The World Citizen
Published by G. Zahm, 373 Main Street, near the corner of Mohawk, Buffalo, N.Y.
October 5, 1839, page 2
Bishop Stephan leveled charges in the district court in Jackson, Missouri against those of his followers, who forcibly robbed him by confiscating his property. They countercharge that he may no longer come onto the territory belonging to his former congregation. His suit claims $3000 in damages, which he believes will compensate for the loss of the library consigned to him, precious items, clothing and money in bar form.
October 12, 1839
A large portion of the Old Lutherans, who just arrived here, have gone on to Wisconsin where plots of land have already been purchased for them. A large portion of those remaining here have found employment on the canal and other places.
|October 26, 1839 - page 3, column 2
Through a private communication, the Anzeiger des Westens states, we have learned that in the district court of Jackson, Missouri Bishop Stephan has won his lawsuit in the amount of $3000 for damages incurred as a result of the confiscation of his property. — Everyone, who knew the witless manner in which his property was seized, could foresee the outcome. Shortly before registering the complaint, he had attempted to settle the grievance but the attempt was scornfully rejected by the pastors, who stated that they would be participating in the injustice if they agreed to the settlement.
|August 13, 1841 - Page 2, column 1
The Burning of the Steamship "Erie"
and the Loss of over Two Hundred Human Lives
Early Tuesday morning [August 11, 1841] our city was suddenly placed into great anxiety and sorrow as the report was received that approximately 33 miles from here the steamship Erie burned the evening before. The Erie left the wharf here on Monday afternoon at 10 minutes past 4, laden with wares for Chicago and about 250 passengers on board. The total number of passengers cannot be exactly determined at present. The ship was practically brand new. It was just a few days ago that the ship was delivered from the hands of the carpenters and painters, who had completely renovated it and despite a brisk wind, all signs pointed to a good trip. Nothing happened to bode misfortune until 8 PM when people heard a muffled explosion from the ship as it was 33 miles outside Buffalo and 8 miles from the shores of Silver Creek. Immediately after the explosion the ship was engulfed in flames. Captain Titus, who was on the upper deck, rushed down to the women's compartments to get the 150 life preservers (small air-filled sacks) he had there, however it was impossible to get in because the fire had spread throughout the entire boat within the span of 2 to 4 minutes. The headwind and the boat's velocity helped spread the fire with incredible speed to the aft sections, so on his way back to the upper deck he gave the order to the engineer to halt the engines but the engineer could not obey the order because the fire was too intense to get to the engines. The captain then ordered that the course be adjusted at the helm so the ship could sail to the shore. This was done but by now nearly everyone was convinced that they wouldn't reach the shore before the fire completely engulfed the ship, so the order was given to launch the life boats. There were three, however after being lowered the first two were sunk by the waves caused by the wind and intensified by the wake of the ship's course change. One can hardly imagine how the passengers felt as they witnessed this sight unless he has already been in a similar circumstance and we can scarcely bring ourselves to describe it. Some were frantic with fear and terror, others insanely jumped into the water, still others grabbed whatever first came to hand in order to save themselves; some threw their children into the lake in order to save them from fiery deaths. The third small boat at the front of the ship was lowered and quickly came to the side of the wheel with three or four people in it. The captain jumped into the boat but in the same moment the boat was jostled by choppy movement of the water. A woman was seen in the waves. The captain had an oar and a plank. He threw the plank to the woman, she grabbed in and was rescued. Her name was Mrs. Lynde of Milwaukee and she was the only woman to be rescued. Her husband and child perished. The ship now was a horrible ball of fire. The passengers and crew swam in every direction or looked for any objects they could find to keep them afloat until around 10 that night when the steamboat Clinton came to their assistence. The Clinton left the local harbor Monday morning and stayed in the Dunkirk harbor the next day due to the high winds.
