Appalling Loss of the Phoenix. -- The season of 1847 closed with one of the most terrible disasters that ever visited the lake region, the destruction by fire of the propeller Phoenix on Lake Michigan with the loss of 190 lives. The Phoenix was commanded by Capt. B. G. Sweet. While upward bound, on Sunday, November 2, at about 4 o'clock, some 15 miles north of Sheboygan, and several miles from the shore, a fireman on duty discovered flames on the under side of the deck above the boiler. Mr. House, who was then on duty as engineer, discovered it at the same moment, when to all appearances the fire covered but a small space. It rapidly spread along the under side of the deck. Three pumps and several lines of water buckets were put in operation immediately, but it was found impossible to check the flames. A scene of the most terrible confusion ensued. The propeller was crowded with Holland emigrants, some of whom jumped overboard without support. Others ascended the shrouds, clinging in masses to the ratlines, up to the very crosstrees, from which as the fire reached the combustible material they were soon precipitated into the burning mass beneath. There were about 250 souls (passengers and crew) on board, of whom 25 were cabin passengers, 5 American steerage passengers, and 160 Hollanders.
The propeller Delaware arrived at the scene of disaster about two hours after the fire was discovered, and rendered all the assistance in her power to rescue those in the water. Captain Sweet had been confined to his berth for several days. He was saved in the small boat, with several others of the crew and one or two of the passengers. The burning hull of the Phoenix was towed to the shore near Sheboygan. The engineer, Mr. House, saved himself on one of the fenders.
Two Misses Hazelton, of Sheboygan, were on their return home from the East, where they had been attending school. When all hope of being saved was gone, they joined hands and jumped overboard together and immediately disappeared from sight.
An extra from the Sheboygan Mercury stated the loss of life at 250 and over, and that the fire originated from the boilers not being filled with water, and becoming heated so as to ignite the wood lying adjacent, and was not discovered until the flames burst forth instantly enveloping the whole boat.
The Phoenix was built at Cleveland, was 350 tons burden, had been running two seasons, and was owned by Pease & Allen, of that city. At the time of her destruction she had a full cargo of merchandise.
Drowned at the Sault. - In the month of June a distressing accident occurred at the Sault Ste. Marie. A party of citizens and visitors procured a yawl in which to "shoot the falls," a feat at times considered hazardous, yet, hitherto, without serious accident. The party on this occasion was nine in number, consisting of Capt. John Stanard, Capt. Robert Brown, Messrs. E. G. Seymour, Thomas Riches, John Parker and William Flynn, of the Sault; Dr. Hugh T. Prouty, of Monroeville, Ohio, and Mr. Wales, clerk of the steamboat St. Clair.
When about half way down the rapids the boats shipped a breaker. Bailing was commenced, but a moment later the boat, having reached what is called the "big leap" (being some eight or ten feet in descent), was by a reaction thrown on end, after descending, and all were precipitated into the foaming rapids. The catastrophe was witnessed by many citizens on shore. Boats were immediately procured and put out to render assistance. Messrs. Stanard, Brown, Wales, Spafford and Parker succeeded in sustaining themselves until picked up by an Indian chief who was fishing. Mr. Seymour was discovered floating at the bottom of the river, and was rescued only by means of a spear, in which the chief succeeded in entangling his coat and then raising him to the surface. The other three, Dr. Prouty and Messrs. Riches and Flynn, were drowned.
Loss of the Schooner Daun. - One of the sad events during navigation was that of the schooner J. C. Daun, which was capsized by a squall on Lake Erie while off Conneaut. The Daun was from Sacket's Harbor, and was sailed by Capt. Lyman Miner. The crew consisted of 11 persons, 8 of whom were lost. Captain Miner, his cousin, Edward Miner, Paul Dever and Dexter Whipple succeeded in getting upon the bottom of the vessel. During the night Whipple died from fatigue. About six o'clock on the following morning the brig Uncle Sam took the remaining three off, and landed them at Ashtabula.
A Large Mineral Cargo. - The propeller Goliah, Capt. M. H. Esterbrook, came down from the Sault with the largest cargo of minerals of this season, for the Pittsburgh & Boston Company. Of the cargo 164 tons were native copper in rock, 80 tons being in masses weighing from 500 lbs. to 2,900 lbs., and estimated by many to be worth 80 percent. of the pure metal.
Disaster on Lake Superior. - The schooner Merchant, Capt. Robert More, with a crew of seven beside seven passengers, was lost, with all on board, in June, on Lake Superior, with a cargo of supplies. She was formally owned at Buffalo by Barker & Holt, but at the time of her loss was owned by Coe & Colt. A furious gale prevailed at the time, and it was supposed she foundered.
Other Events in 1847. - Steamer Chesapeake sunk by collision with schooner John F. Porter, off Conneaut. Total loss with 11 lives. Schooner Porter, cargo of corn and pork, total loss also. Schooner Aurora Borealis on a reef near Malden and sunk; cargo of staves; raised. Brig Francis Mills, cargo of staves; sunk off Erie. Steamer London sunk a vessel, name unknown, near Malden. The season of 1847 was more eventful in the loss of life and property than any preceeding it. Navigation was resumed at Buffalo, April 23, the steamer Chesapeake, Captain Warner, arriving on that date, the first boat in. The Straits of Mackinac were clear April 28, the steamer Louisiana, Captain Davenport, the first boat through the Erie canal May 1. April 22: Steamers Nile, Lexington, Rochester and schooners Hudson, Trenton and Massachusetts and brig Winslow blocked in the ice near Buffalo, from which they sustained injury. May: Schooner Marshall Ney sunk by collision with a reef near Bird island. Schooner C. J. Darlie wrecked off Conneaut, Lake Erie. Schooner New Brunswick left Chicago with 18,000 bushels of wheat for Liverpool via Welland canal and St. Lawrence; this was the first clearance of the kind ever made from the waters of the Great Lakes for an European port. June: The brig Santillo sunk by collision with the propeller Manhattan on Lake St. Clair; vessel new, first trip. July: Steamer Constitution sunk at Sandusky, at the dock. September: Schooner Courier sunk by collision with the brig Monteith, in command of Capt. M. Dimmick, between Erie and Conneaut. Schooner Wisconsin totally wrecked at Death's Door. Propellers Pocahontas and Racine damaged by collision on Lake Erie. The revenue cutter damaged by lightning near Mackinaw. October: Schooner Acorn damaged by collision with the schooner Speedwell at Cleveland. Schooner Charles Walker damaged by lightning, in the Straits of Mackinac. Schooner Adair capsized near Dunkirk. Schooners J. W. Brown, N. C. Baldwin, convoy, and brig St. Louis damaged by collision at Buffalo. Propeller Monticello, launched at Fairport, owned by Col. D. Russell and Geauga Iron Company; the finest boat of the kind ever built at that port. November: Schooner E. Morgan damaged by collision with the schooner Ontonagon on Lake Michigan. Schooner Lawrence wrecked at Stony Island. Schooner Margaret Allen ashore and wrecked near Death's Door.
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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.