Steamer Idaho, The
DESCRIPTION: "On the sixth day of November, On a dark and stormy night... The papers gave a warning Of a fierce and awful storm," but "The captain gave his order." The greedy owners ignore the warnings. Nineteen men die when the Idaho sinks
EARLIEST DATE: before 1952 (Walton collection)
KEYWORDS: ship storm disaster death
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Walton/Grimm/Murdock, pp. 228-229, "The Steamer Idaho" (1 text)
NOTES: Blaming greedy owners is a commonplace in disaster songs, but it seems to have been unusually suitable in this case. According to Mark L. Thompson,Graveyards of the Lakes (Wayne State University Press, 2000), p. 336, the steamer Idaho was built in 1863, and based on the drawing on p. 337, she looked rather like the Lady Elgin.
By 1897, she was clearly obsolete, and indeed had been withdrawn from service in the early 1890s. In 1897, though, freight prices were very high, so her owners hastily put her back in service. Hardly the ship to face the gales of November! And, indeed, it was only about a month later when she faced the storm which sank her. Thompson agrees with the song in saying that 19 sailors died. According to Bruce D. Berman, Encyclopedia of American Shipwrecks (Mariner's Press, 1972), p. 247, the sinking took place seven miles from Old Cut Light near Long Point, Ontario.
Walton/Grimm/Murdock say that two men who clung to the mast were saved. All others aboard were lost. - RBW
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