Last issue, we mentioned that the month of November brings with it the seventieth anniversary of one of the great disasters in lake history, namely the Great Storm of November, 1913. It seems only fitting that this anniversary should be appropriately recognized, even if our October issue did present the story of TURRET CHIEF and her part in the Great Storm. Accordingly, we feature this month the story of yet another vessel which fell victim to the worst storm the lakes have ever known, but a vessel which, despite grievous damage, did manage to survive her ordeal. The fact that we are now featuring this particular vessel is all the more fitting in that she was finally sold for scrapping this year, which was not only the seventieth anniversary of the storm but also the seventy-fifth anniversary of the construction of the ship herself.
The steamer HOWARD M. HANNA JR. (I) was built in 1908 at Cleveland as Hull 442 of the American Shipbuilding Company. She was launched on April 28th, 1908, and was christened by Miss Antoinette Paine, the grand-daughter of Captain W. C. Richardson, who was the manager of the Hanna Transit Company, the firm that owned the steamer. It has previously been noted in these pages that the fleet of vessels managed by Capt. Richardson eventually became the Columbia Transportation Company, which was operated by Oglebay Norton and Company of Cleveland. Although it has passed through several reorganizations in the interim, this fleet still survives today and is one of the major U.S. shipping concerns on the Great Lakes.
This particular vessel was the first of two lake freighters that were named for Mr. Howard Melville Hanna, Jr. A native of Cleveland, he was the manager of the iron ore mining department of the M. A. Hanna Company, later serving as its president and finally as board chairman. As evidenced by the name of the company which owned HOWARD M. HANNA JR., the Richardson boats were involved in carrying iron ore for the M. A. Hanna Company.
The HOWARD M. HANNA JR. was 480.0 feet in length, with a beam of 54.0 feet and a depth of 30.0 feet. Enrolled as U.S.205260, the ship was recorded as having tonnage of 5667 Gross and 3789 Net. She was powered by a triple-expansion engine which had cylinders of 22 1/2, 36 and 60 inches, and a stroke of 42 inches. Steam for this engine was provided by two coal-fired Scotch boilers. All of this machinery was built for the vessel by the American Shipbuilding Company.
The HANNA was a typical vessel of her day, although she was a bit smaller than some of the bulk carriers that lake shipyards were then turning out. She had a full raised forecastle, and her small, rounded pilothouse sat directly atop the forecastle and immediately forward of the texas cabin that provided accommodation for the master. The steamer was navigated from an open bridge which was located on the monkey's island above the pilothouse. Her foremast, which carried a pleasing rake, rose just abaft the forward cabin.
The vessel's quarterdeck was flush with the spar deck, and on it sat her rather large after cabin. This deckhouse also contained, at its forward end, the boilerhouse and coal bunkers, but neither were indented as were those of many of the lake steamers that were built about that time; instead, their sides were flush with the rest of the cabin. The HANNA sported a good-sized stack which also was well raked, just as was the mainmast which rose just abaft the funnel. She was given a counter stern with fine, graceful lines.
HOWARD M. HANNA JR. operated successfully, and without major incident, for the Hanna Transit Company throughout the first five years of her life. The year 1913, however, was to be a completely different story for her, for it very nearly proved to be the undoing of the vessel. About the end of the first week of November, 1913, there developed over the Great Lakes a cyclonic storm of such tremendous proportions that all five of the lakes were raked with high winds and blinding blizzard conditions for several days. Not
only were many vessels caught by the storm and thrown ashore, but a number of large, new, steel-hulled bulk carriers (as well as other ships) disappeared during the disturbance. It is only in recent years that the efforts of various divers have resulted in the location of many of these sunken steamers, and the discovery of evidence concerning their last hours which were spent at the mercy of the storm.
It was at 5:12 in the morning of that fateful Sunday, November 9, 1913. "that HOWARD M. HANNA JR. passed upbound at Port Huron and made her way out into Lake Huron. With Capt. William Hagen in command, and with chief engineer Charles Mayberry in charge of her machinery, the HANNA was loaded with a cargo of 9,120 tons of coal which she had taken on at Lorain, Ohio, for delivery at Fort William, Ontario.
Although the weather was deteriorating as she made her way up the lake, the HANNA did not feel the full fury of the gathering storm until she had passed Harbor Beach, Michigan, and come out from behind the relative shelter of the Michigan "thumb". Beyond that point, however, she soon found herself fighting mountainous seas in a very heavy fall of snow that severely limited visibility. By 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, the vessel found herself unable to make any further headway against the storm, and she soon fell off into the trough of the seas. She was unable to pull out of the trough, and was pushed broadside by the storm until she reached the shore.
Port Austin Reef is the name given to the shoal which runs in a northwesterly direction from one-and-a-half to one-and-three-quarters of a mile from Pointe aux Barques, and extends beyond Port Austin Reef Light at the tip of the "thumb". At about 10 o'clock on Sunday evening, the HANNA was thrown broadside against the Port Austin Reef. It was her stern that struck the shoal first, and the impact caused the steamer to lose her rudder, thus ending any hope that she could be saved from her predicament. The ship was battered unmercifully by the seas after she fetched up on the reef, and the crew sought whatever little shelter they could find in the HANNA'S wrecked cabins. The seas that swept her decks took anything that was loose away with them, and even toppled her stack, which fell over onto the deck in front of the boilerhouse and coal bunkers.
