Chapter 41
1891-1898
Table of Contents

Title Page
1 Introductory
2 Geological
3 Poetry of the Lakes
4 Description
5 The Aborigines
6 French Discovery and occupation
7 Story of La Salle and the Griffin
8 Struggle for Possession
9 Under English Rule
10 Beginnings of Lake Commerce
11 War of 1812
12 War of 1812, Continued
13 War of 1812, Concluded
14 Growth of Traffic
Commerce Through St. Mary's Canals
15 Early Navigation on Lake Superior
16 The Convention of 1847
17 A Half Century Ago
18 Lake Canals
19 Lake Canals, Concluded
20 Harbors
21 Lighthouses
22 Life Saving Service
23 Development of Lake Vessels
24 The Lake Carriers
25 The Sailor
26 Navigation
27 Lumber Traffic
28 Grain Traffic
29 Coal Traffic
30 Iron Ore and Iron Industries
31 Miscellaneous
33 CHRONOLOGY.The Beginnings
33 After the War of 1812
34 1821-1830
35 1831-1840
36 1841-1850
37 1851-1860
38 1861-1870
39 1871-1880
40 1881-1890
41 1891-1898
[Introduction]
1891.
1892.
1893
1894.
1895.
1896
1897.
1898
42 List of Lake Vessels
Table of Illustrations

1898

The Mild Winter of 1897-98. - Capt. Tony Everett, who is the oldest master sailing out of Chicago in point of years of service, said the Marine Review in February, 1898, shipped for the first time from that port in 1848, has been a master since 1856, and he is still at the business. Captain Everett says this winter beats anything in his 50- years' experience on the chain of lakes. "I have been all over 'em, up and down and back again," said Captain Everett, "but I never before saw a winter as open as this one at this time of the year. I never knew the St. Clair river to be open in the latter end of January. Of course there is ice in the lake, lots of it; but the winds keep it off shore and we don't see much of it. But the lake could be sailed all winter if we had the insurance. I remember one very bad winter, that of 1862, when a fleet of schooners was frozen in for months in Lake Erie. The Badger State was one of them, and the crew had to live on oats and corn all winter. They were loaded with grain, and when the provisions ran out they had to tackle the cargo. That was a bad winter. The ice was so thick they couldn't move, and it was not solid all the way in, so they couldn't go ashore if they wanted to; so they had to stay aboard and eat oats until the ice broke up.

"I have seen the 36 miles of St. Clair river open until Christmas, but it usually freezes up and sticks that way about that time. This winter we have wonderful fine weather."

From the Lakes to the Atlantic. - One of the most notable events of the season was the chartering of about forty of the old-time vessels for service on the seaboard. The Atlantic Transportation Company, of New York, was the principal charterer of the craft. The vessels, it was stated, were intended largely for the coast wise trade; especially from Newport News. The Atlantic Transportation Company had said that when it wanted tonnage, additional to that which it controlled, the carrying rate was forced sharply upward, and it was to prevent this increased cost of transportation that the large chartering of lake vessels was made. The chartering began early in September, and before the close of the season most of the vessels had reached the seaboard, though a few were detained by insufficient water in the St. Lawrence canals. The Marine Review, in its issue of September 22, presented this list of lake vessels chartered to the Atlantic Transportation Company:

CAPACITY
NET TONS
INSURANCE
VALUATION
STEAMERS
Aragon 2,500 $100,000
Lindsay 1,700 68,000
Katahdin 2,200 100,000
Murphy, S.J. 2,200 100,000
BARGES
Foster, Chas 2,000 25,000
Georger, F.A. 1,700 18,000
Alverson, H.D. 1,500 18,000
Moonlight 1,500 17,000
Crosthwaite, W.S. 1,400 14,000
Sheldon, T.P. 1,300 14,000
Bacon, M.S. 1,300 18,000
Watson, S.L. 1,200 12,000
Foster, S.H. 1,300 16,000
Verona 1,400 15,000
Camden 1,400 15,000
Halloran 1,500 16,000
Massasoit 1,200 14,000
Sage, H.W. 1,500 20,000
Redwing 1,500 16,000
San Diego 1,500 16,000
Iron State 2,000 30,000
Iron City 1,200 22,000
Watson, S.V.R. 1,000 10,000
Parker, Thos. L. 1,200 20,000
Wadena 2,100 33,000
Becker, W.D. 2,100 48,000
Ash, Annie M. 2,500 46,000
Checotach 1,400 16,000
Wallace, David 1,800 27,000
Wall, Charles 1,200 9,000
O'Neill, John 1,200 10,000
Brunette 1,400 12,000
Shawnee 1,200 10,000
Hawgood, H.A. 2,300 42,500
Ewen, F.D. 1,900 32,500
Fitzpatrick, J.C. 2,400 55,000
Metacomet 1,500 18,000
Rutter, J.H. 1,800 25,000
McGregor, Wm. 1,500 17,000
Brown, H.H. 1,500 17,000
Porter 1,500 16,000
Helvetia 1,600 18,000
Page, M.W. 1,400 16,000
Total 69,500 $1,184,500

The carrying capacity of this fleet is estimated at more than 1,250,000 tons for the season, and the withdrawal had an immediate strengthening effect upon freights that were affected by this tonnage.

