On the evening of the 12 March, 1857, the citizens of Hamilton and, in fact, the whole western district, were shocked by the news of the train wreck at the Desjardins Canal Bridge. The passenger train was a local from Toronto, drawn by the locomotive "Oxford" and consisting of a baggage car and two coaches. It was due in Hamilton at 5:45 p.m., but as the train approached the swing bridge, the engine derailed and went through the deck, taking the train with it. Dropping 40 ft., the engine, tender and first coach crashed through two feet of ice and were submerged. The baggage car landed off to one side, at the foot of the slope while the second coach remained up-ended on the embankment. There were only four survivors in the first coach, and the list of dead, which totaled 59, affected almost every walk of life in the area.
The most notable Hamiltonian lost in this disaster was Captain James Sutberland, best known for his years as master of the sidewheel steamer MAGNET. The captain was born in 1805 on the Island of Hoy, in the parish of Walls, Orkney Islands and went to sea at the age of 17 in the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1831, he came to Canada and two years later, was sailing the steamboat QUEENSTON. In 1836, he was in command of the TRAVELLER and subsequently he had the ST. GEORGE,COBOURG,ECLIPSE and the SOVEREIGN before taking over the MAGNET In 1847. James Sutherland was the last of three brothers, the others having been lost at sea. He left a widow, three sons and one daughter.
From the standpoint of the press, the most notable person lost in the train wreck was Samuel Zimmerman, the contractor from Niagara Falls. He was born in 1815 in Huntington County,Pennsylvania and settled in Thorold in 1842, where he received a contract on the second Welland Canal, said to be worth about $100,000.
With the decade of the 1850's, Zimmerman amassed a considerable fortune from railroad construction. His contracts involved the Great Western, the Cobourg & Peterborough, the Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton and the Erie & Ontario Railways. He was probably best remembered for his battle with Isaac Buchanan over the charter for the Great Southern, in which he came out the loser. His profits were invested in vast landholdings in various parts of the province and which were said to total nearly three million dollars. He left two younger brothers as well as a widow and two young sons by his first marriage.
By the 15 April, there was some activity along the waterfront. Vessels were fitting out and the BOSTON and the BANSHEE were loading flour at the Great Western Wharf, the former for Ogdensburg, the latter for Oswego. Word from the foot of the Lake indicated that the HIGHLANDER was almost ready to leave Cape Vincent and that the HURON was about to sail from Kingston. The St. Lawrence River was still ice-bound.
The Great Western Railway was, at this time, extending their wharf and building warehouses. Several schooners, which had wintered there were taking on cargoes of lumber and pipe staves, as well as a quantity of flour, brought down from the Galt mills.
"New Steamers" - "We learn that a contract has just been completed between the Detroit & Milwaukee Railway Co. and Gordon Campbell & Co., shipbuilders, for the construction at their shipyard near the Water Works, of two new steamers to connect the D. & M. Ry. with the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railway. They are to receive the engines, machinery, cabin fixtures, furniture, etc. of the Great Western steamers CANADA and AMERICA, which are now lying at Hamilton and which are to be dismantled. The new steamers will carry the same names. Their dimensions are to be as follows: 275 x 37 x 19 and their carrying capacity will be about 1,600 tons. They are to be constructed in the same style as the ocean steamers, to be finished in a magnificent manner and furnished with every means of comfort and luxury. They are to be completed and in readiness to take their place as soon as the road is finished to Grand Haven."
Passenger steamers on Lake Ontario began to appear in advertisements in preparation for the season, the first being the HIGHLANDER,Capt. P. G. Chrysler from Edw. Browne's Wharf, for Toronto and North Shore ports to Kingston and Cape Vincent. The CITY OF HAMILTON,Capt. Robt. Kerr, would operate to Toronto with intermediate ports of call. Capt. Henry Twohy was again in command of the MAGNET on the Montreal run, from Browne & Malcolmson'sCity Wharf, along with the sidewheeler BANSHEE,Capt. Howard and the KINGSTON,Capt. Kelly. The PASSPORT was commanded by Capt. Thos. Harbottle.