Not only was the HANNA being battered from above, but she was also suffering grievous damage below. She pounded heavily on the reef in the tremendous swells, and it was not long before her back was broken. The crew managed to survive, despite a most unpleasant night aboard the wreck, and all were removed safely by the Coast Guard on the following day. But the HANNA herself was so firmly aground, and the weather stayed inclement for so long that autumn, that salvage efforts could not be commenced, and accordingly the steamer remained ashore on Port Austin Reef throughout the winter of 1913-l4. Needless to say, the damage to the ship was so extensive that she was abandoned to the underwriters.
On May 10, 1915, the Reid Wrecking Company Ltd. finally sold HOWARD M. HANNA JR. to James Playfair's Great Lakes Transportation Company Ltd. of Midland, Ontario, and on May 20th, Playfair took out a $400,000 mortgage on the ship from the Detroit Trust Company. Playfair's associates in this venture were H. W. Richardson of Kingston, D. L. White and F. W. Grant of Midland, and W. J. Sheppard of Waubaushene. The vessel's new owners had her completely rebuilt at the Collingwood shipyard, and there her two original boilers were taken out and replaced with two new Scotch boilers that measured 15 feet by 12 feet, and were built at Toronto by John Inglis and Son Ltd.
It was later in 1915 that the vessel was placed back in service by the Great Lakes Transportation Company Ltd., almost two years following her harrowing experience on Lake Huron. The steamer was painted in Playfair's usual and very attractive colours, with a grey hull, white forecastle and cabins, and a crimson stack with black smokeband. It is said that she was, at first, renamed SIR WILFRED LAURIER, in honour of the long-time Liberal prime minister of Canada, but there is no evidence to suggest that this name was ever officially registered, and no photographs are known to exist showing the vessel with this name.
GLENSHEE did not keep Sarnia as her port of registry for long. On March 27, 1916, her home port was changed to Midland, which was the base of Playfair's operations and the port at which most of his steamers were registered.
In only her second year of service in Playfair colours, the steamer once again managed to get herself into difficulties. On October 13, 1916 (and yes, it was Friday, the 13th!), she was downbound with iron ore from Duluth. GLENSHEE somehow managed to get off course after leaving the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, and she stranded in the St. Mary's River. Wrecking crews were called to the scene and, after part of her cargo was lightered out of the steamer, GLENSHEE was refloated on October 15th.
The rest of GLENSHEE's years in the Playfair fleet appear to have been uneventful. On July 26, 1922, the mortgage to the Detroit Trust Company was discharged. At the same time, however, a new mortgage on the vessel, in the rather larger amount of $1,500,000 was taken out by Playfair from the Montreal Trust Company, Toronto. This new mortgage was itself discharged on May 11th, 1925.
GLENSHEE remained in the service of the Great Lakes Transportation Company Ltd. until 1926, when the company was absorbed into the much larger Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., Montreal. The sale was officially registered on April 5, 1926, with the purchaser shown as Steamships Ltd., Montreal, which was a subsidiary of C.S.L. The company soon repainted the vessel in its usual colourful livery and, on October 1st, 1926, renamed her (c) MARQUETTE, a name that was chosen specifically because C.S.L. placed the steamer in the ore trade between Marquette, Michigan, and the Algoma Steel plant at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. On October 11, 1926, ownership of MARQUETTE was transferred from Steamships Ltd. to the parent Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., Montreal.
Incidentally, since we have commented upon certain other mortgages that involved the ship, we should note that she was part of a package mortgage to the Montreal Trust Company, Montreal, on October 29, 1926, in the amount of $50,000,000 at six percent. This mortgage undoubtedly involved other C.S.L. ships as well as GODERICH. On May 31, 1937, the mortgage was reduced to $19,500,000.
Until 1930, GODERICH regularly carried iron ore from Escanaba, Michigan, to the old ore dock which was located at Point Edward, Ontario, and whose remains can still be seen just above the old C.N.R./C.S.L. freight sheds. The ore was then railed from Point Edward to the steel mills at Hamilton. The opening of the fourth Welland Canal, however, permitted upper lake vessels to pass down into Lake Ontario, and GODERICH then was able to take her ore cargoes all the way to Hamilton without the need for trans-shipment.
Over the years, GODERICH operated in all the various bulk trades that C.S. L. served, although she did spend much of her time in lay-up during the 1930s as a result of the effects of the Great Depression. Needless to say, however, she was not the only C.S.L. upper lakes bulk carrier to be idled during that bleak period.
