The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 7 Apr 1909

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Caspian Case Occupies Much Time.

The case of the Lake Ontario & Bay of Quinte Navigation company vs. Mary Wilder Fulford was continued on Tuesday afternoon. The first witness called was David Leslie, chief engineer of the steamer Caspian. He said when he first saw the yacht Magedoma he did not think there would be an accident, but a moment afterwards the crash came. To Mr. Young he said the steamer came in on her regular course and he did not see her swerve. Witness said when he saw the Magedoma he was standing on the second gangway; the yacht was fully ten or twelve feet away and then she seemed to go astern and cause the collision. Witness told how long it would take to reverse the Caspian and the yacht. It would take far longer to reverse the Caspian and get her going the other way than it would the Magedoma. Witness swore that there was no danger of a collision if the captain of the yacht was pulled ahead as he had lots of time to do. Witness said the stern of the yacht went in a distance of about three feet and tore along for forty feet, tearing away stateroom partitions, staunchions and other woodwork along the side of the steamer. This naturally carried the stern of the yacht around, but she soon righted and away. Witness explained to his lordship that the accident could not very well be caused by the Caspian swinging in on the yacht as she would have to be spinning like a top to cause any such damage as was caused by the collision, as the point of contact was just aft of the wheel and the swing then would be very little. If the collision had been at the stern, the swinging might have caused the accident. His lordship remarked that Mr. Leslie gave very intelligent evidence, after he was released from the box.

George Comer, customs officer, was next called by Mr. King. Witness said he was at the wharf during the summer every third day. He also told of the position of the three boats and how they left. "The Magedoma had not stopped at the time of the collision," said the witness, "she was still going backwards." Witness said he saw the damage and described it the same as previous witnesses had done. He said the officer in charge of the Magedoma was standing outside the wheel house, looking over the stern of his boat towards the Caspian, and when the Caspian signalled the captain of the yacht waved his hand, as if in a signal that he understood the signals, and all was clear. "When I first saw the Magedoma leaving I thought she was in a great hurry backing out," said the witness.

Under cross-examination witness again stated that he saw the captain of the yacht wave his hand and thought it was a signal. Witness, from his position on the wharf, could not say whether the Caspian did any swinging or not. Like previous witnesses Mr. Comer said he did not think there would be any collision when he first saw the boats, and under ordinary circumstances, the Caspian would have passed the yacht, but instead of stopping, the yacht went right on.

Edwin Horsey, manager of the Bay of Quinte Steamboat company, was next put in the box by Mr. King. Witness said he is down to see his steamers out every day during the summer. This witness also told of the steamers leaving, how they turned and what happened. Witness said when he first noticed the yacht or anything unusual happening was when the Caspian signalled and the yacht did not answer. The captain of the yacht looked towards the captain of the steamer and waved his hand as much as to say, "You have the right of way, so take it." He did not expect to see any collision when the steamer first started out, or when he saw the yacht start out he did not think there would be one. Witness told of the damage done and how it happened. His version was about the same as that of the previous witnesses.

Mr. Horsey presented the accounts of what the accident cost them, and it totalled over $600. This comprises the repairs, wages and what was lost in not running the trip on Sunday. The accounts were all carefully gone over and sworn to as paid by Mr. Horsey. The cross-examination by Mr. Young was all on the accounts, other matters being very lightly touched on by the counsel. Some deductions and some additions were made by the judge to the counts, leaving the total about the same.

Mr. King said that he had another witness, Capt. Henry Esford, who was in Buffalo, giving evidence in another collision accident, and he wanted him here. Mr. Young said he was willing to go on with his defence and let Capt. Esford's evidence be put in, if no others were put in. Mr. King said he had other witnesses, so his lordship adjourned court until 9:30 o'clock this morning.

Some Expert Evidence.

When court was opened this morning at 9:30 o'clock, Mr. King put in his expert evidence. Capt. Booth, of the steamer Toronto, was the first witness called. Mr. King asked him if, when the Kingston and Caspian backed out from the wharf, a yacht was lying in front of the Kingston and backed out after the big boat before the two had got into their courses, what would he think of the action of the captain of the yacht in so doing.

"There is no law to prevent the yacht from backing out but I think it was very poor judgement," said the witness. "When he did so he should have warned the other steamers that he was backing out."

The question and answer was objected to by Mr. Young, as it was taking the main issue of the case from the proper tribunal and giving them to a witness. The objection was noted by the judge. Witness said if he had not given danger signal when backing out, and the Caspian whistled and the yacht did not wish to let him pass, he should have given the danger signal, five short blasts of the whistle. Witness said the yacht's silence indicated that all was right and the Caspian could go ahead. Witness said it was not possible for such damage to be done to the Caspian by the Magedoma, unless the other was moving astern, as the large steamer could not swing hard enough against the yacht to inflict the damage done. Witness said it was not reasonable for anyone to gather that the signal of the Caspian was to the Kingston, and if the yacht did not answer the signal the larger boat had a perfect right to come straight along on her course. Witness said to Mr. King, that if the Magedoma was moving astern and still did not answer the signal, the Caspian could do nothing else but think that all was right and go ahead. If the Caspian had stopped and backed her engines the damage might have been far greater, as the yacht would have got in front of the wheel and the yacht might have been sunk. The questions asked by Mr. King caused many tilts between counsel.

Under cross-examination by Mr. Young, witness said that the captain of the yacht should have either answered the signal of the Caspian or given another signal.