This year, 1857, ferry service was to be provided. by the small steamer VICTORIA, sailing from the G. W. Wharf to Wellington Square and other points around the Harbour. She would be available also for charters.
The schooner UNION, built by James Whyte & Co. for the Zealands, was to be launched on Thursday, 14 May. When her great moment arrived and the Christening was performed, she began to move down the ways, but she stuck before reaching the water. The prop. BOSTON broke several lines in attempting to move the reluctant schooner and on the following Saturday, screw jacks were used to gain some progress. However, on Sunday, the EUROPA, succeeded in pulling her off and Capt. Zealand had the pleasure of seeing his new command afloat at last. The better the day, the better the deed.
James Whyte & Co., the builders of the UNION, complained that since the establishment of their business here, they have had numerous difficulties with which to contend. They have had to bring their ship-carpenters up from Quebec, lay in supplies of timber and season it themselves, besides other grief. It appears, also, that they did not exercise sufficient care in the construction of the launching ways, which was the usual reason for a new hull to get stuck.
Despite all their weeping and wailing, they seem to have been doing fairly well, having built a number of yachts whose good sailing qualities were acknowledged generally. They had rebuilt several vessels and built the ANDREW STEVEN and the UNION.
The ANDREW STEVEN was at that moment, on her way to Chicago, to take on general cargo for England. The UNION was about the same tonnage as the ANDREW STEVEN and was built of oak procured in the immediate vicinity of Hamilton and her masts and spars were cut about 12 miles west of the city. The finest oak available cost $95 per 1,000 feet enabling Whyte to build as cheaply as any shipbuilder on the Lakes. The hemp rigging for these schooners was imported from Belfast, as was the material for the sails so ably fashioned by W. W. Grant in his sail-loft. The Joinery work was done by Messrs. Bastien and Middlemiss.
An offer of £4350 was made for the UNION, but Capt. Zealand refused it as being too small. He then received the offer of a charter to London with black walnut for £1,300, but an attempt to secure a return cargo from certain Hamilton merchants having failed, Capt. Zealand turned down the charter proposal. The best he could do was a cargo of black walnut from Chatham to Quebec.
The next topic of conversation along the waterfront, was furnished by the propeller INKERMAN, a vessel of somewhat doubtful breed, owned by James Morton and Hugh McIntosh of Kingston. She had been rebuilt from a river barge by George N. Ault at Portsmouth in 1855 and her machinery was originally in the IRELAND, but more of that later. She cleared Montreal at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, 23 May for Kingston,Toronto,Hamilton and St. Catharines. She left Kingston at noon on Wednesday, 27 May and by mid-afternoon of Friday, 29 May, she had unloaded 5,000 bus. of oats at Upton & Browne's Wharf in Toronto. She apparently had some cargo to pick up at Hamilton and a small amount to deliver at St. Catharines. However, the INKERMAN never completed this voyage. At 3:00 p.m., having backed out of the slip and turned to head for the Western Gap, her boiler exploded. When the lethal cloud of steam cleared away, there was nothing left of her superstructure abaft the pilot house and the hull appeared to be in danger of sinking. The steamer HIGHLANDER towed her back to Upton & Browne's Wharf, where she was made fast.
The INKERMAN's captain was William M. Brown of Kingston and her chief Engineer was William Dougheny.David W. Honeyman was purser and Bryan J. O'Donnel was steward. The rest of the ship's company was made up of a pilot, a second engineer, two wheelsmen, six deck-hands, five firemen, cook's boy and the cook, Miss Catherine A. McCrae. There was one passenger, Elizabeth McGill of Kingston.
"In working out and rounding-to, and for ten minutes after sounding the bell for full steam, the boat seemed to be in excellent order. I backed up and checked steam to allow a scow to pass and on moving to the bell to give the order for full steam, I heard a crack, looked up and saw a man in the air as high as the mast. I was then thrown up myself, as high as the cross-trees and fell on the promendade deck. When the smoke cleared away, my dog rubbing against my leg, hurt me, I tried to walk and found I could not."
