The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Chronicle & Gazette (Kingston, ON), Aug. 18, 1841

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p.2 Armed Schooners on the Lakes - The course of the British authorities in building and fitting out on the lake steamers, equally well calculated for trade or war, seems likely to induce similar action on the part of the American Government. The Fortification Bill has been amended in the Senate.


[Rochester Democrat]

We give below a full account of the destruction of the Erie. It is painful to find that Deacon Oren Green, of Rushville, Ontario Co., (well known by many in this city) is among the lost.

From the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, Aug. 10th.


Destruction Of The Steamboat Erie By Fire,

And The Loss Of One Hundred And Seventy Lives!

Little did we think yesterday in penning a brief paragraph in commendation of the Erie, that today we should be called upon to record the destruction of that boat together with a loss of life unequalled on our own or almost any other waters. The Erie left the dock at ten minutes past 4 P.M., loaded with merchandize destined for Chicago, and, as nearly as now can ascertained, about two hundred persons, including passengers and crew, on board. The boat had been thoroughly overhauled, and although the wind was blowing fresh, everything promised a pleasant and prosperous voyage. Nothing occurred to mar the prospect till about 8, when the boat was off Silver Creek, about 8 miles from shore, and when a slight explosion was heard, and immediately, instantaneously almost, the whole vessel was enveloped in flames.

Captain Titus, who was on the upper deck at the time, rushed to the Ladies' Cabin to obtain the Life Preservers, of which there were from 90 to 100 on board, but so rapid had been the progress of the flames, he found it impossible to enter the cabin. He returned to the upper deck, on his way giving orders to the Engineer to stop the engine, the wind and headway of the boat increasing the fierceness of the flames and driving them aft. The Engineer replied that in consequence of the flames he could not reach the engine. The steersman was instantly directed to put the helm hard a starboard. The vessel swung slowly round, heading to the shore, and the boats - there were three on board - were then ordered to be lowered. Two of the boats were lowered, but in consequence of the heavy sea on, and the headway of the vessel, they both swamped as soon as they touched water. We will not attempt to describe the awful and appalling condition of the passengers. Some were frantic with fear and horror, others plunged headlong madly into the water, others again seized upon anything buoyant upon which they could lay hands. The small boat forward had been lowered. It was alongside the wheel, with three or four persons in it, when the captain jumped in and the boat immediately dropped astern filled with water. A lady floated by with a life preserver on. She cried for help. There was no safety in the boat. The captain threw her the only oar in the boat. She caught the oar and was saved. It was Mrs. Lynde, of Milwaukie, and she was the only lady saved.

In this condition, the boat a mass of fierce fire, and the passengers and crew endeavoring to save themselves by swimming or supporting themselves by whatever they could reach - they were found by the Clinton at about 10 P.M. The Clinton left here in the morning, but in consequence of the wind had put into Dunkirk. She laid there till nearly sunset, at which time she ran out, and had proceeded as far as Barcelona, when just at twilight, the fire of the Erie was discovered some 20 miles astern. The Clinton immediately put about and reached the burning wreck about 10. It was a fearful sight. All the upper works of the Erie had been burned away. The Engine was standing, but the hull was a mass of dull red flame. The passengers and crew were floating around, screaming in their agony and shrieking for help. The boats of the Clinton were instantly lowered and manned, and every person that could be seen or heard was picked up, and every possible relief afforded.

The Lady, a little steamboat lying at Dunkirk, went out of the harbor as soon as possible, after the discovery of the fire, and arrived soon after the Clinton. It was not thought by the survivors that she saved any. By 1 A.M., all was still except the dead crackling of the fire. Not a solitary individual could be seen on the wild waste of waters. A line was then made fast to the remains of the Erie's rudder, and an effort was made to tow the hapless hull ashore. About this time the Chautauque came up and lent her assistance. The hull of the Erie was towed within four miles of the shore, when it sunk in eleven fathoms water. By this time it was daylight. The lines were cast off. The Clinton headed for this port which she reached about 6 o'clock. Of those who are saved, several are badly burned, but none are dangerously injured so far as we have heard.

