Marine Historical Society of Detroit

Marine Historical Society of Detroit Dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Great Lakes shipping past and present for future generations to enjoy.
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The Marine Historical Society of Detroit, a non-profit organization founded in 1944, provides a focal point for individuals and organizations interested in and concerned with the history of the Great Lakes and its maritime heritage. Membership includes our monthly publication The Detroit Marine Historian, which offers a variety of articles exploring Great Lakes shipping past and present. Features include Great Lakes Ships to be Remembered, a look at Marine News from 100 Years Ago, and The Log, a digest of current news concerning Great Lakes shipping. Membership also includes an annual, full-color calendar featuring superb, often rare, photos of Great Lakes ships of the past. In keeping with the Society’s objective to further interest and preservation of Great Lakes history, we have published several quality books, including three volumes of Great Lakes Ships We Remember, two volumes of Ahoy & Farewell, GLEW (an illustrated history of the Great Lakes Engineering Works shipyard) and The Nicholson Fleets and Their Captains. Many of the photographs used in these publications are not available elsewhere. In keeping with the Society’s objective to further interest and preservation of Great Lakes history, we have also provided financial support to worthy projects around the Great Lakes, among them the Lightship Huron museum, the Col. James M. Schoonmaker and William G. Mather museum ships, the Great Lakes Maritime Institute’s William Clay Ford pilothouse and Edmund Fitzgerald anchor-raising projects. The society has also given scholarship support to The Great Lakes Maritime Academy at Traverse City. Our archival collection has been donated to The Historical Collections of the Great Lakes at Bowling Green, Ohio. The MHSD has members in the United States, Canada and around the world. We would be pleased to have you join us.

Mission: Dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Great Lakes shipping past and present for future generations to enjoy.

The Clyde underway. From the J. R. Hoffman marine collection.
11/29/2019

The Clyde underway. From the J. R. Hoffman marine collection.

The Angeline at Cleveland, Ohio. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD.
11/29/2019

The Angeline at Cleveland, Ohio. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD.

The tug Aburg at Amherstburg, Ontario. Photo by Emory A. Massman.MHSD collection.
11/29/2019

The tug Aburg at Amherstburg, Ontario. Photo by Emory A. Massman.
MHSD collection.

The sandsucker Hydro underway at Cleveland, Ohio. From th J. R. Hoffman Great Lakes Collection.
11/23/2019

The sandsucker Hydro underway at Cleveland, Ohio. From th J. R. Hoffman Great Lakes Collection.

The Carmi A. Thompson underway. Photo by Emory Massman/MHSD Collection
11/23/2019

The Carmi A. Thompson underway. Photo by Emory Massman/MHSD Collection

The Jack Wirt uw at Cleveland, Ohio from the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD
11/23/2019

The Jack Wirt uw at Cleveland, Ohio from the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD

The W. W. Holloway unloading cargo at Cleveland, Ohio. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD
11/16/2019

The W. W. Holloway unloading cargo at Cleveland, Ohio. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD

Lehigh underway. Photo by Emory Massman/MHSD Collection.
11/16/2019

Lehigh underway. Photo by Emory Massman/MHSD Collection.

A Pesha view of the Steel King underway on the St. Clair River. From the Bob Pocotte Collection.
11/16/2019

A Pesha view of the Steel King underway on the St. Clair River. From the Bob Pocotte Collection.

I hope to see some of your smiling faces the next two weeks. – Roger LeLievre
11/10/2019

I hope to see some of your smiling faces the next two weeks. – Roger LeLievre

Wisconsin Marine Historical Society
10/22/2019

Wisconsin Marine Historical Society

On this day (10/22) in 1929 the Grand Trunk car ferry MILWAUKEE disappeared during a fierce storm on Lake Michigan. She had no radio. Two days later, wreckage was discovered near Racine, Wisconsin. Soon after, two bodies were recovered further south. On October 27, a message tube was found near Holland, Michigan, with a note purportedly from the ship’s purser describing a desperate situation. About 50 men were on board when the boat left port. None survived. MILWAUKEE’s final resting place remained a mystery until 1972 when a team of divers located the wreckage. It lies in about 120 feet of water seven miles northeast of Milwaukee and three miles offshore. Today, it is a popular dive site for advanced divers.

