“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Willowick in Lake County, Ohio — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

The Griffith Disaster, 1850

The <i>Griffith</i> Disaster, 1850 Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, April 5, 2019
1. The Griffith Disaster, 1850 Marker
Lake Erie is barely visible in the background on a misty morning.
Inscription.  Following the completion of the Erie Canal from Albany to Buffalo, New York, Lake Erie became an important link in an all-water route for immigrants traveling from the eastern seaboard into the Midwest. The 600-ton lake steamer G.P. Griffith, launched in 1847, was one of dozens built to capitalize on this booming trade. On June 17, 1850, the Griffith, outbound with more than 300 passengers on a three day voyage from Buffalo to Toledo, caught fire and burned about 220 yards from this overlook. Many of the German, English, Irish, and Scandinavian settlers were laden with money sewn into their clothing, and few reached shore. Contemporary accounts listed 286 lost. Most were buried in a mass grave on the beach, since reclaimed by Lake Erie. The Griffith incident remains one of the worst maritime disasters on the Great Lakes.
Erected 2000 by the Ohio Bicentennial Commission, the Longaberger Company, Lake Metropark, City of Willowick, the Lake County Historical Society and The Ohio Historical Society. (Marker Number 9-43.)
Topics and series. This historical marker
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is listed in these topic lists: DisastersWaterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Ohio Historical Society / The Ohio History Connection series list. A significant historical date for this entry is June 17, 1850.
Location. 41° 38.435′ N, 81° 28.539′ W. Marker is in Willowick, Ohio, in Lake County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Lakeshort Boulevard and Bayridge Boulevard and East 305th St, on the right when traveling west. It is shoreside near Lakefront Lodge and the Willowick Police Department at Lakeshore Lodge Park. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Eastlake OH 44095, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Coulby Park (approx. 3.1 miles away); Henry Kelsey Devereux and “The Spirit of ’76” (approx. 3.2 miles away); The Willoughby University of Lake Erie Medical College 1834-1847 (approx. 3½ miles away); Four Institutions of Learning (approx. 3.6 miles away); Willoughby Veterans Memorial (approx. 3.6 miles away); Willoughby Civil War Memorial (approx. 3.6 miles away); A. Y. Austin Post 74, G.A.R. Memorial (approx. 3.6 miles away); Cora Gaines Carrel (approx. 3.6 miles away).
Also see . . .
The <i>Griffith</i> Disaster, 1850 Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, April 5, 2019
2. The Griffith Disaster, 1850 Marker
Lakefront Lodge is on the left.

1. Wikipedia Entry. Around 4 am on 17 June, the Griffith was about two miles out of Fairport when the ship’s wheelsman, Richard Mann, reported sparks shooting up around the ship’s smokestacks. C. C. Roby, the ship’s captain, ordered the ship’s course altered towards the shore. The Griffith’s speed fanned the flames, consuming the aft of the ship and forcing the passengers forward. The crew abandoned their posts, causing the Griffith’s engines to run out of steam and the paddle wheels to slow and stop. However, the ship’s momentum carried it forward until it hit a sandbar in water eight feet deep less than half a mile from the beach. (Submitted on May 21, 2019.) 

2. Burning of the G. P. Griffith.. 1956 article in Lloyd’s Steamboat Directory and Disasters on the Western Waters. Excerpt: “The passengers were all in their berths when the alarm of fire was given, about three o’clock in the morning. The day had just begun to dawn, and the shore was in sight. At first very little alarm was felt on board, as the boat was rapidly approaching the shore, to which her head had been directed. But alas ! the prospect of speedy deliverance soon vanished, and every heart was chilled with terror when the steamer, while yet half a mile from land, struck on a sand-bar and became immovable.”
A depiction of the steamship <i>G. P. Griffith</i> burning on 17 June 1850 image. Click for full size.
Engraving from Lloyd’s Steamship Directory via Wikipedia Commons, 1856
3. A depiction of the steamship G. P. Griffith burning on 17 June 1850
(Submitted on May 21, 2019.) 
Additional keywords. The Griffith Disaster, 1850
Credits. This page was last revised on May 21, 2019. It was originally submitted on May 21, 2019, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 1,256 times since then and 662 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 21, 2019, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

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Dec. 5, 2023