The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Argus (Kingston, ON), March 20, 1846

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Great Damage to the Shipping at Buffalo Harbor.

The shipping in the harbor of Buffalo, sustained great damage, on Sunday morning last. The losses are immense, and the details of them are given at length in the Buffalo papers. The ice in the harbour started in the morning, and at one o'clock P.M., the creek was entirely clear as far up as the foot of Michigan Street. All apprehensions of a flood, or any damage by it, had subsided. It appears, however, that the ice had formed a dam in the creek, some miles above the city, which accumulated till evening, when it came down with a rush, dealing destruction in its path. The body of ice reached the city about 7 o'clock, bringing with it a schooner that had been moored above. The moving mass struck the steamboat Wisconsin, that was moored in the centre of the stream, and instantaneously broke her from her fastenings, bearing her down with the current, and making her the instrument of great damage to the shipping moored below. Nearly every vessel and steamboat in the stream was more or less injured - and some, our list will show, were left but little better than total wrecks. The moving mass struck the steamboat Rochester, moored at the foot of Main Street, and carried her off down until in front of P. Durfee & Co.'s warehouse, where she was driven into the wharf and left, closely interlocked in the timbers and spiles of the dock, showing marks of hard usage.

The avalanche of ice, boats and vessels then passed on, constantly accumulating in mass and power - sweeping from their moorings and carrying into the lake five steamboats, eighteen vessels, and two canal boats, all injured, and some nearly ruined.

(Note - The Kingston Chronicle and Gazette credits the Buffalo Express for the rest of story)

The following list will show the position of the various vessels that have been injured and the extent of their damage.

The steamboat Indian Queen lies upon the reef abreast of the head of the Black Rock pier, nearly a mile and a half from the mouth of the harbor. The extent of the damage done here we could not ascertain.

The steamboat United States brought up in the ice half a mile below the harbor. Her upper works are broken forward of the starboard wheel-house - larboard davit and part of the taffrail carried away.

The Wisconsin lies a short distance below the mouth of the harbor with the larboard side of the upper cabin carried away, and the upper works of her starboard quarter much broken up.

The Lexington lies near the Wisconsin, but slightly injured.

The Chautauque makes up the trio, and is almost a total wreck, everything above the hull is broken up and ruined. The smoke pipe is nearly down - one shaft broken and gone, the flanges broken from the other, and the engine more or less injured. She presents a sad spectacle.

The Rochester lies in the creek where she was left by the ice. Her upper cabin abaft the wheel houses is much broken, and bulwarks and stanchions carried away.

The St. Louis was moored across the creek opposite where the Rochester lies, although not moved from her fastenings, was much exposed to the raking progress of the Wisconsin. The stanchions forward of the larboard wheel-house, were nearly all taken out - the kitchen tore out, and the wheel-houses and upper works in its vicinity, much broken.

The Dole, which had been lying in the creek just above where the ice first struck the Wisconsin, was borne down and now lies sunk nearly opposite the foot of Main street. She was useless before, but is now a most thorough wreck.

The Brig Europe, lies in the lake, near the steamboat United States, but slightly injured.

The Brig Empire, is just above the Europe, her bowsprit gone, and otherwise injured.

The Brig Toledo, was lying in the ship canal, with her jib-boom out in the stream, which was carried away.

The Brig Maryland, in the creek - remained at her moorings - but lost her figure-head, cut-water, and breast hooks.

The Brig Illinois is minus her figure-head, and pretty badly bruised.

The Brig Hoosier, had her figure head, bowsprit and head rails carried away.

The Brig Osceola, windlass torn out, starboard bulwarks all off, and main rigging carried away.

The Brig Globe had her main rigging carried away and her rails broken.

The Brig Toledo, lost her jib-boom, and slightly injured otherwise.

Schooners In The Lake.

The Martha Freme, Lexington and Toledo, are in the ice near the steamboat United States, having received but little injury.

The Marengo, outside, lost her bowsprit - had her bulwarks and rigging injured.

The Woolbridge, mainmast carried away, and bulwarks broken up.

The Henry M. Kinnee, bowsprit and davits gone.

The Convoy, bulwarks stove, and otherwise injured.

The Free Trader, slightly damaged.

The G.H. McWhorter, head gear all gone.

The Harriet Calvin, bulwarks broken, and otherwise broken up.

The Marian passed in the crowd with but little damage.

The Barcelona, lost her bowsprit, and had her starboard bulwarks swept clean.

The Dayton, bowsprit carried away and spars broken.

The Jane Louisa of Ogdensburg, main mast gone and bulwarks stove.

The Rainbow, lost her mainmast, bulwarks and bowsprit.

The Superior, had her bulwarks all carried away.

Schooners In The Creek.

The Dolphin, starboard bulwarks all carried off, and othewise injured.

The Velocity, bowsprit and head gear all gone.

The Avenger had her foremast and bowsprit carried away, and bulwarks partially carried away.

The Milan had her taffrail broken away, and was damaged otherwise.

The United States was very much broken up and injured.

The Emlin had both her masts carried away.

The Baltic had her windlass torn out, and shows rough usage otherwise.

The Daniel Webster lost her bowsprit, rudder, main boom, main gaff, and had her stern broken in.

The Vermont had her starboard bulwarks, her jibboom and main rigging all carried away.

The Adair is partially filled with water and is in a sinking condition.

The Stranger lost her figure head, and otherwise injured.

The Huron had her fore and main rigging carried away.

The damage was not altogether confined to the shipping, as the appearance of some portion of the dock will show. Until the Rochester became fast, and the mass passed on and left her, it made a clean sweep of every movable thing in front of the Warehouses. The gallows frames, timbers, and hoisting wheels in front of the Warehouses occupied by C. Burnett, W. Chard, C. Hitchcock, Purdy & Co., Ward & Co., P. Durfee & Co., and Root & Lewit, were all swept away, and scattered in fragments along the dock.

Two canal boats belonging to Ward & Co. were swept away. One has been found near Bird Island, and the other has gone down the river, or sunk.

The amount of damage done, it is very difficult to estimate, but that it is very considerable, there is no doubt. Various estimates have been made, varying from $30,000 to $60,000, but not being competent judges we will not venture an opinion as to the correctness of any of them.

Captain Whittaker, of the steamer United States, is making preparations to get up steam, and extricate his boat from the ice this afternoon. He will tow the wrecks into port.

Yesterday afternoon the Wisconsin was hauled up alongside the pier.

We are informed by those who are better judges of these things than we can be, that had the Wisconsin been more securely moored, this damage to our shipping might have been saved. She lay in the middle of the stream, presenting to the moving ice, her whole bulk, and although she had both her heavy chain cables out, yet she was deemed insecure, and serious apprehensions were entertained and expressed by many to her owner, during Saturday, that she might be torn from her fastenings, and be the cause of damage below.

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March 20, 1846
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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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Argus (Kingston, ON), March 20, 1846