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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:
THE 1857 "MONTREAL" TRAGEDY
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.
Additional information from the Montreal Gazette of 1857.
|ADAMS,.Andrew and sister Margaret||ANDERSON, Mary|
|ASSELIN, Adolphe (36 yr)||fireman on the Montreal, identified by brother Milien of Malbaie||BARO, James||BEATTIE, Mary,- son Archibald and daughter Annie||BLACK, W||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||CALDER Mary||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||COLQUHOUN, John||COLSINE, Wm.||COLWIN, Alex||COPELAND, G||CORBETT, Margaret||CORBETT, John and wife Catherine, son John and daughters Jessie (8 yr) and Rebecca||of the Isle of Skye||CORMIE, William||CORSIE, James and sister Lydia||COWEL, W.||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 Margaret||mason, 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 Lockhart||of Wishart||DOUGLAS, John (19 yr)||grocer of Wishart, Lanarkshire, Scotland||DOUGLAS, Lillias||DOUGLAS, John||DOWNIE, Elizabeth and daughter Eliza||DOWNIE, W||FARRWEATHER, Chas.||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||GLASSFORD, Wm.||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, Wm.||GRAHAM, Andrew, wife Margaret and son Walter||GRANT, Charles||GRATTON, George and wife Janet and daughter Agnes||GRATTON, James||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||HERBERT, John||HOPE, Walter||HUNTER, John and wife Margaret||HUNTER, John||JOHNSTONE, Donald||JOHNSTONE, Christina||KNOX, Alex.||LAUGHLAN, John and wife Ann||LAURIE, Thomas and wife-, sons Thomas and James and daus. Jessie, Catherine and Jane||LAURIE, John|
|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, John F.||LINDSAY, Robert||MALCOLMSON, James||McALLAN, Thomas||McALLAN, Thomas||McALLISTER, John, wife Marion, sons Archibald, Malcolm, Alex and Duncan (11 yr) and dau. Euphemia||of 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||McDONALD, Alex||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 Christina||of 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||McINTYRE, John||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||McRAE, A||MUIR, James, wife Agnes, sons George, James (7 yr), and John and daughter Violet||NEILSON, Wm.||NICOL.SON, Thos. (50 yr)||farmer, of Dumfrieshire, Scotland, son of William||NICOLSON, Wm.||OVENS, Wm. wife Margaret,, sons Andrew and Wm. and daughters Margaret and Mary||PETTIGREW, 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||SINCLAIR, Colin||SMITH, Thomas||SPENCE, Jessie||STEEL, John and wife Elizabeth||STEWART, Hugh||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 Christina||of Arbroath, Forfarshire, Scotland||WILSON, John, wife Agnes,, sons William and John and daughters Margaret and Agnes||WILSON, Adam||WILSON, Robert, wife Mary and sons Robert, John (4 yr) and James||of Paisley, Scotland||WILSON, Marion||WYLIE, James, wife Agnes and sons Hugh and James and daughters Mary (7 yr) and Elizabeth||URQUBART (sic) HUGH||YOUNG, William, wife Isabella, son Roderick and daughters Helen, Isabella and Betsey|
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Last updated: February 15, 2007 and maintained by Marj Kohli