The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Wiarton Echo (Wiarton, ON), December 16, 1881

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No Further Tidings of Her Fate
The Probable Location of the Wreck

Since our last issue very little has transpired to throw light upon the fate of the Jane Miller, or her hapless passengers and crew. The Tommy Wright has made several trips to the supposed scene of the disaster, but nothing of a reliable nature was discovered. On Saturday while dragging in the vicinity of Spencer's Landing the grapnels caught several times on some object about two hundred yards from shore and four hundred from the dock. The object appeared to be wood, but the grapnels being very light the hooks would straighten without much effort, and consequently of the obstruction could not be ascertained. Its position is as near as can be located is about the spot where the ill-fated steamer is supposed to have foundered and it is the Jane Miller. If it is her she lies in opinions of Mr. James Inksetter who conducted the search that it is thirty fathoms of water not over six hundred feet from the shore, and with proper appliances could be quite easily recovered. The weather has neilltated that nothing will be done this season to cler up the mystery. A little assistance from Owen Sound or Meaford would have been thankfully received, and here is no doubt that the spot where the steamer went down would have been ascertained to a certainty. The people of Owen Sound took no steps to aid in the search, however , but busied themselves sending despatches to the daily press which would lead the public to believe that they were putting forth the greatest efforts to solve the mystery of the fatal mishap, when as a matter of fact they did not even extend common sympathy. Meaford promised help, but for some cause not stated, failed to redeem its promise. Wiarton has done all in its power but single handed, and wanting proper appliances , it is evident that no satisfactory result can be looked for.

The only noteworthy incident connected with the sad affair, that has transpired during the week, was the receipt at the telegraph office here of a despatch setting forth the survivors of the steamer's passengers had arrived at Toronto from Penetanguishene and, other information of a doubtful nature. The substance of the report it is said , appeared in a Toronto evening paper. We were not favoured with a copy of the telegram, and consequently cannot give our readers the benefit of it, but as the operator here has constituted himself a public dispenser of the contents of press telegrams, we have no doubt he will gratify all who may call upon him with one of his inimitable readings. We can only say the report was a cruel hoax, and reflects discredit on the authors of it.

At a public meeting held last week to organize a search party the following resolutions of sympathy with bereaved families carried.

Moved by B. B. Miller, Esq., Councilor, seconded by D. Dinsmore, Esq., Reeve, That recognizing the great calamity that has befallen this village through the loss of the propeller Jane Miller whereby Capt. Port and two of ...officers untimely death and feeling that in the death of Capt. Port the people of Wiarton have lost an esteemed citizen and an honourable and enterprising man, therefore it is resolved; That this meeting in expressing... at the loss of such valued citizen as Capt. Andrew Port and his two sons tender its sincere and warmest sympathy to the surviving members of his family in their sad bereavement...

A committee was also formed to canvass for substantial aid to Mrs. Christison who is left in very straightened circumstances by this dire visitation and we believe the people are liberally responding.

Mr. Jas. Christison was formerly a resident of Ingersol, and the Tribute thus spoke of him; Mr. Christison was at one time a partner in the firm of Thos, Brown & Co of the Ingersol Foundry. He was highly respected during his residence here and we regret to say he leaves a family of young children.

The following are a few of he press comments on the disaster:

Guelph Mercury, - We are not surprised at the wreck of the Jane Miller, when we learn the Manitoulin Expositor of the 26th ult. That she ran ashore on Club Island the previous week but got off without injury. On her way up trip the week following her machinery got out of order during a storm and the vessel was almost ashore on Horse Island before it could be got to work again.

Toronto News: Although the Jane Miller was a small vessel the catastrophe is the most appalling that has ever occurred on the Georgian Bay, the loss of life reaching twenty-eight or thirty and exceeding that on the celebrated Waubuno disaster some years ago. The Owen Sound says: "As she was in a comparatively sheltered bay, and the wind off the shore, her foundering must be attributed to overloading" A searching inquiry is needed.

Parry Sound Star: Another appalling steamboat disaster has occurred on the Georgian Bay. The steamer Jane Miller although a new boat, was not in any sense a seaworthy vessel. She was built in the "Balloon" style, hastily thrown together and "too heavy" causing her to be very "Crank." So long as the water was smooth she was a fair boat, but a bad one to overcrowd - but let a sea get up and she was in the language of an old lake captain, a "terror to roll." There are plenty more such coffins afloat, and yet our Governments is apparently heedless and careless. When will such a state of affairs end?

Meaford Mirror: At least one defeat in our navigation laws is brought out prominently in the case of the Jane Miller as it was also in that of the Waubuno, viz the want of any record at each port of the names of persons who take passage on a boat from that port. As in the Waubuno disaster so in that of two weeks-ago, it is impossible to find out the names of many of those who are believed to have been on the lost vessel. It is said ten labourers shipped on the Jane Miller, the names of not one of whom can be given. At first it was stated that only three from this neighbourhood were aboard; now it transpires there were six. This registration of passengers can easily be done, and the attention of the proper authorities should certainly be called ti its necessity.

Toronto Globe: At present we know nothing as to the seaworthiness of the Jane Miller and nothing as to whether her officers were properly certificated. None of her passenger had any means of ascertaining her soundness. If any relative of a victim wishes to sue for damages for loss of a bread-winner, he will find cast upon him the almost impossibletask of proving the unseaworthiness of a vessel not one stick of which is to be found. It is wrong that the burden of this task should be cast on the suitor - always a poor person and utterly unable to fight with a vessel owner. It is all wrong that it should ever be possible to cast doubt upon the seaworthiness of a vessel that it carrying any person passengers, or sailor, except its owner. The Government ought not to allow life to be risked on my vessel until its seaworthiness has been ascertained. The fact of a vessel being allowed to leave port ought to be a certificate of seaworthiness. It is simply infamous that the present state of affairs should be permitted to exist.

Toronto Telegram The Georgian Bay has long been looked upon by sailors as a treacherous body of water. There have been many casualties upon it, but none so terrible as that of the Waubuno two years ago and the Jane Miller a few days ago In the case of the first vessel over twenty lives were lost and to this day not a body has so far been found, in the case of the second vessel thirty lives have been lost. This deplorable loss of life may not have been unavoidable but the impression is general that the Government has failed in its duty by not enforcing a more rigid system of inspection not simply of boilers of vessels but of their hulls and works as well. Whenever a great accident happens through the unseaworthiness of a boat there is a loud and general demand for interference on the part of the Government. These spasmodic demands do not accomplish much. What is wanted is a persistent agitation of the subject until the remedy is provided. Is there no Plimsoll in the Canadian Parliament?

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December 16, 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.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Wiarton Echo (Wiarton, ON), December 16, 1881