Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Foundering of the Brig Mahoning
Daily Milwaukee News, 3 Dec 1864, p. 5, column 2-3
Full Text
Foundering of the Brig Mahoning.
Two Men Lost--Capt. Tabberner of this City Drowned

Intelligence reached this city early yesterday morning that the brig Mahoning, of Chicago, had gone down about 12 o'clock the night before, in 65 feet of water nearly opposite Port Ulao, engulfing with her, Capt. William Tabberner, long and favourably known as a resident in Milwaukee, and at the time of his decease, acting as marine inspector for the Columbia Insurance company, together with the first mate of the vessel, ---- Galway, of Chicago; five others narrowly escaping the same fate.

Through the courtesy of Capt. J. B. Merrell, who furnished the steam pump in use upon the Mahoning at the time of the disaster, this reporter was made acquainted with the following particulars connected with the disaster:

The brig Mahoning went ashore at Sheboygan on the 9th of November last during the tremendous gale of that period, while en route for Green Bay to load with lumber for Chicago. She was owned in the latter city, and insured in the Columbia insurance company. On the 14th ult., Capt. William Tabberner, who had formerly followed the lakes, but during the last two years had acted as marine inspector for the above corporation, was dispatched to the aid of the brig, and after numerous hindrances and some delay, succeeded in getting her afloat, when the tug W. K. Muir, of this port, was sent for and took her in tow for Milwaukee. After progressing as far as Amsterdam, situate about 40 miles north of here, the single steam pump then employed in keeping the brig "free," was found inadequate to do the duty, and Capt. Tabberner was obliged to moor her alongside the pier at the last named point, where she sank a second time. Another pump was immediately forwarded from here, and on Wednesday last the vessel was raised, pumped out, and a sail placed over her bottom. On Thursday morning she was once more gotten under way in tow of the Muir, and all went well until about midnight, when she began to roll and lurch heavily, in a manner that excited the apprehensions of her crew, who insisted upon being taken off by the tug, which was effected, leaving but seven men remaining upon the ill-starred craft. It will be remembered that on the night in question, quite a gale was brewing, accompanied with a drizzling mist and fog, which rendered navigation to a vessel disabled extremely hazardous. As the danger became more imminent, an order was at length given to "beach" the brig, and her course was directed toward the shore for that purpose. When still three-quarters of a mile distant the vessel was observed to labor with increased violence, and suddenly, without cry or warning, careened fearfully, displacing the pumps and their machinery, and settled swiftly beneath the waters. The peril of the seven who had remained aboard of her was now imminent beyond description. Capt. Rierdon, the master of the vessel, who was one of the number, cleared himself of the brig as she went down and swam some distance, to avoid being drawn under by the whirlpool made by the sinking vessel; many of the others did likewise, and all were picked up by the tug, san Captain Tabberner and the mate, Galoway, from who nothing was heard.

It is more than probably that becoming entangled in the rigging of the vessel, they were forced under despite their struggles; or, perhaps were caught in the eddy produced by the founding and likewise drawn down irresistibly. After making protracted search for the two, as well as the darkness and storm would permit, the tug proceeded upon her way, and arriving at this port early yesterday morning brought the first, sad intelligence of the mishap and disaster that had attended the enterprise so tragically ended.

Capt. Tabberner has made this city his home for the last ten or twelve years and until within the two years preceding his death, had sailed the lakes in the capacity of vessel master; was a careful and experienced navigator, and a man much respected by the many he counted among his acquaintances. He was in the neighbourhood of 40 years of age, and at the present time was acting as marine inspector for the Columbia Insurance company, in which position he had served two years. His early and sudden death has brought sorrow and bereavement to a wife and four children; our community will not fail to sympathize deeply with the sorrow of hearts thus cruelly stricken, and view with compassion the home made desolate and drear.

We shall publish to-morrow a series of resolutions adopted by the Board of Trade of this city, of which Capt. T., was a member, which are expressive of the deep commiseration of that body on learning of his death and the high respect they entertain for his memory.

Galway, the mate of the Mahoning, leaves a family in Chicago to mourn his loss. The brig now lies nearly opposite Port Ulao in 65 feet of water with nothing of her visible save the top of her spars. She is owned by a Chicago firm, and within a year or two was rebuilt in a manner that rendered her nearly as staunch as when new. We believe she formerly hailed from this port.

Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
3 Dec 1864
Personal Name(s)
Tabberner, William ; Merrill, John B.
Geographic Coverage
  • Wisconsin, United States
    Latitude: 43.3195608860254 Longitude: -87.8697881054687
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Foundering of the Brig Mahoning