Sunbeam Lost on Lake Superior. -- The steamer Sunbeam was lost in a hurricane on Lake Superior August 28, 1863, with all on board, except John Frazer, the wheelsman. She was a passenger steamer, plying between Superior and Portage lake. She left Superior August 26. The story of the sole survivor is substantially as follows: When the Sunbeam came out from Ontonagon, the wind was blowing fresh from the north. A gale struck them several hours later, the wind shifting to north-northeast. She rode the storm till next morning, when the captain attempted to put her about to face the gale, as she had become unmanageable and all hopes of reaching Copper Harbor, 24 miles east, had failed him, and as there was no harbor west that could be entered in such a storm nearer than Bayfield. The sea was so rough that it was only occasionally they could see the steamer Michigan, less than two miles distant. Before attempting to turn around, the boat headed two points north of east, the wind, a little east of north, striking her quarter. When they put her about she fell into the trough of the sea and rolled terribly. Unable to move her by machinery, they ran up her jib, but she failed to come up or pay away and the jib was hauled down. Her engine was in motion but doing no good. The jib was hauled up a second time to try for the shore but she could not be made to right up into the wind. About this time she careened, her pilot house lying flat with the water. She was held in that position by the gale; the successive waves beating against her with such force as to break her to pieces, and she soon filled with water, and sank. It was conjectured that the water had got between her side and her false side, waterlogging her and rendering her unmanageable.
The captain had told Frazer to stick to the wheel and do what he could to turn her if she righted again, but when Frazer saw no hopes of her coming up again, and the mad waves running over her he broke the window on the upper side of the pilot house and made his way to the small boats. Of these there were three, two lifeboats and a yawl, but one of the lifeboats had disappeared. The two remaining boats were filled with passengers and crew. Frazer got into the yawl where he had only standing room, but just then a woman, he thinks the chambermaid, begged to be taken aboard. Frazer jumped out upon a piece of the hurricane deck, and the woman was taken aboard. The self-sacrificing wheelman lashed himself to the fragment of deck with the signal halyards of the flagstaff, floating near, and soon after picked up a demijohn, which he secured with the ends of the rope.
When Frazer left the wreck the upper cabin had been swept off, and she soon after gradually settled and sank, bow downward. He thinks that there were still some passengers below. Frazer saw the yawl go down, and also saw the lifeboat upside down, and two men lying crosswise upon it, swept out of sight. He was on the raft from 8 o'clock Friday evening until 2 o'clock Saturday afternoon. He neared the shore where the red sandstone rocks rose in an almost perpendicular cliff. The waves dashed his raft to pieces against the rocks, cutting his forehead and bruising his knees and shoulder. He fell back into the water, but the next wave dashed him against the rocks, where he caught upon a shelving projection and crawled into a small cavern. Here he remained about eight hours waiting for the wind to subside and the sea to go down. Then, weak and benumbed from cold, he crawled up on shore. He was about 35 miles above Eagle river and 12 or 15 miles from Portage, across the country. He remained on the shore till Monday afternoon, when he signaled to a party coasting along the shore in a small boat from Ontonagon, and was rescued. The crew numbered 21 persons, and there were six or eight passengers aboard. Frazer was the only survivor.
Destruction of the Lewiston Suspension Bridge. - The first suspension bridge thrown across the Niagara river at Lewiston, commenced in 1848 and completed in 1850, at a cost of $60,000, the largest bridge of the kind in the world, and the only one in this country, was wrecked by a severe storm in 1863. Describing this incident the Lockport Journal said a day or two afterward: "During the day upon which the Lewiston bridge was carried off by wind, a boy whose parents resided in Canada, but who was at work in Lewiston, went over to Canada to visit his parents. Just before the bridge went down the boy proposed starting back for his place of business in Lewiston. His father accompanied him. As they reached the bridge it was swaying to and fro over the boiling waters far beneath. The boy hesitated a moment, but as this motion was not unusual he stepped upon it, his father still with him, and proceeded to cross. They both went to about the middle, when the rapid and unusual motion of the bridge greatly increased their fear. The father turned about and the boy went on, both running at their fastest speed for the opposite shore. They had just time to reach the shore on each side before the structure was blown away." This bridge was never replaced, owing to the change of the trend of travel from the emigrant overland roads to the railroads farther south. The long cables, the gray stone towers and parts of the frame construction suspended from the cables still remain, and are all that remain of this first historic suspension bridge in the United States and Canada.
A requisition for four tugs was made at Chicago by the United States Government to serve on the Mississippi river and they were ordered instantly into the service. Those taken were the Little Giant, Dina W. S. Ramsey and G. S. Sturges.
Arrivals from Norway. - A sloop named the Skjoldoman, from Bergen, Norway, arrived at Detroit July 14, en route to Chicago, and returned on her homeward voyage, passing Detroit, August 1, freighted with provisions. The barge Sleipan, also a Norwegian vessel, arrived at Detroit June 27, with 100 passengers en route to Chicago. She passed there on her return voyage August 23, with a cargo of wheat.
