Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Marine City (Steamboat), U16447, fire, 28 Aug 1880
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The steamer MARINE CITY, running between Mackinac and Toronto and Cleveland, took fire Saturday afternoon two miles off Alcona, 30 miles below Alpena, and burned to the water's edge. She had a large load of passengers, 130 of whom are reported saved. Some are known to be lost.
      Kingston Whig-Standard
      August 30, 1880

      Steamer MARINE CITY Burned on Sunday Afternoon - A List of the Lost still in Doubt.
The following account of the disaster is from Frank E. Beard, correspondent of the post and Tribune of Alcona, telegraphed to that paper Sunday morning.
      The steamer MARINE CITY left here at 3:30 p.m. today with a full load of freight and passengers. At about 4 o'clock while off Sturgeon Point, fire was discovered in the hold before any assistance could be rendered the fire had gained such headway that nothing could be done to save her. The crew then commenced to launch the lifeboats in order to save the passengers. The tug VULCAN was in sight at the time. She came to the rescue as fast as possible, but before she could get there, many had become panic stricken and jumped overboard. The boat of the Life Saving Sturgeon Point Station together with the boats of the MARINE CITY and VULCAN and a number from shore picked up the following persons:
Mrs. J.J. Moore and son. Ottawa, Ohio.
Mr. and Mrs. Bliss, Port Huron.
Miss L. Thompson, Port Huron.
Robert and Ella Matthews, Port Sanilac.
Mrs. J. Gray, Port Huron.
Anna Greer, Tecumseh.
Mrs. W.O. Lumsden, and child, Detroit, Mich.
Mrs, C.H. Thompson and son, Detroit.
S.E. Beard, Alcona.
L.A. Howard, Alcona.
Charles Aultian, Alpena.
C.L. Brovn, Detroit.
Mr. and Mrs. C.A. Ossman, Greenville, Mich.
Mrs. Grant and daughter, Detroit.
Patrick Quinn, Cadillac Michigan
E.J. Ryan and DeWitt Covill, Toronto, Ont.
George Cotton and Charles Miller, Detroit.
Thomas Shott, Cheboygan
Albert Hudson, Alcona
Frank Mott, Utica
Mrs. C. Golling and two children and Mrs. Huber, Alpena
Mr. and Mrs. White and four children, Detroit.
Krs. Lyza Sharp and Miss Janie Sharp, Cheboygan.
Joseph Miller, Rogers City
Neil Blaine, Ontario
Frank Freer, Detroit
George Hann, Port Huron
C.W. Newman, jr., Detroit.
Joseph Pearult and George Matthews, Alpena
Fred Douglas, St. Clair.
T.H. Barrett and Pat McGowan, St. Ignace
L.D. Fraley, Detroit
W.B. Cole, Rogers City
Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle, Port Huron
Charles Shemm and Ace Teeple, Alcona
John Fitch and Jules Lavere, and G.H. Butterfield and wife, Alpena
Mrs. A.B. Clough, Marine City
T.B. Burnham, Detroit
Miss Margaret McConnelll and Miss J.A. McConnell, Toledo
Mrs. Saide Van Arsdale, Mrs. Harry H. Baker, Jackson
Nrs. John McElroy, Toledo
James McLean, Harrisville
Charles Lamb, Latiiner Thompson and Frank Moore, Toledo
Isaac Zoques, Montreal
E.W. Voight and family, Detroit
John Spittle and John U. Wayne, Detroit.

