Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (New York, NY), 13 June 1857, page 27 - 28
Full Text

THE propeller Inkermann, Captain Brown, two years old, five hundred tons burden, put into Toronto on Wednesday, May 27, to discharge a cargo of oats at Brown's wharf. On Friday afternoon she prepared to start for St. Catharines, with everything apparently safe on board. She had backed a short distance into the bay, and had just commenced her direct course onwards when a dreadful explosion took place. Men and portions of the were sent high into the air. The vessel herself was literally torn to pieces. The noise of the explosion was heard on the wharves all round, and told that a dreadful accident had occurred. For some moments the ill-fated vessel was completely enveloped by dense clouds of steam and smoke; when they were cleared away the appalling nature of the catastrophe was at once apparent from the shore, and numbers of small boats hurried to the fatal spot to give all the assistance in their power to the survivors. The Highlander, Capt. Schofield, also promptly proceeded to the spot, and having fastened a rope to the wreck, commenced hauling it towards shore. But when it had been brought to within about twenty yards of the wharf it sunk. Efforts were instantly made to clear away the rubbish and get out the survivors and the bodies of the dead.

Captain M. Brown had a most providential escape. The purser was taken out alive, but died on his way to the hospital. Two women, Catharine A. McRae and Elizabeth McGill, were also taken from the wreck, and were so much injured that for a time they were supposed to be dead. After a little while, however, they both showed signs of life, and were taken to Browne's wharf, where they were placed on temporary beds, it being deemed inexpedient to remove them further in their dangerous state. At six o'clock the woman McGill appeared to be in a dying state, Drs. Bovel, Hodder, Cotter, &c., were speedily in attendance on them, hut they entertained no hopes of their recovery. It was not expected that she could survive during the night. She was sister to McGill, the fireman, and was only taking a pleasure trip with her brother when the accident befel her. The appearance of both of them lying side by side was melancholy in the extreme.

The labor of removing the rubbish of the wreck was continued in order to find the bodies still missing, and to save as much property as possible. People present appeared, however, to be paralyzed by the nature of the shock. Six of the crew, much injured, some of them it is feared fatally, were taken from the wreck and immediately sent to the hospital. Three men were taken out dead; which, with the purser already noticed as dead, makes the number of dead bodies four, as found up to a late hour. Thus, the six men in hospital, the four dead, the three men uninjured, the captain, and the two women, make sixteen, which leaves at least seven more to be accounted for, and who we greatly fear may be classed as dead — nay, we regret to say it is almost certain such is the fact. One of the men taken from the wreck had his head completely taken off. None of the dead, with the exception of the purser, have been yet recognized. The accident was caused by the lowness of the water in the boiler, and then suddenly letting on cold water while the boiler was too much heated — hence the explosion. The force of the explosion must have been dreadful, as the ship was shattered from stem to stern, and the massive chain cable was snapped asunder in different pieces, a portion of it having been thrown to and twisted around the top-mast, which still stands. The calamity caused a painful sensation of sorrow throughout the city and for hours, until night set in, the adjacent wharves were crowded by thousands of anxious spectators.

The spirited sketch which we give of the wreck was taken by our artist correspondent, Mr. Armstrong, instantly after the explosion, he happening at the time to be on Browne's wharf.

Item Type

The illustration accompanying this article can be seen at the following address:

Date of Original
13 June 1857
Local identifier
Language of Item
Dave Swayze
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
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Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (New York, NY), 13 June 1857, page 27 - 28