Largest Vessels on the Lakes. - There was launched at the Wheeler shipyard at West Bay City this season the largest freighter on the Great Lakes, the steel propeller Samuel F.B. Morse, owned by the Bessemer Steamship Company. She started for Duluth for her first cargo in August. The Morse is 476 feet over all, 456 feet keel, 50 feet beam and 29 feet depth. Engines are of the quadruple expansion type, with cylinders of 26-, 37, 54- and 89 inches diameter, and a common stroke of 42 inches. There are four Scotch boilers, each of 13 feet 4 inches diameter and 11 feet 6 inches length, and allowed 200 pounds working pressure. The vessel has fourteen hatches, two smoke stacks and two steel masts. Probably the most distinctive characteristic of the vessel is the exceptionally heavy construction throughout. Her displacement on a draught of 17 feet will be 10,500 tons. She was built to move 6,000 gross tons on the present Lake Superior draught, and she had done that. She was not built with a view to putting into her every ton of cargo that could possibly be moved in a hull of her dimensions. She was intended to tow a steel barge, the largest on the lakes, and probably two such barges, and the indications are that she will eventually tow two big barges at a rapid rate. On her second trip to Lake Superior with a towing wheel she made 14- miles for a time, going up light, and when returning with ore she made 13- miles all the way down. The chief engineer of the line was of the opinion, he said, that with another wheel suited to fast running the Morse would attain a speed of 17 miles.

The Bessemer Steamship Company has contracted for a propeller to duplicate the Morse, also for a barge to be 465 feet in length, or 10 feet longer than the Roebling, the present largest barge.

Heavy Marine Losses. - An unusually large number of losses occurred on the lakes during the season of 1898. The loss to the underwriters is estimated at $2,600,000, and the season is said to have been the most disastrous in the history of the lakes. The number of boats which passed out of existence was 58, with an aggregate tonnage of 29,194 tons. Total and partial losses amounted to 569, and the causes assigned were as follows: Ashore, 123; aground in protected channels, 126; fire, 40; collisions, 90; ice, 16; storm-beaten, 96; foundered, 8; miscellaneous causes, 116.

Severe Storms. - There were three severe storms late in the season. The first began October 25 and continued 36 hours. The second occurred November 9, and the third November 18.

Loss of the Doty. - The most disastrous event of the season, in loss of life, was the foundering of the steamer L.R. Doty, on Lake Michigan, with her entire crew of 17. The Doty left Chicago, Monday, October 24, with the Olive Jeanette in tow, both loaded with corn, for Midland, Georgian Bay. They encountered a furious gale the following day. The towline parted, and the manner of her loss remains unknown. Indications were that she drifted a considerable distance before she went down in midlake. Her wreckage was picked up 25 miles off Kenosha. The Jeanette was sighted on the 27th and towed to Chicago, in a crippled condition. The Doty was a stanch wooden propeller, built at West Bay City, in 1893. She was in command of Capt. Christopher Smith. The crew of the Jeanette could throw no light on the fate of the Doty. The vessels were struck by the northeast gale on Monday, when below Milwaukee. Tuesday afternoon the steamer parted from her consort.

Forecaster Cox, of the Chicago weather bureau, says the storm was not at all remarkable for the violence or the continuance of the wind, and yet it was remarkable for the damage it did on sea and land. He accounts for this by the fact that the storm center moved so rapidly across the lake, so that there was not only the gyratory force of the cyclone but a rectilinear motion to the northeast. It was this combination of forces, he says, which lashed Lake Michigan into fury and produced such devastating effects on the lake and on the shore. Chicago, he says, had a wind, August 16, that blew seventy-two miles an hour. Tuesday, October 25, the greatest velocity was forty-eight miles, and that only from 7:50 to 8:15 P. M.

Loss of the Thol and Other Vessels. -- during a fierce gale November 10, the schooner S. Thol, laden with Christmas trees for Chicago went down off Glencoe with all on board, a crew of five men. During the same storm the schooner Iron Cliff sank off Chicago harbor. Her crew of seven men were with great difficulty rescued by the Chicago life-saving crew. The schooner Sophia J. Luff was waterlogged off Gross Point, and the schooner Lena M. Neilson went ashore at Lakeside, Mich. The schooner Fossett was stranded at Sand Beach, Lake Huron, and the schooner Minnehaha was broken up at Sheboygan.