MILWAUKEE was built for the Manistique Marquette and Northern Railroad by American Ship Building at its Cleveland yard. Launched as the MANISTIQUE MARQUETTE & NORTHERN I, she entered service in 1903 sailing between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas at Manistique and Northport. Designed by Robert Logan, she was nearly identical to another of his boats, PERE MARQUETTE 18, built one year earlier. At 338 feet long with a 56-foot beam and a steel hull, MANISTIQUE MARQUETTE & NORTHERN I carried up to 30 rail cars on her four tracks.

In 1903, Captain Edward Crosby began ferrying rail cars for the Grand Trunk railroad between Milwaukee and Grand Haven, Michigan. Crosby had financial difficulties and the railroad took over ferry operations in 1905. Needing additional capacity, the Grand Trunk acquired the MANISTIQUE MARQUETTE & NORTHERN I in 1908 and renamed her MILWAUKEE. For many years she served the Grand Trunk faithfully.

“While the greater part of Wisconsin was in winter’s icy grip Tuesday night, Lake Michigan was lashed by a furious storm, declared the worst in years.” In Milwaukee, waves driven by winds that reached 52 miles per hour wrecked the floating clubhouse of the South Shore Yacht Club. Storm warnings had been posted Tuesday morning, October 22, and the Pere Marquette ferries did not leave Milwaukee that day.

But the Grand Trunk ferries sailed. The MILWAUKEE arrived from Grand Haven about noon. Captain Robert “Bad Weather” McKay did not find the passage particularly difficult. So MILWAUKEE discharged her cargo and took on 27 loaded freight cars. At about 3:00 that afternoon she left Milwaukee’s harbor. 45 minutes later she passed Lightship 95 anchored about 3 miles offshore. She was rolling and pitching heavily. That was the last anyone saw or heard from the MILWAUKEE. She was not equipped with radio.

Even though more than 24 hours overdue, there was hope. A second Grand Trunk ferry, the GRAND RAPIDS, left Milwaukee four hours after her fleet mate. Following the same route as the MILWAUKEE, the GRAND RAPIDS finally made Grand Haven after more than 21 hours. Her crew reported a very difficult crossing. None had seen the MILWAUKEE or any wreckage.

On Thursday, October 24, the steamer COLONEL reported wreckage off Wind Point lighthouse four miles north of Racine. However, there was nothing that indicated it was from the MILWAUKEE. But early that afternoon, the STEEL CHEMIST radioed: “Picked up two bodies of seamen eleven miles off Kenosha. Both bore life belts from the MILWAUKEE. Watch on one of the bodies stopped at 9:35. Sailing east.” A little while later, the STEEL CHEMIST recovered a deckhouse and other wreckage. She then continued on to Chicago. It appeared the MILWAUKEE had foundered six hours after steaming out of Milwaukee’s harbor.

In Grand Haven, two unidentified children visited the Grand Trunk lines office. Believed to be around 10 and 12 years old, they asked whether it was true that two bodies had been found. Curious, the agent inquired as to why they asked. The children replied: “Well, our daddy is on that boat.”

On Friday, October 25, coastguardsmen from St. Joseph, Michigan, found a lifeboat from the MILWAUKEE. The open boat was discovered mid lake about 40 miles from St. Joseph. It was half submerged and contained four bodies. All had died of exposure.

On Sunday, October 27, a message canister washed ashore near Holland, Michigan. It contained a brief note on stationary of the Grand Trunk line. Dated October 22 at 6:30 p.m. and signed by A.R. Sadon, purser, it read: “The ship is taking water fast. We have turned around and headed for Milwaukee. Pumps are working but sea gate is bent in and can’t keep the water out. Flicker is flooded. Seas are tremendous. Things look bad. Crew roll is about the same as last payday.”