|August 13, 1841 - Page 2, column 2
The Clinton left port at sunset and was already on its way to Barcelona when, just as darkness was falling, someone saw the fire of the Erie about 20 miles behind. The ship turned around and reached the burning hull at about 10 PM. It was a dreadful sight. The entire upper section of the Erie was already burned out and all that remained of the hull was the steam engine and blaring, red mass of flames. Passengers and crew members swam and floated about, crying and screaming for help. The lifeboats from the steamship Clinton were immediately lowered and manned and everyone, who could be seen or heard, was rescued. The small steamship "Lady" from Dunkirk quickly pushed off as soon as someone noticed the fire from the harbor however the Clinton arrived first. By 1 AM nobody heard anything but the crackling of the flames. Not another soul was heard from the ever wilder water. Someone secured a rope to what remained of the rudder of the burning ship in an attempt to tow it back to shore. The steamship "Chautauqua" arrived and lended assistance. They towed the burning hull to within 4 miles of land, where at sunrise it sank into the water at a depth of 41 fathoms. The rope was detached and the Clinton made its way back here, arriving at 6 o'clock. Of those saved there are many with severe burns but none so critical that their injuries are life-threatening. A total of 31 people was rescued.
Causes and Origins of the Fire - Among the passengers on board there were 6 painters, who were hired by Mr. G. W. Miller and were on their way to Erie in order to paint the steamship "Madison". They carried large drums of spirits of turpentine and vanish without informing the captain. These were placed on the upper deck just above the boilerroom. One of the firemen who was rescued reported that he had put them in a different spot but they were then put back in their original spot by some unknown person. A moment before the fire broke out, someone heard, as others on board can attest, a muffled explosion. It is surmised that the explosion came from one of the drums since moments later the drum was engulfed in flames which spread throughout the ship. Besides this there was fresh varnish and the fire caught like gunpowder.
Not a scrap of paper or anything else could be saved, therefore it is impossible to give a complete listing of the passengers on board. Captain Titus stated there were between 30 and 40 compartment passengers on board, of which twelve were women. There were about 210 to 230 deck passengers, mostly German and Swiss immigrants. Most had their families with them, wives and children. Oh, the heart bleeds when one thinks about it!
A small boat from Dunkirk ventured out to give assistance but it was capsized by the waves. Its crew was rescued by the steamship "Robert Fulton", which also picked up a boat from the Erie and the "Dunkirk", which had capsized. Other people from Dunkirk managed to save 2 more people, who are included in the above total.
It is a remarkable coincidence that the steamship "Washington" burned in the supposed same spot in June 1838. Captain Brown, who commanded the Washington, was on board the Clinton and proved himself very useful in the rescue of the survivors of the Erie.
It is exceedingly sad when immigrants, after sacrificing so much, withstanding suffering and danger and seeing the end in sight, must become sacrifices to their own hazardous ventures in such a stormy hurry and in such a horrible manner and on whom shall we lay the blame for this tragic incident? Oh, how terribly this warns us that in all our actions we must be careful even when they seem unimportant. If the person who had placed the spirits of turpentine containers so close to the heat had been thinking then perhaps he would have placed them somewhere else, but no, he had to be fumbling around blind and thoughtless and because of the carelessness of one individual 200 human lives suffered in the process. We understand that the immigrants were, for the most part, well off and had significant sums of gold and silver on board, which sank with the hull of the ship to the bottom of the lake; we will not mention the bank notes, however some of those banks might be happy with the sinking of the ship.
Below we give a list of those rescued and the names of the unfortunate ones, as far as we could determine them after a great deal of effort. Without a doubt there are still many, who died, whose names we could not find.
Jerome McBride, helmsman, badly burned
James Loverty, helmsman, badly burned
Hiram DeGraff, passenger
Dennis McBride, first helmsman
Theodor Sears, painter
J. H. St. John, passenger
C. Hogg, passenger, badly burned
Williams Wardsworth, from Erie, PA
Alfred O. Wilkeson, from East Euclid, Ohio
William Hughes, second helmsman
Luther B. Sears, fireman
Thomas J. Tann, from Pittsford, NY
John Winchel, from Buffalo
A son of Georg Bebee, Cleveland
|August 13, 1841 - Page 2, column 3
Harrison Forrester, Harbor Creek, PA
Christian Durler, from Holmes County, Ohio
W. M. Camp of Harrisburg, PA
Philipp Barbier, from Buffalo (formerly from Habkirchen, Rhine-Bavaria), wife and children left behind here
Damages to the ship are very extensive. There were about 30 tons of cargo on board with a value of about $20,000. The immigrants had about $180,000 in gold and silver with them and the ship was worth approximately $75,000. The total loss comes to a little under $300,000.
|August 21, 1841, page 2
At a meeting of Buffalo's German citizen held on the 16th of this month a committee of nine people was appointed to take up contributions for relatives left behind by the dead passengers for the steamship Erie. It was also decided tp hold another meeting in Mr. Mochel's place next Monday evening to discuss details on distributing the contributions. However the portion of the committee taking collections in the 4th Ward will not be finished until next Wednesday so we have been asked to announced that the next meeting will be on Wednesday, the 25th of August, which we faithfully do here.
