On June 17, 1850, the passenger steamer ship, The G.P. Griffith, caught on fire, and burned, and sank on Lake Erie, being the third worst disaster on Lake Erie (Also on all of the Great Lakes) in history. About 241 to 289 people were burned to death from the fire.
On June 16, 1850, the previous day, the G.P. Griffith (Griffith), departed from Buffalo, New York, and was heading for Toledo, Ohio. The Griffith had 326 passengers, most of whom were from Northern Europe. At 4 a.m. the following morning, the ship’s wheelman reported seeing sparks shooting up from the ship’s smokestacks. The captain ordered that the course of the ship be altered to go to the shore. However, doing this accelerated the speed of the ship, increasing the sparks, igniting them to turn into fire. The crew abandoned their posts, which caused the wheel and the engines to stop working. Yet, due to the momentum of the ship, the ship kept moving until it hit a sandbar eight feet below water level, about less than half a mile from shore. The flames quickly moved up the ship, instantly killing nearly everyone on board. The few people that jumped off the ship either drowned, or were pulled down by people who could not swim. A shipmate swam ashore, getting a boat to save any survivors. The captain also tried to save his family, but he and his family died from this disaster. Another steamer, the Delaware towed the Griffith, which was still on fire.
Only about 37 people survived this tragedy. Since the records of whom was on board were burned, no one knows how many people were killed. Local residents made a committee to determine what to do with the dead bodies that were coming to shore. A mass grave was made, burying 47 men, 24 women, and 25 children. Any bodies that could have been identified were sent to Cleveland. A few days after this tragedy, it was discovered that the grave was disturbed and some of the bodies were exposed. Ten days after the wreck, more bodies floated from the lake, becoming bloated enough to float to the surface. The mass graveyard site, which was unmarked, was gradually destroyed by erosion, and other people disposing of bones until the whole gravesite fell into Lake Erie, erasing evidence that such a heinous tragedy ever happened.
In the later part of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth centuries, the area nearby was turned into an amusement park and later into what is now known as Lakefront Park. In 2000, a monument was erected in remembrance of this disaster and all of the people that died because of this event.