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Visiting historic Lewiston, New York: remembering the steamship Cibola

Updated on January 17, 2013
State flag of New York
State flag of New York | Source
The anchor of the steamship 'Cibola', on display outside the Lewiston Historical Museum
The anchor of the steamship 'Cibola', on display outside the Lewiston Historical Museum | Source
Historical panel about the 'Cibola' anchor
Historical panel about the 'Cibola' anchor | Source
Map location of Lewiston, Niagara County, NY
Map location of Lewiston, Niagara County, NY | Source

Sad end of a steamship in 1895

In New York's historic Lewiston, at the intersection of Plain and Niagara Streets, at the southeast corner, where the Lewiston Historical Museum is located is an interesting artifact derived from the maritime history of the area. Outside the Museum, housed in the former Episcopal church is an anchor from the historic steamship Cibola .

The unfolding of the tragedy

Features (1) of the museum include a display panel regarding a local tragedy in 1895, when the steamship Cibola caught fire, killing a crew member, drifted downstream and ran aground. The American Hotel, situated near the ship's moorings, also burned to the ground. Today, all that remains of the steamship is its anchor, but this is preserved on display outside the museum.

The fire started in the engine room at 1AM, on July 14, 1895 and, while it was merciful that 32 members of the crew escaped with their lives, one man was not so fortunate. Night watchman Robert Kelly managed to alert many of the crew but his warnings came too late for Engineer William Hamilton, who died in the tragic blaze. Mr Hamilton was from Toronto, a regular destination for the Cibola and the source of many visitors via this service to Lewiston.

Another engineer, James Woodward, along with William Hamilton, remained on the ship after the fire burned through the ship's ropes at its moorings at Lewiston. But unlike his coworker, James Woodward did manage to swim ashore from the drifting vessel, despite injuries.

Details of the 'Cibola'

The display panel near the Cibola's anchor has a picture of the vessel taken prior to the tragedy.

The Cibola was a paddle-steamer, with two cylinder engines. The ship was built in 1888 and in its day could carry up to 1200 passengers. The Cibola belonged to the Niagara Navigation Company.

In its day the vessel was regarded as quite luxurious. Interior cabins had a mahogany finish; a jewelled chandelier hung above a stairway and the vessel's lighting was electrified.


(1) Other museum features include important material relating to the Underground Railroad.

Also worth seeing

First Presbyterian Church, Lewiston (distance: 0.2 kilometres); this 19th century, Greek Revival building on Cayuga Street was associated with the Underground Railroad.

Frontier House , Lewiston (distance: 0.1 kilometres)is probably Lewiston's most widely known historic property; this former hotel dates from 1824.

Freedom Crossing Monument , Lewiston (distance: approximately. 0.7 kilometres); this is an impressive monument, which was unveiled in 2009. It stands on North Water Street, close to the banks of the Niagara River.

Broderick Park , Buffalo , New York (distance: approx. 36.8 kilometres) has poignant memories of the Underground Railroad.

The US Post Office, Niagara Falls , New York (distance: approximately 12.5 kilometres) is a striking structure which dates from 1904-1907, and was designed by James Knox Taylor in French Neoclassical style, with Beaux Arts details. It is situated at the Main Street and Walnut Avenue intersection. The American Falls themselves are of course an outstanding visitor attraction.

Niagara Falls, Ontario , Canada (distance by road: approximately 14.9 kilometres); the Canadian Horseshoe Falls can be viewed to particularly good effect from the location known as Table Rock Point.

Bergholz , New York (distance: approximately. 18.3 kilometres), at Wheatfield, has been a German settlement since 1843; it has the Das Haus historical museum.


How to get there:

A number of airlines fly to Niagara Falls International Airport (distance from Lewiston, NY: 15.4 kilometres) from various destinations in the Southern United States. Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to Buffalo Niagara International Airport (distance to Lewiston, NY: approximately. 48.7 kilometres). I-190 is the nearest Interstate to Niagara Falls, New York, linking near Buffalo, NY with I-290 and I-90 to Albany, NY. From Canada, accessible via the Rainbow Bridge, the QEW links Niagara Falls, ON with Hamilton and Toronto. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

For your visit, these items may be of interest


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