The sad death of the Hamonic

The burned out hull of the luxury passenger steamer Hamonic following a devastating fire on July 17, 1945. John Rochon Collection

John Rochon

The passenger steamer the Hamonic was one of the famous “Three Sisters” of the Great Lakes, built for the Northern Navigation Co. by the Collingwood Shipbuilding Co.

Elegantly appointed, she made her first regular cruise on June 23, 1909.  The seven-day loop left from Detroit to Sarnia, up Lake Huron to the St. Marys River, through the Soo Locks and across Lake Superior to Port Arthur/Fort William and lastly to Duluth, then back to Detroit in comfort and style.

The second of the “Sisters” (Huronic, Hamonic and Noronic) she enjoyed a relatively calm career.  But all that ended on July 17, 1945.

The Hamonic had docked at Point Edward around 5 a.m. and most of the passengers were still asleep at 8:30 a.m. when a truck making a delivery to the freight sheds caught fire.

The fire spread quickly to the tinder-dry sheds and soon embers were raining down over the Hamonic.  Within minutes the ship was ablaze.

Unable to use the lifeboats, passengers and crew jumped over the side to avoid the flames. Capt. Horace Beaton rushed to steer the ship away from the burning sheds and ran her hard aground, and ropes were lowered for people to slide down.

Luckily, Elmer Kleinsmith, a crane operator for the Century Coal Co., saw the blaze, fired-up the crane and used the bucket to move passengers and crew to safety.  Miraculously, all 350 people aboard survived the ordeal but the same couldn’t be said of the Hamonic.

She had burned to a total loss.

John Rochon is a Sarnian with a lifelong passion for local history