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Passengers of the John McKenzie

The JOHN McKENZIE sailed from the Clyde May 18, l857 and arrived at Quebec shortly before June 26, l857. What makes this ship notable is that many of the passengers were then loaded onto the steamship Montreal which was to take them from Quebec City to Montreal. What followed was one of the worst marine disasters in Canadian history.

The following passenger list was extracted from the Toronto Globe of Thursday, July 2, l857, and was printed in conjunction with the news story about the fire on the steamer MONTREAL in the St. Lawrence River on June 26, l857. It was extracted by Dan Denby. Here are some of the details:


On the afternoon of Friday June 26, 1857, 250 Scottish emigrants from the recently arrived ship, the "John McKenzie", boarded the paddle steamer "Montreal" at Quebec City. They were bound for the city of Montreal, 180 miles up the St. Lawrence River. Also on board were Norwegian emigrants and some local people. Passenger were estimated to be more than 300.

At about 5 oclock pm, the "Montreal" had reached Cap Rouge, some 12 miles above Quebec, when fire was discovered in wooden panelling surrounding the boiler. Efforts by the crew to extinguish the fire failed, and it quickly spread through the wooden superstructure. With no hope of stopping the flames an attempt was made to beach the ship in shallow water, but she struck a rock and was held fast 800 feet from shore.

Passengers forced up onto the crowded decks were faced with smoke and flames. There were no life preservers aboard and the only two boats were launched and quickly overfilled and swamped. As the fire raged, the only choices were to remain and burn or to go overboard into the water. Many passengers were severely burned before they jumped overboard. Among the passengers were many families with children.

About a half mile ahead of the "Montreal", another ship the "Napoleon" was loaded with emigrants and also headed for Montreal. When the fire was noticed, the "Napoleon" returned to assist. A large bateau was launched from the "Napoleon" and survivors were pulled from the water, but in the 20 minutes it had taken the "Napoleon" to return and commence rescue, over 200 people had drowned. Many of the victims were children. The Montreal burned to the waterline.

The survivors, many with serious burns, were taken by the "Napoleon" to Montreal. In the days following, the dead were carried to Montreal for identification- where possible, and burial. The Inquest lasted for 2 weeks and the number of victims was set at 248. Initially on May 26, 16 bodies were taken to Montreal and an inquest started. On June 2, the jury was dismissed and the rest of the inquest was held at Quebec. Most of the bodies were taken to Quebec and buried there. The burning of the "Montreal" in 1857 was the worst shipping disaster to have occurred in Canadian waters to that date.

Footnotes:- The "John Mckenzie" had sailed from the Clyde on May 18th with 332 emigrant passengers. Upon arrival at Quebec, 2 passengers had died at sea; 69 left Quebec by train; 2 remained in Quebec and 250 chose to board the ill fated "Montreal." The "Montreal" was built in 1855, registered at 1005 gross tons and was owned by John Wilson of Quebec. There had been 2 previous fires in the boiler enclosure that season, but they had been extinguished.

The various death reports are conflicting and, as well, the May 27 and 29 copies of the Globe are missing on the microfilm which was used so it isn't possible to make an accurate list of victims from the resources available.

From Steam Navigation by James Croil, (Toronto:1898)

"The Montreal, also a large and fine steamer, was lost in a snow-storm near Batiscan, in November, 1853, and was replaced by the Lord Sydenham, afterwards lengthened to 250 feet, and renamed the Montreal...."

"The Richelieu Steamboat Company, formed in 1845, commenced business by running a market boat to Sorel. In 1856 they put two small steamers on the through line to Quebec, the Napoleon and the Victoria. About this time Messrs. Tate Brothers, ship-builders, in Montreal, purchased the Lady Colborne, renamed her the Crescent, and coupling her with the Lady Elgin, started a fourth line of steamers to ply between Montreal and Quebec. The business had already been overdone, and this was the last straw that breaks the camel's back. The opposition had gone far enough when it had reduced the cabin fare to $1.00, including meals and stateroom and the steerage passage to 12.5 cents! The excitement that prevailed at this time was intense. The arrival and departure of the boats at either end of the route were scenes of indescribable confusion. Vast crowds of people assembled on the wharves, while clouds of smoke issuing from the funnels and the roar of escaping steam plainly indicated that the stokers were doing their level best to burst the boilers. This vicious and ruinous opposition was brought to an end by a tragic occurrence, the burning of the steamer Montreal."

