A group of immigrants arrived on the shores of Quebec aboard The John Mackenzie. It had sailed from Scotland, its passengers full of anticipation and excitement, the date June 26, 1857. The 250 passengers upon their arrival to Quebec City disembarked only to find their way onboard The Montreal, heading to the next stop on their journey, Montreal.
There were up to 300 passengers onboard The Montreal when a fire broke out near the boiler. The two lifeboats quickly filled and were swamped. With limited choices, people remained onboard as long as possible before jumping in the water, many ended up with severe burns. It is estimated 248 people died in the incident.
I came across information on The Montreal when researching a relative, Robert Andrew Jeffrey. Robert is mentioned in the newspaper as he helped in the recovery of the bodies. What an incredibly grim task.
The Montreal Herald And Daily Commercial Gazette, Thursday, July 9, 1857 col. 3 reported that
“…of the bodies recovered, one hundred and thirty have been picked up by a boatman named Robert Jeffery, who is well known to be a strictly honest man, and who went up to the wreck in the same Steamer as the Mayor, on the night of the occurrence; the remainder of the bodies have been recovered by Michel Barribeau, Joseph Belieau, and the Water Police.”
Reports following in the newspaper condemn the recovery of the bodies claiming thefts of the victim’s belongings as rampant. The Commercial Gazette’s article is defending the recovery process of the victims as other newspapers reported that
“Quebec is the head quarters of two sets of the greatest scoundrels and ruffians on the face of the earth, crimps and immigrant runners.”
and that “…crimps have been reaping a rich harvest by robbing the bodies of the dead”
The victims were mostly laid to rest in Quebec City.
A partial list of passengers was found here – List of passengers
More information on The Montreal can be found here – Maritime History of the Great Lakes
The newspaper was accessed through the BAnQ website where the full article can be found.
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My great, great grandmother, Catherine Mackenzie, was one of the survivors of the steamship Montreal disaster in 1857. She saved a child thinking it was her sibling. Sadly it was not. 13 family members died that day. Catherine was the only survivor.
Wow Lorna, what a horrible day for Catherine. What became of her after the sinking?