The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 19 Nov 1873

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p.2 V.P.T.W.C. - 18.

The Bavarian Investigation

An investigation into the loss of the steamer Bavarian was opened in the rooms of the Harbor Commissioners, Montreal, before Mr. Risley, C.E. of Toronto, Chairman of the Board of Engineers for the Dominion, on Monday last.

Mr. Henderson, first mate of the ill-fated steamer, being examined, deposed that about eight o'clock on the evening the steamer was lost, while on deck, he heard a noise which he presumed to have been caused by an explosion, and saw the walking beam, which was thereby broken, fall into the body of the steamer; the latter was speedily in flames. He had a boat at once lowered, and into this the pilot, a Frenchman, and several of the crew sprang. He then ran across to the other side of the steamer with the intention of lowering another boat, but being deserted by the crew and assisted only by the second mate, Bradley, he found this to be impossible, and returning, pitched a boat into the water, the best thing he could do under the circumstances; into this, which had already been touched by the flames, the second mate and himself descended, and as the boat, owing to the matter in which it was lowered, had been almost filled with water, he set several men, who having thrown themselves into the lake, scrambled over its side, to work to bail out the water, which reached the seats. This they did and meanwhile he had called to the pilot, who was some 150 yards distant, to return, as they could save all on board. He is not certain that his call was heard, but at all events the pilot did not comply. After some delay, having rescued those who were in the water, they pulled towards shore, which was fifteen miles distant. He states that he did not see the ladies who were lost, and that the last he saw of the captain was at the supper table. It appears that there was some inflammable material on board and to this is ascribed the rapid progress made by the flames. The enquiry was adjourned until tomorrow, when counsel will appear for the officers and crew. Mr. McMaster appears for Mr. Ireland, City Chamberlain of Kingston, whose daughter was lost. Mr. Milloy, agent for the Canadian Navigation Company, objected to his presence, but his objection was overruled.

Tuesday - James Finnucan, watchman of the steamer Bavarian and a son of the chief engineer, was examined. He was standing on the deck saloon when he heard a report which he supposed was the steam chest blowing up. He had seen his father just previously in the deck saloon not far from the engine room. Charley, the second mate, was in the engine room. He went to the hurricane deck, when he heard a second crash and was convinced it was not a blow up. After hearing the last crash, he discovered fire on the port side, when he went to the quarter deck and saw the first boat lowered. The ladies' maid was going to jump into the water, when he caught her arm and prevented her. He then went to the hurricane deck and saw the chief and second mate in the act of throwing the boat over. He next went to the main deck and saw the life boat and saw the life boat on fire. He jumped on a plank that was floating on the lake. It went down and he was helped into the mate's boat. A passenger was helped in after him. The boat was making water and the mate put his finger in the hole to prevent the water coming in, and Mr. Henderson tore a piece from his coat and stuffed it in the hole. He saw the captain on a pail rack with a life preserver on. He cried out to the second mate, "Charley, Charley, can't you save me?" The second mate said, "Captain, we can't save ourselves." Witness didn't get into the first boat, as he was hunting for his father. He saw the steward on a door with a life preserver on. He was near the boat and said, "Boys, can you take another in?" Didn't hear what answer was made. There were two or three ladies standing on the bow deck. The fire was not close to them. The boat was then within a stone's throw of them. He was looking to see if he could see his father on board. He didn't call them to go back, he had little hopes that they themselves would be saved. The chief mate appeared self-possessed and those in the boat behaved cooly. He saw the assistant cook and others whom he did not recognize floating in the water. He did not hear the chief mate give any directions to the woman in the bow of the vessel. He had acted as "greaser" to his father and never heard him say the beam was weak. The highest pressure of steam on the boiler he thought was 45 lbs. She made steam very easily when carrying a low lift on her valves, but it was hard to keep up full steam. Half an hour previous to the accident there was 35 lbs of steam on. Heard the second mate call to Napolean to throw the trunk out of his boat and come back. The ladies did not seem to be making any fuss, but appeared reconciled to their fate. He thought Napolean's boat might have saved the ladies.

Obadiah Dixon (colored,) head cook on the Bavarian, was next examined, and stated he was in his berth, next forward of the kitchen, when he heard a noise like a gun, and ran up on the upper deck forward, and saw three ladies there. He offered them no assistance but immediately overboard. He saw a man near the ladies, whom he thought was the captain. When he jumped off he swam over to the lifeboat, commanded by the pilot, and some one pulled him in. All he remembered after this was that the man who pulled him in was baling out the water with his hat. There were in the boat Napolean, three wheelsmen, two firemen, the ladies' maid, second engineer and himself - 9 persons in all. One of the lady passengers, an elderly lady, asked if he could get them life-preservers, but he said he couldn't get one for himself. Saw a good-sized trunk in the boat when he was getting out. Didn't see any fire till he jumped off the boat. Didn't see any debris on the main deck.

Wm. Muzchison, room boy, was in the pantry when the accident occurred. Heard three crashes, one after the other. He ran into the saloon and went forward on the port side. Saw no fire in there, nor anything broken. When on the forward deck he saw the captain, three ladies, first engineer, three passengers, mess-room boy, and second waiter. The captain gave no orders. The mess-room boy jumped overboard, then the captain. He jumped immediately. He swam to the mate's boat. He saw the other, but this was nearer. He saw fire and smoke before he jumped off, coming from around the smoke-stack. His jumping overboard was hurried, because he felt as if he'd rather drown than burn to death. He did not hear the ladies appeal to the captain to save them. The second waiter and mess boy and himself had life-preservers each; the captain too, and the ladies had none. He got his by breaking into a state room. The ladies didn't ask for life-preservers. He thinks he must have been five minutes on the forward deck before he jumped overboard. He was sure the walking beam was not broken on his leaving the steamer, and the connecting rod was all right. Some one, when he was in the boat, mentioned that the beam was broken, and he looked to see, and saw it had not fallen.

The Wreck of the Bavarian - The wreck of the Bavarian was towed to this port last night, and is now lying at the Commercial Wharf, foot of Clarence St. Today it has been an object of great interest, the iron hull being inspected from stem to stern by a constant bevy of people. The wreck presents a sorry appearance, and is a solemn token of the dreadful disaster with which the name of Bavarian will ever be associated. The machinery seems to have been involved in one general crash by the breaking of the ponderous walking beam. Some boys were industriously engaged in appropriating a small unburnt portion of the cargo in the shape of roasted apples. The wreck will be partly dismantled and towed to Montreal on Saturday next.

-Laid Up - R.M. steamers laid up; the last is the Corsican, gone into winter quarters at Lachine.

p.3 Frozen In - props in Lachine canal, and tugs with barges in Beauharnois Canal.

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19 Nov 1873
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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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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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 19 Nov 1873