Fighting Island, MI (Detroit River) Propeller BROOKLYN Explodes, Oct 1874



We clip the following account of the terrible explosion from the Detroit Free Press:
At two o'clock Thursday afternoon as the Propeller Brooklyn, of the Northern Transportation company, bound from Buffalo to Chicago with a cargo of general merchandise, was passing the head of Fighting Island, eight miles below the city, on her way up, her boilers exploded with a crash which was heard for three or four miles along the river.
There was only an instant's warning. Passengers and crew heard a sharp, painful hiss of steam and had not more than time to turn their heads when the awful crash came.
The captain was standing amidships talking to his first mate and a passenger. His first sensation was a trembling motion under his feet, as if the propeller was grating on the rocks, and he had not time to cry out before he was picked up and hurled clear to the pilot house, landing beside it. A great booming, crashing sound filled his ears and for an instant he was stunned. As he scrambled up he saw the stern of the steamer high in the air, the air filled with human bodies, planks and beams, and then the steamer settled down beneath the waves and he found himself in the river. All around him were men and women screaming out in the agony of their wounds, and the river surface was covered for acres and acres with debris and cargo.
The captain, whose name is HARVEY HOWARD, instantly realized what had occurred and, finding himself unhurt, he set about saving the lives of others. MATTHEW BORDEN, a passenger, was seized by the hair as he was sinking and drawn to the pilot hours, which was out of the water, where he sustained himself by holding on with his right hand, his left arm being horribly crushed. The first mate, DEL RYDER, was fighting for life among the debris, his left arm broken and crushed, and the captain saved him. The cabin boy, a young lad whose name is not known, as he was making his first voyage, had gone down twice when the captain swam to him, told the boy to get on his back and cling tightly and the brave man returned to the pilot house and placed the boy high and dry above water.
While clinging to the pilot house the captain saw a body float past him -- a body without head or arms, and as it pushed its way through the broken bales and boxes with the current the water around it was reddened with blood. This is supposed to have been the body of one of the deck hands.
The propeller Cuba was coming up after the Brooklyn, and was not more than half a mile astern when the explosion took place. Such of her officers as were looking up the river saw a great mass of boards and splinters flying high in the air, and the concussion of the explosion staggared them. The Cuba put on a full head of steam and reached the wreck within ten minutes, when she lowered all her boats and hurried to save those floating on pieces of the wreck. A small schooner lowered her boat, and two fish boats put out from the Canada shore.
The agents state there were only seven passengers on board. The crew numbered about twenty. It is thought at least half of those on board were killed.
The ill-fated boat was valued at $45,000 and was insured for about one half that sum. All except a portion of her pilot house is submerged.
Captain HOWARD says that at the time of the disaster the Brooklyn was making her ordinary time, ten miles an hour and that the rumors of her racing are entirely baseless, as she could not work under more than eighty pounds of steam owing to the government valve, which blows off at any point above that pressure.

Ohio Democrat New Philadelphia Ohio 1874-10-30