Charles W. Draper, Jr.
Our subject, after having learned the machinist's trade, went on the lakes as fireman on the tug James W. Bennett, of Saginaw, on which he remained two seasons. The Bennett was commanded by Captain John Hunt who was killed a few years later in the collision between the steamers Albany and Philadelphia. The first season Mr. Draper towed rafts between Ashland and Cranberry river, a distance of about sixty miles. In the fall of 1889, the owners having decided to rebuild the tug, she was sent to Detroit, arriving from Duluth on December 17, 1889. Mr. Draper remained on the tug all winter and left for Duluth on April 27, 1890, arriving at Detour on the 29th. The tug laid up there two days, and started up the river on the morning of the second of May. It broke ice all the way, and arrived at the "Soo" that night, being the first boat through that season. It was followed the next morning by the Livingston and Emily P. Weed. In order named, the tugs left for the Cranberry river during the latter part of the month, and made their way through slush ice until within a few miles of the river when the Bennett struck an iceberg and laid there all night; she was then pulled off in the morning by the tug Goodman, of Duluth. In the middle of June the crew of the Bennett, having gone into Duluth harbor for shelter, saw a barge in tow of a tug laboring in the seas a few miles off. A huge sea struck the barge amidship and broke her in two. The tug Bennett did all in her power to rescue the crew but succeeding in saving only one out of seven, reaching the harbor an hour later. In the fall the boat, which was considered the most powerful on Lake Superior at the time, was laid up, and Mr. Draper came home to Detroit.
During the season of 1892 he shipped as fireman on the tug Henry W. Johnson, which was fitted out as a wrecking tug and was commanded by Capt. David Shepard, who was drowned that season on the steambarge Nashua, sunk in Lake Huron with all hands on board, including Mrs. Captain Shepard and Mrs. Captain Millen. The same season Mr. Draper helped to raise the steamer Progress, which was sunk in thirty-five feet of water in a collision with the steamer Briton. They also raised the steamer Ogemaw, that had been sunk in Green Bay a few miles off Burnt Bluff. While stopping at St. Ignace in June of the same season, they witnessed the burning of the steamer Remora. The crew having been discharged, there was no one on the boat except the captain and watchman. The latter, who was an intimate friend of Mr. Draper's, was scarred and disfigured for life.
In 1893 Mr. Draper received his first issue of marine engineer's license, and shipped on the steamyacht Wanda, owned and sailed by Capt. A. G. Phillips, of Detroit, remaining on her that season. In the fall of that year they barely escaped being burned to the water's edge; they had been on a fishing excursion, and had tied up to the bank of the Johnson channel of the St. Clair River. When it became dark Mr. Draper lit a small lantern and hung it up in the engine room. About 7:30 in the evening all were seated playing cards, when the captain chanced to go on deck, and saw the forward end of the yacht in a blaze. The small lamp had exploded. The captain jumped into the engine room, seized the burning lamp in his hands and threw it overboard. Meanwhile, Dr. Draper had connected the fire hose to the plug and started the pump, soon extinguishing the fire. That being the last trip, the yacht was laid up, ending the most pleasant years of Mr. Draper's experience on the lakes. In 1894 he shipped on the steam yacht Contaluta, owned by Mr. D.W. Smith, of the firm of Huyett & Smith, of Detroit, which he left and returned as second engineer of the tug Henry W. Johnson, which went to Lake Erie to raise the steamer Wocoken, sunk off Long Point in fifty feet of water. Eleven lives were lost out of a crew of seventeen, the remaining men being picked up by the fishermen from Clear Creek the next morning. The diver's examination disclosed the fact that the hull was in a very poor condition and not worth raising. It was then decided to take out all the machinery and coal. They raised the boilers and engine, and six hundred tons of coal, and came to Detroit, where the boat laid up. Mr. Draper then went on the steam yacht Countess, and took her from Detroit to Buffalo. That fall he secured a position on shore, and has remained there ever since.
Return to Home Port
This version of Volume II is based, with permission, on the work of the great volunteers at the Marine Captains Biographies site. To them goes the credit for reorganizing the content into some coherent order. The biographies in the original volume are in essentially random order.
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.