre of ball, 20 in., would show pressure of 22 lbs to the square inch.

Exploded Boiler

Diameter of valve supposed to be 5 5/8. (5 3/8 ?)

Lever from fulcrum to centre of ball, 28 inches, would show a pressure of 38 lbs to the square inch.

Lever from fulcrum to centre of ball, 24 inches, would show a pressure of 33 lb to the square inch.

With valve 5 1/2 in. gives 40.3 lbs with lever 28 inches long.

With valve 5 1/2 in. 34.8 lb with a lever 2 inches long.

With valve 5 1/2 in. 49.7 lb, with lever 3 inches long.

Say valve 5 3/4 in. on small weight, that is whole boiler, would give a pressure of 20.5 lbs lever 20 inches.

Valve 5 3/4 on small weight, would give pressure of 34 lbs, lever 35 inches.

Say valve 5 3/4 in. on large weight, on exploded boiler, would give a pressure of 36 lbs., lever 28 inches.

Valve 5 3/4 in. on large would give a pressure of 31.8 lbs, lever 24 inches.

William McAuslan, of the town of Prescott. Engineer, being sworn - States that he is Government Inspector of boilers and machinery from Port Hope to the Lower Province line. States that the certificate produced is the original one given by himself. Has been about 35 years in practical engineering, and paid particular attention to accidents of this kind. Thinks the true cause in this case was bad management, through ignorance or neglect or ambition. has been on the boat Hercules two or three times and was informed the engine and boilers were all right. Thinks that it was a want of water in the boiler which caused the explosion. Corroborates the statement of Mr. Parsell as to the duties of of 1st and 2nd Engineers. Engineer might be deceived to a certain extent as to the quantity of water in the boiler. If appearances warranted, would take the 2nd's word as to the water, but would not trust him unless he was satisfied the 2nd understood the matter well. Boiler would not explode with 45 lbs with sufficient water, if it was in the same condition as when he inspected it. Would stand more when hot than when (as tested) cold. He always considered when he was about an engine, that he was the responsible person. If the safety valve was fastened down, boiler might explode. In critical positions was in the habit of calling the 2nd to the engine, and attending to the boilers himself. Found the gauge with which he tested the boiler plugged up, which, if used, would not have held the Mercury above 33 inches of steam, and was the gauge by which he understood the pressure of steam was to be regulated. Was on board at Prescott the 27th September, and looked at steam gauge in the engineer's room and found it right. Does not know positively whether it was right or not, steam being up at the time. Was apparently right. Steam gauge pip should be where it is best seen for those in charge of the engine and boilers. Steam gauge on the Hercules was in a very convenient place. Has no fault to find with that. If but one gauge, would attach it to the steam pipe, and have it indicate as it was. To carry just 30 lbs steam, might possibly vibrate some above and below. Thinks a steam gauge that would blow off at 33 inches, is a proper gauge to carry 30 inches of steam, if the safety valve was properly regulated and attended to.

William Miller, of the township of Augusta, Captain of the Steamer Hercules, being sworn. States that he left the wharf about 6 o'clock a.m. on the 9th instant, did not notice anything wrong. Was towing the steamer New Era. Was standing near the wheel house on the starboard side. Does not know anything which would act to cause the explosion. Is afraid there was not sufficient water in the boiler. Had full confidence in Tillock Keelon the second engineer. Had been with him a number of years. Also had full confidence in the 1st Engineer's capability to manage the engine. Had been with him some years. Had no apprehension of straining the boilers or engine in taking the New Era up the rapids. Is sure the boilers were able to carry all the steam they had on at the time, 32 inches.

The Verdict

This concluded the evidence. The Coroner addressed the Jury, (treating) of their duty in the matter. The room was then cleared, and after some time spent in consultation, a verdict was returned as follows:

That the cause of the explosion of the said boiler was in the opinion of the Jurors aforesaid, for want of sufficient water in the said boilers, and that the cause of said deficiency of water in the said boilers is to the Jurors aforesaid unknown, and that no blame should be attached to the owners and officers of said boat, and that the engineer and officers were competent, and that due care was used by them and so the Jurors aforesaid do so (say?) that the said Tillock Keelon, Patrick Malone, John Kinsler, Daniel Doyle, and Dileno Dexter Calvin, Junr. in manner and by means aforesaid, came to their death.

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1 Nov 1858
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Nov 1858