Ships 2

Samuel F. Hodge

Ships 3

Samuel F. Hodge (Left Of Barge)

Fire Claimed The Samuel F. Hodge

By James Donahue

The wooden-hulled package freighter Samuel F. Hodge was a ripe, 15-year-old vessel when it caught fire and burned to a total loss on Lake Ontario on July 5, 1896. One crewmember, a fireman identified only as Mr. Deeley, died in the engine room.

The 149-foot-long boat, commanded by Captain Lewis Elliott of Detroit, was steaming from Cleveland to Prescott, Ontario, with a cargo of 600 tons of steel wire when a fire broke out in the engine room at about 3 a.m.

By the time it was discovered, crew members, many of them caught in their sleep, were forced to jump overboard to avoid being burned alive. Fortunately the steamer St. Joseph, Capt. John Preston, was nearby and saw the fire. All crew members except Deeley were rescued.

The St. Joseph remained at the scene, with two of that vessel’s fire hoses trained on the Hodge, but it was not enough to snuff out the flames and save the Hodge. The heat from the fire was so intense it blistered the paint on the St. Joseph.

The Hodge sank in several hundred feet of water off Oak Orchard, Ontario. The wreck was found and identified by sport divers in 2007.

Even the crew must have sensed that the old steamer’s days were numbered even before the fire. The vessel sprung a leak and nearly foundered in calm weather on Lake Huron only a few weeks earlier.

The Hodge was launched at Detroit in 1881. It was owned by the Farrell Brothers of Buffalo at the time it sank.