New member Glenn Warner of Thunder Bay has written to ask us about the big wooden steamer RAPPAHANNOCK. It seems that he has dived on her wreck in Lake Superior and he reports that when the wreck was discovered in September 1978, it was found to be in exceptionally good condition despite its 67 years underwater.
One of the most successful builders of wooden ships on the lakes was James Davidson of West Bay City, Michigan. He built numerous steamers and schooner barges, many of which he operated himself under the ownership of the Davidson Steamship Company. His three largest wooden steamers were the bulk carriers SHENANDOAH, SACRAMENTO and RAPPAHANNOCK, the first of which was launched at Bay City on May 16, 1894, and the other two following in a dual launching staged on June 15, 1895. The three were virtual sisterships.
RAPPAHANNOCK (U.S.111083) measured 308.1 x 42.5 x 21.2, 2381 Gross and 1911 Net, rather larger than the average wooden laker. She was powered by a triple expansion engine 20-33-54 x 42" and steam was provided by two Scotch boilers measuring 12'3" x 12'. She operated for Davidson until July 25, 1911, when she foundered in Jackfish Bay, Lake Superior, near Terrace Bay, Ontario. Her remains today lie in about 85 feet of water.
Both of her sisters lived longer lives than did RAPPAHANNOCK. The last of them to see service was SACRAMENTO which ran for Davidson right up until the onset of the Depression. She saw little service after 1930 and, in 1939, was abandoned at Bay City.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.