Seattle, WA Steamer LEIF ERICKSEN Fire, Dec 1888



SEATTLE, Washington, Dec. 25.----The steamer Leif Ericksen was burned to the water's edge at 5 o'clock last evening off Alkali Point, five miles west of this city. Seven lives were lost. The Ericksen was a propeller, 24 tons burden, and plied between Seattle and Sidney, Mason County and was en route to that point when the accident occurred. Fire broke out in the pilot house, and it is believed to have been caused by a lamp explosion. Another theory is that a demijohn in the pilot house was broken and the whisky ran through to the boiler and ignited. There were 36 people on board at the time. The fire spread instantly throughout the interior cabin. The boat was about two miles from the shore. Capt. John Niube, the owner of the boat, was in command. He left the wheelhouse for the purpose of launching the life raft, but found passengers trying to put the raft overboard. In the struggle to rescue the raft from the passengers Capt. Niube fell overboard with it. Meantime the passengers, putting on life preservers and seizing firewood or anything else that would float, jumped overboard. Capt. Niube saw his niece, Annie Tollner, daughter of Mrs. Bertha Tollner of Sidney, struggling in the water about 150 feet from him, and he did his utmost to push the raft toward her, but she was drowned less than 100 feet away from him. He was hampered with gum boots and almost helpless.

The steamer Skagit Chief, en route to Tacoma, saw the fire, and the vessel crowded on steam to give assistance, and succeeded in rescuing seven people. The steamer Mountaineer saw the burning vessel four miles away, and headed straight for her. When within half a mile of the Ericksen, they found people struggling in the water, lowered small boats, and succeeded in rescuing 19 persons. One man was taken from the water and died in a few minutes after. He said just before he died that his wife was lost from the steamer.

The list of the lost is as follows: Annie Tollner of Sidney; J.H. Nereous of the Nereous Brickyard Company, Sidney; Jack Simmons, a half-breed fisherman; T. Smith of Smith, Taylor & Co., Colby, and a man and his wife whose names could not be ascertained.

The survivors also report another woman as lost. The steamer has no doubt sunk. Neither the Skagit Chief not the Mountaineer went to the burning steamer, as all hands had deserted her and she was enveloped in flames. Both steamers devoted every effort to saving life from the water. Survivors speak in great praise of the work done by officers, crews, and passengers of the Skagit Chief and the Mountaineer. The Ericksen was valued at $4,000 and was not insured. She had a light cargo.

The Mountaineer, with survivors, arrived here at 7 o'clock last evening.

The New York Times, New York, NY 26 Dec 1888