A Background on Lake Superior Shipping

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

It should be noted that, prior to 1855, no ships could sail into Lake Superior waters, unless they were first hauled overland, a very daunting task. The reason for this was that the St. Marys River, running through the small village of Sault Ste. Marie, had a series of rapids that dropped the waters of Lake Superior down nineteen feet to the level of Lake Huron. Ships carrying freight and passengers were forced to unload their cargoes and have them portaged overland for a mile to the other lake, where another ship picked them up. Sidewheel steamboats often were able to shoot the rapids on a downbound trip because of their shallow draft, but they risked damage in doing so. In 1853 an enterprising young agent for the Fairbanks Scale Company of Vermont made a contractual agreement with the State of Michigan to construct a canal and locks around these falls. On June 18, 1855, with much fanfare and many dignitaries, the Soo Locks were opened and the first steamboat, the Illinois, passed through them into Lake Superior. It was captained by the beloved Jack Wilson, who was to meet his fate five years later on the Lady Elgin.13


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