According to the last company payroll, there were 59 men in the crew. At least four missed the boat. Believing that even “Bad Weather” McKay would not sail given the conditions, three men went to a movie. A fourth was sent into the city with a message and returned after the ferry had left. It is generally believed that about 50 men perished when the MILWAUKEE went down. Only 15 bodies were recovered.

The body of Captain McKay was found and identified. He was 67 years old and had 50 years of service on the Great Lakes. He was made master of the MILWAUKEE two years prior. McKay had planned to retire at the end of the year and settle down at his home in Grand Haven. After surviving many storms on the Lakes, this one he couldn’t beat.

A 26-year veteran when she foundered, the MILWAUKEE had recently been overhauled. As built, she did not have a seagate. While not watertight, the seagate acts as a barrier that prevents following seas from rushing over the car deck. The ANN ARBOR 5, launched in 1910, was the first Lake Michigan railroad car ferry equipped with a seagate. The MILWAUKEE was retrofitted with a four-foot gate. But this was almost five feet lower than those on newer ferries like the GRAND RAPIDS, which survived the storm.

Given the purser’s note, authorities believed the MILWAUKEE had turned back. Now with a following sea and the lake in a very agitated state, it was speculated that water flooded over the seagate eventually overwhelming the pumps. This doomed the MILWAUKEE and her crew. In response, new regulations required all cross-lake ferries to have a seagate at least eight and one-half feet high.

For more than 40 years Lake Michigan hid the remains. Most believed the MILWAUKEE had been blown south of her intended course and sank near Kenosha. Fishermen told of snagging lines on something off Fox Point (north of Milwaukee). While heading for Two Rivers in April 1972, a dive team decided to check the area. They quickly located a large target. It was the MILWAUKEE.

Located about seven miles northeast of Milwaukee and three miles offshore, the wreck sat upright and showed considerable damage. Wooden deckhouses were gone and the steel seagate was “twisted like a pretzel.” Exploration was slow. At 120 feet, divers could only spend about 20 minutes at a time on the wreck. In the pilothouse, which laid about 75 feet from the hull, divers found a pocket watch. It had stopped at 7:05. On the car deck, several loaded freight cars had broken loose.

The MILWAUKEE and her contents were insured. The ferry was valued at $250,000, freight cars at $60,000, and merchandise at $100,000. This allowed the Grand Trunk to order a replacement almost immediately. Built by Manitowoc Shipbuilding and completed in 1931, the new boat would be named CITY OF MILWAUKEE. Very similar to her predecessor, the CITY OF MILWAUKEE sailed until 1982. She is preserved as a National Historic Landmark museum in Manistee, Michigan.

NOTES:
Captain Edward G. Crosby founded the Crosby Transportation Company and later started ferry service for the Grand Trunk railroad. He was aboard the TITANIC on her maiden voyage in 1912 and died when she went down after striking an iceberg.

In 1918, the federal Railroad Administration assumed control of the Lake Michigan car ferries. At this time, the boats received radio sets. These were removed when the ferries were returned to their owners in 1920.

The Associated Press version of Sadon’s note, which appeared in several newspapers, reads: “Making water fast in slicker. Pumps working good. Have turned back to Milwaukee, might make it, might not. All crew same as on last pay roll.” The original note was found at the Chicago branch of the National Archives in 2006.

A lifeboat from the MILWAUKEE is on display outside the 1860 Lighthouse and Light Station Museum in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

The Goodrich steamer WISCONSIN battled the October 22 storm. Coming up from Chicago, she arrived at Milwaukee 12 hours late and with a noticeable list. According to her skipper, Captain D.H. Morrisson, the storm was the worst he had been called upon to weather in his 26 years on the Great Lakes. Seven days later, the WISCONSIN would be at the bottom and Captain Morrisson dead.

