The Financial Panic of 1857.-- A panic struck the lake region in 1857 and commercial interests suffered greatly. Vessels in large numbers were laid up at the various ports, freight was down to the lowest margin, owners were despondent, and everything short of first or second class was without a calling. Two or three vessels had started out on European voyages, and were reported to have made fair returns. This was sufficient inducement for others to venture the experiment. Some reached the European coast of the Atlantic, and remained there for a time coasting, having become satisfied that there was no encouragement to return and repeat the venture; and thus the season of 1857 continued until its close.
Departures for Europe. - The bark C. J. Kershaw, Capt. D. C. Pierce, took a cargo of staves at Detroit and departed for Liverpool. The schooner Madeira Pet, which came over from Europe, also loaded with staves at Detroit and left August 10.
Three Heavy Storms. - There were three heavy gales during the season of 1857 entailing heavy losses. The first occurred April 11 from the northeast, causing much damage, especially on Lake Michigan, no less than five vessels being wrecked at Milwaukee. The next storm arose on May 3, from northwest, destroying much property on the lakes. The third and last storm set in October 7, continuing three days, which were the most memorable days, known for many years, with losses aggregating $100,000, and many lives.
Many Steamers Dismantled. - The three mammoth steamers Western World, Plymouth Rock and Mississippi, which for three seasons plied between Detroit and Buffalo, were not commissioned this season, but were laid by at Detroit until the latter part of the year, when they were towed to Buffalo, their engines removed, and then taken to New York City. The Western World's engine was placed in a new steamship named the Fire Queen, and the Mississippi's engine in the steamship Guiding Star. The large steamers City of Buffalo, Crescent City, Queen of the West, Southern Michigan and St. Lawrence, which plied along the south shore of Lake Michigan, were also discontinued and thrown out of service. The City of Buffalo's engine was placed in the steamship Moro Castle at New York, the Queen of the West's in the steamship Evening Star, the St. Lawrence engine in the steamship Fokkian, and the Southern Michigan's was shipped to the North river. All of the above steamers were comparatively new, and consequently short lived. The through railroad lines were the cause of their removal, and it may be doubted if they ever made enough to pay for their original cost.
Holocaust Aboard the Steamer Montreal. - The most deplorable disaster of the season was the destruction of the steamer Montreal by fire on the St. Lawrence river and the loss of 264 lives. She was valued at $41,000, and was comparatively a new boat.
Many Other Steamers Burned. - In September the propeller Louisville, of 366 tons, with a valuable cargo, took fire on Lake Michigan, near Chicago, and was totally destroyed, fortunately without the loss of a life. She had been in service five years, and plied the upper and lower lakes.
In the month of October the propeller Sandusky was burned at Sandusky, and proved a total loss. She was of 460 tons burden, and was nine years old. The steamer J. C. Morrison burned on Lake Simcoe. The steamer Free Trader was burned at Port Stanley with a loss of $23,000.
Railway Disaster at the Desjardin Canal, Canada. - It would be foreign to the scope of this work to more than refer to this sad event, as the railways of the Province are only indirectly connected with its marine; but it may be mentioned that two prominent owners of lake vessels perished, and another well-known owner narrowly escaped with his life. Those who were killed were Samuel Zimmerman, after whom one of the best known steamers on the lakes was called (since burned); the second being Captain Sutherland, well-known as captain and owner of lake vessels. Another victim was Edward Duffield, who had been for some time an officer on board the Europa. The late Thomas C. Street was the prominent ship owner who though injured, was happily preserved.
