The Monarch History

The Monarch (Official Number 96843) was built in Sarnia, Ontario in 1890 for the Northwest Transportation Company.  It was built to service the passenger and freight trade for the Sarnia - Fort William route.  The company already had one ship the, United Empire,  on this route, but increased demand for the service justified a second vessel.  Built for extended season service, the hull was white oak and heavily reinforced with iron.  It measured 259 ft long, 35 ft in beam and 15 feet in depth.  The Monarch was powered by a 900 horsepower triple expansion steam engine with 160psi of steam supplied by two Scotch boilers.  This pushed the Monarch at a top speed of 14 mph.  The Monarch was built in elegant style described in a quote from the Duluth Evening Herald:

"A Beautiful Ship: The magnificent New Monarch of the Beatty Line.  Far the finest running to Duluth, Destined to be the popular passenger ship of the Upper Lakes...

The cabin is finished in white and gold, and will be lighted by electricity.  There are 62 staterooms and a bathroom.  Doors between each alternate stateroom can be thrown open... Each Stateroom has a double lower and single berth for nearly 200 passengers."

The Monarch ran its route for sixteen seasons and as happened to many ships, wrecked on its last trip of the  season in 1906.  After loading its cargo listed as wheat, oats, salmon, and general merchandise on December 6, 1906, the Monarch departed for Sarnia at 5:25 PM into the face of a blinding snowstorm.  What caused the Monarch to run full speed into the Palisades that night has never been completely established.  It could have been the frozen taffrail log, or the storm driven wind or current or a combination thereof that pushed the Monarch several miles off course to the southwest.

What is known is that in less than 50 feet of visibility, the Monarch ploughed headlong into the Palisades a little after 9:00 PM, Thursday November 6, 1906 on the coldest day of the year.  After the scraping grinding collision the captain immediately ordered the engines full reverse.  Fortunately the engineer realizing the extent of the damage disobeyed the order and kept the engine engaged forward to hold the ship on the shore, which probably saved the lives of the passengers and crew.  As in many of the Great Lakes shipwreck accounts there was a hero in this story too.  John D. McCallum, brother of first-mate Bert McCallum, miraculously made it to shore with a line that almost all of the passengers used to escape the sinking ship.  There seemed to be no agreement in the accounts of how he did what others were unable to do.  One man J. Jacques, a watchman, perished in the escape.

The survivors huddled around fires and in a makeshift tent built from canvas from the ships storage for four days until they were rescued on Monday, November 10.  The stewardess Rachel McCormick made pancakes from the flour also salvaged from the ship and they ate frozen salmon that washed ashore.  It was Sunday before the seas subsided enough that the lighthouse keeper from Passage Island could row the four miles to investigate the smoke coming from their fires on the island.   He picked up one man purser Reginald Beaumont, who waded and swam through the icy waters to the lighthouse keeper's boat.  They flagged down a the steamer Edmonton which took Beaumont back to Port Arthur where the owners immediately mounted a rescue party.  The tugs James Whalen and Laura Grace departed Port Arthur at 6 a.m. on Monday to pick up the survivors, but neither could land or pick up anyone at the Palisades.  The entire group of survivors had to hike across the island to Tobin or Rock Harbor to be rescued by the tugs.  A cold and exhausted group of crew and passengers from the Monarch arrived back in Port Arthur Monday night at 8 p.m. thankful to be alive.

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