Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Despatch (Steamboat), collision, 7 May 1850
Full Text

Steamer DESPATCH, ran into the Propeller COMMERCE off Grand River, Canada.
COMMERCE reported a total loss. 38 lives lost. May 7, 1850.
      Casualty List for 1850
      Erik Hyle's private papers

      . . . . .

      The steamers DESPATCH and COMMERCE came into collision last night, near Port
Maitland, on the Canada side of Lake Erie, in consequence of which the COMMERCE
was sunk. She had on board one hundred and fifty British soldiers, belonging to the 23d regiment. One officer and twenty-four soldiers were drowned, and thirteen women and children, making thirty-eight in all. She sank in eight fathoms of water. The COMMERCE was owned by Messrs. McPherson & Crane, Kingston. The DESPATCH was somewhat injured, but succeeded in reaching this port, where she will be hauled out for reapirs. It is said she mistook the COMMERCE for a vessel.
      Daily Queen City, Buffalo
      Wednesday, May 8, 1850

      . . . . .

The stm. DESPATCH, a Canadian boat, that plies between this and Canadian ports on Lake Erie, arrived here yesterday noon with her bow much broken in aa to require the application of sail cloth to keep her from taking water while under way. Upon inquiry we learn that she came in collision with the stm. COMMERCE, also a Canadian craft on Monday night while near Port Maitland. The COMMERCE sunk in 8 fathoms of water within a few minutes, involving a dreadful loss of life. She had on board 150 soldiers belonging to the 23d. Regiment of H.B.M. troops, besides other passengers. The surgeon, Dr. Grantham, 24 soldiers, and 13 women and children, making in all 38 persons, were drowned. No good reason is assigned for this dreadful accident, and if both boats carried proper lights, none can be offered. It should be investigated by the proper authorities. The COMMERCE was owned at Kingston. The Second engineer of the boat was among the lost.
      Buffalo Morning Express
      May 8, 1850 2-2

      Awful Disasters
We have never before been called on to record so awful destruction of human life on the western waters, as since the opening of navigation, the current season. The disasters to steamboats already number four, of which two have been by explosions of boilers- the TROY on Niagara river and the ANTHONY WAYNE on Lake Erie- one by fire the BELLE OF THE WEST the Ohio river, and one by collision, the DISPATCH and COMMERCE on Lake Erie, The loss of life by these four calamities as near as can be ascertained, will not fall short of Two Hundred and Fifty!. Two hundred and fifty human beings sent into eternity in this brief space of time by steamboat accidents! Were they accidents beyond the power of man to foresee or provide against? If so, what perils encompass the traveler at every step of his journey, in these days of improvement and science! If not what a responsibility rests on law-makers and the owners and managers of these public conveyances! But the subject will cease to be one of public discussion or occasion of remark by the time the details of the calamities have reached the extreme of the Union. Buffalo Courier
      Schenectady Reflector
      May 17, 1850

Item Type
Reason: collision
Remarks: Repaired
Date of Original
Local identifier
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 42.855277 Longitude: -79.577777
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Despatch (Steamboat), collision, 7 May 1850