New York Daily Times, August 27, 1853
BURNING OF THE STEAMSHIP CHEROKEE.
Loss $500,000 to $600,000.
Last evening, at about 7 o'clock, a fire was discovered issuing from the hold of the steamship Cherokee, lying at the foot of Warren-street, North River, and, before the flames could be checked, the noble vessel, with her entire cargo, was completely destroyed. The conflagration spread a prodigious light over the heavens, and the alarm created in the upper part of the City during the early portion of the evening, was intense. Immense crowds of anxious merchants, clerks, newspaper people, and citizens generally, simultaneously wended their way down-town by any conveyance that offered, and were only fearful that they should be too late to witness the best of the scene. The locality of the conflagration was at first quite indistinctly marked. The glow that illuminated the sky extended for a mile or two in every direction, and it was only by diligent search, and a severe pressure at the end of the throng pressing towards the river, that the locality was discovered. To the great relief of parties interested in the rich warehouses of the business sections of the city, a part that only a day or two since stood in imminent danger from the disastrous conflagration in Pearl-street, it was found that the fire was not in that vicinity. It was then raging furiously on board the Cherokee, at the foot of Warren-street. The flames were first discovered issuing from the hold of the steamer, at 7 o'clock. The only person on board the vessel at the time were two watchmen, named John Turner and Charles Murphy. They gave the alarm immediately, and the engines were promptly on the spot. In a marvelously short time, however, the hull of the ship was a sheet of flame. The red-tongued element burst out ferociously from the port-holes, crawled up the timbers, went down the beams, flickered about the masts, ate up the cordage, waved to and fro, and set off the rigging and the hull in fine relief against the clouded sky. We have rarely seen a more beautiful sight -- always divesting the subject of its more melancholy features -- than the ship at the moment when the flames had thoroughly enwrapped her. The brilliant light shed by the blazing vessel upon the surrounding wharves, piers, and vessels, bathed the scene in ruddy colors, unmatched by any painter's art. The night was still and dark, and thousands upon thousands of men and lads were perched, like clusters of bees, upon every available stand point within view of the wharf where the vessel lay. The North River barges, with their flat roofs and roomy sides, presented capital points for a views. The firemen brought their hose to play upon the vessels in the vicinity of the burning ship, and the sound of the rushing water, the snapping of the flames, and the exclamations of the multitude, as a new tongue of flame would shoot up from the hold of the ship, far above the main body of the fire, made up a tableau that is not often witnessed even in New-York. The sight was grand; when you came to think about it, the charm was lost.
The Cherokee belonged to George Law & Co.'s line of New-Orleans and Havana packets, and was among the first vessels to engage in the California passenger travel from this point. She has been a favorite steamer, and has made good passages. The loss to the owners and freighters will be very heavy -- probably less than $100,000 on the vessel, and $500,000 on the cargo.
The Cherokee was fully laden for her outward voyage, and was prepared to sail to-day. The number of passengers who were expecting to sail in her on this trip was, we understand, much larger than is usual at this season of the year. Many of them had already sent on board a large portion of their baggage, which is, of course, a total loss.The cargo, as we have already intimated, was heavy and valuable. Its entire value cannot be much short of $500,000, but on this amount there is probably nearly a full insurance. The vessel was not insured. Of the cargo in the lower hold, a considerable portion will be saved, though in a damaged condition.
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