The following persons are missing so far as known:
Richard Schultz; James Wilkins; Frank Emmett; John McElroy, of Toledo; Duncan Porneroy, Ohio
A Good Word for the Crew.....Everything was done by the crew to save the lives of the passengers and too much credit cannot be given to Capt. Corner and his officers of the MARINE CITY. Capt. Thomas Hackett and crew of the tug VULCAN together with the Sturqeon Point lifesaving crew and the people along the shore. The following dispatches are from Alpena to the same paper: The fishing tug GRAYLING was at Black River about seven miles distant and at once went to the rescue. The tug VULCAU was also in sight and went at once to the relief of the burning steamer. The GRAYLING picked up nine persons found struggling in the water and assisted in saving these and taking up the crew and passengers. She then came to Alpena arriving about nine o'clock tonight, bringing in a few of the passengers of the MARINE CITY. J.M. Jones, of Alpena, was on the steamer and returned on the GRAYLING. He gives the following details: Statements by passengers; I was standing at the engine room door on the port side talking to another gentlelman when I smelled smoke. We looked into the fire room door and there was fire and flames in the starboard bunkers among the wood and coal I called the attention of the fireman and engineer to the same and efforts were at once made to get a stream of water on the fire. The hose were promptly got on and then went up into the cabin. As I opened the cabin door I found it full of smoke. I immediately gave the alarm that the boat was on fire. The most intense excitement prevailed and regular panic ensued, passengers jumped into the water long before there was any need of doing so. The officers and crew behaved nobly, with the single exception of the second engineer who acted like an insane man. Boats were lowered as soon as possible and filled at once. Mr. Jones went forward and remained upon the boat until rescued by the VULCAN. He can give no idea of the number of people aboard or of the loss. Mrs. A.B. Clough of Marine City and her son, Bert, were on board. They had been visiting R.B. Clough, a resident of this city, they returned on the GRAYLING.
      Mrs. Cough said that she was in her stateroom in the after cabin reading, she heard someone say FIRE, and soon heard it repeated. She thought that it was used in conversation. Burt then came runnirig into the stateroom exclaiming that the boat was on fire. She at once went into the cabin, and found it full of smoke. She then went aft. Burt was determined to jump overboard, but she restrained him. She found a life preserver but before she could get it on, a headstrong man, a stranger to her, jerked it away from her. She then found Dr. Stockwell, of Alcona, and with his assistance, she and Burt and the doctor reached the main deck. Then she picked up a boy about six years old, who had been separated from his parents, and nearly frightened to death. They all four got on the side of the gunwale, and held on by a window of the porter's room, A line was thrown to them but the doctor did not catch it, lost his balance and went overboard, and was picked up. The three left held on to their position and were rescued. Burt fainted at one time from the heat. The fire spread rapidly and the boat soon burned to the water's edge and sank.
      Alpena's Noble Citizens
The citizens held an impromptue meeting and organized for the purpose of caring for and assisting the passengers who were rescued. They were taken on by theMETROPOLIS at Alcona and will be brought here. Rooms have been secured at the Fletcher Iouse and everything possible will be done to make them comfortable.
      Captain Van Liew's Statement: Capt. VanLiew of the tug GRAYLING makes the following statement. I was engaged towing a raft abreast of Black River when I first saw the flames around the smokestack of the MARINE CITY. The flames were running about as high as the snokestack and the steamer was about three miles from Alcona. I let go the raft immediately and went to the rescue. When I reached her she had been on fire about forty-five minutes. The VULCAN had been alongside and taken all the passengers off the wreck. I picked up five women and six men. Four of the women had life preservers. One wan died before reaching the shore. I ran along side the VULCAN and took off all I could carry and then landed at Alcona and the went back. Captain Hackett landed a second load. The VULCAN was coming up the lake from Tawas and was first along side the MARINE CITY. She did splendid taking off all the
passengers that were left and was badly scorched on one side, black and charred. When I reached the wreck the lake was full of floating furniture, baggage, etc, and there were from twenty-five to thirty people in the water. The small boats picked up the very last life preserver. The Sturgeon Point lifesaving crew reached the MARINE CITY about thirty minutes after the fire broke out.
The wind was from the northwest, blowing fresh, and quite a sea was running. The people at Alcona did everything possible for the passengers. When I left the wreck was still burning. The upperworks were all burned off to the waters edge. She drifted ashore about half way between Alpena and Sturgeon Point, broadside to the beach.