PHOTO CREDITS: Unless otherwise noted, Great Lakes Marine Collection of the Milwaukee Public Library and Wisconsin Marine Historical Society.

To see more fascinating shipwreck photos from Cal Kothrade, check out calsworld.net. Cal is a member and trustee of the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society.

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Help keep history alive. Join the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society.
For information email us at [email protected] or call 414-286-3074.
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The Delaware dockside. from the Emory Massman Collection/MHSD.
10/18/2019

The Delaware dockside. from the Emory Massman Collection/MHSD.

The tanker Cove Transport underway. From the Emory A. Massman Collection/MHSD.
10/18/2019

The tanker Cove Transport underway. From the Emory A. Massman Collection/MHSD.

The James E. Mcalpine departing from the Soo Locks headed upbound for a Lake Superior port. From the Peter B. Worden Col...
10/18/2019

The James E. Mcalpine departing from the Soo Locks headed upbound for a Lake Superior port. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD.

The Goderich sailing for the CSL Fleet. From the J. R. Hoffman marine collection.
10/10/2019

The Goderich sailing for the CSL Fleet. From the J. R. Hoffman marine collection.

The Belgium upbound at the Soo. Fom the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD
10/10/2019

The Belgium upbound at the Soo. Fom the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD

The Haris N. Snyder sailing for the American Steamship Company underway. Photo by Emory A. Massman/MHSD Collection.
10/10/2019

The Haris N. Snyder sailing for the American Steamship Company underway. Photo by Emory A. Massman/MHSD Collection.

For anyone wondering what members get for their $40, here is a sample issue from our recent series on boats that became ...
09/28/2019

For anyone wondering what members get for their $40, here is a sample issue from our recent series on boats that became breakwalls or dock facings. Also, here's the cover of our 2020 calendar. To join, visit MHSD.org.

A reminder for MHSD members, and those who might like to join. ... It's time to renew for the next season. Renewing now ...
09/19/2019
Welcome to the Marine Historical Society of Detroit!

A reminder for MHSD members, and those who might like to join. ... It's time to renew for the next season. Renewing now saves the Society a great deal of expense and work chasing down those who neglect to renew in a timely way. Our 2020 calendar, featuring images by our late advisory council member and past president Hal Jackson, is now in production and will be sent in October to paid-up members only. If you have not yet renewed, please send $40 (U.S. or Canada) to Bob Pocotte, 435 Strouse Sandusky, OH 44870. THANK YOU! You may also renew on line at www.mhsd.org

The Marine Historical Society of Detroit, a non-profit organization founded in 1944, provides a focal point for individuals and organizations interested in and concerned with the history of the Great Lakes and its maritime heritage.

09/01/2019
Marine Historical Society of Detroit

Advance tickets sales for the upcoming Detroit River Cruise at Brown Paper Tickets have ended. Tickets will be available for $30 at the dock. See you there!!

Dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Great Lakes shipping past and present for future generations to enjoy.

The tug Nebraska assisiting the crane ship G. G. Post along the Cuyahoga River a Cleveland, Ohio.  From the J. R. Hoffma...
08/30/2019

The tug Nebraska assisiting the crane ship G. G. Post along the Cuyahoga River a Cleveland, Ohio. From the J. R. Hoffman Great Lakes Collection.

The E. B. Barber underway as a bulk carrier. Photo by Emory Massman/MHSD Collection.
08/30/2019

The E. B. Barber underway as a bulk carrier. Photo by Emory Massman/MHSD Collection.

The tug Virginia assisting the Charles S. Hebard  into Cleveland. From The Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD.
08/30/2019

The tug Virginia assisting the Charles S. Hebard into Cleveland. From The Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD.

The Robert W. E. Bunsen underway. From the Bob Pocotte Collection.
08/23/2019

The Robert W. E. Bunsen underway. From the Bob Pocotte Collection.