The Steamship Erie - The memory of the unfortunate accident, which overcame so many with the burning of the boat, lives on ever more in renewed horror here and in the surrounding area. New names appear daily as victims while the number of the rescued only increases by one. There are not 170 to 200 victims, as first reported. The number has already grown to 270 and people will not be mistaken if they assume that 300 suffered that dreadful fate. This unthinkable loss of human lives does not account for all the tragedies caused by this horrible accident. One must also take a look at those left behind by the victims. How many undisciplined children became fatherless orphans and will now become pawns of chance or wards of misery; how many mothers have lost their husbands, their supporters, their everything! How many aged mothers and fathers will have to suffer privation in consequence and thus see their days shortened by grief and the wish to rejoin their loved one? And who could describe the scene when the news reaches the homeland of the dead Germans and Swiss! Thus we describe what will be thought and felt and now in the aftermath we report the names of more dead and further details of the event.
Silas Green, fireman of the boat, from Erie, PA
In pieces of correspondence there are persons named, who were on a trip and perhaps had sailed on the Erie since it was about the right time for them to leave Buffalo via the lake. No one has heard from these people since. It is certain that the full count may never be known.
Rescued - only the above-listed Christoph Hagemann. After receiving the tragic report of the needs of the survivors, the City Council resolved that the mayor should give them assistance. Since nearly all those rescued were naked, clothing was sent to them from the local government. In addition the American population took up collections. At the theater there was a benefit performance given on the survivors' behalf. One was also held at Hart's Garden, and Mr. N. Davis delivered a scientific lecture in order to turn the proceeds over to this cause. Our German population also did not hold back. In the Lutheran church last Sunday a collection was taken up and on Monday a number of German citizens held an assembly, at which a committee was appointed to take up collections in the various wards. What the individual societies did is not yet known but one hopes there will be substantial contributions. But all the collections in the world cannot bring back to life the victims, who now float lifelessly upon the lake, or those brought back and buried here or in other places. Risky attempts were made in small boats to help in their rescue,
|but what can a canoe accomplish against a storm, against the wave-tossed lake! The boats were either capsized or had to make their way back to the harbor without accomplishing anything. Some couldn't make it back to the harbor and couldn't reach the ship and had to battle dangerously and steadfastly against the elements until morning. Some of the misfortunates came from Erie and ships were sent out from Erie, Dunkirk and Buffalo in order to scour the area for remnants and corpses. The steamship "Vermillon", sent out for this purpose, had a canon on board which was intermittantly fired in order to produce shock waves in the water and bring up the corpses. We have not yet heard of the ship's return but believe that it is still in that area. One man, W. E. Camp of Harrisburg, was picked up by Canadian sailors and buried at Point Albino, later dug up and brought back here, along with $565 found in his clothing.
In Evans and other areas assemblies have taken place in order to provide assistence to the needy.
The owner of the ship, Mr. Jas. M. Reed of Erie, Pennsylvania, wrote a letter to the coroner stating his hope that there would be a full investigation in order to determine if the misfortune was the result of negligence or accident. However this investigation is already underway. Dr. Harris, the coroner, has organized a sworn panel to conduct the investigation. The panelists are:
After the jury was enpaneled it began to hear testimony in the City Council chamber. The following witnesses were sworn in and heard: Johann St. John of Mississippi, Theodor Sears from here, Captain T. J. Titus, William G. Murray from here, Hiram De Graff from Illinois; Johann Hibbard, steamship inspector from here; Timothy Quinlin, ship's barber; Alfred Harris, Engineer; Dennis McBride, first helmsman; Will. Hughes, second helmsman; Edgar Clemens, engineer; Silas Williams from here; and Harrison Foster, ship's carpenter. All witnesses agreed for the most part that the explosion was heard moments before the fire broke out and that they could not find a way to extinguish the blaze, that they had to hurry to escape the flames, and that from the time of the first alarm to when the last person on board fled to the water no more than 10 minutes could have passed, and that the great external heat may have caused the stopping of the engine since when the boat tipped over you could hear the engine start back up. The following is the verdict of the coroner's jury with regard to the cause of the fire:
"We confirm that, in our opinion, the fire on the steamship Erie originated with the explosion of a container of spirits of turpentine, which stood on the upper deck above the ship's boiler. The spirits of turpentine seeped through the upper deck to the fire below and ignited, and that the named container split due to the heat, which caused the spirits to expand. We further find that the boat was freshly painted and varnished and that this helped spread the flames, along with the strong headwind and that it was impossible for the men on board to extinguish the flames or save the boat.