"The first sensation I felt was when lying on my bed reading. I remarked that the steam was working very curiously in blowing off. The idea of a collision was running through my mind. When the purser passed by he said to me "there's too much water in the boiler; they are blowing off." He then went into his own room. Instantly, I heard a crack and found myself in the water. I succeeded in getting on board again and was enabled to rescue one of the deckhands, a Frenchman from being strangled by a rope."
"Donald MacIntosh of Kingston, forwarder, swore: I was a joint owner of the propeller INKERMAN.James Morton is the substantial owner. She was built first as a barge to navigate the St. Lawrence, that was, until the spring of 1855. She came to Kingston in that condition and was subsequently lengthened 20 feet and had machinery fitted to her as a propeller. These repairs were carried out by Mr. George N. Ault and the machinery was put in by Mr. Francis Tutton of the Ontario Foundry in Kingston....The engine was built first by the Kingston Foundry for the steamer IRELAND in 1846. The IRELAND was afterward burned near Quebec and her engine was then brought up to Kingston, where I purchased it. It was in good condition so far as the material was concerned, only that it required alterations. These were effected in the Ontario Foundry under the superintendence of Mr. Tutton... The IRELAND's boiler was bought at the same time. It had also been built at the Ontario Foundry. The materials of which it was composed were as good as new. The boiler was enlarged for the INKERMAN by the addition of a steam drum. She was still found to be defficient in power. Last winter, the boiler was further increased in size at the Ontario Foundry and sufficient steam could then be generated .... Her flues were new and leaked on the first trip, but this was corrected by Mr. Tutton. I know it leaked from my own observations and was also told so by Dougheny, the engineer. The means that are used to tighten flues, I am not aware of. Nor am I well acquainted with the working or construction of engines. Oatmeal, horse-dung, and other materials are frequently used to stop a leak. I cannot say that the INKERMAN's boiler had been tested after the last repair. I did not give Dougheny any directions as to the steps he should take to stop the leak.... This I thought a discretionary power of his own. I had full confidence in him and paid him $50.00 a month and board. He had been 2nd engineer on the NEW ERA under Capt. Chrysler. The INKERMAN was not insured. Mr. Morton and I thought she was so strong, well fitted and manned, that we had full confidence in her safety. Our instructions to the captain were to employ only sober and industrious hands."
"I never requested any engineer besides Mr. Tutton to examine her engine and boiler. The general impression was that there was not a better boiler on Lake Ontario. My conclusions from the evidence are that the use of oatmeal In her boiler gave a deceptive idea of the amount of pressure on it and led to its explosion, One of the corners of the boiler leaked. and it was to stop it that the oatmeal was put In. The INKERMAN cost £7,000. I do not know that the law requires the inspection of propellers."