GODERICH was an extremely handsome vessel in C.S.L. colours, for the red-and-white livery suited her just as well as had Playfair's paint scheme. By this time, of course, the steamer sported an enclosed, wooden, upper pilothouse, an addition which had been made to her early in her Great Lakes Transportation Company years and possibly as early as her rebuilding at Collingwood after her battle with the Great Storm. By 1948, her second set of boilers had been removed and replaced with a third pair which had been built in 1940 and had seen service in a Canadian naval vessel which was scrapped after the end of the Second World War. In the early 1950s, GODERICH was given a new steel upper pilothouse which was much larger than its predecessor and which had a walkway with an open rail running around it. The original lower pilothouse remained, with its windows closed in, and this lower cabin housed certain navigational equipment, such as the gyro compass.
By the early 1960s, however, GODERICH was nearing the end of her useful career in the C.S.L. fleet. The company was building a large number of new and much larger bulk carriers which could operate down through the locks of the new St. Lawrence Seaway, and as these newer vessels appeared from the shipyard, the older upper lakers were retired from service. GODERICH operated through the 1961 season, but then was withdrawn and was laid up at Quebec City in anticipation of a sale to overseas breakers for scrapping. She had been partially stripped and sealed for a scrap tow during 1962, but fortunately had not actually been sold.
In 1963, the Steamship Department of the Algoma Central and Hudson Bay Railway Company found itself in need of additional tonnage. At that time, the Algoma Central fleet was made up of a number of older steamers, plus the 1953-built E. B. BARBER, and the company had not yet embarked upon the construction programme that since has made it such a modern and efficient fleet of large vessels. Seeking another boat, the Railway realized that the old GODERICH was lying idle at Quebec, and made arrangements to purchase her, albeit only for use as a stop-gap until better tonnage could be built.
With her purchase by Goderich Elevator and Transit, LIONEL PARSONS joined what was at that time a very large fleet of storage hulls at Goderich. Many of those boats were stripped of their superstructure during their stay at Goderich, but the PARSONS retained all of her cabins throughout her fifteen-year stay at the port. In fact, she served as a storage barge there for so long that only one other vessel, namely R. G. SANDERSON, the former Paterson steamer MANTADOC (I), served in that capacity for a longer period of time. (The SANDERSON had been at Goderich since 1963.)
But, one by one, the old Goderich storage hulls reached the end of their usefulness, as their condition deteriorated beyond the point of no return. As of the present time, only SPRUCEGLEN remains, for the last three of the older barges were sold to the Western Metals Corp. for dismantling at Thunder Bay during 1983. Those vessels were D. B. WELDON (II), which had last operated as SHELTER BAY (II), and the SANDERSON and PARSONS. The LIONEL PARSONS was taken in tow by the Sault Ste. Marie tug W.J. IVAN PURVIS on May 30th, 1983, and was taken out into Lake Huron, and then up the St. Mary's River and across Lake Superior to the Canadian Lakehead. At the time of her departure from Goderich, the PARSONS was a sorry sight indeed, for it was many years since she had seen a fresh coat of paint, and her sides and deckhouses were liberally coloured by streaks of rust.
LIONEL PARSONS arrived safely at Thunder Bay on June 3rd, 1983, and the Western Metals crews soon went to work on the job of reducing her from a recognizable freighter into a heap of scrap metal. But the PARSONS did not go out without a fight. On July 11th, during the scrapping operations, cutting torches accidentally set fire to some fuel oil which remained in the bottom of the vessel's bunker tanks. The fire department was summoned to the scene and soon extinguished the fire with applications of foam. Work then resumed on the dismantling of the steamer, and we doubt that there is much left of her by this point in time.
There remain behind, in the minds of lake observers, happy memories of this handsome steamer during the years that she was an active freighter, and particularly of those years in which she so proudly flew the C.S.L. houseflag. There also remain certain more tangible relics of her existence, such as the beautiful big triple-chime whistle that she blew for so many years. She carried it through to the end of her operating days, even though she had also been fitted with a typhon horn that she used on most occasions. The steam whistle was considered one of the more powerful whistles of its type (the vessel's machinery operated on a working pressure of 220 p.s.i.), and its chord is alleged to have carried for many miles when blown.
Your Editor was fortunate enough to be able to acquire that whistle in 1968, thanks to the generosity of Mr. George G. Parsons, the president of the Goderich Elevator and Transit Company Ltd. It is interesting to note that the whistle itself is a relic of the Great Storm of 1913, for when HOWARD M. HANNA JR.'s stack was toppled to the deck during the stranding on Port Austin Reef, it hit the deck with the whistle underneath it, with the result that one of the instrument's three bell-chambers was cracked. The damage was brazed and holes were drilled around the crack to prevent it from spreading any further, but the extent of the injury sustained by the whistle remains to this day as a now-mute testimonial to the great force of the wind and the seas that raked the vessel on that infamous Sunday, seventy years ago.
The fact that the steamer lasted for seventy-five years, despite the damage that she suffered during the Great Storm, is a credit to the proficiency of her designers and builders. One wonders how many of the ships that are being turned out of the various lake shipyards today would be able to stand up to such a battering and still put in many more years of hard service afterward.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.