We left Ashtabula at 6:00 A.M., November 4th, loaded with coal for F. B. Spear & Sons, Marquette, Mich. The wind at this time was about northeast fresh with a northwest sea running; the barometer stood about 29.60 and was going down slowly.
Nothing unusual occurred although the barometer continued to fall slowly. When we reached Lake Huron at about 5:00 A.M., November 5th, wind was southeast light, the barometer standing about 29.20. When abreast of Port Sanalac about 8:00 A.M. the wind began to freshen; we had expected a shift of wind and thought it would come from the westward.
When we reached Harbor Beach about 11:15 A.M. conditions were about the same, the barometer still going down. When about ten miles above Harbor Beach the wind began to haul to the southward and to raise, and at about 2:00 PM it had gotten around to about south southwest fresh, with the barometer stationary at 29.
The weather continued with no material change until about 6:00 PM, when the wind began to go down and there was a slight change in the barometer, it having started up slightly, and at about 8:00 P.M. the wind shifted to the northwest as quick as you could turn your hand over and brought with it clear weather.
At about 2:00 A.M. on November 6th, when the wind began to drop, the barometer started to go down slowly, having stood at 29.5. We proceeded up to the Soo with but little change in conditions, arriving there at about 8:00 P.M., November 6th. The weather report of November 5th at the Soo read about as follows: "Brisk west to northwest winds for Superior diminishing Thursday".
We left the Soo at about 8:35 A.M., November 6th, bound for Marquette – the barometer being about 28.95 and still going down – expecting to stop at Whitefish. Before we reached Point aux Pins the wind had shifted to the south and was blowing hard. We continued out past Whitefish with the wind still south – strong – and the barometer still going down. We kept the south shore close aboard and arrived at Marquette at 2:00 A.M., November 7th, with the wind southwest strong and the barometer about 28.50.
We commenced unloading at 7:30 A.M., November 7th, the barometer stationary, with southwest wind, until about 4:00 P.M., when it started up. At about 9:30 P.M. of that day the wind shifted to the northwest, and at about that time it began to snow, which was the beginning of one of the most disastrous storms that ever swept the Great Lakes.
At 2:30 A.M., November 8th, it was necessary to drop our anchor with a long scope of chain and to get out more lines. At 6:00 A.M. it was necessary to leave Spear's Dock on account of the undertow, we being afraid of damaging the dock. We dropped out to the end of old No. 4 Dock, dropping our anchor and putting the end of a new seven inch line on the end of the dock and tailed off about 150 feet from the end.
On the morning of November 8th the barometer had risen to about 29.20, and the wind blew from the northwest at the rate of forty to fifty miles per hour, with a blinding snowstorm. The barometer was stationary all during that day but some time during the night it started up and on the morning of November 9th had risen to 29.30 and the wind had shifted to about north.
It continued to snow until about 8:30 or 9:00 A.M., when it cleared away and the wind died down to about 20 or 25 miles per hour. At 3:00 P.M. the wind started to freshen again and increased until it appeared to be a hurricane. At about 7:30 it began to snow, and continued to snow all night, with the barometer hovering about 29, where it had fallen.
On the morning of November 10th the wind continued in the north fresh, with light snow squalls, there being too much sea to resume unloading. On the afternoon of the 10th the barometer started up and the sun came out, indicating the storm had passed.
At 6:00 A.M., November 11th, we hove up and went into the coal dock which we proceeded to finish unloading at 7:30 A.M., finishing at 4:30 P.M., when we left and proceeded to Presque Isle Dock for ore.
On Sunday, November 9th, at about 11:00 A.M. we sighted a steamer about eight miles to the eastward and northward of Marquette, which was light and laboring hard. She finally worked her way into Presque Isle and ran her nose up into the sand between the pig iron dock and No. 1 ore dock. I think she was the "CANADIAN" of the Interlake Line. Her Captain stated that when it quit snowing that morning he expected to locate himself near Standard Rock, but instead the first thing he saw was the standpipe of the power plant of The Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co., which is located south of Marquette. He had been blown 40 to 50 miles off his course and lost all reckoning.
This same Sunday, November 9th, the Steamer "HENRY B. SMITH" was loaded on the north side of No. 5 dock. It was necessary to put out his lake line to hold the boat to the dock while loading. He finished loading at about 4:30, left the dock, backed out into the harbor, turned around and went out into the lake. He cleared the breakwater at about 5:00 P.M., headed down the lake, and at 5:20 he changed his course to what I should judge to be about north. At about 5:50 the Mate called my attention to the way in which he was acting, I looked out and and he appeared to be turning around. I do not think I ever saw a vessel roll heavier. After some little time they got her head to it again and we went to supper. When we came out from supper she was out of sight – it was snowing, which might have obstructed our view. This was perhaps the last seen of the "HENRY B. SMITH". With the terrific gale and tremendous sea I am fully convinced she did not get over fifteen or twenty miles out of Marquette.
During November 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th it was freezing weather. Our cargo of ore had been placed in dock some time previous, and when we started to load, which was November 13th, we found it frozen solid. It was necessary to steam it which took all night of November 13th.
We commenced loading about 8:30 A.M., November 14th, and finished at 3:00 P.M., clearing for Cleveland at 5:00 P.M., wind about west fresh, barometer normal - 29.50. When off Grand Island we encountered a heavy north swell but ran out of it by the time we reached Grand Marais. We continued on down the lake with fine weather and normal barometer until we reached Cleveland, about 4:00 A.M., November 17th.
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This set of letters is from copies in the collection of the Saginaw River Marine Historical Society, Bay City, Michigan and was made available by Dave Swayze.