"I first saw the engine and boiler of the INKERMAN in the Fall of 1854. I was taken to inspect it by Mr. Morton and to express an opinion as to whether I could adapt the machinery to the propeller INKERMAN. I undertook to do this. I thought then the boiler should be enlarged, but this was not done, the steam drum only being enlarged. New crown sheets were put in also; the old ones, I condemned. These changes were completed in 1855. Last year, it was found there was a deficiency of fire surface in the boiler. To remedy this, I proposed lengthening the boiler and putting in new head sheets and flues. There were some defective rivets about the boiler that were replaced last winter. These alterations were carried out under the direct supervision of Mr. Graham, head boiler-maker at the Ontario Works during this year. The head sheets that I removed were 5/16 inch thickness and were replaced with 5/8 inch at one end and 1/2 inch at the other. The flues were driven very tight into the head sheets. They were mandrilled out and the edges afterwards turned down. This is considered to be the best way to put flues in. They were afterwards expanded. We filled the boiler with cold water after putting the flues in and I went around it and found it to leak, but slightly in one of the legs. I got up steam and found no other leaks. I emptied the water next morning and had the leak remedied. When the INKERMAN was got under weigh, I was on board and on seeing the machinery, considered that the job was a good one. I always looked upon the boiler as being capable of carrying pressure of 120 p.s.i. I had taken no steps to test the strength of the boiler. It is not usual to do so, nor is it ever done at our works. I do not know that it is customary to give a guarantee of safety of a boiler on turning it out. The only other boiler manufactured at the Ontario Foundry, which I had anything to do with, and which burst, was used on Morton's Island in a saw mill. It exploded from being over-heated and having too little water. Two persons were killed. After the last overhaul and on the return of the INKERMAN from her voyage, it was found that several of the flues leaked. I made further expansion of the flues and heard no further complaints. I then cautioned the engineer, Dougheny, against putting anything in the boiler to stop leaks. I have seen Indian Meal, horse manure, rice and potatoes used for stopping leaks, but I consider their use attended with great danger on account of causing the water to foam and showing a false depth of water, The engine did not require a greater pressure than 60 p.s.i. to work the boat, but a pressure of 60 to 70 was usually maintained. The gauge used was Ashcroft's Patent and worked well. The ball and gauge always tallied. I am aware of the difficulty expressed by Dougheny in keeping up steam. While I was on the boat, I found no difficulty in keeping up steam and blowing off. I attribute this difficulty to his improper management of the boiler, in feeding it unsteadily with water. Dougheny never complained to me on that score. He did say on one occasion that he had bad wood.... I think the explosion was caused by the crown sheet becoming red hot."
"I remember the repairs and alterations made to the propeller INKERMAN. In the Spring of last year, I went aboard her to replace the crown sheets, which were cracked and had been patched in several places. A steam drum was attached and other improvements were made at the same time. No other changes were made to the boiler until the Spring of 1857, It was then deemed necessary to make each cylinder 4 feet longer, put in a new header in the fire box, replace the old rivets and effect a general over-haul. The boiler-plates were 5/16 inch thick around the cylinders and on the outer side of the boiler. Eighteen extra stays were put in the boiler during last year, Mr. Morton desiring it to be made as strong as possible. The flues were all attached in the most approved manner and tightened by an expanding tube. After the repairs were made, the boiler proved tight with the exception of a couple of leaks in the leg, which I closed with a patch of soft iron. I heard no complaints of boiler leaks since that time, which was about the beginning of May. I have been 3 years at the Ontario Foundry.... I cautioned Dougheny against putting anything in the boilers telling him it would foam, and deceive him as to the quantity of water in it. I consider such practice extremely dangerous and think it ought to be prohibited by law.... I attribute the explosion to a deficiency of water in the boiler. I have been a boilermaker for 30 years."
"I have examined the wreck of the INKERMAN since the explosion occurred and have seen the steam drum and some parts of the boiler. On examining the drums I found some oatmeal adhering to the inner surface. The boat appears to be torn from stem to stern and the engine is still submerged .... The explosion would not have been so disastrous in its effect had it been caused by a mere defect in the boilers such as a weak place. I think the explosion was the consequence of the introduction by the engineer of the materials used by him to stop the leaks. I have never known a resort to the materials of the kind alluded to in the evidence without producing injury. The meal, after a time, adheres to the crown sheet and becomes glazed on the iron and being a non-conductor, the iron beneath becomes excessively heated. The meal then cracks off and the water comes in contact with the over-heated plate, creating steam with unusual rapidity and endangering the safety of the boiler. Another effect of the presence of meal in the boiler is to cause foaming and to deceptive indications in the gauge cocks. Sal ammoniac also produces foaming. Sulphur and spirits of wines I never heard of being put in a boiler.... The Act 14 & 15 Victoria requires that owners of vessels shall cause an inspection to be made of the boilers every six months, or they incur a penalty of $100. This law has not been enforced, but one half of the owners complying with the requirements of the Act and, no fines have been levied in the other cases, at least in Lower Canada. The boiler and engine of the IRELAND, were offered to me at Quebec after the burning of the IRELAND about five years ago .... I declined having anything to do with them, not liking the shape and size, as represented to me in the drawings. I have known nothing of them until the present occasion. I think the putting of oatmeal in the boiler should be prohibited by law. I consider it of the first importance to keep an equable and proper supply of water in the boiler. I have no confidence in the spring indicators, such as was in use on the INKERMAN, as such springs are very liable to get out of order. In performing an inspection of a vessel under the Act 14 & 15 Victoria, an examination into the qualification of an engine does not enter. The Act of the present Session offers additional guarantee to the safety of the public."