Origin of the Fire - Among the passengers on board were six painters in the employ of Mr. W.G. Miller of this city, who were going to Erie to paint the steamboat Madison. They had with them demijohns filled with spirits of turpentine and varnish, which, unknown to Capt. Titus, were placed on the boiler deck directly over the boilers. One of the firemen, who was saved, says he had occasion to go on deck, and seeing the demijohns, removed them. They were replaced, but by whom is not known. Immediately previous to the bursting forth of the flames, as several on board have assured us, a slight explosion was heard. The demijohns had probably burst with the heat, and their inflammable contents, taking fire instantly, communicated to every part of the boat, which having been freshly varnished had caught as if it had been gunpowder.

Not a paper nor an article of any kind was saved. Of course, it is impossible to give a complete list of those on board. Of cabin passengers Capt. Titus thinks there were between 30 and 40, of whom 10 or 12 were ladies. In the steerage were about 140 passengers, nearly all of whom were Swiss and German immigrants. They were mostly in families with the usual proportion of men, women and children. The heart bleeds at the thought.

It is a singular coincidence that the Erie was burned at almost identically the same spot where the Washington was burned in June, 1838. Capt. Brown, who commanded the Washington at that time, happened to be on board the Clinton, and was very active in saving the survivors of the Erie.

We annex a list of the lost and saved so far as we have been able to ascertain:


W.M. Camp, Harrisburg, Pa.

Willet Weeks, Brooklyn.

John C. Pool, New York.

E.S. Colib, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Otto Torp, N.Y., wife and three children.

Llord Gelston ?, Erie, clerk.

Mr. Joles, Steward of the boat.

Mrs. Giles Williams, Chicago.

Chas. J. Lynde, Milwaukie.

Watts S. Lynde, Homer, N.Y.

Mrs. Wm. H. Smith, and child, Schenectady.

A. Sears, Phillip Barbier, Henry Weaver, William Thomas, ____ Evrts, Peter Finney, painters, Buffalo, in the employ of Wm. G. Miller.

Miss A Miller, Buffalo, sister of Wm. G. Miller.

J.D. Woodward, New York.

Wm. Griffin, Mississippi.

D.S. Sloan, Geneva.

F. Stow, Canada.

Wm. Sacket, Michigan.

Mrs. Spencer and two children.

Mrs. Dow.

Mrs. Robinson, Eallston, Spa., N.Y.

Miss Robinson, do. do.

Miss King, do. do.

Mr. Moore, lady and 2 children, from Yates Co., moving to Michigan.

Oren Green, Rushville, Ontario Co.

Broome Burton, from near Fort Plain.

Charles S. Mather, Mt. Clemens, Mich., has got a family at that place.

List of Swiss Passengers shipped by Messrs. P.L. Parsons & Co.

Names Numbers Destination

Geo. Zuggler and family 6 Akron, O.

John Flang do. 2 1/2 do.

Martin Zulgen do. 2 do.

Geo. Rettenger, do. 3 do.

Geo. Christian, do. 5 do.

Geo. Neigold, do. 7 1/2 do.

M. Reibold, do. 3 do.

Geo. Steinman, do. 2 do.

Peter King, do. 2 do.

L. Gilling, do. 2 do.

Peter Schmidt, 1 do.

John Netzell, 1 do.

Peter Schneider and family 5 Cleveland

J. Newminger do. 4 do.

S. Schapler, do. 5 1/2 do.

R. Filling, do. 2 do.

M. Obens, 2 do.

J. Korten, 1 Dover, O.

C. Durler, 1 do.

Mr. Lithhold and family, 5 1/2 do.