"If the captain of the Magedoma thought the signal was for the Kingston, should he have answered?" asked Mr. Young.

"No," replied the captain, "but I do not think he could think that."

Witness said if the master of the Caspian had wanted to pass the Kingston on her port side, he would have blown the same signal as he did then. In explaining the answer he gave to Mr. King, that the yacht used bad judgement, he said that it was natural that he should have waited, as the larger steamers were leaving on regular time, and were bound to make the turn. But the yacht also might have been ordered out, and he had a perfect right to back out, but he should have blown a danger signal to warn the other steamers that he was coming.

"If the captain of the Caspian did not think there would be a collision, and the captain and crew of the yacht thought the same, what could have been done that was not done to avert the collision?" asked Mr. Young.

"Nothing could have been done," said the captain. "Somebody made a mistake."

"Then might the captain of the Caspian not have been as much to blame as the captain of the yacht?"

"Yes," replied the captain, "either might have erred, but I do not think it was the master of the Caspian, as he had given the signal that he was coming to port."

Witness quoted many rules from the book regarding the moving, passing and signalling of steamers. In reply to his lordship, witness said that the Magedoma should have kept out of the way, and the Caspian should have gone on, on her course.

Mr. King asked a few more questions, throwing more light on some answers given by the witness before he was allowed to go, after being on the stand for two hours and a half. Mr. King said that this closed his case with the exception of Capt. Esford's evidence. The latter is away in Buffalo.

The first witness called by Mr. Young was Captain Frank Johnson, of the steamyacht Magedoma. The witness said he had been in charge of the Magedoma for seven years. The yacht was built nine years ago and he had been with her ever since, only two seasons. He said on the day of the collision he arrived at Swift's wharf just ahead of the Kingston and laid there just after the Kingston. The three boats left at about the same time. "Our yacht backed to starboard," said witness, "that is she has a left-handed wheel." Witness said he had orders from Mr. McLean to leave before the Kingston had left, but he could not do that unless he ran a line to the Locomotive Works dock, and Mr. McLean said he would wait until the Kingston had gone. When the big boat left the yacht sprung on a head line and backed out. Witness said he heard the two whistles but he did not think they were for him as they were blown across the bow of the Kingston and he was not accustomed to receive whistles blown across the bow of another steamer and for this reason he thought the signal was for the Kingston. After hearing the whistle the witness said he saw the Caspian was coming towards the yacht at a fair speed. When he saw this he stopped and waited for another signal.

The captian said that he was standing on the bridge beside the wheel. He had two lookouts, one on the bow and one on the stern. Witness said the Caspian was coming to starboard and for this reason was coming at her own risk; so he was standing still, at least the wheel was not moving. The bow of his boat was about one hundred feet from the wharf, when the collision occurred. His lookout yelled all clear and he saw the big boat was very close, but thinking the lookout could see better than he could he thought (bottom line of column missing)

......this, the steamer struck him in the stern.

In describing the way the boats came together, witness said the Caspian hit them a glancing blow, the yacht being struck on the extreme stern. Witness said the staunchions, fancy fixings, flag staff were broken. At the instant of the collision the yacht heaved over considerably to port, and this led him to believe that the larger boat struck him.

Witness once mentioned something he read in the papers. "Never mind that," said Francis Stewart, the youthful Brockville lawyer. "We do not want to know what they said, as it is very seldom true."

Witness described the movement of the steamers after the collision, and said that he waited around the harbor for about three-quarters of an hour before going on to Brockville.

Witness then produced the bills paid for material and work to repair the damage done to the yacht by the collision. It amounted to near $200 in all, without the work of the crew.

Witness also said that he had been in schools where there were lectures given on collisions, and it was well known that it would be absolutely impossible for anyone on the Caspian not to know of the collision if the yacht had struck her. Yet the man on the bridge did not know of the accident until told of it. Witness also said that if the yacht had been backing up and struck the steamer, far more damage would have been done, as the yacht is new and steel and the Caspian is old and the yacht would have gone into her woodwork.

The captain was still on the stand when court adjourned for lunch at 12:30 o'clock.

The Late Horace C. Rickey - of Millhaven, born in Westbrook in 1851; surviving children include Archibald A., boatbuilder, Barriefield; George D., boat builder, Millhaven; Francis C. and Malcolm L., Canadian Power and Launch company, Toronto.



All the members of the crew of the dredge Sir Richard have arrived in the city.

Quite a number went over to Garden Island today to go on the Calvin boats.

If the weather is favorable Capt. George Hammond will make a trip to Gananoque Saturday with the steamer Stranger.

Capt. Poole, who was transferred from the government dredge Sir Richard to the dredge Ontario, left today for Pelee Island.

The tug Trudeau cleared from Crawford's slip this morning and went as far as the government dry dock for the dredge Sir Richard.

The government buoy steamer Scout was the first arrival in Kingston harbor this season. She arrived from Prescott at 1:15 o'clock this afternoon to place the buoys in these waters.

In a heavy fog the steamer Pierrepont cleared at 8:25 o'clock this morning for Cape Vincent, on the first trip of the season, with a number of passengers on board, and Capt. Allen at the wheel. She went via the foot of the island and had no difficulty in getting through the ice. As the morning proceeded the fog commenced to clear away and it was believed that the veteran steamer would be able to make the trip all right.

The Harbor Clear of Ice - wind blew sixty miles an hour and cleared ice down St. Lawrence.

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7 Apr 1909
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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), 7 Apr 1909