Dimensions: 128ft x 24.42ft x 12ft  372.09 GT
Type of Wreck: Tug
Location of Wreck: N44 36 245 W75 39 215
Place and Builder: Port Huron, MI Jenks Ship Building Co
Year Built: 1896
Mooring: Yes

Preliminary List of Canadian Merchant Steamships  Inland & Coastal, 1809 to 1930. #

Vessel Name: VIGILANT
Nationality U.S. Official Number: 161767
Rig: Tug
Dimensions & Tonnage Vessel Length: 128.00 Gross Tonnage: 372.09 Vessel Width: 24.42 Net Tonnage: 253.03 Vessel Height 12.00
Hull Material: Wood Masts: Hull Number:
Builder Information Place of Build: Port Huron, MI Builder: Jenks Ship Building Co.
Date of Build 1896
Registry Official # MUSCALLONGE 1912 – 1936 CANADA 133752 Rebuild
History Canadian measures, 1912 (128 x 24.42 x 12; 360 gross – 245 registered).
Disposition Burned 1 1/2 miles east of Brockville, Ont., St. Lawrence River, on August 15, 1936, with oil barge BRUCE HUDSON in tow.

History #

First enrollment issued at Port Huron, MI, May 13, 1896.
1899 – Owned H.N. Loud, Buffalo, NY or AuSable, MI.
1899 – Apr 28 Owned Loud & Sons, Oscoda, MI.
1899 – Owned Great Lakes Towing Co.
1908 – Owned Ogdensburg Coal & Towing Co; cut down to 1 deck; pilothouse on top of cabin; 128′ x 25′ x 12′; 360 gross tons.
1912-13 Owned Norton Griffiths Dredging Co. Ltd., Montreal, QUE; C133752; renamed MUSCALLONGE.
1916 – Owned Roger Miller & Co.(P.E.I.) Ltd, Montreal.
1917 – Owned Sincennes MacNaughton Line, Ltd, Montreal.
1928 – Owned Sin Mac Ltd., Montreal.
1930 – Different boiler, no install date.
1936 – Aug 15 Burned Lake Ontario. Bulk freighter MUSCALLONGE. Official Canada No. 133752. Of 360 gross tons. Built Port Huron, Mich., 1896. 128 x 25 x 12 DISPOSITION:– Burnt Brokkville, Ont., August 15, 1936.      

World Ship Society #

Muscallonge The Giant Tugboat Originally baptized Vigilant, she was launched at Port Huron, Michigan in 1896. She was later renamed the Muscallonge while transporting crude oil between Montreal and Toronto.

In 1936 the Muskie caught fire while approaching Brockville. Captain Ahearn drove the burning tug to shore and was able to save the crew. But attempts to save the ship failed as the fire pumpers were too late. The fuel tanks finally exploded, and she collapsed into the water. Visiting the wreck on the river bottom, evidence of fire is clear.

However, the boiler, engine, and abundance of aquatic life remain quite impressive. Read the blow by blow account of this incredible fire.


