The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 26 Sep 1891

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The Old Steamer Geneva Goes Up In Smoke.

[Oswego Palladium]

Shortly after five o'clock Wednesday afternoon the excursion steamer Geneva, owned by Nelson Skinner, burned to the water's edge while lying at the dock at Beach Oswego. The Geneva left here at 4:30 o'clock with a small number of excursionists for the beach. Capt. George Atkinson was in charge and Mr. Skinner was in charge of the engine room. The trip to the beach was without interest and the boat was made fast to the dock. Mr. Skinner stepped ashore and walked toward the grove. Capt. Atkinson was the last one to leave the boat having gone back to take up the slack of the lines. Mr. Skinner had informed the excursion party that the boat would lay at the dock for fifteen or twenty minutes before returning. When Captain Atkinson had taken care of his lines he stepped ashore and had just reached the embankment when a couple of ladies called his attention to smoke issuing from amidship of the Geneva. In less than a minute Captain Atkinson says the flames burst out and the light cabin work was soon burning fiercely. Mr. Atkinson, who was on shore, rushed aboard the boat and saved the compass and other articles in the wheel house. Half a dozen boys had left their shoes and stockings aboard the steamer and they also made a rush for the burning boat to save their effects. Mr. Skinner had a narrow escape. After reaching the wheelhouse on the upper deck the flames seemed to fairly lick up the woodwork and Mr. Skinner had difficulty in reaching the dock. One of the boys who went aboard after his shoes and stockings also came near being scorched. The upper works of the boat burned rapidly. The cabin was constructed of light wood and was as dry as tinder. There was nothing at hand with which to fight the flames, and if there had been it is doubtful if the boat could have been saved. The fire appeared to spring from the engine room or around the boiler. In the engine room the woodwork was well saturated with grease and oil from the machinery, and it burned fiercely.

The Geneva was built about fifteen years ago and was employed in Kingston carrying passengers. About four years ago she was purchased by Rochester parties and used as an excursion boat at Charlotte. Last fall she was purchased by Nelson Skinner and this season has been employed in the excursion business. When new the Geneva cost between $12,000 and $15,000. She was insured for $4,000.

The machinery is the only part of the boat worth saving. The hull lies on the beach east of Three Mile Creek. There were many persons at the beach during the fire. The crew and passengers came home on the electric cars. Captain Atkinson says that had the boat taken fire in the lake, and burned as rapidly as she did yesterday passengers would have been obliged to take to the water without waiting for the manning of the boats. He considers it fortunate that the fire did not break out while the boat was in the lake.


The str. Algerian lost a day on account of fog and will arrive here from Montreal tomorrow.

The str. Alberta arrived this morning with 2,500 cheese from Cape Vincent for Montreal.

The str. D.D. Calvin with barges Ceylon and Valencia, cleared today for Duluth to load grain for Kingston.

Arrivals: tug Thompson, Montreal, five light barges; prop. Hall, Chicago, grain; str. John Haggart, Perth, passengers and freight; str. Passport, Toronto.

The schr. S.H. Dunn, from Duluth, with 30,000 bushels of grain, cleared today for Chicago to load grain for Kingston. Capt. Dix expects to get 6 1/2 cents freight.

Clearances: schr. Oliver Mowat, Oswego, light; prop. Ralph and consort Alleghany, Oswego, to load coal for Chicago; prop. Calvin and consort Valencia, Duluth, light; tugs Thompson and Active with eight barges, Montreal, grain.

The str. Prentice narrowly escaped going ashore on the South Fox, near Cheboygan. She pulled away in time, but a collision between her consorts, the Middlesex and Carpenter, resulted in the latter's stem becoming started. The Carpenter is leaking badly. She is inside, stopping the leak. The Middlesex was not injured. The barges are rye laden for Kingston.

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26 Sep 1891
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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pd [more details]
Copyright Statement:
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), 26 Sep 1891