Cleveland, OH Steamer G P GRIFFITH Fire, Jun 1850 - The Burning of the GRIFFITH

Burning of the G P Griffith

One of the passengers gives the following account of his escape. He was aroused from his slumber by the cries of fire and the screams of women and children. When he reached the deck he found that the boat was about three miles from land. The second mate gave orders for the boat to be steered towards the shore. She reached the bar half a mile from land, before the flames had made much progress ; but as soon as the steamer grounded on that bar, the fire spread with appalling rapidity. One of the officers directed the passengers to save themselves, but did not point out any means of escape. Many of the passengers threw themselves overboard. The narrator says they leaped out of the boat in crowds, twenty at a time. The Captain remained on the upper deck, near his state room, forward of the wheelhouse. When nearly all the Passengers had jumped overboard to escape from the flames, the Captain threw his mother, his wife and child, and the barber's wife into the lake, and then plunged in himself. He remained a moment on the surface with his wife in his arms, and then both sunk together. The passenger who tells this story saved himself on a small piece of plank, supported by which he contrived to reach the shore.

The books of the boat were lost, therefore the names of very few of the victims can be given. But it is known that the loss of life was greater than in any previous disaster on the lake, except only in the case of the steamer Erie. One hundred and fifty-four dead bodies were recovered, and probably from thirty to fifty more remained at the bottom of the lake. The scene on the shore, after the awful tragedy was finished, was melancholy in the extreme. One hundred and fifty dead bodies were strewn along the beach. Boats had been employed in dragging for them at the spot where the wreck lay. A long trench was dug on the shore, and here the greater number of the dead were interred, unshrouded and uncoffined, and many of them unknown.

LIST or KILLED.—William Daley ; Capt. C. C. Roby, wife, mother and two children ; Mrs. Wilkinson ; Horace Palmer ; Richard Palmer ; Charles Brown ; Theodore Gilman ; Richard Mann ; W. P. Tinkham and his two children ; Daniel, a colored waiter ; Hugh McLair ; George Wilmen ; P. Keeler ; Mrs. Heth and Francis Heth and their four children ; M. June ; W. Tillman ; A Ferguson ; J. R. Manson ; Thomas Wild; an unknown man, on whose person was found one thousand one hundred and sixty dollars; J. Marsh ; another stranger, whose clothes were marked with the initials F. P. ; Francis Huile ; a great many English, Irish, and German emigrants, of whom only one, Robert Hall, was saved. Mr. Hall lost his wife and four children, his mother, two sisters and two brothers. Mrs. Walker and child ; Selina Moony ; and others not identified.

Henry Wilkinson, the clerk of the Griffith, swam ashore by supporting his chin on a piece of firewood. When about to leave the wreck, he first threw his mother and little niece overboard, and endeavored to save them, but was unable to do so, being nearly drowned in the attempt.

Lloyd's Steamboat Directory and Disasters on the Western Waters, Cincinnati, Ohio; James T. Lloyd & Co, 1856, pages 253-255