Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Particulars of the Mercury Disaster
Daily Inter-Ocean (Chicago, IL), 25 Nov 1879, p. 8, column 1
Full Text

Special Dispatch to The Detroit Post and Tribune

PENTWATER, Nov. 21.--Tuesday noon the schooner Mercury, Captain L. H. Sterling, loaded with lumber, cleared from Ludington for Chicago with a light wind and fair weather. At midnight a southwest wind rose, when she was headed for the Manitous under a press of canvas. Wednesday afternoon, when off Frankfort, a sudden gale from the northwest tore her canvas into shreds. She waterlogged, and becoming unmanageable drifted first southeast and then southwest. Her rudder was torn out, and her yawl, with the davits, was carried away by the heavy sea. Everything was washed out of the cabin. The crew suffered severely from the cold. The vessel struck the beach two miles south of Pentwater at 5 o'clock Thursday morning, stern on. The sea swept her deck from stem to stern. The lighthouse keeper discovered the vessel at 6 o'clock. The citizens went to the beach at 7, and kindled a large fire. The sea was too high for a boat to live, the telegraph line was down north and south, so messages were sent by a carrier for help. The crew endeavoured to float a line ashore. A skiff was launched from the shore by Miller Sorensen, Frederick Sorensen, and Henry Hawkins, who tried to reach the end of the line. Hawkins grasped the line, when the skiff capsized, throwing all into the icy cold water. Frederick swam for the shore; Miller righted the skiff, got in, and both were rescued nearly exhausted. Poor Hawkins became entangled in the line and battled bravely for life. He was struck down repeatedly by the breakers, and went under to rise no more. The sailors drew the body near the Mercury, when the line broke and the body went from sight, and was not recovered. Messages for help were sent ashore in bottles. The citizens began preparing another boat for a second attempt. The telegraph line was repaired and a message sent to Ludington. Captain H. B. Smith, of the steamer Magnet, brought the lifeboat and crew from there at midnight and rescued seven men, all of whom were frostbitten. The steward, Billy Thompson, and a sailor named Harry Myers, were the worst, though none were seriously [hurt]. No tug dared to venture out. Hawkins leaves a wife and four little children, the youngest three weeks old. The Mercury will be got off without serious damage. She is insured for $3,500; value, $9,000.

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Date of Publication
25 Nov 1879
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  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 43.7614649604229 Longitude: -86.4527093969726
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Particulars of the Mercury Disaster