Inquiry into the loss of the INDIAN 1860

Inquiry into the loss of the INDIAN 1860

Daily Post, Jan 2nd 1860

Inquiry into the loss of the INDIAN

Inquiry into the loss of the screw steamer INDIAN resumed on Saturday before Mr J. SMITH MANSFIELD Esq, stipendiary magistrate for Liverpool and Capt HARRIS. R.N, Nautical Assessor for the Board of Trade, Mr O’DOWD appeared for the Board of Trade, Mr ASPINALL Barrister for the owners of the INDIAN.

Mr James STEWART, Chief Officer of the Indian at the time of the loss said, the current off Sable Island was very much influenced by the winds and not the soundings of the waves.

Mr O’DOWD, stated that Mr John HENDERSON, Chief Engineer of the vessel had been obliged to leave in one of the company’s vessels, he had caused his disposition respecting the catastrophe to be taken, Mr O’DOWD would call upon the clerk to read the same.

Capt HARRIS, said, he had not been able to learn when Whitepoint Lighthouse had been erected, but found that it was indicated in the edition of Laurie’s chart, published in February 1859, it was not indicated in the same chart in 1858 used by the Captain of the Indian. The light was unknown to be in existence by any of the chief officers.

Capt BALLANTINE of the ANGLO SAXON was examined by Mr ASPINALL as to the charts and currents off Sable Island and corroborated what Capt SMITH had stated regarding their length and irregularity.

Mr MANSFIELD and Capt HARRIS retired to consider the case, on their return, Mr MANSFIELD, stated that himself and his colleague would have some further conference on the subject, in the meantime, it was not of their opinion that Capt SMITH would be called upon to surrender his certificate.

An amusing description of colonial justice.

Mr William Henry SMITH, 2nd officer in the course of his evidence gave an amusing description of colonial justice . Having been sworn in as a special constable at Mary Joseph after the wreck he arrested a man named BYRNA for plundering the ship.

BYRNA was arrested while in bed, and on searching his house, there were discovered, a paisley shawl, a lady’s fine corded petticoat and a great number of other things.

BYRNA told them the shawl was his wife’s, but, observing it was saturated with salt water, they hinted of the possibility he was mistaken, and of his wife’s taste in allowing it to become in such a state.

He replied, “That’s my business,” and asked indignantly, if they thought, “poor people couldn’t afford paisley shawls, as well as rich folks.”

He was brought before four magistrates, the court being held in a store house of one of the guardians of the law. They were surrounded with innumerable tin cans, kettles, well filled sacks, barrels, boxes of tea and tobacco, casks of molasses and rum, they were saluted with the odour of multifarious substances - cheese being the prominent one.

After all were seated the best they could the case proceeded. The prisoner was nonchalant and sat and smoked his pipe in court, with the greatest unconcern.

He said, on entering to one of the magistrates,

“How do ye do squire?”

Shook hands all round and conducted himself in the most ludicrous manner.

At first he thought he could not defend himself and thought he would require a Queen’s counsellor to do it for him, but as the nearest was several miles away, in the end defended himself.

The case went on and the prosecutors found he was quite able to defend himself, having a, “good tongue in his head.”

The charge was full brought home to him and he was committed for trial at the next assizes. One of his companions who tried to clear him was also committed to take his trial along with his friend.

BYRNA was in custody with the 2nd Officer for 6 to 7hrs, the next day Mr SMITH was astonished to find him at large, having been liberated on his PAROLE OF-HONOUR.

Loss of the INDIAN 1859

Loss of the INDIAN 1859

Dec 7th 1859

Arrived the HUNGARIAN, she touched Halifax for the crew of the ill-fated steamer INDIAN and brings 6 officers and 50 seamen of the vessel.

Canadian mail steamer INDIAN

By the HUNGARIAN an account of the loss of the INDIAN on the southern coast of Nova Scotia

The INDIAN left Liverpool for Portland on Wednesday 9th Nov 1859, with 38 passengers, about 100 crew and a freight of about 300tons.

