Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Niagara (Steamboat), aground, 18 Apr 1848
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A Telegraphic despatch from Rochester yesterday morning, announced the loss of the fine Steamer NIAGARA on Tuesday evening, at the mouth of the Genesee River. She was reported to be a total loss. The NIAGARA, built in the summer of 1846 has always been under the command of Capt. Childs, a thorough seaman and most capable officer. Her loss, if it has occurred as reported, we are confident no human skill or power could have averted. We await with anxiety, further particulars.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      Thursday, April 20, 1848

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Daily Advertiser office, Rochester April 19, STEAMER NIAGARA WRECKED. -This splendid new steamer, belonging to the Ogdensburg Line was driven ashore at the mouth of the Genesee River during the gale yesterday afternoon. She is reported to be a total loss.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Wednesday Evening, April 19, 1848

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WRECK OF THE STEAMER NIAGARA. - The Rochester papers of this morning contain full particulars in regard to the wreck of the beautiful new boat. The following is an abridgment of the account in the American:--
The NIAGARA left Oswego, on Tuesday, 9 A.M. for this place. Soon after the wind rose, and by noon blew a gale. She approached the mouth of the river about 1 o'clock P. M., when a heavy sea carried away her rudder. She was at the time about five miles from the light-house. An attempt, partially successful, was made to repair the loss, and the boat steered for the piers, after first heading out into the lake in order to approach the mouth of the harbor directly. This attempt, and another attempt, and another, were alike fruitless; when she put out to sea, abandoning all design of entering the river. At this juncture her smoke pipe was carried away, and it consequently became necessary to extinguish the fires.
The boat was now at the mercy of the elements. The wind blew a perfect gale, and the sea ran high. Indeed there has not been so hard a blow for many months. Capt. Child cast two anchors in 75 feet water. They dragged, and the wind urged the steamer on towards the shore. About 1 o'clock yesterday morning she ran aground stern foremost,
half a mile west of the light-house, upon a gravel shore. She swung around and now lies stranded broadside about eight rods from the beach, being hard aground and her cabin half full of water.
      The NIAGARA had seventy five passengers on board, but no lives were lost. No person left the boat till norning. In the morning about seven o'clock, the captain and the clerk went ashore in the yawl, taking out a rope. A ferry was thus made, by which all on on board made their escape in perfect safety. On reaching land they were generously
provided for by Mr. George Latta, and Mr. H.T. Spencer, of the Cottage Inn at Charlotte, whose considerate kindness is worthy of all praise.
      All the passengers speak in the highest terms of Captain Child. The subordinate officers and the crew also displayed the utmost attention to the condition of the boat and passengers. It is impossible as yet to say how great the injury to the boat will prove. It is thought by some that she will prove nearly a complete wreck, while others
suppose she can be got off and repaired for $8,000 or $10,000. The NIAGARA was not insured. She was built two years ago, and cost $55,000. Being the finest boat on Lake Ontario.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Thursday Evening, April 20, 1848

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      The splendid Steamer NIAGARA, Capt. R.F. Childs, was wrecked near the mouth of the Genesee River, on Tuesday evening, in one of the hardest gales for a long time experienced on Lake Ontario. She lost her rudder about three o'clock P.M. of Tuesday, when six miles from port. Capt. Childs then raised the jib and endeavored to steer by the small tiller, but the wind being very strong and the sea heavy, he could not make the piers. He then turned her again into the lake and again failed. This was three times repeated without success, when the smoke-pipe gave way.
The utmost confusion and consternation now prevailed among the passengers, about seventy in number, many supposing the boilers had burst. In the midst of the fearful scene, Capt. Childs proceeded to give the proper directions for the management of the boat, with the utmost coolness and deliberation. All the fire on board was immediately quenched, and he succeeded in producing order, and some degree of calmness among the passengers, by assuring them that he would SEE THEM ALL SAFELY ASHORE!
The vessel was now at the mercy of the waves. She floated towards the shore, rolling to and fro, and every few minutes shipping a heavy sea. She soon had two or three depth of water in the lower cabin. As soon as she came to water six or eight fathoms deep, the anchors were thrown over. She rode the sea for about an hour, but the storm increasing in violence, she began to drag her anchors, and between eight and nine o'clock in the evening, she grounded within twenty or thirty rods of the shore.
The waves were beating with terrific fury against the steamer, and the small boats could not be passed to the shore. The night was thus passed in the most dreadful suspense - escape or assistance until morning being impossible, and the boat liable at any moment to go to pieces. She was thrown about and constantly striking, which kept the passengers, many of them females, in a state of alarm and confusion.
At nine o'clock, Wednesday morning, the effort to send a boat to the shore was successful. A strong rope was then secured ashore, a small boat was fastened to it by a noose, and by this means all the passengers and their baggage, the latter in a wet and damaged condition, were conveyed safely from their perilous condition to the shore. The work was long and tedious, as only four or five could be carried at a time; but the Captain and crew labored with an energy and coolness worthy of all praise. And well were they rewarded. They have saved the lives of seventy-five passengers, who testified their gratitude and obligations to Capt. Childs in the most warm-hearted and enthusiastic expressions of admiration for his conduct. The scene was one of deep feeliing and interest, and will not soon be forgotten by those who witnessed it.
The noble steamer lies broadside upon the shore, about half a mile above the piers. When we last heard from the spot, the wind was still blowing in all its fury, and the boat fast becoming a wreck. It is as yet impossible to tell how much of her machinery, &c., may be saved, but it is likely the loss to her owners will be from thirty to forty thousand dollars. She was an excellent boat, and under the command of Captain Childs, had attained a reputation second to no other on the lake.
The Niagara was owned by persons in Oswego, Utica, &c. There was no insurance. We learn that Capt. Van Cleve, of the Cataract, will be here to-day from Oswego, with the necessary machinery for raising the wrecked boat and towing her to Oswego, if she is found to be in a condition to render it practicable.
While we deplore the calamity to her owners and commander, they have cause to rejoice that not a single life was lost in this dreadful storm. The passengers, after landing, were kindly and hospitably received at the house of Mr. Geo. C. Latta, near whose residence the disaster took place.
At a meeting of the passengers of the Niagara, on Wednesday morning, on board the boat, James Stirling, Esq., being appointed Chairman, and O.D. Freeman, Esq., Secretary, it was unanimously - Resolved, That a committee of five persons be appointed to draw up and publish a testimonial of their gratitude and respect to Capt. Childs, and his officers and men, for their successful exertions in saving the lives of all on board, during the very severe gale and storm which took place on Tuesday, the 18th of April, 1848, on their passage from Oswego to Rochester.
The undersigned committee, in pursuance of the said resolution, beg leave to express through the columns of your paper, for themselves and in behalf of the said passengers, to Capt. Childs, all his officers and men - without exception - their grateful acknowledgments for their exertions in the hour of danger, the boat having been deprived of her rudder, and her smoke pipe having been carried away by the gale, in consequence of which she was deprived of steam, rendered unmanageable, and drifted on shore and stranded one mile west from the Genesee River. It is owing to the superior skill and coolness displayed by the Captain, and by the intrepidity and perseverance manifested by the officers and men, that the lived of all on board were saved.
The undersigned tender to Capt. Childs their unfeigned gratitude, with their best wishes for his health, prosperity, and a long life of future usefulness in his vocation.
      (Signed) C. Durfee, Rochester
      E.W. White, Morristown
      E. Howard
      Luther Griswold, Lyme
      Thos. Ellis, Cleveland
      Capt. Matthewson, Pulaski,
      O.D. Freeman, Secretary.
      Rochester Daily Democrat
      Thursday, April 20, 1848

