Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 24 May 1901
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not published

May 25, 1901



Water Pored In Through Stern Port Holes.

There was much anxiety and excitement manifested yesterday morning when a Whig bulletin was posted, announcing that the steamer Empire State had filled with water and had to be beached just opposite Brockville. On board the steamer were many whose friends and relatives were awaiting them, and of course there was a little natural nervousness. But there was no need of alarm for not one passenger as much as got a foot wet.

The river season traffic has opened most unfortunately for the Thousand Island steamboat company. Their steamers had just begun their season's work when an accident occurs the worst in the history of the company. Here is the story of the misfortune:

On Thursday afternoon, the steamer Empire State, after a thorough overhauling and cleaning, cleared from the ferry wharf for Ogdensburg to bring a big excursion to Kingston for the celebration of Victoria day. The steamer was in command of Capt. Allen, of this city, one of the most experienced and careful captains on the river. On the way out of the harbor Capt. Allen saluted the old gunboat Pierrepont, and whether the gods were angry at this, or whether the accident occurred because Friday was the first excursion day, the captain is unable to say. The steamer reached Ogdensburg without mishap, took on about 200 people early in the morning, including the 40th New York company, called at Prescott for more, and then started for Brockville, on her trip to Kingston. At Brockville probably 300 people boarded the steamer which left which left that port before nine o'clock, with about half her compliment.

All proceeded well until the Empire State was about a hundred yards out from the wharf, when the fireman noticed water coming up around the boiler. He investigated, and his horror can be imagined, when he discovered the water quickly increasing in its flow until the ash shute was threatened. He immediately notified the captain, who at the moment felt the boat gradually settling. Not knowing what amount of water might be in the vessel, nor the nature of the leak, Capt. Allen brought the Empire State around, pointing her prow directly inshore, and beached her in the mud, near a slip, between two wharves. This he did in order to run no risk with the big crowd of passengers under his care. By this time the water had put out the fires, and the engine's power was gone. Immediately after the leakage was discovered, the pumps were set to work, but as there were two or three feet of water in the vessel, nothing could be done to gain a mastery over the inflow. The steamer gradually settled down when beached. Her nose was out of the water, while aft the water was up to the guard. She was resting easily, with about five feet of water in her. On board there was no excitement, so quickly did the whole thing happen. Even when the steamer was beached many of the passengers did not know what had occurred, thinking another landing was to be made at the wharf directly in front. In less than an hour they were landed in small boats. The occurrence was watched by five hundred people on shore, and they were terribly excited.

There were many rumors and corroboration of rumors as to the cause of the accident. Everywhere it was stated that the Empire State had sprung a leak. Certainly there was a leak, but the leak was a couple of port holes at the stern, which had been left open by the waiters, over whose sleeping rooms they are. The water had been pouring in through these holes since early in the morning, after the waiters had gone upstairs to get the lunch counter in order. Everybody was ignorant of the fact that the steamer was slowly filling, and when Brockville was left, the water had got beyond all control. The port holes could not then be closed as nobody could get into that portion of the vessel, the water preventing. It was a piece of neglect, and costly to the company. No damage was done to the steamer whatever in beaching her. Late yesterday afternoon, the steamer Pierrepont left for the scene of the occurrence, taking a complete pumping apparatus. A diver was sent down during the afternoon, and he closed the portholes. The Empire State will arrive here tonight.

The news of the misfortune was a terrible surprise to the president and the general manager of the company. Howard Folger left for Brockville on the one o'clock train to view the beached steamer. He returned early last evening, and was seen by a Whig reporter at his home. "The occurrence is just similar to the accident which happened to the steamship Brittanic in New York harbor a year and a half ago," he said. "You know that steamship sank right at her dock because several port holes had been left open, the water pouring in when the vessel listed. Whenever I go on any of our steamers, starting on an excursion, the first thing I ask is whether the port holes are closed, and often I have gone down into the hold myself in order to be sure. Unfortunately the crew are ofttimes apt to forget to close them, and in some cases the result is disaster." Mr. Folger stated that Capt. Allen received great praise for the manner in which he handled his steamer, and in acting on the moment for the safety of his passengers. He was heartily thankful that no lives had been lost. "Our company has been in business on the river for twenty-five years," said Mr. Folger, "and it is our pride that in all that time not one of our passengers has been drowned."

