0f all the seventeen hundred schooners operating on the Great Lakes in 1873, none seemed to have acquired the prestige won by the LYMAN M. DAVIS, especially for her speed demonstrated on her many trips in the Lake Michigan lumber trade.
In 1871, Chicago was in the process of rebuilding after the great fire which caused a property loss alone of $196,000,000. The same year the Peshtigo forest fire in Wisconsin burned over six counties caused millions of dollars damage and killed 1,152 people. The enormous demand for reconstruction and building material caused by these two great fires started a boom in the lumbering industry.
Lumber, the bulkiest of all this material, was standing in Michigan forest ready to cut. To transport it to the Chicago area required a large fleet of schooners and those which could carry large loads and sail fast, made better profits and were in great demand.
The Mason Lumber Company of Muskegon one of the largest, had orders for white pine from Chicago. They owned considerable acreage of standing timber, both pine and hard woods. The pine could be sold for home building and the hard wood was ideal for schooner construction, but they lacked transportation and took immediate steps to build a schooner of their own.
Mr. Lyman Mason and Charles Davis, an associates, engaged D. P. Arnold a well-known boat builder in Muskegon to construct a schooner that would carry about 250,000 feet of lumber. Mr. Arnold who was well qualified promised to build a fast one. With the help of Captain Barnes, the owners representative, they worked together on the plans and after selecting the finest white Oak from the Mason Lumber Company yard, the hull of the LYMAN M. DAVIS was started.
A crew of Swedish and Norwegian shipwrights, who had learns their trade in the Old Country, were hired for the Job. Capt. Barnes as the owners representative selected all of the timbers planking, and fittings and was on the job every day as the schooner was under construction.
Although built in Muskegon, the LYMAN M. DAVIS in 1873 was registered under number 15934, home port Grand Haven, Michigan. Gross tons 195 - Net tons 185. Length 123 feet, breadth 27.2 feet, depth 9.4 feet - Crew 7.
Captain Barnes was given credit for the wonderful performance of the DAVIS during the 33 years he was her captain. Even in the winter during lay up, Captain Barnes would visit her often, and if he detected any rot or weakness of any kind, it was corrected at once. The LYMAN M. DAVIS changed ownership four times in the years he was her skipper.
It was said that he knew every little trick his schooner had. He knew when to ease her and when she could stand a hard blow. To him must be given the credit for her fine record. She was a consistent money maker for all her owners. The DAVIS was fast and often made three round trips between Muskegon to Chicago in a week. A legendary report states the DAVIS beat the steamer GEORGE C. MARKHAM in a run from Menominee to Muskegon in 1890. Her speed and record passages were known to every schoonerman on all the Great Lakes.
Lumbering in Western Michigan which began after the Civil War eased off in volume and ended in the 1900’s. At that time, many of the Michigan lumbermen moved to the West Coast.
The Graham Brothers of Kincardine, Ontario Angus, John, Colin, Alexander, and Donald were busy hauling Georgian Bay lumber to Eastern lakeports and knowing the reputation of the LYMAN M. DAVIS went to Muskegon in the winter of 1912 and purchased her from the Brinen Lumber Company, the last owner. On May 6, 1913, the DAVIS sailed out between the piers o! Muskegon to her new home in Canada. It is reported that in the early spring or 1913, after being fitted out by the new owner, Graham Bros., Mr. William Brinen went down to the dock and wanted to repurchase his old schooner, offering a bonus of $500 plus the fitting out expense, but the Graham’s declined.
The DAVIS sailed for different Canadian owners up to 1930. The last registered owner in 1930 was a Captain Henry Daryaw of Kingston, Ontario.
The sixty year career or the LYMAN M. DAVIS ended in a somewhat grotesque manner. In 1933, she was burned as an added attraction to a fireworks display at the Toronto exhibition.
October 1961 pp.194-195
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From Capt. F.E. Hamilton, Kelleys Island, Ohio, the Comment that LYMAN M. DAVIS was burned a year later than stated, on June 29, 1934 and supplies her Canadian registry number, which was (Can. 130436).
November 1961 p.215
Schooner LYMAN M. DAVIS. U. S. No. 15934. Of 195.35 tons gross; 185.59 tons net. Built Muskegon, Mich, 1873. Home port, Muskegon, Mich. 123.0 x 27.2 x 9.4.
Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 11885