Waukegan, IL Steamer CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS Serious Accident, June 1895




Chicago, June 23. -- The whaleback steamer CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS met with a very serious accident to her machinery on her return trip from Milwaukee last night. The wind was blowing from the south and she was making fast time until about 7 o'clock, when, directly off Waukegan, there was a terrible explosion, followed immediately by a flash of flame, and the boat was enveloped in a cloud of steam.
The Injured.
The following were injured, some fatally:
MISS BOXHEIMER, pianist of the Bowman Orchestra; severely burned on face and hands.
H. H. DARROW, 278 Chestnut Street, musician; face badly scalded.
JOHN HOPP, fireman; scalded on face and body; may die.
GEORGE W. KEOUGH, meat carver; terribly scalded about face and arms.
ARNOLD KEIN, Dubuque, Iowa; scalded on hand; not seriously injured.
JAMES LORIMER, fireman; scalded on face and body; may die.
ROBERT McCONKEY, coal passer, South Chicago; scalded about face and body; will die.
FRANK ROSNER, fireman, 100 Avenue K, Pullman; face, breast, and arms badly burned.
J. E. RYAN, fireman, 614 Forty-sixth Street; terribly burned about face, arms, and body.
NIX SETER, waterman; terribly burned about head and face.
MISS JESSIE L. STONE, 262 Campbell Avenue; scalded in face, not seriously.
____ STEIT, coal passer; scalded on face, hands, and body; may die.
On the arrival of the steamer at her dock, at 3 o'clock this morning, the injured were taken in police ambulances to St. Luke's Hospital, where it was said that all but two of the men would probably recover.
The cause of the accident, as explained by Engineer U. L. WEBSTER of the whaleback, was that the fitting on the main steampipe let go. This caused the explosion and the escape of pounds of steam. The accident was unavoidable and unaccountable. The boilers were tested only last week and found to be all right.
The CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS went into commission for the season yesterday morning. She left on a trip to Milwaukee with 500 passengers on board, and left the Cream City on time for the return to this city. Everything went all right until off Waukegan, when the accident took place. It is asserted by passengers that the COLUMBUS was racing with the Virginia of the Goodrich Line, but Capt. ROBERT SMITH emphatically denied this, saying that the boat had new engines and that he was not foolhardy enough to attempt to race with any other boat.
As soon as the explosion took place the utmost excitement ensued among the passengers, and the Captain and Stewards had considerable difficulty in calming their fears. There were three physicians on board, and the injured were attended to promptly. The pipe that burst was disconnected at once from the boiler, and the boat come on slowly under reduced steam, with three boilers in operation, until met off Grosse Point by a Dunham tug and brought into the river.
An agent of the steamship company took occasion to-day to deny the story of a race, or of an intended race. Boatmen, however, say they were looking for a race between the rival steamers, and they fully expected a brush when the two boats got their noses together pointing over a good course, such as may be found between Chicago and Milwaukee.
A member of the Virginia's crew said that when the two boats came abreast of each other on the down course last evening there were evidences, to his mind, that a race was imminent, if not actually in progress, at the time. "Then," he added, "the whaleback fell behind us. Why, I could not say, but it was not long before it was way astern of us."
Capt. SMITH had the following to say about the accident: "We had passed Waukegan at 7:30 o'clock, when one of the main pipes of the boiler blew out. Immediately we shut off the steam, and attended to the injured. After that it took us about two and a half hours before we could start again."
When asked if the rumor among the passengers, to the effect that the accident was due partially to his anxiety to beat the Virginia in a race was true, he entered a positive denial. When the accident occurred, he said, "the Virginia was at least two miles ahead of us, and it is not likely that we would race with brand new engines. We were not racing at all -- in fact, we were running behind out time. There are six boilers on the boat, and the disconnecting of the steam pipe disabled all six."

The New York Times New York 1895-06-24