The passage money of the Empire State's passengers was refunded, and the company paid their passage back to Ogdensburg and Prescott. Probably a hundred of them came to Kingston by G.T.R.

It is just two weeks ago since the steamer Empire State came out of the government dry dock, where she received thorough repairs. A reporter interviewed Mr. M.R. Davis, government hull inspector, a man experienced in his business, and an expert in vessel building. He examined the Empire State while it was in the dry dock, and on being asked for his opinion regarding her hull, inspector Davis said: "There is no better hull in any vessel on the St. Lawrence river than that of the steamer Empire State. I was quite surprised when I examined it."

Incidents of the Day - The steamyacht Ellen, lately fitted out at Davis' drydock, was billed to bring an excursion from Senecal's, Rockport, etc., but owing to the unfavorable weather and the high wind the trip was cancelled.



Crawford's wharf: schooner Tradewind clears tonight for Oswego.

Richardsons' elevator: schooners Laura D. and Madcap, from bay ports.

Swift's wharf: steamer Algerian from Toronto this morning; steamer Hamilton expected from Montreal late tonight.

The steamer America ran the ferry today in place of the steamer Pierrepont, which went to assist the steamer Empire State.

The schooner Acacia got into trouble at Oswego yesterday. While being towed into the new harbor, she broke her line and drifted against the outer breakwater, sustaining some damage.

M.T. company elevator: tug Thomson arrived from Charlotte with three coal-laden barges and clears for Oswego with three light barges; tug Hall arrived from Montreal with four light barges and clears again with two coal laden.

The steel steamers Monks Haven and Paliki, from Glasgow, for Sault Ste. Marie, with the steambarge Bothnia and her consort were locked through at Iroquois Thursday at one locking. This is the first time the full length of the lock, 800 feet, has been used. The filling took just 10 minutes.



Awful Result of the Storm On Friday.

Chicago, May 25th - The steambarge Baltimore sank yesterday between Ausable and Fish Point, on Lake Huron, and thirteen out of a crew of eighteen were drowned. An engineer and a fireman, the only survivors, were rescued by the Columbia and taken to East Tawas, Michigan. The Baltimore was (owned) by P.H. Fleming & Co., of Chicago.

p.H. Fleming & Co. gave the list of those on board the previous trip as follows: Capt. M.H. Place, and his wife, stewardess, Cleveland; Michael Brethern, first mate; Edward Owen, wheelman; G.W. Scott and Herbert Wining, watchmen; August Anderson, George McGinnis, deck hands; John Delgers, second steward; P. Marceau, of Chicago, first engineer; Thomas Murphy, of Milwaukee, second engineer; William Parker and F. Krueger, firemen. The Baltimore was built at Gibraltar, Mich. in 1881, and was valued at $40,000. Her cargo was valued at about $5,000.

Four of Crew Drowned - Bay City, Mich. - The tug Columbia, of Detroit, with a government steam dredge and two loaded lighters for the Soo, was caught in yesterday's storm. The lighters and dredge were lost, parting their six inch cable. The crew of six members is missing. While searching today for her tow the Columbia picked up two men from the Baltimore on a raft. They were almost dead and were taken to East Tawas. Another man was on the raft, but was lost, despite the efforts to see him.

Incidents of the Day - The Folgers are making every effort to raise the Empire State.

Item Type
Date of Publication
24 May 1901
Local identifier
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
Copyright Statement
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Emailwalter@maritimehistoryofthegreatlakes.caWWW address
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 24 May 1901