Next Meeting: Wednesday, February 28th

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Louisville PDF Print E-mail

The Louisville was a 366-ton propeller-driven steamboat built by the Western Transportation Company. It saw five years of service before it was totally destroyed by fire near Chicago on September 29th, 1857, with a loss of one life and valuable cargo. (The previous were the tidbits of info I gleaned. They haven't been confirmed beyond doubt.)

(The following was transcribed verbatim from the Chicago Democrat, October 1st, 1857.)

"The propeller seen on the lake, on fire, on Tuesday night last, was the Lousiville, Capt. Caldwell, of Mather & Co.'s Ogdensburgh line. She was destroyed by fire at about 11 o'clock, when about ten miles out from this port, on her way to St. Joseph to fill out her cargo. She started from here with a cargo of 400 barrels of flour, 25 cords of wood, 30 bales of broom corn, 190 bags of seed, 5 horses, and 39 passengers, who were returning from Iowa on their way to Ogdensburgh. As she intended returning this morning and the cargo would have to be shifted so soon, it was stowed away, so as to be handled with the least trouble.

The flour was put in the hold, the corn and seed aft, the horses amidships and the wood just abaft of them. When about ten miles out, fire was discovered about forty feet from the machinery, between decks, but in such a position, owing to the crowded condition of the cargo, that only the light of it could be seen and it was impossible to get at it. The only way of getting between decks was forward, and the fire was amidships. By the time they could reach it, it had made such headway and it was so hot between decks, that it was impossible to extinguish it.

When the Captain found that it was impossible to subdue the flames, he made every exertion to save the passengers. The three boats were got in readiness to launch, when a schooner was discovered about two miles distant. The propeller was immediately headed for the vessel, which proved to be the Elbe, Capt. Ruger, bound for South Haven, and they were gratified at seeing the schooner heading for them. When within a short distance of the schooner, finding it impossible to remain longer on board, the engines were stopped and the boats were launched, into which all hands got safely.

Five persons got into the small boat, which, rolling into the wake from the propeller's wheels, upset, and the fireman, John Hannan, of Ogdensburgh, was drowned. The rest were picked up by other boats and all got safely aboard the Elbe. Capt. Ruger at once put about and brought the whole company back to the city. Capt. Caldwell gives great praise to the promptness and gallantry of Capt. Ruger, of the Elbe, who did everything in his power to make the crew and passengers of the propeller comfortable on board his vessel.

"John Hannan, the fireman, who was drowned, had been on the propeller but a short time. He was from Ogdensburgh. The propeller was valued at about $20,000 and the cargo probably at $5,000. She was insured for one-half the amount in the North Western and Cleveland Mutual Insurance Companies. The Louisville burned once before, on the 17th of September, 1856, on Lake Erie, and was re-built. This time she is, of course, a total loss. Several tugs and vessels from the city went to the relief of the Louisville, as soon as the alarm was given, but owing to the distance, their praiseworthy exertions were anticipated by the Elbe. A man, who had a wife and family of eleven children on board the propeller, lost his all. --Their case having been represented on Change, purse of over $90 was made up in a few minutes, the following gentlemen subscribing: Watson, Tower & Co.,..$25.00..Patrick.Anderson,..$25.00.. William Brine,..$10.00.. Walker, Bronson & Co.,..$10.00.. George Steele,..$5.00.. Three others paid..$15.00"

Research by Bob Gadbois

Reference: The Chicago Historical Society.. "History of the Great Lakes"

and correspondence in 1961 from author/historian, Erik Heyl.

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