Wreck of the St. Peter. -- The Canadian schooner St. Peter, bound from Oswego to Toledo with coal, sank about five miles northwest of Sodus, on Lake Ontario, October 27. She had shown signs of distress and the tug Proctor started to her assistance. When a mile away the crew of the tug saw the distressed vessel sink. The crew of nine all perished except Captain John Griffin, who was picked up in an unconscious condition.

Foundering of the Churchill. -- The schooner Churchill, laden with ore, foundered off Waukegan October 13 during a fierce gale. She was in tow of the propeller Majestic. The lines parted, and the crew of the schooner had just taken to the yawl when the vessel went down. Captain Cain sank with the ship and another seaman was lost. The Majestic picked up the remaining members of the crew, five in number.

Good Year for Lake Craft. -- A striking feature of the year was the enormous volume of traffic and the moderate margin of profits, considering the heavy business. It is estimated that average earnings of 4 to 5 per cent. were paid. A few vessels faced an actual loss. On the largest and best managed there was a net profit of about 10 per cent. During the earlier part of the season carrying charges reached the lowest point in the history of the lake marine. For a long stretch corn has been carried from Chicago to Buffalo at three-quarters of a cent, and even touched five-eighths. Ships went begging for cargoes, and yet nearly all were kept in service. Finally, along in August, a boom began, which continued until the middle of October, when the high- water mark in all important lines of commerce was reached. Corn went to 3- cents, iron ore to $1, and coal to 50 cents. Vessels were then making big money every trip, but November was not old before the boom collapsed, and vessel men went hunting for cargoes again. At the close of the season vessel men were more hopeful of profitable business for the next year than they have been at any close of navigation for three years past. They base their hopes upon the enormous sales of rails and other steel products for 1899 delivery. The consumption of ore for 1899, it is almost assured, will reach the greatest proportions ever known.

Large Cargoes. -- In 1898 the propeller Superior City, loaded at South Chicago a cargo of 266,500 bushels of corn, weighing 7,463 net tons, on a draft of 18 feet 2 inches. The same vessel carried from Escanaba to South Chicago 6,823 gross tons, or 7,642 net tons, of iron ore. On 16 feet of water the schooner Polynesia carried from Cleveland to Duluth 5,654 net tons of bituminous coal. The propeller Siemens, with two barges in tow, carried 17,000 tons of ore to Lake Erie. The Maruba and her tow, the barges Martha and Constitution, carried 15,000 tons. The lake carriers expect that soon a propeller and her tow will be able to transport in one trip 20,000 tons of ore.

Caught in the Ice. -- The close of the season of 1898 was made memorable by the imprisonment of many vessels in the ice at the head of Lake Erie about December 10. A fleet of 35 boats was ice-bound, but by the aid of ferries and tugs from Detroit, a shifting of the wind and warmer weather the vessels gradually got away.

