The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Advertiser (Owen Sound, ON), December 8, 1881

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Loss of the Jane Miller


It is our painful duty this week to chronicle another disaster to our lake marina, and this time unfortunately as in the case of the Waubuno there is no one left to tell the tale. The Jane Miller, was well known to all residents of our town, and in fact was generally considered an Owen Sound boat , her Capt. and crew were also well known, and their sad fate will cause universal regret and deep sorrow to our readers. Capt. Port and his two boys who have gone down to their death on the ill-fated steamer were all brave, honourable hard working men, and universally esteemed wherever known, and this community and Wiarton have seldom felt a more severe shock, than that caused by their untimely fate. Capt. Port leaves a wife, two sons and a daughter, who reside in Wiarton, and they have the heart-felt sympathy of all who knew him in their sad affliction. The following despatches have been received and give all particulars of the fell disaster as far as known;

OWEN SOUND, Ont., Dec. 4. - The tug Tommy Wright left on Saturday morning in search of the missing steamer, Jane Miller. At the time of the writing (4p.m.) She had not returned with any report. Yesterday afternoon Mr. Scales, of the township of Keppel, whose son was a hand on the steamer, went out around Hay and White Cloud islands. He returned with strong evidence of the steamer's wreck, having found three men's caps, two oars marked "Jane Miller, " two tubs of butter, some miscellaneous pieces of furniture, a portion of a mast, and a steamer's gang plank on White Cloud Island. The Miller's last port of call was at Big Bay, where she took on freight and left for Spencer's dock, a short distance off, for fuel, after which she intended going to Lion's Head, for which place she had on board some ten tons of freight. It was blowing a strong gale from the south-west at the time, and as she never made this latter port it is supposed that she foundered near White Cloud island, and went down suddenly with all on board. It is said there were twenty-five persons on board, made up of crew and passengers, but it is impossible as yet to ascertain the exact number.


As far as can be learned the following persons were onboard; - Andrew Port, captain; J. Christison, engineer; Richard Port, mate; Fred. Port, purser; Alex, Scales, wheelsman, and four deck hands, hose names cannot be ascertained, all from the village of Wiarton and vicinity. The passengers were Jos. Walker, James Hallock, Lyman Vader, and a man and his wife, all from Meaford, and bound for Micheal's Bay. A number of passengers also from here for Lion's Head, to work at Watts' mill, were on board, but their names are not known.


The Jane Miller was built at Little Current, Manitoulin island, in 1879. She was purchased in the spring of 1880 by Captain Port, and has since been running between here and ports on the south side of Manitoulin island. She was classed by the Lloyd's as A2i/2. The vessel was valued at eight thousand dollars, and insured in the Phoenix Insurance Co. for six thousand. The Miller was considered a staunch little propellor, and has weathered successfully a number of severe gales. Capt. Port was recognized as a most skilful officer, and a man of superior judgement in handling his boat. In February, 1879, he undertook to make a trip to Micheal's Bay with the tug Prince Alfred, having on board Mr. R. A. Lyon, M. P. P., and Col. Farijana, of the Public Works Department. After battling with heavy gales and fields of ice for about a month, and creating grave apprehensions for his safety, he returned. It may be that his undaunted bravery, narrow escapes, and familiarity with the perils of the deep, led him on this occasion to over-estimate the capabilities of the vessel, which has resulted in such a deplorable catastrophe. Capt. Port leaves a widow and large family, as also does the engineer. Both of them resided at Wiarton.

WIARTON, Dec 4. - The tug Tommy Wright returned here this evening from an unsuccessful search after the missing steamer Jane Miller, having on board four bedsteads, three of the oars, and some pins out of the lifeboat of the steamer, and the pail-rack, all identified as having belonged to the Jane Miller; also some kegs of butter found with Capt. Port's brand on them all. These articles were found on White Cloud island, and are ominous of the fate of the missing steamer. The Jane Miller left on the 23rd of Nov. with a heavy load of freight on her last trip to Michael's Bay, Manitoulin island, and was making for Wiarton. She was last seen on the morning of Nov. 23rd, passing Cameron's point and heading for Spencer's landing, but she never reached that place .There was a heavy south-west gale in progress at the time, and the theory is that from overloading or some other cause she capsized, and carried her crew and passengers, numbering 25 persons, down to death with her. It is thought she has gone down at the entrance to Colpoy's Bay, and not a mile from shore. As a blinding snow-storm was raging, and there is no doubt every avenue of escape was closed from the passengers, the friends of those on board, a large number of whom reside here, are in a state of agonizing suspense, and the wildest rumours are rife regarding the steamer's fate. Capt. Port's family is highly esteemed. The Jane Miller was comparatively a new steamer, this being only her third season. She was not considered a safe boat, as she was top heavy when heavily loaded.

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December 8, 1881
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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.
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Advertiser (Owen Sound, ON), December 8, 1881