Milwaukee, Wis. Dec. 10.- Among the disasters recorded last week perhaps the most notable was the destruction by fire at Cheboygan, Mich., of the old wrecking tug LEVIATHAN. Although familiar to all lake-faring men, she was perhaps better known to the people of Milwaukee as a community than to the residents of any other lake port, having spent numerous winters here since her advent in 1856. The LEVIATHAN was built at Buffalo under the supervision of Capt. H.C. Hart, her first commander for the Lake Navigation Company, a corporation organized with the object of monopolizing the general carrying trade between Chicago, Milwaukee and Lake Erie ports. This company acquired, through purchase and construction, a fleet comprising nearly all of the largest, staunchest and finest appearing sail vessels then afloat. They declined to carry insurance on their property, and resolved to devote the money that might otherwise be contributed to marine risks to the construction and maintenance of a powerful wrecking tug, fully equipped with steam pumps, hawsers, etc., in the Straits of Mackinaw, which constitute, a most dangerous thoroughfare to navigators of the upper lakes. It was thus that the LEVIATHAN sprang into existence; but she was destined soon to change hands. The financial crisis of 1857 crushed the great would-be monopoly and all of its floating property was disposed of at ruinously low figures, either by private sale or under the hammer. Capt. Hart then became the owner of the LEVIATHAN, but a few years later sold her to the Columbian Insurance Company and retired front the command. He was succeeded by Capt. Naughton, of Buffalo, who had served as late under Capt. Hart. In the course of time the Columbian went to the wall, and the LEVIATHAN was purchased by Lemuel Ellsworth, of Milwaukee, when Capt. Naughton was displaced by Capt. Charles McNally. About this time the owners of large lake and river tug, began housing them in forward and the Leviathan was subjected to similar treatment, which not only added materially to her appearance but also to the comfort in heavy weather. From Lem. Ellsworth's hands the tug next passed into the possession of Wolf & Davidson and Capt. Chas. F.E. Kirtland, the latter assuming the position of commander and wrecking master, which he held until compelled by ill health to sell out and retire. Capt. Peter Anderson, now master of the Inter Ocean Company MASSACHUSETTS. Capt. Edward Thorpe, now of the steamer succeeded Capt. Anderson, and when Wolf & Davidson sold out to S.B. Grummond, of Detroit, Capt. Martin Swain, now part owner of tug FAVORITE, took charge. Upon Capt. Swain's retire Kirtland again succeeded to the command, only to be follow unsatisfactory season, by Capt. Lafranibois who has to yield her up a prey to the flames.
In her palmy days the LEVIATHAN was without a peer on fresh water as a wrecker. Her light draught and twin screws, propelled by powerful double engines rendered her very handy, especially in effecting the rescue of vessels stranded with cargoes on board. She was peculiarly fortunate also, never having been entangled in any serious trouble in the performance of wrecking service. Even in her closing years when a few heavy thumps upon a hard bottom, would have been sufficient to shiver her time honored frame, she seemed to bear a charmed life, escaping from the danger which often encompassed her by hair-breadths, as it were.
Of all the commanders whose names have been associated with the history of the LEVIATHAN, Capt. Kirtland was undoubtedly the most scientific as well as the most successful in difficult undertakings. His rescue of the steamer AMAZON and her consorts, the tow barge E.T. JUDD and C.B. JONES, from the rocks on North Manitou island, is without parallel in the history of lake wrecking operations. His release of the schr. ALLEGHENY from Racine's north point was another difficult task skillfully accomplished, as was also the release of the barge J.H. RUTTER with a cargo of corn on board, from the treacherous sands of the Lake Michigan near Ludington.
The Marine Review
December 10, 1891