COMET – – Tom Rutledge



174f Length

Nine Mile Point, Simcoe Island, Lake Ontario

N44 08 319 W76 35 077

Chronological History #

1848 – Built by G. N. Ault (“at Fisher’s yard”) Portsmouth Ont
1848 – Trails to Hay Bay
1848 – Oct Stranded Galops Rapids
1848 – Stranded Toronto (Highland Creek)
1849 – 175x24x10 Owned by J. & L. Platt, Adolphustown Ont.; to Macpherson & Crane
1849 – Wrecked by boiler explosion 3/11/49 Toronto 2 fatalities
1851 – Wrecked by boiler explosion 20/04/51 Oswego, 8 killed
1853 – Rome Watertown & Canada Steamboat Line (joint by American railroad and two Canadian forwarders)
1855 – owned by several different partnerships thereafter
1861 – Rebuilt
1861 – Sunk by Schooner EXCHANGE 14/05/61 Nine-Mile Point, Lake Ontario

Mills Listing #

  • Also known as Mayflower (1851); Comet Year 1848
  • Built at: Portsmouth, Ontario
  • Propulsion: Sidewheel
  • Tonnage (gross):-337
  • Final Location: Nine Mile Point, Lake Ontario, Ontario, Canada How: Foundered (Collision)

Built by G. N. Ault (“at Fisher’s yard”) Portsmouth Ont. and launched 14/06/48. Engines (2) by Ward Foundry, Montreal (from “Shannon”). Usually used on Lake Ontario but frequently to Quebec (even Saguenay and Rimouski) in the mid-1850s.

Stuck on ways when launched, pulled free by “William IV”. Trial trip 29/07/48 to Platt estate, Hay Bay Ont. without cabins. Greatly expanded 1850: new cabins on deck and new overall promenade deck. 140′ main saloon.

Wrecked by boiler explosion 20/04/51 Oswego, 8 killed. Rebuilt 1861 to 180x26x10 (width over paddle boxes 44′). Stranded while running Galops Rapids 02/10/48. Badly damaged 01/12/48 by stranding Highland Creek (near Toronto). A boiler exploded on 03/11/49 in Toronto, and 2 were killed.

Photo Gallery 2022 Matthew Charlesworth CC

Selection of News Articles for more #

Toronto Globe June 21, 1848 #

Wednesday last (14th.) was the day named for the launch of the steamer COMET at Kingston. She is owned by Messrs. Platt and built by Ault. The WILLIAM 1V had to help pull her down the ways.      

The Daily True Democrat (Cleveland)  Monday, November 19, 1849 #

Bad Accident. — The steamer COMET, on Ontario, had sent in the back part of the return flues; the steam escaped, and several were killed thereby. Approaching Gibraltar Point, the steam being slackened, the engineer was surprised at an unusual escape of steam from the starboard engine. Not being able to discover the cause there, he rushed upon deck, where he was almost suffocated by the steam and ashes coming up the fire hatch; after several attempts, he scrambled to the side of the hatch and hallooed out if any person was below to come up, when he got no answer, but heard mournful moaning. The assistant engineer, with the greatest difficulty, made his way down the ladder, when a scene presented itself to his view more easily conceived than described. One fireman, named Matthew Nolan, quite dead, who has left a widow and four children, another named Michael Ring, dreadfully burned, unmarried, who has since died in hospital; a third, Matthew Smith, slightly injured, now in hospital, and out of danger.      

The bodies were removed on deck; the alarm had spread through the ship, there was a medical gentleman on board, Dr. A. Dougherty, who attended to the suffering of the survivors till they arrived in the harbor when an express was dispatched for Dr. Telfer, who gave an order for Smith and Ring to be removed to the hospital.

Buffalo Commercial Advertiser Wednesday, November 21, 1849 #

On Monday evening of last week, the “COMET” while entering the harbor at Toronto, burst her boiler and severely injured several persons, one of whom has since died, and two others are in a very critical state.      

Photo Gallery 2010 Tom Rutledge CC #

Oswego Daily Times Tuesday, April 22, 1851 #

SAD DISASTER.  Serious Loss Of Life!!      
The new and splendid Canadian steamer Comet, Capt.. A. O¹Conner, came in yesterday morning from Hamilton, and after discharging 1,200 barrels of flour at the Custom House dock, she took a clearance for Kingston, and at about 3 o¹clock P.M., after a few revolutions of her engines, while swinging round in the river, her larboard boiler burst, making a complete wreck of the forward part of the boat. Nearly the entire upper works, forward of the wheelhouses, were blown off, and she immediately filled, and sunk to her guards, in about 9 feet of water, at the dock. James Carroll, the 2d Engineer, was killed instantly. C. Hennesy, Carpenter, and John D. Wire, deckhand, are missing; they were doubtless blown into the river and lost. Royal Davis, 1st Engineer, is badly scalded and bruised. John O’Conner, a waiter, is badly scalded, and is supposed cannot survive.