Burned Craft Had Fuel Cargo of 9,000 Gallons of Crude Oil – Hundreds Viewed Intense Blaze Which Continued for Hours After Valuable Boat Was Beached – Explosion at 5:30 This Morning Spread Flames Along Shore for Approximately 1,000 Feet. The St. Lawrence river in the immediate vicinity of Brockville had its first marine fire, involving a vessel of importance in the lake trade, in more than a quarter of a century when the tug “Muscallonge”, out of Montreal Friday morning destined for Port Credit and towing the small tug “Ajax” and the barge “Bruce Hudson”, loaded with crude oil, was consumed on the beach of the Canadian shore about one and half miles east of the town this morning. The Captain and crew of 10 men were saved from the burning craft which ignited from an unknown cause in midstream almost opposite the Ontario hospital property. Captain S. Ahearn, of Port Dalhousie, swung the boat eastward after cutting away from the other tug and barge with the engine running full speed ahead drove the burning vessel head-on into the shallow rock bottom of the river at a point directly opposite the property of J.D. Wetherell, one and a half miles east of the town, at present occupied by H.W. Pollock and family, of Dorval, Que. The boat came to a stop with its prow approximately 20 feet distant form the rocky shore- line and in the interval between the discovery of the fire and the beaching of the boat, all of the crew, with the exception of the captain and chief engineer, Dorman Arbour, of Waubaushene, Ont., clambered to safety aboard the “Ajax” which followed the “Muscallonge” to shore with its bow tight against the stern of the burning boat at the starboard side. One Jumped to Safety. One member of the crew jumped overboard and was picked up by Cleon Price and Bob Wygant, Brockville, who had rushed to the scene with other residents of the summer colony in that vicinity when the signals of distress and cries for help were heard from the river and launched a rowboat from a dock. Could Give No Aid. The Brockville fire department was notified by telephone of the outbreak aboard the boat and the platoon on duty at the time responded with apparatus, followed by Fire Chief John Hattley and members of the police department. Owing to the topographical nature of the surroundings the heavy fire-fighting equipment could not be taken sufficiently close to the burning boat to be of any assistance. Mayor Comstock was at the scene shortly after the alarm sounded and endeavored to secure assistance from Morristown, his plan being to enlist the service of the ferry boat on which the LaFrance pumper might have been carried to the scene. Unfortunately Morristown could not be reached by telephone at that hour and nothing could be done to save the craft. After assisting in the rescue of the crew from the Muscallonge, the Ajax and Bruce Hudson stood by until nearly daylight, while some of the rescued crew were brought to Brockville in a motorboat. An American patrol boat cruised about the scene for a short time after the fire broke out. The vivid reflection sent up by the flames from the boat, which was 143 feet in length and one of the largest tugs plying the Great Lakes, was sween on Barriefield Hill, just east of Kingston, about 12:30 a.m. by a motoring party who were traveling eastward and who broke their journey for hours to watch the flames consume the craft. Hundreds of others, including people from Brockville, Maitland, Prescott, North Augusta and many summer campers were attracted to the scene and a considerable number remained until after dawn watching the spectacular sight. Members of the Crew. In addition to Captain Ahearn and Chief Engineer Arbour, the crew of the Muscallonge consisted of T. Bell, Midland, second engineer; Gideon Deschamps, Beauharnais, mate; Sid Smith, Toronto, wheelsman; Jerry Henry, Toronto, oiler; Stanley Wilson, Goderich, fireman; C. Brodeau, Waubaushene, fireman; Hugh Lawson, Toronto, cook; C. Hartley, Port Dalhousie, deckhand. The burned vessel, as well as the other tug and barge, belonged to the Lloyds Refinery Company, Port Credit, and the three left Montreal about six o’clock Friday morning, heading for Port Credit. All went well and the boats were running with a stiff easterly wind up the river when the fire was discovered shortly after midnight today. The blaze started, it is believed, in the boiler room and spread rapidly the length and breadth of the boat, which was entirely of wood construction. Its steam boiler was fitted to burn fuel oil and 9,000 gallons of the crude substance were contained in its tanks amidships. The fire spread with such rapidity that it was impossible for the crew to reach the lifeboats and the Ajax immediately went to the rescue. Captain Ahearn was the last to leave the vessel and was given much deserved credit for successfully beaching the boat after it had ignited in midstream. When the distress signals were sounded by the boat’s whistle and cries of the crew for assistance were heard ashore, cottagers along the waterfront turned on electric and flashlights and lent what aid they could. Captain Ahearn and Engineer Arbour were landed ashore and talked briefly with Mayor Comstock and Fire Chief Hartley before being given coffee and a lunch at a cottage nearby. To a representative of the Recorder and Times at the scene Captain Ahearn stated that all of the crew had been accounted for but none of the personal effects of the men had been saved so quickly did the disastrous fire spread. Oil Ignites in Hull. Less than an hour after the outbreak the superstructure of the craft had been consumed and 20 minutes later, at 1:35 o’clock, the first roar of the igniting oil contained in the tug’s tanks was noted. It was not of an explosive nature, but rocked the craft and sent the hundreds of spectators scurrying for safety in either direction along the high shore. Cottagers endeavored to protect their property as much as possible from the myriad of sparks which floated high in the air westward. At 2:40 o’clock there was a strong roar as the gas emanating from the oil in the tanks through vent pipes rising above the forward deck of the craft which was enveloped in flames ignited apparently under strong pressure. Rain commenced to fall heavily at 2:50 o’clock and continued for several minutes thus reducing the hazard of the fire spreading to property along the shore, particularly to a cottage boathouse on the Wetherell property not 30 feet distant from the tug. The anchor fell out of the Muscallonge at 3:10 o’clock into the river and shortly afterward the fire reached its greatest intensity. All of the superstructure had been consumed while above the flames and through the billowing smoke could plainly be seen the aluminum and black funnel and the exposed boiler and machinery. The smoke rapidly grew in density and assumed a coal-black hue as the oil in the tanks was consumed. At intervals there were explosions of a mild nature within the boat’s hull which was being gradually reduced to cinders. Against the intense clouds of black smoke over the burning ship, which floated westward in a north westerly direction across the town, the metal funnel of the boat gradually assumed a bright red colour. Flames gushed from its top and at times the spouts of fire were as bright as vivid lightning. At 4:47 o’clock the funnel collapsed and fell into the river to the east of the boat with a hissing roar. The flames continued to soar skyward and the Muscallonge was reduced to nothing but a skeleton, its gaping sides feeding the fire right down to the waterline. Tanks Explode At 5:30 o’ clock the four tanks within the hull exploded almost simultaneously sending flames 80 feet into the air and scattering fire into the grass and brush along the shore for a distance of approximately 1,000 feet westward. The shock practically obliterated the remains of the vessel. The fire department was again summoned to the scene and prevented any property damage. The Muscallonge was formerly owned by the Sim-Mac Line and had plied the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes for years. It was a powerful vessel, housing a wealth of machinery, and the loss will mount to many thousands of dollars. It is understood the vessel was insured. Captain Ahearn is well known in Brockville having formerly been stationed here while in command of the tug “Chatson”, owned by the J.P. Porter Company, St. Catharines, engaged in widening and deepening the channel in the Brockville Narrows. The tug “Ajax” is commanded by William Miner, of Burlington, and the barge “Bruce Hudson” by Captain Clarence McKellar of Sarnia. The Department of Marine and Fisheries registry of Canadian steam vessels states that the Muscallonge was built at Port Huron, Mich. In 1896. Its port of registry was Montreal and it measured 128 feet in length by 24 feet and five inches in breadth. Its gross tonnage was 360 and registered tonnage 245.

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