Night scene on Lake Erie
Other Events of 1898. -- The iron ore shipments by lake for 1898 were 13,650,788 gross tons, the largest traffic ever known. Cargoes of 7,000 tons were a feature of the year, and account for the low freights. The opening of the Canada-Atlantic line from Chicago and Duluth to Georgian Bay dampens the hopes of an extensive grain trade to Montreal when the St. Lawrence canals are completed in 1899. All-rail routes made a contest for the grain trade to the seaboard, and were not altogether unsuccessful. There were rafted to the Saginaw river this season from the Georgian Bay 154,997,171 feet of pine logs. In 1897 the quantity received at Saginaw was 147,280,000 feet of saw logs. The number of vessels totally lost was greater than for many years past. Receipts of grain and flour at Buffalo surpassed those of any previous year. The Canadian authorities expect to have the enlargement of the Galops, Morrisburg, Farrans Point, Cornwall and Soulanges canals completed by about midsummer 1899, so as to be able to pass vessels of 2,000 tons through from the lakes to the sea. Two United States revenue cutters, the Gresham and the Algonquin, started for the seaboard in June to join the auxiliary naval fleet. The Algonquin was built at Cleveland in 1898, the Gresham in 1897. The latter was cut in two and one half sank at Ogdensburg. The vitality of the wooden vessel ship-building industry was exemplified by the building of four large wooden freighters at the Davidson yards at West Bay City during the winter of 1897-98 and the spring of 1898. These vessels, however, are not in active demand. April: Steamer Servia, loaded with corn, from Duluth for Kingston, burned about 30 miles west of Whitefish Point, Lake Superior; for 9 hours the crew ineffectually fought the fire; she was then abandoned and sank. Steamer Maine burned at Buffalo; raised. Schooner Northwest sunk by ice in Straits. Propeller J. H. Outhwaite and schooner H. A. Barr ashore on False Presque Isle; afterwards released. May: Tug Agnes Arnold burned in Green bay. June: The Canadian steamer Tecumseh struck on Ripley's rock, at Marquette, and sank. Tug Record sunk at Duluth, drowning three of the crew; she was afterwards raised. Steamer Sakie Shepherd burned at St. Clair. Barge American burned at St. Clair. July: Schooner S. B. Paige ashore, Green bay; total loss. August: Schooner Dan Hayes sunk, 10 miles north of Milwaukee. Steamer Superior went to pieces on Gull island, Lake Michigan; she was loaded with ore from Escanaba for Toledo. Tug R. F. Goodman burned, Lake Superior. Schooner F. A. Fitch ashore and lost, Lake Michigan. September: The tug Ira O. Smith burned and sank, near Lake View crib, Chicago. Propeller Maud Preston burned, near Toledo. Schooner J. H. Mead ashore, Keweenaw Point. Schooner Mediator ashore, Keweenaw Point. Propeller Colorado ashore, Keweenaw Point. Schooner R. Winslow foundered in Straits. Steamer Tourist burned, St. Joseph. Schooner Forrester ashore and lost at Sanilac. Steamer Wenona ashore and lost at Portage. Schooner Keepsake foundered, Lake Erie. Canadian schooner Jonas sunk by collision, Georgian Bay. Steamer Keystone burned, Lake Michigan. Steamer Queen of the Lakes burned, South Manitou. Schooner Southwest ashore and lost, Lake Superior. Schooner Monitor sunk in St. Mary's river. Steamer Toledo wrecked at Portage. October: Schooner Barbarian abandoned off Milwaukee. Schooner A. J. Rogers ashore and lost on Lake Michigan. Canadian schooner Augusta sunk on Lake Ontario with crew of 7 men. Tug Leo wrecked at Milwaukee. The Canadian tug Walker sunk near Nicholson's island, Lake Ontario, and her barges, the Kildonan and Hector, coal laden, were beached above Wellington. Schooner Ed. Blake burned on Lake Huron. Schooner L. B. Shephard, lumber-laden, capsized in Lake Michigan. Tug Rebel foundered on Lake Superior. Schooner C. P. Minch ashore at Pier Cove, Georgian Bay. Propeller H. A. Tuttle total loss, Michigan City. Propeller Republic ashore near Alpena. Schooner Aloha abandoned off Chicago. Schooner D. L. Filer abandoned off Racine. Steamer E. F. Gould lost near Oscoda. Schooner George Steele broken up near Oscoda. Propeller Henry Chisholm wrecked, Lake Superior. Schooner Bavaria ashore and lost, Georgian Bay. Schooner A. Dall ashore and lost, Lake Michigan. November: Passenger steamer Pacific burned at Collingwood, Ontario. Schooner Aberdeen beached at Grand Haven. Schooner D. S. Austin wrecked near Ludington. Canadian steamer Northern Bell destroyed by fire on Lake Huron. Propeller Lloyd S. Porter sunk below Quebec, while on her way to the sea. Schooner Iron Cliff wrecked off Chicago. Schooner Minnehaha lost at Sheboygan. Propeller Tampa a total loss at Beaver bay, Lake Superior. Propeller Arthur Orr abandoned, Lake Superior. Schooner N. C. West wrecked by collison, St. Clair river. Schooner L. M. Neilson ashore and wrecked, Lake Michigan. Barge 104 sunk on Lake Erie. Schooner C. Harrison ashore, Sturgeon bay. Steamer Corona burned at Tonawanda. Steamer H. W. Sibley wrecked on Lake Erie. Schooner Maria Anetta ashore on Lake Ontario. Steamer St. Lawrence ashore, Point Betsey. Steamer Harlem ashore on Isle Royale. December: Steamer Aurora, with wheat cargo, burned to water's edge while plowing through Lake Erie ice. Tug George B. McClellan burned, Michigan City. Tug Swain burned St. Mary's river. This year witnessed the arrival from Denmark, on the Great Lakes of the sailing yacht Dove (Duen), owned by Countess Schimmelman. The Countess fearlessly crossed the Atlantic in her little vessel in order to extend the philanthropic work (toward which she has humanely consecrated her life and fortune) among all classes, chiefly, however, among the sailors and others employed about the lakes. The Dove arrived in Chicago in the fall of 1898, and is wintering there.

 


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Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.