C. Deitcherick, do. 2 1/2 do.

C. Wilbur, do. 6 do.

G. Palmer, do. 5 Massilon, O.

J. Garghum, do. 5 do.

J. Mulliman, 3 do.

C. Killerman, 1 Chicago

C. Mintch and friend, 2 do.


Names of Persons saved from Erie, by the De Witt Clinton, Capt. Squires.

Capt. Titus, Master of the Erie.

Dennis McBride, 1st Mate.

William Hughes, 2nd do.

Edgar Clemens, 1st Engineer.

Jerome McBride, Wheelsman, badly burned.

James Loverty, do

Theodore Sears, Painter.

William Wadworth, one of the band.

Luther B. Sears, Fireman.

Mrs. Lines, Milwaukie.

Hiram De Graff, Passenger.

J.H. St. John do. to Chicago.

C. Hogo do. badly burned.

Alfred O. Wilkinson, East Euclid, Ohio.

Thos. J. Tann, Pittsford, N.Y.

Jno. Winchel, Buffalo.

Son of Geo. Beebe, Cleveland.

Harrison Foster, Harbor Creek, Pa.

Thos. Quinlin, Middlefield, Mass.

Christian Durler, Holmes Co., Ohio.

Rice, Hydraulics, Buffalo, badly burned.

Giles Williams, Chicago.

Robert Robinson, colored, barber.

Wm. Johnson, do., cook.

Five Germans, three of whom were badly burned.

Mintch was recently from Europe, and left his family in this city. He was on his way west to secure land for ultimate settlement.

This list comprises the names of 87 persons; as it is customary to pass children at half price, the whole number in this list must have exceeded 100 souls. Only four persons of the whole, including Durler and three others whose names we could not learn, were saved.

We have never seen our city in more profound gloom. The destruction of the Erie and the appalling horrible loss of life, impress the heart of every one.

The Mayor of Buffalo, immediately upon the receipt of the intelligence, very properly convened the Common Council, when appropriate measures were taken to relieve such sufferers as were in need of assistance.

Later - By the Rob't Fulton, Capt. Hart, we learn that two more persons were saved by the people of Dunkirk. One was Frederick Parmalee, bar keeper of the Erie, and an American, name unknown.

The Fulton also picked up two boats, one belonging to the Erie, and the other a sailboat, belonging to Dunkirk, which was swamped on its way to the rescue. Those on board were picked up.

The Princess Royal.

Last Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Bethune's new mail steamer was launched in good style at the dock yard, receiving her name of the Princess Royal, as she gracefully glided from the ways into the capacious lap of the Niagara, from the lips of Mrs. T.D. Harris of Toronto - the ladies of the ex-metropolis having fairly purchased the right to stand as godmothers to the beautiful child of royalty, by presenting it with a new set of colors, wherewith its first appearance in public was graced. A vast concourse of persons, as well from a distance as residents of the town, including a number of ladies and gentlemen from Toronto who came over in the St. George, assembled to witness the interesting spectacle. The steamboat Queen Victoria was very properly in port to welcome the "little stranger" and so was the Transit. Altogether the scene was an imposing one, and the excellent performance of the Band of the 3rd Batt. contributed not a little to the gratification of those assembled.

After the launch, the workmen employed were regaled on board the new steamer with a sumptuous cold collation and fitting accompaniments furnished by Mr. James Miller, to which we scarcely need say, the most rigid justice was done.

The timbers of which the Princess Royal is built were all subjected to the Kyanizing process, which is of a highly preservative nature. She measures 175 on deck, (being 6 feet longer than the City of Toronto) 11 feet in the hold, 23 feet beam, and 42 feet over all; and will be propelled by one low pressure engine of about 90 horse power.

Capt. Colcleugh, a gentleman extensively and favorably known, takes the command of the Princess Royal, and it is expected that she will be ready to commence her trips in about six weeks. [Niagara Chronicle Aug. 12th]

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Aug. 18, 1841
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Rick Neilson
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Chronicle & Gazette (Kingston, ON), Aug. 18, 1841