At about 5am on Monday 21st November 1859, while coasting between Sable Island and the main island, on a direct course to Portland she hit a reef off the hamlet of “Marie Joseph,” Guysborough. It was very dark at the time, the vessel was doing 8knots. The reef was called Seal Lodge about 60-70 miles from Halifax.

Capt SMITH at once gave orders to make ready the boats as at this time the sea began to rise and the wind was blowing hard from the north. The vessel went on the rocks at high water, her bottom was torn by the rocks, as the swell rose she was knocked heavily on the rocks, in three quarters of an hour she parted amidships, it was then that loss of life occurred.

The stern boats were launched safely, but both were blown away from the vessel and rendered no assistance. One boat with Mr SMITH 2nd officer in charge and 16 men on board landed 30 miles off and gave intelligence of what had occurred, Mr SMITH in no time was on a schooner and on his way to relieve his fellow sufferers.

As daylight occurred other vessels and boats put off and rescued survivors from the afterpart of the vessel, the survivors were treated well on shore, but, during the day and night the vessel was stripped by wreckers.

When the wreck became known at Halifax, Admiral Sir Houston STEWART despatched H.M. paddle-steamer GLADIATOR, 6 guns, Capt HICKLEY to render assistance, she was at the time under repairs and reached Marie Joseph on Friday the 25th November, she conveyed the officers and crew of the INDIAN to Halifax, the passengers having been sent previously in sailing vessels. The INDIAN broke up completely in a couple of days and disappeared.

9 passengers lost are supposed to be German.

Statement given by the purser of the INDIAN

He states, when the boats were being launched, No 1 and No 2 where swung on their davits clear of the rail, the crew then lowered starboard and port, No 3 and No 4.

No 3 was under the charge of Mr SMITH and was lowered safely, No 4 for a long time was useless all attempts failed to lower her, after 45mins the vessel parted amidships, the two forward boats were naturally those the steerage crowded, the German families were lost there.

A considerable swell rose when the vessel broke up, the sea breaking with great violence against the bow and the purser presumed it was people crowding the boat that caused someone to cry from boat No 1 to those standing by to cut the fall, which was unfortunately obeyed, the boat was smashed to atoms by the ship’s side and most of the people in her perished.

The port boat No 2 also swung on the davits and shared a similar fate, one of the davits gave way with the weight and she was swamped, she then turned bottom upwards, it is supposed the engineers drowned that were in her.

Mr SMITH brought his boat to the leeward side of the ship where he was to lay off till daybreak and pick up some more from the wreck, but he found this impossible and was driven out to sea, eventually reaching land 32miles westward of the wreck.

Another boat under the direction of Mr TIBBITS, 4th officer and one in charge of the boatswain endeavoured for hours to return to the wreck and eventually got ashore at Marie Joseph.

Boat No 4 was lowered safely but had sustained some damaged and filled immediately it hit the water, Mr BIGGAN, 3rd officer went down to assist those in the boat to bail out, when he was driven out to sea and has not yet been heard of.

As near as can be ascertained apart from some passengers, those who drowned :-


Laven J. MOSS, wife and 2 children, Mrs EICKMANN and infant, James DICKSON and 2 Germans.


James LANG, Joiner, John HERRON, Seaman, John E. MORGAN, Seaman, Henry CARROLL, Seaman, William ROSS, 3rd engineer, Robert RITCHIE, 4th engineer, John MILLER, Fireman, James STANDWELL, Steward, Alfred WALSH, Boy steward, Thomas LLOYD, Chief cook.

Five survivors were picked up on the 21st November by the schooner WAVE, Charles BINGHAM, 3rd mate, Charles BARTON, Asst steward, James GRUNIS, Butcher, John BENNETT and John FARSLAND Seamen.

Copyright 2002 / To date