George B. Redfield, Superintendent of the Erie & Ontario R. R. at Niagara announced that the steamers ZIMMERMAN and EUROPA would ply between that port and Toronto in connection with railroad's three daily trains. Mr. Redfield can be commended for his optimism. The EUROPA was again on the auction block on the 8 August and became the property of Thomas Patton, banker of Montreal.
"From Chatham to Liverpool Direct": "There is at present loading in this town, at the saw mill of Messrs. McKellar & Dolsen, with square black walnut timber, for John Pearson of Quebec, the fine schooner UNION of Hamilton,William Zealand master; Whyte, Zealand & Co., owners -- 240 tons burthen. With her present load, she will sail for Quebec from whence the timber will be shipped to England. But we are informed that arrangements have been completed for the chartering of the UNION by Mr. Pearson to sail with her next load from Chatham direct to Liverpool with the least possible delay.
"The new bridge over the Desjardins Canal is to be finished by next Saturday week. The approaches to the water's edge on each side are graded and only want a surface covering of gravel. The piles on which the swing bridge is to rest are being driven into the bed of the canal. The castings for the cradle on which the bridge is to turn are being made at St. Catharines, and the bridge is being framed at the railway works here. Fourteen carpenters and eight smiths will make short work of it. The chief delay arises from the difficulty in finding two pieces of timber large and heavy enough for the sides of the bridge. These are now being brought from Chatham."
"We understand some inconvenience has been experienced by farmers coming from the other side of the Bay, to our market, owing to the fact that the man in charge of the ferry across the Burlington Bay Canal will not attend to the ferry before six in the morning. Now that so many are obliged to come by way of the Beach, since the Desjardins bridge has fallen, it would be desirable that the ferryman should rise to his work a little earlier than the rules require."
"where a number of toasts were proposed and responded to",while the employees enjoyed themselves on the premises, presumably with a few kegs of the local beer.
On Sunday, the 25 October, the steamer FREE TRADER of Hooker, Jacques & Co.'s. fleet arrived in Port Stanley and tied up alongside the schooner ISAAC BUCHANAN, owned by Thompson & Hope. The FREE TRADER was built in 1848 at Montreal by Augustin Cantin and measured 136.3 x 24.3 x 10.1; 134 tons burthen. She was built for Alfred Hooker of Prescott. About 4:00 a.m. on Monday, the mate found flames issuing from the main deck. The wind was from the south-west and fanned the flames with such rapidity that some of the crew had to escape in their night-shirts. The fire soon spread to the schooner and then to the sheds on the wharf. Those owned by Williams & Thompson,G. W. Boggs and Routh & Davison were speedily consumed and by then the fire had crossed the road, where the North American Hotel, Mr. Batt's house, as well as Holcomb & Henderson's office, were destroyed. The latter's warehouse was saved with difficulty. The loss in the case of the steamer was $20,000 and of the schoonerg $8,000.
On the 29 October, the St. Catharines Journal reported the loss of the propeller OLIVER CROMWELL in the Straits of Mackinac on 17 October. She sank after a collision with the schooner JESSIE,Capt. Larkin of St. Catharines. The steamer was on a voyage from Chicago to Kingston with wheat and flour and was under command of Capt. R. Patterson. She had been built originally as the DAYTON, in 1853 at Buffalo and was renamed the following year.
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This volume is copyright The Estate of Ivan S. Brookes and is published with permission of the Estate. The originals are deposited in the Special Collections of the Hamilton Public Library.