NameMary Jane Butchart
Birth1853, Owen Sound, Grey, Ontario, Canada
Death7 Nov 1885, Off the shore of Mott Island near Isle Royale in Lake Superior
Burial12 Nov 1885, Owen Sound, Grey, Ontario, Canada
CemeteryGreenwood Cemetery, Owen Sound, Ontario
Cause of deathdrown on the shipwreck of the SS Algoma
FatherGeorge McLauchlin Butchart (1827-1882)
MotherMary Elizabeth Chatwin (1828-1917)
Birth1853, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada
Death7 Nov 1885, Off the shore of Mott Island near Isle Royale in Lake Superior
Burial12 Nov 1885, Owen Sound, Grey, Ontario, Canada
CemeteryGreenwood Cemetery, Owen Sound, Ontario
Cause of deathdrown on the shipwreck of the SS Algoma
Marriage20 Feb 1884, Owen Sound, Grey, Ontario, Canada
ChildrenInfant (Died as Infant) (>1884-1885)
Notes for Mary Jane Butchart

One of the New Palace Steamers breaks in two
The C.P.R. Str. Algoma Gone
37 Lives Lost

The Atlantic brings terrible news from up the lakes. It is, in brief, that the C.P.R, palace steamer Algoma, on her way up Lake Superior last Sunday, with a fair wind but in a blinding snow storm, struck Isle Royale, and broke in two when the after part of the ship and all those on that part went down like a stone. The particulars are very meagre, but it appears that only those escaped who were on the forward part of the ship. Thirty-seven lives are reported lost, including all the officers except the captain and one of the mates. MOORE was captain, Dick SIMPSON, who was on the Robb when that tug was in here two years ago, was second mate, and one of the PETTIGREWs engineers. A better or more gentlemanly set of officers than those of the Algoma never sailed the upper lakes.

The island on which the Algoma struck is about abreast of Thunder Cape and some 30 miles from Port Arthur.

It is almost impossible to realize the terrible nature of this calamity. The C.P.R. steamers were such magnificent vessels, built of steel, with such powerful machinery that passengers always felt perfectly safe in them; and then to think of over half of those aboard this vessel being suddenly plunged into a watery grave. It is indeed terrible!

Manitoulin Expositor, November 14, 1885

The Algoma Wreck
Causes of Disaster
Terrible Suffering of Survivors
Twenty-four Hours in the Hull of the Wreck
Dashed on Rocks and Crushed to Death by Wreckage

Statement of Captain FOOTE
The sad particulars of the loss of the s.s. Algoma, as far as can be gleaned from the many conflicting accounts, are as follows:-

The steamer passed White Fish Point, some forty miles beyond the Sault, at 1 p.m. on Friday Nov. 6. The wind was fresh at the time and blowing from the east by south-east. All sail was set, and the vessel must have been bowling along at a lively rate. The wind freshened to a heavy gale during the afternoon and evening, accompanied by a blinding snow storm and the vessel was tossed about like a cork on the angry waves. At 4 a.m. Saturday, the wind veered to the north-east, and the order was given to take in all sail. At the same time the captain--evidently fearing that he was nearing the narrow waters--gave instructions to put the vessel about; but just as she was swinging the she struck amidships on what proved to be Greenstone Point, a reef off Isle Royale, about fifty miles from Port Arthur and one mile from Passage Island light. The vessel swung broadside, on, and at once commenced breaking up. In short time the lights were out. In ten minutes the cabins were gone; the water was pouring through and over her, and in ten minutes more the forward part of the ship was carried away.

Meantime the captain had run a life-line along the vessel, and some of the passengers and crew hung on b that and the forward rigging. In doing this, Capt. MOORE was severely crushed by the breaking up of the cabin. The mountainous waves, however, were continually carrying the people off by twos and threes, until at last, those not completely overcome worked their way back to the after steerage, this part of the hull being the only portion left intact.

A number attempted to swim ashore but only three succeeded in reaching land, the remainder being drowned or dashed to pieces on the rocks.
In less than half an hour all was over, and only fifteen out of sixty saved. The scene must have been a terrible one. Dense darkness, the cutting blasts of snow and sleet, waves continually washing over them and the vessel gradually crumbling to pieces beneath their feet!

The stern of the vessel was gradually washed up till it became solid, and for twenty-four hours the majority of the survivors were cooped up in the after steerage, but on Sunday morning those who had got ashore ran a line to the wreck, and a raft was constructed by which the rest of the survivors were taken ashore.

When they safely landed they were discovered by some fishermen, who took the unfortunates to their houses and kindly cared for them over Sunday night, and on Monday morning they were taken by the Athabasca to Port Arthur. The purser, a nephew of the Hon. Alex. McKENZIE, was struck by a piece of cabin, and then washed overboard.