"On a fine summer evening in June, 1857, while on her voyage from Quebec with a load of over 400 passengers, most of whom were emigrants from Scotland, who had just completed a long sea voyage, and were gazing with interest on the shores that in anticipation were to offer them happy homes, suddenly the cry of "Fire!" was raised. Clouds of smoke burst out from between decks. A panic ensured. Groups of men and women clung to each other in despair, imploring help that was not to be found; then a wild rush, with the terrible alternative of devouring flames and the cold water below. Two hundred and fifty-three persons perished; and all the more sadly that the calamity was traced by public opinion and the press of the day to "culpable recklessness and disregard of human life." A truce to ruinous opposition ensured. An amicable arrangement was reached, by which superfluous boats were withdrawn. The bulk of the passenger business fell to the Richelieu Company, which continued for a number of years to do a lucrative trade, paying handsome annual dividends to its shareholders." pp. 314-315.

Passenger list for the John McKenzie

Additional information from the Montreal Gazette of 1857.
ADAMS,.Andrew and sister Margaret 
ASSELIN, Adolphe (36 yr)fireman on the Montreal, identified by brother Milien of Malbaie
BARO, James 
BEATTIE, Mary,- son Archibald and daughter Annie 
BLOOMFIELD, Margaret and daughter Catherine (12 yr)Andrew, husband, is an engine driver on the Grand Trunk Railroad in Toronto
BONE, James 
BONNER, Sarah (56 yr)wife of John McCrae late of Quebec , son James identified her. She was the cook on the steamer.
BOURGETTE, Thelesphore (22 yr)sailor on Montreal, father Louis of St Roch
BURGESS, James and wife Martha 
BURNS, Mary,-sons-Andrew and Daniel and daughter Margaret 
CALACHEN, Margaret and daughters Catherine, Jessie and Margaret and son William 
CALDWELL, Alex, wife Janet and daughter Jane 
CAMERON, Charles S. 
CAMPBELL, Margaret, son Dougal and daughter Julia 
CAMPBELL, Duglad (35 yr)of Glasgow, a porter on the Caledonian Railroad
CAMPBELL, Catherine, mother, Catherine, Henrietta and Maria and son John 
CHRISTIAN, Daniel (47 yr), wife-Mary Ann and sons Daniel, Edward and Thomas N. and daughters Eliza Jane, and Mary Ann (12 yr)blacksmith, of Liverpool.
CLARK, JOHN, wife Margaret, son Archibald and daughters Christina, Catherine, Margaret and Janet 
COLLIER, John, wife Margaret and sons David, Robert and John 
CORBETT, Margaret 
CORBETT, John and wife Catherine, son John and daughters Jessie (8 yr) and Rebeccaof the Isle of Skye
CORMIE, William 
CORSIE, James and sister Lydia 
CRAWFORD, Geo. (23 yr)of Arygleshire, Scotland
CREE, .Andrew 
CRERAR, James (22 yr)of Cow Caddens, Glasgow
CURRIE, Archibald (54 yr) wife Agnes and daughters Belle and Margaretmason, of Campbelltown, Argyleshire, Scotland, has a son in Chatham, C.W.
DICK, Robert 
DICKSON, Mary and son Adam 
DOUGLAS, James and wife Janet and sons John, Thomas, Alex, Wm. (9 yr), Peter, George (19 yr) and Lockhartof Wishart
DOUGLAS, John (19 yr)grocer of Wishart, Lanarkshire, Scotland
DOUGLAS, Lillias 
DOWNIE, Elizabeth and daughter Eliza 
FERGUSON, William (46 yr) and wife Ann 
FREDERICK, Betsy (27 yr)formerly of Montreal
FYLE, Robert 
GIBSON, Elizabeth and daughter Elizabeth 
GILCHRIST, David, wife Margaret, son James and daughters Isabella (14 yr), Elizabeth, Margaret, Janet & Ann 
GILCHRIST, Thomas and wife Margaret 
GILMOUR, James, his wife-, son James and daughter Martha 
GILMOUR, John (18 yr)Iron finisher from Glasgow
GOWERLOCK, Thos., wife Elizabeth, sons Thos., James, John, Wm. , and Walter and daughters Mary, Elizabeth and Agnes 
GOWERLOCK, Wm. (9 yr)son of John
GRAHAM, Andrew, wife Margaret and son Walter 
