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Steamer Quinte - her loss by fire, 23 October 1889

The steamer Quinte, of the Deseronto Navigation Company Ltd, caught fire and was beached on 23rd October, 1889; several people lost their lives, including the mother and young, 12 year old, brother of the Captain, Duncan B. Christie. The captain was a young mariner at that time; this was his second command, after the Ella Ross. He was named as one of the first directors of the Quinte Navigation Company in December 1908. In 1911 he commanded the Brockville. He presented the memorial flowers at the Mariners' Service in Cherry Valley in 1936. He passed away in 1945, and was remembered by Jerry Snider as "That’s D. B. – captain of the Ella Ross, Brockville, Aletha, Varuna, Glenburnie, Glen Allen and the Quinte – don’t believe he’s smiled since she burned fifty years ago – but don’t ask him why." ('Story behind some men', 15 Nov 1947

As reported by the British Whig (Kingston, Ontario), 24 Ocober 1889 :

LOSS OF THE QUINTE - A Disaster A Few Miles From Deseronto.

The steamer Quinte was burned to the water's edge last night and four souls perished. The terrible calamity occurred three miles from Deseronto while the steamer was en route to Picton with passengers, mail and express matter. The list of the burned are:

Mrs. Christie, mother of the captain.
C. Christie, brother of the captain.
Mrs. Stacey, waiter.
Willie Stacey, son of the waiter.

The steamer left Deseronto at 5:30 o'clock with a few passengers on board. She had not proceeded far on her course before fire was discovered on the lower deck and immediately spread to all parts of the boat. One of the deck hands was the first to discover the flames. He notified Engineer Tom Short who set the pumps at work, and also told the captain. When it was seen that the flames could not be controlled Mate Collier was ordered to beach the boat. He felt her scrape the ground and the flames were coming into the wheelhouse so warmly that he had to leave his position. The boat was then about three miles from the dock. The flames were seen from the town and boats were sent to the rescue and succeeded in saving nearly all the hands.

The crew consisted of Captain Christie, Mate Collier, Purser Hambly, and nine assistants. The steamyacht Ripple was the first to return with a load of injured and had on board Col. Strong, United States consul, Belleville, who was slightly burned and chilled by the water. Mrs. Anderson, the cook, was rescued with slight injuries to her arm but chilled by the water. Miss Asuba Kelar, captain of the Salvation Army, Picton, was burned about the face and hands. The fireman, Thomas Kinsley, was scalded. A number of the passengers were brought in who had received some cuts and thorough wettings.

Drs. Newton and Vandervort were called to the dock and administered to the burned, who were removed to their homes. The passengers and crew were made as comfortable as possible, no pains being spared by the owners of the boat and others to render aid.

Capt. Christie was accompanied on the trip by his mother and twelve year old brother who were both lost. They were unable to leave the ladies' cabin so dense was the smoke and so rapid the flames. Mrs. Stacey, the helper to the cook and her little son were also lost. They were in the dining hall and unable to get out.

The fireman, Thomas Hart, had his right leg badly sprained and possibly some bones broken. He was also severely burned.

The boat had a light load of freight and express, principally lumber, which lent food to the flames. She also carried the mails which were destroyed.

Engineer Short lost $200 in money, which was in his trunk. One of the passengers, Mr. Hart, of Belleville, lost an overcoat and a purse with $40 in it. The passengers had very little baggage with them. The crew lost all they carried with them but the clothes they had on.

Mr. Levesque, representative of a Montreal jewellery house, lost his baggage, including samples, valued at $800. A. Rolston, of Hamilton, also lost his samples but these were picked up in a damp state.

The injured were all doing well this morning.

The Quinte was the largest and best boat of the Deseronto Navigation company, the most popular excursion boat on the bay, and had just closed a most successful season. She was valued at $18,000, partially covered by insurance.

The steamer, burnt to the water's edge, leaving the hull and some of the machinery in fairly good shape, will be raised and taken to Deseronto. She lies in shallow water.

Engineer Johnston, to the steamer Hero, said this morning that when they saw the blaze they thought it was a fire in Deseronto. The steamer had a cargo of bunchwood which burnt very fast. When the fire once started Engineer Johnston was of the opinion that it did not take ten minutes to burn her to the water's edge.

Capt. T. Donnelly said this morning that he never inspected a boat that had such a fine fire apparatus as the steamer Quinte. It was all new this spring. He held her up as an example for the other boats to copy. He inspected her last May at Deseronto.

Mrs. Christie was about fifty years of age and was a resident of Picton. Her son, the captain, was about twenty-four years of age, and had been on steamboats for some time. The deceased lady was an aunt of A. McMillan, storekeeper at the penitentiary. His sister, Mrs. Madden, left for the distressed home in Picton this afternoon.

The Latest Particulars.

Deseronto, Oct. 24th - Another name may have to be added to the list by the burning of the steamer Quinte, as a man named George Robinson, Picton, was to take the boat for that place last evening, and nothing can be learned of him. The injured are: Captain Christie, burned about the face and hands; Engineer Short, face and hands burned; Fireman Kemsley, leg broken and badly burned; Miss A. Kellar, of the Salvation Army, Picton, badly burned on face and hands, the most severe of any burned; Mrs. Anderson, ladies' maid, right arm badly burned and otherwise shaken up; A. Hart, Belleville, hand cut by glass; Col. Strong, United States consul agent at Belleville, slightly injured when jumping from the boat; and A. St. Charles, Belleville, badly chilled in the water.

There was an enquiry into the loss of the Quinte, widely reported and published in 1890.



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