We further confirm that the destruction of the ship is the result of accident and that no one is guilty of the deaths, either as a inciter or as a participant. So decided in Buffalo on the 16th of August, 1841."
Two resolutions were reached by the sworn panel.
Resolved: "That the steamship Erie was of the best quality, that it was well provided for with extinguishers and that more than usual precautionary measures had been in effect for performing rescues in times of danger."
Resolved: "That in consideration of the great number of human lives lost by the burning of the steamship, we recommend to the owners of steamships that they carry an adequate number of lifeboats on their ships along with a number of planks made of pine or poplar, approximately 10 feet long and 12 to 16 inches wide, with ropes attached so that those, who cannot swim, can be lowered down into the water while laying on the boards; that way they could easily be cast overboard. Furthermore there should be life preservers for at least 100 people, already inflated and placed on the passengers' bunks as soon as a boat leaves the harbor."
Before these resolutions were passed, many steamships already had the recommended planks on board as they left our harbor.
|August 28, 1841 - page 2
The Dead - Among the dead, who forfeited their lives with the Erie and were brought back to Buffalo this past week, are the following people:
An examination of the corpses turned up personal effects, which have been stored and will be given to their relatives when they reclaim the bodies.
|September 4, 1841 - page 2
More Dead - On Wednesday evening the steamship Rochester brought back five bodies, 3 men and 2 women, all Germans, which were floating in the vicinity of where the steamship Erie sank. The ship's captain, Mr. Allen, says he saw more than 20 bodies floating about but considered it wise to sail on with the bodies already on board and send out an extra small boat. The violent storm, which raged Monday night, may be the cause for the surfacing of these corpses. Here is a description of those brought back:
On the same evening the steamship Chautauqua brought back another body, found near Sturgeon Point; it too was a German of about 50 years of age, 5 feet, 10 inches tall; wearing a velvet jacket and coarse woolen pants; 4 5-Franc pieces and 6 Shillings were found in his pocket.
Following private reports from Dunkirk the steamship Wayne passed by 15 to 20 bodies in the vicintiy of Silver Creek without bothering to stop for them!!! At the same time reliable people were sent out to pick them up.
|September 11, 1841 - page 2, column 1
More Dead - Since our last issue so many bodies have been found and brought back for burial either here, in Dunkirk, Erie or Silver Creek that we are not certain whether we can list them all let alone have sufficient room to decribe in our newspaper all those Americans and foreigners found. However we will attempt a count and more closely describe the Germans.
These people were found:
The following came here:
|September 11, 1841 - page 2, column 2
A colored man
Brought to Dunkirk were:
We are not surprised that the corpses cannot be better described because there are few people, who can summon the courage to do so. After laying in the water for close to 4 weeks and perhaps many days floating about in the burning sun, the bodies are scarcely recognizable.
September 18, 1841
[From a submitted letter]
An Ecclesiastic Ban burned - Last Sunday in the so-called Prussian church of this city an order of excommunication was issued against another old Lutheran congregation, which calls itself Silesian, and the ban pertains to all members of that congregation, both those living here and those living in Wisconsin. The bull of excommunication, issued by Messrs. Grabau, Krause and company against the Silesian congregation, was publically burned on a fire in an open place in front of the Prussian church amid a large crowd of people by the Silesian congregation members. If they had burned these insane clerics along with it, they would have performed a better service for the deluded old Prussian community and exercised sound judgment. The reason for this ban lies, as I see it, in the fact that the members of said Silesian congregation no longer wish to be led around by the nose by the above-named clerics.
|October 23, 1841, page 2
The body of a German female was found on the 15th of this month in Lake Erie and it's supposed she got there as a result of the tragedy on the Erie. Her clothing, with the exception of where it was tightly secured to the body, was washed away. They found the initials E. B. S. on what remained of the clothing.