Other Events of 1863. - Early in the season of 1863 the brig J. G. Deshler took on a part of a cargo of copper at the Bruce mines for Liverpool, and on returning took a few staves at Detroit, and left the latter port for her ocean voyage May 27, in command of Capt. R. Stimgleman. On her return she arrived at Detroit October 14, having been sold during her absence in Liverpool to Cunningham, Shaw & Co., and her name changed to Cressington. She brought back salt and pig iron. She loaded at Detroit with staves, and again sailed for Liverpool in command of Capt. John Jennings, and on reaching salt water was never afterward heard from. The bark Western Metropolis, formerly the mammoth steamer of that name, passed Detroit on her first trip from Chicago with 73,000 bushels of oats and 1,000 barrels of pork, the largest cargo which up to that period had ever passed through the rivers. She was commanded by Capt. Charles P. Morey. Of the lake and ocean vessels the bark Ravenna, Captain Marlotte, made two voyages to Liverpool during the season of 1863. Her first departure from Detroit was on June 2, freighted with copper and staves. She arrived back at Detroit September 14 with salt, and sailed oceanward again four days later loaded with staves. The experiment was unprecedented. The whole number of vessels employed on the lakes during the navigation of 1863 may be classified as follows: Side-wheel steamers 135; propellers and tugs 258; barks 195; brigs 80; schooners 1,040; sloops and barges 62, total 1,770. The navigation of 1863 commenced at Detroit February 28, the steamer Clara arriving at Detroit on that date, and on March 26 the propeller Dubuque arrived at Detroit from Buffalo via Cleveland. The steamer May Queen left for Detroit March 27, going by way of the south passage and returning the day following by the north passage. The propeller New York left Buffalo March 27 for Toledo, arriving there on the 29th. The schooner Traveler arrived at Detroit from the Welland canal April 5, on which date navigation was free and unobstructed on either shore of Lake Erie. The Straits of Mackinac were clear April 19, the propeller Maine, bound eastward, the first through, and the propeller Buckeye on same date, bound westward. The propeller Mineral Rock, Capt. Thomas Wilson, passed through the Sault canal into Lake Superior April 28, the first boat of the season. In 1863, the loss of property on the lakes was $1,480,000, and of lives 123. February: Propeller Dubuque leaves Buffalo for Detroit: schooner Ellen Pike wrecked on Lake Michigan. March: Five hundred and fifty men employed in Cleveland at ship building; 27, navigation opens at Dunkirk, New York. April: Steamers Western World and Mississippi converted into sailing craft; engines sold to New York parties for steamers being built for the Emperor of China; schooner Island City first vessel through river St. Clair this season; Morning Star and May Queen fast in the ice on Lake Erie. May: Schooner Isabella, of Toronto, struck by lightning on Lake Erie, and sustained several injuries; boiler of propeller Tioga explodes; two men killed and three wounded; scow P. J. Perris wrecked at Rondeau in a severe storm. July: Schooner Mary A. Hulburt sold to the government for $2,700. August: Schooner Fleet Wing capsized on Lake Ontario; three lives lost. One of the most terrific storms ever experienced on Lake Huron; 21, bark Col. H. S. Fairchilds, schooners S. E. Hudson and Nightingale, and brig Saxon suffer by the storm. The steamer Zimmerman was burned at Niagara, and two of the crew were burned to death. Schooner Matt Root sunk on Lake Michigan during a storm. Steamer Buckeye, sunk in Detroit river, raised. Barge Queen City goes to pieces near Point aux Barques. Steamer Planet foundered on Lake Superior near Eagle river; thirty-five lives lost. September: Propeller Detroit sunk in Saginaw bay. October: Steamer Olean, owned by the Erie R. R. Co., sunk in Dunkirk harbor. Propeller Eclipse and schooner Hudson collide near Buffalo, resulting in sinking of the latter. November: Bark Torrent sunk near Port Stanley; insured for $10,000. Propeller Vermont sunk by collision with the propeller Marquette. Bark Parana wrecked near Saginaw bay.
The following craft also passed out of existence in 1863: Steamer Fox burned at Newport, St. Clair river. Propeller Waterwitch foundered in Lake Huron; twenty-eight lives lost. Tug Phoenix burned on Lake Ontario. Tug St. Mary burned at Grand Haven, Lake Michigan. Bark Success foundered in Lake Michigan and ten lives lost. Bark B. S. Shephard wrecked at Point Pelee; $30,000. Bark E. S. Adams sunk by bark Constitution, Lake Erie; one life lost. Bark Colorado wrecked on Racine point, Lake Michigan. Bark Adriatic sunk by bark Two Fannies in Lake Huron. Sloop Messenger wrecked on Bar point, Lake Erie. Scow Granger wrecked at Sandusky. Barge Sultana lost on Lake Huron.
The following named vessels were all schooners: Farmer lost on Lake Michigan. Lady Jane wrecked on Big Point au Sable, Lake Michigan. W. H. Stevens lost on Lake Huron. Sarah E. Hudson sunk by propeller Eclipse, Lake Erie; one life lost. Cairo lost on Lake Michigan. Dan Slausson wrecked on Pilot island. Crevola wrecked at Port Bruce, Lake Erie. Kate Norton foundered in Lake Erie; eight lives lost. Major Anderson lost in Lake Michigan. Eliza Wilson wrecked near Toronto. Return wrecked on Long point, Lake Erie. Gulielma wrecked on Buffalo piers. Rebecca Foster wrecked on Long point. Henry Norton wrecked on Pilot island. George Davis wrecked at Port Burwell. Arian burned in Welland canal. Syracuse sunk off Forty Mile point. Frank Stewart wrecked at Oswego. Bay of Quinte wrecked on Lake Ontario. Annie C. Raynor wrecked on Lake Huron. Alliance wrecked at Oswego.
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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.