The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 14 Jun 1901

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Caught Fire At Belleville Early This Morning.

The steamer Hero, of Kingston, is no more. At two o'clock this morning, while lying at the Rathbun company wharf, Belleville, she caught fire, in a manner yet unknown, and was burned to the water's edge. It was midnight when she reached Belleville, and the crew and a few passengers would not have been asleep long when the fire broke out. When the blaze was discovered it had made great headway, and all efforts to save the steamer were unavailing. A watchman was supposed to be on the wharf, but the atmosphere of Belleville may have sent him to sleep.

Those aboard had barely time to get off the steamer and left much of their clothing behind. So necessary was it to hurry that the purser had not time to take seventy-five dollars in cash from the till. There were several narrow escapes, some of those aboard jumping into the water; all, however, were rescued. The Hero's lines were burned, and she drifted in the harbor before a south wind, bringing up against some small crafts to which the flames did a little damage. At daybreak what remained of the Hero - a smouldering ruin - was lying ashore. The boat is a total loss.

The steamer Hero was built at Sorel, Que., 17 years ago. In 1887 she was purchased by C.F. Gildersleeve for the Bay of Quinte route, and has been running between Kingston, Picton and Belleville ever since. The Hero was one of the staunchest vessels on these waters, her hull being exceptionally strong. The Gildersleeves were very particular about keeping their boats in first class shape every spring having them thoroughly overhauled. Capt. Crawford can bear testimony to this, and he told a reporter this morning that when the inspectors came to examine the Hero they found the hull so hard that their augers were often broken in trying to bore a hole. No Gildersleeve boats were ever allowed to get out of repair, the dry dock often being used for the slightest damage done after a stormy trip.

No steamer was more popular with the people of Kingston than the Hero, the pride of the Bay of Quinte. She and the old steamer Maud, now the America, were rivals twelve years ago and the river excursions will be ever remembered. Let a tear fall over the remains of the gallant little Hero.

H.H. Gildersleeve, general manager of the Bay of Quinte line, received a telephone message at an early hour in the morning, telling of the catastrophe. He lost no time, and before eight o'clock this morning had chartered the steamer Aletha to take the Hero's place next week. After that it is likely he will bring the company's steamer Richelieu down from Toronto to go on the route for the season.

The Hero was valued at $25,000, and is insured for $15,000.

The officers of the burned steamer are: Capt. Bongard; Samuel Newman, mate; George Boyd, first engineer; M. Redmond, second engineer; James Bartlett, purser.

The Crew Are Here

The crew of the Hero arrived in the city this afternoon by the G.T.R. Capt. Bongard stated that the fire was discovered by the steward, Henry Wemp, near his stateroom. Wemp immediately awoke all on board, and rushed up town in his night dress to give the alarm to the fire hall. The captain thinks that the fire may have originated from lightning as there was a severe electric storm on the Bay of Quinte last night. Miss Lettie Gascoigne jumped from the saloon deck to the wharf in her night robe, not having time to put on anything but a pair of shoes. James Bartlett, purser, had his foot badly cut in trying to gain access to the office.



Swift's wharf: steamer Algerian arrived from Toronto.

Richardsons' elevator: steamer Chub from Wellington.

Repairs to the steamer Empire State have been begun at Portsmouth.

Crawford's wharf: schooner Tradewind arrived from Sodus with coal.

The steamer Aletha had a small party aboard this morning on her excursion to Ogdensburg.

M.T. company elevator: S.S. Bannockburn and consorts cleared for Duluth; tug Hall arrived from Montreal with four light barges, and cleared again with four laden barges.

Tom Clancy the winter guardian of the steamers Hero and North King, was deeply affected over the burning of the former vessel. "She was a foine boat, ah yes, she was," was Tom's statement.

p.5 Incidents of the Day - The steamer Orion, from Montreal for upper lake ports, called at Swift's wharf this morning.

p.6 The Algonquin Aground - Amherstburg, Ont., June 14th - The steamer Algonquin went aground on Pt. Pelee during the thick weather last night. The tug Home Rule went to her assistance early this morning. The Algonquin was built in Scotland and is owned by Toronto parties.

Particulars as to the wreck of the tug Petrel, of the Collins Bay wrecking company, were not known by any of the company here. William Lesslie, of this city, is on his way to the vessel and no word of his arrival has yet been received.

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14 Jun 1901
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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.
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 14 Jun 1901