A boy by the name of James Church, a waiter, is also badly scalded, and cannot survive. Three others, Daniel McGuire, Thomas Regans, and James Eriel, are more or less injured, the two formers seriously. Capt. O’Conner was upon the upper deck, working the boat out, at the time of the explosion, and received some slight injury. The body of the 2d Engineer was taken to the Market building, upon which we understand a Coroner¹s inquest was to be held. The wounded were taken to the Frontier House, where they are well cared for. To what caused the disaster is to be ascribed, we are unable to say. As in all similar cases, there is a variety of opinions, but it is generally believed that the boiler must have been defective. We regard the disaster as the first that ever happened in our harbor and one that never happened to an American boat on Lake Ontario.

P.S. John O’Conner, one of the waiters, died last evening. It so happened that there were no passengers on board at the time of the accident.      

Oswego Daily Times Thursday, May 22, 1851 #

The Steamer Comet Raised. – The Comet was raised yesterday, under the direction and management of Geo. S. Weeks, Esq., and will be floated to the marine railway on the lower harbor. The body of one of the victims of this unfortunate steamer is still missing, which was supposed might be in the boat, but was not found there.

Port Hope Weekly Guide Saturday, May 25, 1861 #

LOSS OF THE STEAMER ” COMET,” TWO LIVES LOST. (From the Kingston News.) The steamer COMET, Capt. F. Patterson left Kingston port for Toronto and Hamilton shortly after eight o’clock on Tuesday night. After clearing Nine-mile Point, she headed for Timber Island, to avoid the track of a number of vessels that were coming down the lake. When about ten miles from the Point she came in collision with the schooner EXCHANGE, of Cleveland; and subsequently sunk in deep water, the topmast alone being visible. The wind was blowing fresh from the south-west, and the schooner, when seen from the COMET, was running before the wind.

The schooner was running for Kingston and carried a bright light forward. Capt. Patterson bore the steamer up a point, in order to give the schooner a wide berth; but the schooner heading across the COMET’s bow, as is stated, the two came in collision. The COMET struck the schooner’s starboard side with her stern, springing the steamer’s planks and opening her to the sea. The captain changed the steamer’s course and bore after the schooner, they having hailed, that they thought they were sinking and to keep close to bear a hand, but running past with the wind she got out of hailing distance.

Meanwhile, the pumps were worked and the fires kept up for the purpose of making shore, the steamer at the time of the being about ten miles above Nine-mile Point. The firemen, waist-deep in water, did not abandon their task until the fires were drowned; and if steam had held out ten minutes longer, much would have been gained towards raising the steamer. During this time the life-boat was swung out, with three lady passengers, one gentleman, and the lady’s maid, and brought round to leeward, and as many of the crew put into it as the captain deemed consistent with safety. These made for shore, but at the same time, the large yawl was out towing astern and taking in water.

Two hands, John Blake and John McCarthy, the former from the neighborhood of Kingston Mills, and the latter a salt-water boy from Dublin, Ireland, got out to bail her, but while about to do so, she struck against the steamer’s guards, thus throwing the men off their balance into the lake. Going down Blake cried out to his brother, a deck hand “Good-bye Jim,” and the “saltie,” “Good-bye boys,” and thus they bade them farewell. The Captain, at this time, was busily engaged in the endeavor to run the steamer ashore, but finding it fruitless, had the small yawl put out with some thirteen men, and made for shore under a heavy sea. To add to their peril all oars but one was lost in getting the boat out, but reduced to this and four or five cedar life-floats, they made their way ashore to the Point:

Filled beyond her capacity, a distance of another quarter of a mile would have swamped the boat and compelled them to swim. Mr. Ellerbeck, the purser, the men say, was cheerily cool, having remarked, while handling his clumsy float, that it was very useful, but would be much handier if he could only get a minute to whittle it down so that he could hold it better. Indeed the Captain says every man did his duty, and those who have any knowledge of the trying circumstances in which he himself was placed, can imagine how he fulfilled his part. The steamer went down about a mile and a half, nearly west of Nine-Mile Point lighthouse, in sixty feet of water.

Several ship joiners, who were at work on her fittings, lost their tools, and the hands, their clothing. But little freight was on board. At day-breaking yesterday (Wednesday), the steamer PIERREPONT went up the Batteau Channel and took up the crew on the South shore of Simcoe Island, and those at the Lighthouse. Some had lighted a fire and were warming themselves onshore, while those at the Lighthouse found good quarters there. One of the ship joiners was badly hurt, from being stuck in the back by the surging of the small yawl against the steamer’s side. It is supposed that the vessel’s cabins will be destroyed from the elevating action of the water during the descent. It is possible, however, the actual damage to her hull and machinery will not be very large, especially if the weather should prove favorable for a few days. It is doubtful whether an attempt will be made to raise her. The steamer was insured in Montreal, but we have not learned the amount.      

Buffalo Morning Express October 9, 1868, 3-4 #

Parties at Oswego recently succeeded in recovering the safe of the ill-fated stm. COMET, which was blown up at Oswego some 12 or 15 years ago, and so shattered that she sunk. Quite a number of lives were lost by the disaster. She was afterward raised and towed to Canada for repairs, but on her first trip sprung a leak and sunk in deep water off Oswego harbor. The safe contained nothing of value.    

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