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THE WRECK OF THE NIAGARA. --- The probability that the NIAGARA which we stated yesterday morning, had been wrecked near the mouth of the river, will be got off in a short time. Workmen are going at it immediately, under the direction of Mr. George Wick, of Oswego. The necessary apparations was brought up yesterday, by the LADY OF THE LAKE. It is thought that she can be put in running order for about $10,000. The principal damage is to her upper works, furniture, cabins, &c. -- Rochester Adv.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Friday, April 21, 1848

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      STEAMER NIAGARA. --- Almost two hundred men have been engaged for several days in an attempt to raise the NIAGARA by means of sinking boats. This has proved to be a failure. We understand an effort will be made today to effect the object with screws. She is hard aground and will be got off with difficulty, if at all. --- Rochester Adv.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Friday, Evening, May 5, 1848

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      THE NIAGARA. --- We are happy to state that the efforts to release the steamer NIAGARA are likely to prove successful and that we shall soon see her again afloat upon our waters.- --- Rochester Democrat
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Saturday evening, May 20, 1848

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THE STEAMER NIAGARA.---This steamer was raised on Thursday last, after having been stranded for seven weeks and two days, during which period a large number of men were continually employed at much expense to extricate her. She was take into the harbor between the piers, but in the course of the following day her pumps became foul and leaking badly, she went down in sixteen feet water.
      The NIAGARA was to have had a canvas jacket put under her and to be taken immediately to Oswego for repairs. Steps have already been taken to save her, which will be accomplished, it is thought, in a few days.----Rochester American
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Monday evening, June 19, 1848

THE NIAGARA. -- The steamer NIAGARA was towed down from genesee River this morning by the CATARACT. She was raised a few days since, after much labor and ineffectual attempts.
The machinery is all out, and on the whole, she bears evidence of having had a rough time of it. She goes to the Marine Railway here for repairs, and we now confidently expect to see Capt. Childs and his favorite steamer afloat again as good as new, with the advantage (if any it be) of some pretty severe experience. --- Oswego Adv,
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      Saturday, June 24, 1848
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      Owned by T.S. Payton of Utica, the NIAGARA was raised from near the mouth of the Genesee River on June 22, 1848.
      Toronto Globe
      June 24, 1848

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      Steamer (no name), ashore at the mouth of Genesee River, April 1848, subsequently released and repaired. Loss $15,000.
      Casualty List for 1848
      Toronto Globe, Sept. 13, 1848

Steam paddle NIAGARA. Of 437 tons. Built French Creek, N.Y. 1845. First home port, Ogdensburg, N.Y. DISPOSITION:-- Became U. S. Quarter-Master Dept. SUFFOLK, July 16, 1863. Reported sunk in military service May 14, 1864
      Merchant Steam Vessels of the U. S.
      Lytle - Holdcamper List, 1790 to 1868


Item Type
Reason: aground
Lives: nil
Hull damage: $15,000
Remarks: Got off
Date of Original
Local identifier
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.2584 Longitude: -77.60222
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Niagara (Steamboat), aground, 18 Apr 1848