Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist
Passengers who board the Maid of the Mist are treated to a safe and awe-inspiring journey amid the natural splendor of Niagara Falls. There was one particular trip, back in 1861, when those aboard the vessel encountered a harrowing experience.
The first Maid of the Mist was launched in 1846, the year the Niagara Falls Ferry Association was incorporated. It served as the only means to cross the border until 1848, when the first suspension bridge was built. Since there was no longer a need for ferry service, the Maid of the Mist owners recognized the need for a boat that would serve tourists.
A larger boat, the Maid of the Mist II, was launched for service in 1854. The vessel was a 72-foot-long steam-propelled paddle wheeler. In 1861, due to a financial crisis and the impending American Civil War, the Maid of the Mist was sold at public auction to a Canadian Company. The completion of the sale was not so simple since it required delivering the boat to Lake Ontario. The only way to accomplish this was navigating the vessel through the Great Gorge Rapids, the Whirlpool and the Lower Rapids to reach its destination.
On June 6, 1861, 53-year-old Captain Joel Robinson embarked on the journey with two crew members, mechanic James McIntyre and engineer James Jones. Both shores were lined with spectators as the Maid of the Mist departed on its wildest ride.
The first giant wave from the rapids tore the smoke stack from the boat and tossed the three men to the floor. The Maid of the Mist was carried at around 39 miles per hour through the rock-strewn rapids before it stormed into the Whirlpool.
Robinson regained control of the boat in the Whirlpool before encountering the perilous final leg of the trip through the dreaded Devil’s Hole Rapids. Motivated by a $500 reward if they successfully delivered the boat to Ontario, Robinson and his two-man crew made it through the final stretch, though Robinson was so frightened by the journey that he retired.
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