The Beginnings of the 1868 Season

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

All these travails left the Seabird in pretty bad shape when she began her winter stay in Manitowoc. So the Goodrich Company decided to completely overhaul her in the G. S. Rand shipyard. The newspapers said she received many improvements for passenger comfort, and she passed the regulations of the time for fire extinguishment and passenger safety. She also was freshly painted inside and out.35 The total cost of repair was estimated between $7,000 and $8,000.36

At the beginning of April 1868 she started her shipping season. Her Captain was John Morris. Captain Morris had become a Goodrich employee in 1857 or 1858. He started as a helmsman and worked his way up to Captain by 1863. He was highly regarded as a competent and trustworthy seaman. One newspaper said the crew numbered twenty-five, including the Captain, two mates, two wheelsmen, six or eight deck hands, two engineers, two firemen, two cooks, three boys, a steward, a porter and a bartender.37 Later estimates placed the number between 17 and 21. There was disagreement among the newspapers of the time, but names mentioned were:

John Morris Captain (Milwaukee, wife & 2 children)
Richard Hacklin 1st Officer
Leander Packard 2nd Officer (Sheboygan)
James A. Hodges Clerk (Manitowoc, wife & 3 children)
Thomas Hannahan First Engineer (Milwaukee, wife & 2 children)
John Morrison Steward
Thomas Kirkland Porter
Ulysses Hughes Bartender
Joe Burns Cook
Billy Burns Assistant
Harry Simpson Cabin Boy
John Brennan Cabin Boy
Michael Morrissey Seaman
John Glennan Seaman
John O'Rourke Seaman
James O'Rourke Seaman
Michael Malone Seaman

In addition to these names were the names of Charlie Ricker, carpenter; Sol. Labrisky; William Green and Charley Barber, which were listed later.38 Seven of these crew members were from Manitowoc, including chief engineer Thomas Hannahan. One newspaper reported that Mr. Hannahan had "occupied the position since she (the Seabird) was first launched."39 April 8 was to be the fourth trip to Chicago, but something unsettling happened to Thomas Hannahan. His wife had a disturbing premonition about that day's voyage, and she pleaded with him, almost hysterically, not to go. He went anyway.40

About a week prior to the April 8 departure of the Seabird, something happened in Two Rivers, near Manitowoc, that would later have a connection with the Seabird disaster. A fire broke out one evening in the paint shop of the Joseph Mann pail and tub factory. The nearest fire-fighting equipment being in Manitowoc, the townspeople were helpless as everything burned to the ground. All that was saved were some newly finished and painted wooden pails. It is believed that these tubs were later put on the Seabird for shipment to Chicago.41

On the morning of April 8 the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper ran a news item and a small ad about the Seabird:

City Items
For Chicago
The Side Wheel Steamer SEA BIRD, Capt. John Nouris (sic), will leave Goodrich's Steamboat Docks, foot of Main Street, WEDNESDAY EVENING, April 8th, at 7 o'clock, for Chicago, touching at Racine. Fare One Dollar Less THAN by R. R. No Charge for State-Rooms.

This ad was accompanied by a long, complimentary article about the Goodrich Steamship line and its new season. Besides starting the new season with a fanfare, it seemed to be the policy of the newspapers to write very positive articles about their advertisers. It is rumored that the newspapers were even paid for this.


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