The tanker Beaumont Parks underway. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD
08/23/2019

The tanker Beaumont Parks underway. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD

The Everetton underway. Photo by Emory Massman/MHSD Collection.
08/23/2019

The Everetton underway. Photo by Emory Massman/MHSD Collection.

Progress underway. From the J. R. Hoffman Great Lakes Collection.
08/16/2019

Progress underway. From the J. R. Hoffman Great Lakes Collection.

A stern view of the Imperial Simcoe underway. Photo by Emory A. Massman/MHSD Collection.
08/16/2019

A stern view of the Imperial Simcoe underway. Photo by Emory A. Massman/MHSD Collection.

W.D. Calverly jr Upbound at the Soo Locks. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD.
08/16/2019

W.D. Calverly jr Upbound at the Soo Locks. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD.

A Pesha view of the Victory underway on the St. Clair River. From the Bob Pocotte collection.
08/10/2019

A Pesha view of the Victory underway on the St. Clair River. From the Bob Pocotte collection.

The E. M. Ford underway. Photographed by Emory Massman/ MHSD Collection.
08/10/2019

The E. M. Ford underway. Photographed by Emory Massman/ MHSD Collection.

The Harry Yates underway photographed from the Ambassador Bridge. From the Peter B. worden Collection/MHSD
08/10/2019

The Harry Yates underway photographed from the Ambassador Bridge. From the Peter B. worden Collection/MHSD

The S. B. Coolidge downbound approaching the Soo Locks. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD
08/03/2019

The S. B. Coolidge downbound approaching the Soo Locks. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD

A stern view of the Ben E. Tate underway. Photo by Emory Massman/MHSD Collection.
08/03/2019

A stern view of the Ben E. Tate underway. Photo by Emory Massman/MHSD Collection.

The L. M. Bowers of the Tomlinson Fleet downbound at the Soo. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD
08/03/2019

The L. M. Bowers of the Tomlinson Fleet downbound at the Soo. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD

The Perseus sailing through the ice departing from the Soo Locks bound for a Lake Superior port. From the Bob Pocotte Co...
07/25/2019

The Perseus sailing through the ice departing from the Soo Locks bound for a Lake Superior port. From the Bob Pocotte Collection.

The Carmi A. Thompson underway. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD
07/25/2019

The Carmi A. Thompson underway. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD

The Edmund Fitzgerald underway. Photo by Emory A. Massman/MHSD Collection.
07/25/2019

The Edmund Fitzgerald underway. Photo by Emory A. Massman/MHSD Collection.

07/16/2019
The Hennepin underway. Photo by Emory A. Massman/MHSD.
07/07/2019

The Hennepin underway. Photo by Emory A. Massman/MHSD.

The J. F. Durston underway. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD.
07/07/2019

The J. F. Durston underway. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD.

The S. T. Crapo underway. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD.
07/07/2019

The S. T. Crapo underway. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD.

The Robert B. Wallace loading coal at the C&O Coal Docks at Toledo, Ohio during the mid 1950's. From the J. R. Hoffman G...
06/29/2019

The Robert B. Wallace loading coal at the C&O Coal Docks at Toledo, Ohio during the mid 1950's. From the J. R. Hoffman Great Lakes Marine Collection.

The E. B. Barber underway. Photo by Emory Massman/MHSD Collection.
06/29/2019

The E. B. Barber underway. Photo by Emory Massman/MHSD Collection.

The Steelvendor  underway. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD.
06/29/2019

The Steelvendor underway. From the Peter B. Worden Collection/MHSD.

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Detroit, MI

Opening Hours

Monday 09:00 - 17:00
Tuesday 09:00 - 17:00
Wednesday 09:00 - 17:00
Thursday 09:00 - 17:00
Friday 09:00 - 17:00
Saturday 10:00 - 16:00
Sunday 10:00 - 17:00

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