The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 21 Sep 1892

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Montreal, Sept. 21st - A great sensation, last night, was created by the story from Coteau du Lac that the str. Corinthian had been burned to the water's edge within a few miles of Lachine. The rumor added to the tale that a number of passengers had lost their lives and that the scene was one of exampled horror. It is true that the boat was destroyed, with most of its freight, but apart from this there was but little of the sensational in the catastrophe.

The story of the disaster is as follows: The Corinthian had just passed Cedar Rapids, about half past four, when the second mate ran up from below and informed Capt. Craig that the vessel was on fire. The captain, who was on the bridge, ran down between decks and remained there for ten minutes. He discovered that that part of the vessel in the vicinity of the smokestack was in flames. The hose was at once put to work and every effort made to subdue the fire.

After seeing to these arrangements Capt. Craig again ascended to the promenade deck and requested all passengers to go aft. It was just then that the passengers discovered their peril. The flames had broken through the woodwork surrounding the smokestack and were fast becoming a raging conflagration. At this time the boat was about a mile from shore, and the captain at once directed pilot Ouilette to beach her with as little delay as possible. All this time the captain and crew exhibited admirable coolness, and assured the passengers that they were not in the slightest danger.

The pilot who was thoroughly posted on the river saw that, owing to many shoals at this point, it would be impossible to beach her at once, he therefore ran down the stream for about half a mile finally running the boat close in on shore, within twenty feet of the embankment. During this time the crew, under the direction of the captain and officers, had lowered boats in order to be prepared for the last emergency. Happily there was no necessity for passengers taking to boats as the Corinthian was run on shore before the fire had gained much headway as to render the situation of the passengers dangerous.

When the steamer was beached one of the boats was swung around the bow, between the shore and the vessel, and gang planks were thrown from it to the shore. Everybody was quickly in safety on dry land. In the excitement, just as the steamer grounded, one lady cast herself into the water, but as the river was shallow, one of the farmers, watching from shore, waded out and brought her in all right. This was about the only sensational episode in what might have been a terrible catastrophe.

One very amusing incident was noticed. A bridal couple on board, supposed to be from Hamilton, were the object of a good deal of attention from the passengers all the way down. When the steamer grounded the groom let himself down into a boat and prepared to receive the bride in his arms. She proved too heavy for him, however, and both fell backward into the water. They were fished out.

The Corinthian is nothing but a charred hull. Ten minutes after the passengers were debarked she was a seething mass of flames, and even from the moment the fire was discovered it was understood that nothing could save her.

Too much praise cannot be accorded to Capt. Craig for his calmness in the trying ordeal. The engineers, also, are worthy of special mention. These brave men stuck to their posts until the vessel was safely beached although surrounded by fire and smoke, and even then did not abandon their duty until they had emptied the boilers of the water in order to prevent an explosion. Everything was done to prevent the loss of life.

There were on board the Corinthian, when she left Kingston, some seventy-five passengers of whom about half were women and children. There was also considerable freight shipped from Toronto to Montreal, the greater portion being fruit. All this, with the Toronto passengers' baggage, has been destroyed, the only baggage saved being what was taken on at Kingston.

It was impossible to do more than was done owing to the extreme rapidity with which the flames swept over the boat, and even now the passengers are wondering at their narrow escape. The exact loss it is, at present, hard to estimate. The officials of the company state that the Corinthian was insured for $40,000, but in what companies could not be ascertained. The loss in freight and passengers' baggage will be quite a considerable item when the whole bill of damages is footed up.

The majority of the passengers were brought into the city by a special train, but quite a number hired rigs and drove over to St. Dominique and caught the eastern express into the city, arriving at about half past seven. The company did all in their power to look after the passengers, and those seen had nothing to complain of on this score.

The News In Kingston.

News of the burning of the str. Corinthian reached Kingston last night. The report caused no little alarm to those who knew that the steamer was in charge of Capt. Craig, of this city. The despatches, as received by Mr. Hanley, stated that the fire was discovered in the steam jacket around the lower part of the smokestack. The vessel was then opposite Coteau du Lac, about three miles below Coteau. Robert Carroll, formerly of the Kingston foundry, was a passenger on board. This was the second trip made by Capt. Craig on the Corinthian. He took charge of her about two weeks ago when the Passport broke down.

Henry Esford, of Barriefield, was first mate. He acted very bravely. Esford did good work with the hose until he opened the door of the ?, when such a volume of smoke burst forth that he saw the case was hopeless.

The str. Corinthian was built by the Gildersleeves. Her hull was imported from the old country in 1863. The late O.S. Gildersleeve started to put her together, and after his death, Charles finished the work. She had a capacity of 427 tons and was sold to the Richelieu & Ontario navigation company for $80,000. The first year she ran on the route between Port Hope and Rochester. She was a very staunch vessel.


Clearances: sloop Sovereign, Milhaven, lumber.

The M.T. Co. barge Wheatbin is being caulked at Davis' dry dock.

The Campana had a large number of passengers from Chicago today.

The str. Pierrepont will be put on Davis' dry-dock, today, and have an overhauling. She will have some new planking inserted.

A line of steamers, to run from Duluth to Oswego, will be placed in service next season by the N.Y.C. & W. R.R. An elevator will be built there.

The new steel str. Arabian, owned by J.B. Fairgrieve & Son, Hamilton, will commence her regular trip between Kingston and Duluth about the end of the week.

Arrivals: prop. Rosedale, Chicago, 63,300 bush. corn; str. Campana, 34,000 bush. rye; tug Thompson, Chicago, with schrs. Glenora and Minnedosa, 115,000 bush of wheat; str. Persia, St. Catharines.

J.G. Campbell, of the electric light works, received a letter from Toronto today stating that the yacht Gracie, formerly owned by him, had been sunk. The Gracie was owned by Mr. Laurie and valued at $250. During the five years she was owned by Mr. Campbell the Gracie never lost a race.

The tug Munson left for Montreal today with the schr. Neelon in tow, carrying Wm. Leslie's wrecking apparatus to be used in raising the sunken steamship Cynthia. The Cynthia collided with the S.S. Parisian about 3 miles below Montreal, during a fog, three years ago.

The Canadian str. Rosedale, owned by Crangle, Haggarty & Geddes, has so far paid more money in tolls at the St. Mary's Falls canal than any other vessel. The total amount disbursed on her last trip was $347.60 for 69,520 bushels of wheat from Fort William to Kingston.

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21 Sep 1892
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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), 21 Sep 1892