Of the survivors, Capt. MOORE was severely crushed as above related; first mate HASTINGS had his feet severely cut by broken glass; and second mate SIMPSON had both feet frozen.

The vessel was insured in an Old Country company for $300,000.

The after part of the vessel, with the engines and boilers, now lies on an inclined shore, about thirty feet from the water line.

The disaster appears to have been due to two causes: first, a lack of appreciation of the vessel’s increased speed caused by her spread of canvas, thus bringing her into a dangerous quarter sooner than expected; and, secondly, the fact that Passage Island light gave no warning, that light having been abandoned since the first of the month. To these causes, coupled with the blinding snow storm and the desire to make fast time, are to be attributed to the disaster.

All reports are to the effect that Capt. MOORE displayed, as was to have been expected from a man of his stamp, the most commendable coolness and devotion to duty.

Poor PETTIGREW, the first engineer, was one of the best representatives of his profession on the upper lakes, and like the purser and steward, a jovial, gentlemanly companion.

The World advocates a special meteorological service for the upper lakes, a most commendable proposal. But all the meteorological services in the world would not have saved the Algoma. The storm had started before the shelter of White Fish Point was left behind, and the officers knew what to expect. The result, as said before, is a warning against the mania for fast time when indulged in during heavy weather in the fall of the year. Had the vessel even put back five minutes sooner than she did, those on board would never have known how near they were to death’s door.

Fortunately the Algoma, at the time of the accident, had the smallest list of passengers carried this season. These steamers have at times carried considerably over 1,000 people.

The Frances Smith, which arrived down Tuesday morning, reports Capt. MOORE as still at Port Arthur and in a somewhat precarious condition, having suffered severe internal injuries.

Captain James FOOTE, of the Athabasca, said, on being questioned, that he had no statement to make. It was plain that Captain MOORE had done all a man could do, and was very little out of his course. The only mistake was that he was about ten miles farther on than he thought, which was likely to happen to anyone. In such a night one could not judge. Captain MOORE was taking every step to save his vessel and people when the worst happened. (Globe) The following is a list of the survivors and lost as far as known:

Passengers lost:
- Wm. HIGGINS; Edward FROST, wife and child, Owen Sound; Mrs. DUDGEON and two children, Owen Sound; two brothers named BUCHANAN.

Crew lost
- J. MALONE, first porter; H. GILL, C. MURRAY, L. ROOKE, deck hands; J. LOTT, F. BROOKS, W. STOKES, cooks; Geo. THOMPSON, newsboy; W. HENDERSON, H. McCLINTOCK, T. SNELLING, J. McKENZIE, A.R. EMERSON, F. KNIGHT, waiters; A. MacKENZIE, purser; Geo. PETTIGREW, first engineer; A. McDERMOTT, second engineer; Chas. TAYLOR, steward; A. MITCHELL, M. McTARGET, W. GIBSON, J. BROWN, J. WAGSTAFF, firemen; R. HANSON, H. MORTIMER, wheelsmen; Mrs. SHANNON, stewardess; J. PADDLE, H. BROCKER, greasers; R. MITCHELL, brasser.

Passengers saved
- W.J. HULL and W.B. McARTHUR. Crew saved - Capt. MOORE, Owen Sound; first mate, J.B. HASTINGS, Owen Sound; second mate, R. D. SIMPSON, Owen Sound; H. McCALIGHER, fireman; H. LEWIS, J. McNABB, watchmen; R. STEPHENS, J. BOULTON, D. LANGTON, deck hands; R. McCALL, J. McLEAN, J. McINTYRE, waiters.

Manitoulin Expositor, November 21, 1885


Mr. Henry BEATTY, referring to the Algoma disaster, says: “On the night of the disaster the wind, which on board the vessel seemed only a fairly strong breeze, was actually a moderate gale, and was forcing the vessel along at the rate of 16, instead of 14 miles an hour. When, as Capt. MOORE and his officers supposed, they were some 15 miles from Isle Royal, Capt. MOORE decided to turn his vessel and get out into the open lake. The blinding snow storm then raging prevented them from seeing how near they were to the fatal spot. The orders were being obeyed, and the vessel had nearly come around, when suddenly the stern struck on a rock, the steering apparatus was smashed and the Algoma was helpless and at the mercy of the wind and waves, within 60 feet of land. Nothing that human ingenuity could devise could then avail to save the vessel.”

There is one important omission in Mr. BEATTY’s statement, and that is the neglect to state how it was that Passage Island light and foghorn failed to warn Capt. MOORE of his proximity to danger. 

Manitoulin Expositor, December 19, 1885
Last Modified 5 Dec 2014Created 7 Feb 2015 using Reunion for Macintosh