GRANT, Charles 
GRATTON, George and wife Janet and daughter Agnes 
HAILY, Peter 
HALL, Bruce, wife Jane and sons Wm., Simon, Robert and Peter and daus. Catherine and Mary Anne 
HALLIDAY, William 
HART, W.H. - Cabin Passenger 
HOPE, Walter 
HUNTER, John and wife Margaret 
JOHNSTONE, Christina 
KNOX, Alex. 
LAUGHLAN, John and wife Ann 
LAURIE, Thomas and wife-, sons Thomas and James and daus. Jessie, Catherine and Jane 
LEBLANC, Annable (36 yr)of Coteau du Lac
LEGER, Jean Baptiste (36 yr)farmer of Coteau de Lac, brother Antoine
LINDSAY, Wm. (20 yr)of Glasgow
LINDSAY, Robert 
McALLAN, Thomas 
McALLAN, Thomas 
McALLISTER, John, wife Marion, sons Archibald, Malcolm, Alex and Duncan (11 yr) and dau. Euphemiaof Argyleshire, Scotland
MANNELL, James, and Margaret, Elizabeth and Janet with their mother Margaret Mannell 
MANWELL, Elizabeth (may be MANNELL) (10 yr)daughter of James, a weaver of Lanark, Scotland
MANSON, George, wife Elizabeth and daus. Jessie, Margaret and Elizabeth 
McARTHUR, Donald and daughter Catherine 
McBEATH, Andrew, wife Margaret and son John 
McBRIDE, James (30 yr)from Tollcross near Glasgow, mother in Toronto
McCOLL, Hugh, wife Ann, sons Donald and Peter and daus.Sarah, Mary and Ann 
McCOMB, Joseph 
McDADE, Daniel 
MEIKLE, John and mother Mary Hunter, son David and daughter Jessie 
MEIKLE, Thomas (48 yr)of La Chute, brother of John
McEWEN, James, wife Mary and sons Alexander (13 yr), Donald and John and daus. Catherine, Nancy, Flora and Christinaof Inverness, Scotland
McGAVIN, Andrew wife Janet, son Robert and daughter Ellen 
McGEE, Janet and Mary 
MILNE, David, wife Elizabeth, sons William, David, James and John and daus. Ann and Betsey 
McKAY, Charles 
McKENZIE, Geo, John, David, Wm., Robert, Ann, Catherine, Isabella and Catherine, Mary his wife and son Peter 
McKENZIE, Donald (17 yr)farmer of Fortross, Ross-shire, Scotland, son of William who lives on a farm near London, C.W.
McKENZIE, Margaret 
McLARTY, Jane and daughter Jane (4 yr)father in London, C.W.
McLEAN, Jane and daughters Catherine and Mary and sons Edward, John and Roderick 
McQUEEN, Mary (40 yr) 
MORGAN Margaret 
MUIR, James, wife Agnes, sons George, James (7 yr), and John and daughter Violet 
NICOL.SON, Thos. (50 yr)farmer, of Dumfrieshire, Scotland, son of William
OVENS, Wm. wife Margaret,, sons Andrew and Wm. and daughters Margaret and Mary 
RAMSAY, George 
REID, John, wife Elizabeth and daughter Janet 
ROBB, Dr. and daughter Christina 
ROBIE, Alex 
RODGERS, W.P., his mother Martha and Thomas his son 
ROSS, Catherine 
ROWAN, Robert 
SHANKS, Catherine 
SHANKS William (18 yr)from Paisley, Scotland, father in Hamilton, C.W.; his Aunt Catherine (38 yr), a cripple, was burned on board
SHIEL, Robert 
SMITH, Thomas 
SPENCE, Jessie 
STEEL, John and wife Elizabeth 
THOMAS, John\ 
TRACEY, James 
TWEEDLE, Jas, wife Janet and daughters Eliza W, Jessie M. and Lenora 
WALLACE, Elizabeth 
WALLACE, W., wife Mary, son John and daughter Agnes 
WALLACE, Margaret and sons John and William 
WATSON, Alex. 
WATSON, David wife Agnes (40 yr), son David and daughters Agnes, Elizabeth (21 yr) and Christinaof Arbroath, Forfarshire, Scotland
WILSON, John, wife Agnes,, sons William and John and daughters Margaret and Agnes 
WILSON, Robert, wife Mary and sons Robert, John (4 yr) and Jamesof Paisley, Scotland
WILSON, Marion 
WYLIE, James, wife Agnes and sons Hugh and James and daughters Mary (7 yr) and Elizabeth 
YOUNG, William, wife Isabella, son Roderick and daughters Helen, Isabella and Betsey  

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© Marjorie P. Kohli, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 1997-2007
Last updated: February 15, 2007 and maintained by Marj Kohli