portage canal

Park Cemetery, Marquette, MI. The steamer St. Clair burned to the water’s edge while off Fourteen Mile Point, between Ontonagon and Portage Lake Ship canal, about 2 o’clock Sunday morning, July 9. She had a crew of 15, and 16 passengers were aboard. Of this total 26 were lost. The fire was first discovered in the steamer’s hold, and the flames spread so rapidly that the engineers were driven from their posts before the hose could be attached. The fire enveloped all the boats except a large yawl. As it touched the water, there was a rush for the boat, and it immediately capsized. It was righted and capsized six times, and, when finally kept right side up, contained only four of the crew. They ripped up the seats and used them for paddles and cruised about in reach of the unfortunate passengers. Only two were picked up, one of whom was dead. Among the saved was Capt. Robert Phineas. When the fire broke out the St. Clair was five miles from shore. Most of the passengers put on life preservers, but the water was extremely cold and they soon perished. The St. Clair was brought out as a steambarge in 1866 at Algonac, and had been transformed into a steamer in 1875. She belonged to Ward’s Detroit & Lake Superior line, and was on her down trip from Duluth.