The Birth of the Seabird

Table of Contents

Title Page
The Ward Empire
The Birth of the Seabird
The Sam Ward
A Background on Lake Superior Shipping
The Seabird's First Service
A Change of Route
A First Mishap
Early Superior Routes
One Employee's Account
The Beginnings of Albert E. Goodrich
The Beginnings of the Goodrich Steamboat Line
Goodrich Purchases the Seabird
More Mishaps
The Beginnings of the 1868 Season
The Seabird's Departure
The Journey to Milwaukee
Heading To Chicago
Indications of Disaster
The Search
The Wait and the Suspense
The Seabird Sinks
More Waiting
The Bad News Arrives
The Statement of Captain Yates
The Statement of George Jacobson
The Statement of Edmund Hennebury
The Statement of Albert C. Chamberlain
The Origin of the Fire
A Third Survivor
The Statements of James H. Leonard
Another Fire Panic
Placing the Blame
Only One Body Recovered
Financial Blow
Letter Found
The Present Day

In 1859 construction was completed on a new sidewheel steamer, the Seabird, in the Ward shipyard in Newport. Robert C. Conwell was the Master Carpenter, who later built the Comet and the Wave.6 According to one description the Seabird's "hull was composed of oak, riveted together by an improved bolt. The braces and knees were of the same material, and likewise riveted. She had two decks, each of oak plank four inches thick. The lower one was used for freight, and on the upper or hurricane deck the cabins were situated. They were two in number---the one aft being for ladies and families, and the forward one appropriated to gentlemen. Each cabin contained about fifty staterooms, in each of which were two bunks, affording ample accommodations for about two hundred passengers. Directly forward of the cabins, and between them and the pilot house, was the hurricane deck proper." This description might not be accurate at the time of building, because it was given at the time of the Seabird's loss, and some renovations to the steamboat happened during its existence.7 The hull dimensions were, at the time of construction: 191 feet, 6 inches in length, 27 feet, 9 inches in width, 12 feet, 6 inches in height, and a 638 ton capacity. These dimensions changed slightly during her life due to repairs and refitting. In Detroit in 1860 it was 190' x 27.6' x 11' and 585 tons. In Chicago in 1865 it was 190.8' x 27.25' x 10.9' and 444 tons. Its sidewheel propellers were 26 feet in diameter, and it was powered by a single, low-pressure, vertical-beam steam engine.8 This engine had a bore of 44 inches and a 10 foot stroke.9 One report claims it was salvaged from an older steamer, the Sam Ward.10


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