Maritime History of the Great Lakes
John Fraser (Steamboat), fire, 7 Nov 1893
Full Text

      The Steamer FRAZER Burned On Lake Nipissing.
      Toronto, Nov. 8. - By the burning of the steamer FRAZER [sic] on Lake Nipissing 18 persons lost their lives.
      The disaster occurred near Goose Island. Lake Nipissing is isolated, northeast of Lake Huron, Ont., nearly halfway between it and the Ottawa river, and it is supposed the steamer was in regular service on the lake.
      Only the most meagre particulars are obtainable.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Wednesday, November 8, 1893 pa, c.3

      . . . . .

North Bay, Ont., Nov. 8. - The steamer FRAZER, owned by Davidson, Hayes & Co., of Toronto, took fire on Lake Nipissing about 11 o'clock yesterday morning. The steamer was destined for Frank's Bay and carried a crew of about 26 men. Of this number only seven escaped death. The remainder 19, including Capt. Douglas, were driven into the water by the flames and all were drowned.
      Buffalo Enquirer
      November 8, 1893

      . . . . .
      The Nipissing Disaster As Told By One Of The Survivors.
      Circumstances Surrounding The Terrible Mishap.
      It Is Now Known That Twenty-Four Were Sent To The Bottom.
      North Bay, Ont., Nov. 10. - The first definate news of the terrible calamity which overtook the steamer JOHN FRASER on Lake Nipissing has just came to hand. It is now believed there were 24 men on board of the boat when she took fire, but only 20 can be accounted for. Thirteen whose names have already been given are known to be lost. The names of the seven saved have already been reported.
      A thrilling story of the fire in midlake is told by John Adams, the fireman of the burned steamer, who has arrived at North Bay.
      In an interview he said: "All seemed to be going well until just as the dinner bell sounded. The engineer noticed smoke coming from above the boiler between the smokestack and the steamdome. He called to me and I got up to take the door off the manhole over the boiler. As soon as I raised it the flames belched out. The engineer rushed for a pail to get water while I started for the pump engine to couple on the hose.
      "We could not stay long enough, however, and Captain Carr at that moment ran for the engines to stop, then back up, but the signals were never responded to, and I don't believe the engineer had a chance to get near the lever, as the fire was too hot. Indeed, I never saw him again, and I don't think he ever came up from that awful furnace.
      "When I reached the deck, the captain was directing to lower the boats. They were hurrying about in a frightened manner, but he was cool and quiet and heard him say 'Be steady there and take your time.'
      "They were working on the port side yawl and I ran around to the other boat which by this time was in the water and a lot of fellows in her. I jumped for the stern, but at that moment the boat drifted under the still rapidly revolving wheel and dipped down under the blow, throwing the whole of us into the water. I went down, it seemed almost to the bottom, and as I dropped I got a kick in the facefrom some one's boot.
      "When I came up I saw the fellows struggling about in all directions. The engines on the boat had never stopped and she had gone a bit ahead. She was not turning, however, and began coming back in a wide sweep. I was about exhausted but managed to catch a bowline and hauled myself along to a scow in tow of the steamer. There wer four of the boys already on her. As soon as I could pull myself together I got out my knife and cut the towrope and she lay to awhile while we rescued two men. All the other poor fellows had gone under."
      Buffalo Evening News
      Friday, November 10, 1893 p.4 c.5

      . . . . .

      North Bay. - The charred wreck of a 19th century paddlewheeler has been found at the bottom of Lake Nipissing, but its discoverers don't know what to do with it.
      The burned ship is the JOHN B. FRASER, a paddlewheeler that was involved in opening up the Lake Nipissing area during the late 1800's. It was found Sunday by the Aqua Jets Diving Club after a month of dragging operations.
      Joe Barrio, head of the 16-member group that found the ship, said they don't have enough money to salvage it, more important, there is no place in North Bay to put it on display.
      The JOHN B., one of 20 paddlewheelers working in the lake during the 1800's caught fire and sank on Nov.7, 1893. Thirteen of the 17 men on board died.
      Toronto Star
      August 15, 1972

      . . . . .

Item Type
Reason: fire
Lives: 13
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original
Local identifier
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 46.267222 Longitude: -79.787222
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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John Fraser (Steamboat), fire, 7 Nov 1893