The Wait and the Suspense

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

Manitowoc was isolated from the news all morning, but late in the afternoon telegrams started coming into the telegraph office at Shepard's jewelry store on York Street. Mr. Shepard served double duty as store operator and telegraph operator. He was a busy man that afternoon. One of the first telegrams was an overly optimistic one. It was quickly taken to the town newspaper to be typeset for the Thursday morning edition. Too late to be corrected after updated news was telegraphed, the newspaper read:

We stop our press after working off part of our edition to announce that a dispatch was received this [Thursday] afternoon by Mr. HURSON, at Milwaukee, announcing that the steamer Sea Bird, which left here Wednesday noon, was burned off Waukegan early this morning. All saved.57

There could possibly a connection between this telegram and a sinking of another Seabird the same night, April 9. This one was a schooner that sank in 20 feet of water off Kelley's Island in Lake Erie. Unlike the steamboat, though, all aboard were rescued, and the schooner could be raised without much difficulty. The report of this schooner's sinking could have been telegraphed along with the steamboat's report, and the two might have been mixed up.58 A Milwaukee newspaper had put the two reports one after the other in the same column. The schooner report was listed as having come from Sandusky, Ohio.59

Another telegram from Captain Goodrich was delivered to his brother J. M. Goodrich who operated a store down the street from Shepard's jewelry. It, and subsequent telegrams, were less optimistic, and offered little information other than the burned steamer was believed to be the Seabird and possibly many lives were lost. About 6:00 in the evening the telegraph quit working, and despite the waiting and nervous crowd that gathered at the jewelry store, Mr. Sheperd could not put it back into operation until early Friday morning, when the real news of the Seabird was delivered.60


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