From others the following facts are learned: The MARINE CITY left the dock at Alpena at four p.m. She was out about twenty minutes when the alarm of fire was given. She had on board about 160 passengers and crew. he crew numbered about forty. Three of the crew are known to have been drowned. Those saved number, as near as can be learned, is 130. We cannot learn more from here as the books and papers of the boat were burned. THE LOSS: The following is ascribed to the Detroit Free Press.. dated three o'clock Monday morning: The following are those who cannot be found and believed to be drowned: Richard Schulth; Ed Ray; James Parsons; head cook, Frank Emmett; musician, Port Huron; James Pomeroy, Otta-
wa, Ohio; Miss Jeannie Musser, Alcona; ----Foster, Detroit; The body of an Irishman, name unknown, who boarded the steamer at St. Ignace, to Detroit, has been picked up.
The MARINE CITY was one of the best known sidewheel boats on the lakes. She was built in 1866 at Marine City by P.L. Lester, rated as B-1 in Inland Lloyds, her value as estimated by the underwriters $20,800. Capt. W.B. Warringer, one of the owners, states that she was worth at least $30,000 and insured for $15,000.

      As far was can be ascertained the corrected list of the lost from the MARINE CITY disaster is: Richard Schultz and James Griffin of Detroit: Frank Emmett, Port Huron; Doctor Powers of Ottawa, 0.; father-in-law of John McElroy of the Toledo Blade; John McElroy of Toledo; grand-son; Jeannie Musser, Alcona: Martin J. Lawson, Detroit; an un-named man of Point St. Ignace; and a woman and a newborn babe, unknown. The child was born during the fright that was occasioned by the fire. It was feared that others were lost. The purser thought there were 150 passengers but the steward had made preparations for 125. Charles Thorne, the steward of the MARINE CITY, who saved several lives, had his hands badly burned, was interviewed by a news reporter this afternoon and said that the closest he could figure was that there were between 18 and 20 people destroyed by fire or water. In addition to the
ten persons who were positively known to have been lost there were eight or ten steerage passengers who were missing. They had not been seen by any of the passengers or crew since the accident. One of these men was an Irishman, McKerren or McKarren of Detroit. There was also a feeble minded lady, name unknown, who got on board at Alpena for Port Huron, who has not been seen since the accident. She was undoubtedly drowned. Mr. Thorne, says the fire originated in the engine room, probably because of the woodwork becoming overheated, although it was lined with zinc to guard against that danger.
Mr. Watson retorted that in the list of persons lost a son of Mr. Martin who had been engaged for the past two years in a Detroit drug store and had gone up the lake on a pleasure trip, intending to get off at Port Huron on his return and pay a visit with his parents.
A special dispatch from Detroit: Among those saved from the burning steamer MARINE CITY, E.J. Ryan and DeWitt Coville, of Toronto; Isaac Gagnier, Montreal, and A.W. King of St. Catharines
      Sarnia Observer
      Friday, September 3, 1880
      . . . . .
On Tuesday of last week, E.W. Voight, Detroit brewer, who with his family were rescued from the MARINE CITY, by the tug VULCAN in a spirit of Munificient gratitude, presented the officers and crew with gold and silver watches and charms, respectively. The officers were Thomas Hackett, captain; Robert H. Sunderland, mate; Patrick C. McCabe, first engineer; Geoge B. Kelley, second engineer, each of them received a watch worth from a $150 to $175, according to rank. The crew received several watches as follows: Lookout, Joseph M. Peltier; wheelsman, Daniel Kelley; Ralph H. Hackett, Fireman George Manley and Joseph Dent; steward Samual J. Lewis, Deckhands Joseph Mearon, and George W. Black. Each watch is uniformily and appropriately inscribed and the total cost of the gifts which were purchased from M.F. Smith & Co., was in the neighborhood of $1,000. Mr. Voight also presented a gold watch to Luke Downey, when he was second mate of the MARINE CITY and a similar watch for Capt. Comer.
      Sarnia Observer
      Friday, September 17, 1830

Item Type
Reason: fire
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original
Local identifier
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 44.76001 Longitude: -83.29775
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Marine City (Steamboat), U16447, fire, 28 Aug 1880