Other Events of 1857. - The total loss on hull and cargo in 1857 was $1,387,935; lives lost, 490; tonnage, 15,439 tons; number of disasters, 481. Six revenue cutters were built during the season of 1857. The ship City of Toronto sailed for Liverpool from Toronto with staves, and the bark Reindeer for the same destination during August with a like cargo. In November the propeller City of Superior, of 700 tons burden, which came out new and was commanded by Capt. John Spaulding, was wrecked at Eagle Harbor, Lake Superior, after three months' service. The loss amounted to $47,000, and not a vestige was saved. The number and valuation of steamboat engines lost on the lakes up to 1857 was estimated at $8,000,000. None were recovered. There were several breaks in the Erie canal, which delayed traffic from eight to ten days. February 17: Navigation opened at Cleveland. March 27: Steamer Huron sunk at Chicago by collision with the submerged wreck of the schooner McKay. April 27: the season opened at Buffalo, the propeller Comet being the first boat to leave. The Straits of Mackinac were open May 1, the steamer Lady Elgin being the first through, going west. May 4: Bark Empire wrecked at Marblehead Point; eleven lives lost. May 2: Schooner Pilot sunk at Chicago. May 19: Schooner Cataract sunk by collision on Lake Erie. Schooner Tom Dyer sunk at Port Colborne. On July 4, an excursion was made from Buffalo to Niagara Falls, on the occasion of the practical completion of the hydraulic canal, in the Cygnet, the first steam vessel that ever landed within the corporate limits of the village of Niagara Falls, above the cataract. August 19: Scow Duncan Stewart capsized near Point Avon; crew saved by the schooner Ariel. September: Steamer Belle burned at Perrysburg, damaging her to the extent of $1,000. Government schooner Lamplighter driven on the rocks at Isle Royal, and totally wrecked. November: Schooner D. Newhall sunk at Buffalo. Schooner Malakoff sunk near Goderich, Ont. Brig Constellation ashore and total loss at Waukegan. Schooner Kossuth sunk near Chicago. Schooner C. C. Trowbridge sunk off Bar Point by collision with the schooner Fortune. Schooner C.J. Roeder frozen in the ice near Turtle island. Schooner Scott frozen near Toledo. December 9: Propeller Napoleon a total wreck at Saugeen.
Other vessels which passed out of existence in 1857 were as follows: Steamer Louisiana wrecked at Port Burwell. Propeller Inkerman exploded at Toledo and three lives lost. Propeller Oliver Cromwell sunk by the schooner Jessie in the Straits; was raised fifteen years afterward. Propeller Napoleon lost at Saugeen, Lake Huron. Propeller St. Nicolas wrecked at Sleeping Bear, Lake Michigan. Bark Empire wrecked at Marble Head with eleven lives lost. Bark Peerless wrecked at Dunkirk. Bark Oliver See wrecked in Straits of Mackinac. Bark Great West lost at Sleeping Bear. Brig David Stuart wrecked near Chicago with loss of seven lives. Brig Iceberg foundered with all hands in Lake Ontario; seven lives lost. Brig J.R. Giddings lost on Lake Michigan. Brig Jas. McBride lost near Sleeping Bear. Brig H.G. Stambach wrecked at North Manitou. Brig Constellation lost on Lake Michigan.
The following named were all schooners: Wide Awake wrecked near Oswego. Bell Atkins lost near same place. George Hanson lost on Lake Michigan with four lives. Emily foundered in Lake Michigan with loss of five lives. Temperance wrecked at Racine. Cataract sunk by propeller Kentucky in Lake Erie. Northern Star sunk by propeller Ontonagon in Lake Huron. Elizabeth sunk in Lake Ontario. Sarah A. Green wrecked at Dunkirk. Everett wrecked at Port Burwell. Dahlia wrecked on Hat island, Lake Erie. Isaac Buchanan burned at Port Stanley. Leander lost in Mackinac straits. Flying Cloud wrecked near Chicago and seven lives lost. Antelope lost near St. Joseph with five lives. Europa lost on Lake Ontario. Lark lost on Lake Michigan. Radiant foundered in Lake Michigan. Radiant foundered in Lake Erie and ten lives lost. Mars lost near Port Washington, five lives lost. Welland lost in Lake Michigan with eight lives. Oriental wrecked on Lake Ontario. Kossuth wrecked near Chicago. Forest lost near Goderich, Lake Huron. Brilliant lost near Sheboygan.
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Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.