The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Bucephalus (Propeller), sunk, 12 Nov 1854

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Propeller BUCEPHALUS, foundered in Saginaw and drowned ten of her crew. Property loss $60,000.
      Buffalo Democracy
      February 28, 1855 (casualty list)

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      Detroit, Nov. 16. -- The propeller BUCEPHALUS from Chicago to Buffalo, sank in Saginaw Bay on Monday morning at two o'clock, in a gale. Crew took to the boats; one capsized, its inmates, 8 men drowned. Two more drowned from another boat.
      Cleveland Morning leader
      Friday, November 17, 1854
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LOSS OF THE BUCEPHALUS. - The propeller BUCEPHALUS, Capt. Alexander, cleared from Chicago, Nov. 7th. for this port with a cargo of 14,035 bu. corn, 55 kegs butter, and 39 bags of seed. From Milwaukee, 252 bbls. of flour, 264 bags of beans, 50 casks of ashes and 100 kegs of butter. She came on to Beaver Island, and there discharged a quantity of freight destined for that port. The gale on Lake Huron blowing so violently she was compelled to put into Presque Isle, where she laid until Sunday last, when she started out, bound down. During Sunday the gale increased in violence, and she foundered off Saginaw Bay, on Sunday night. The Captain, mates, engineer, and a part of the crew, fourteen in all, were saved in one of the life boats. The cook, one wheelsman, the watchman and seven deck hands were lost. The vessel was owned by Holt, Palmer & Co., of this city, and Captain Alexander, and was insured for $19,000. The cargo was also insured, but for what amount we could not ascertain. The BUCEPHALUS was only three years old, and was considered a strong, seaworthy vessel.
      The Democracy, Buffalo
      Friday, November 17, 1854

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      Further particulars, and Interesting Statements of Capt. Alexander
We gave, yesterday morning, in our marine column, all the particulars that had reached us of the loss of the Propeller BUCEPHALUS and a portion of the crew, and the rescue of the Captain, Mates, Engineers, and some of the deck hands, in the gale of Sunday last, on Lake Huron.
Capt. Alexander reached our city yesterday morning, and from him we obtain the following interesting statement of the loss of his vessel:
The Propeller BUCEPHALUS left Chicago, Saturday November 4th, at 4 o'clock P. M., with fourteen thousand and thirty-five bushels of corn, seed, butter, ashes, &c.,and proceeded to Milwaukee to complete her cargo. After making the usual stop at Waukegan, Kenosha and Racine, the Propeller arrived at Milwaukee about 5 o'clock A.M. of the 5th, and at once began to take on the balance of her cargo. Having finished loading by 9 A.M. the same morning, and the wind and weather favorable, they left for Port Washington for wood.
Shortly after leaving, the wind increased in violence blowing from the South and by noon there was such a sea on that they could not lay at Port Washington pier, they backed off and came to anchor and lay till next day at 9 A.M. when the gale moderated, and they took on their wood and proceeded on their way calling at Sheboygan. The wind at this time was westerly. At 6 o'clock was on the course for Beaver Island with a fresh breeze from the North-west. At daylight on the 7th, made the Manitous with a strong increasing breeze.
Arrived at Beaver Island remained until the 8th, at noon for fuel when they left for Presque Isle. Arrived there on the morning of the 9th, but had to lay until Sunday the 12th at 11 A.M. when they left for Buffalo.
Shortly after leaving Presque Isle, the wind veered to the N.E.,and it began to snow. At 3 P.M. the wind increased to a strong breeze, and at 5 it was blowing a gale. About this time the foremast gave way, and went over the side. At 6 o'clock the forward gangways were stove in by a heavy sea, and part of her deck load was washed overboard.
Everything had been secured, in anticipation of a severe gale, but it increase at such a fearful rate, that it was almost impossible to keep the vessel on her course. The heavy rolling of the boat shifted the corn in her hold, and made her unmanageable. The other two gangways on the lee side were now stove in, and the Capt. had to keep her before the wind to get the after one secure, and thrown over a portion of her freight which was on deck, to trim the boat. The officer were unable to secure the two forward gangways, and all the freight on the deck was washed overboard.
The wind continued to increase in violence, accompanied with snow and hail, and after an attempt to keep her on her course proved unavailing, as the boat would not stir, they kept her before the wind as their only safety. About midnight the rudder unshipped, when the boat broached to. All the gangways were stove in, the guards around the stern torn up, and the boat filling with water. Shortly afterwards the fires were extinguished, and the boat fast going to pieces.
Capt. Alexander now finding that there was no hope of saving his vessel, ordered the three boats to be got ready for launching. The first boat was put in charge of Peter Shoemaker, formerly Second officer of the BUCEPHALUS and in it Daniel Brown, Wheelsman; George Rupperaugh, Henry Worener, George Smith, Michael Stein, and Jocob Marks, deck hands. This boat was swung out preparator to being let down, when one of the men in it cut the rope holding up the stern and all were thrown out and drowned.
The second boat was placed in charge of R. Stoddard, the First Mate, and with him A.H. Brown, Engineer, Wm. Peters, 2nd. Engineer, Samuel Chappell, Wheelsman Richard Sparks, Steward; Peter King, Fireman; Jack Rollinger, fireman; Mrs. Martha Midforth and Miss Emily Marble, passengers. This boat got clear of the wreck and put off heading against the wind. The night was so dark that it was impossible to tell where the nearest land lay. The crew, however, pulled nobly some fifteen miles and through good fortune made the land between two reefs, on either one of which had they struck, all on board would undoubtedly have perished, as the breakers were running mountains high. The men here built a large fire on the beach in hopes of attracting the attention of the third boat. They, however, were too far aft to see the light.
The third boat, one of Francis' metalic lifeboats was taken in charge by Captain Alexander. By the time this boat had been made ready, the propeller had sunk to her cabin-deck, and the boat becoming entangled under the ledge of the upper cabin, it was drawn down several feet under water. Through the exertion of the Second Officer, the boat was pushed off clear from the propeller, and came up. All in the boat now got out and hung over the side, while the Captain with a bucket, bailed the boat clear, and again all got in. They then pulled against the wind, and in three hours, or shortly before day-break, approached the beach, and came in sight of the fire that had been kindled by the crew of the second boat. Captain Alexander, knowing the coast to be very rocky, and the breakers running so high, suggested that they should keep out until day-break, when they would be able to make the shore in safety, and stating that the chances were, should they then attempt to land, that all would be lost. The men, however, were so benumbed with cold, that they insisted on pulling in, saying that they would rather endeavor to land, even if they should drown in the attempt, than stay out and perish before day-light came. The men were so urgent, that the captain had to consent. The first breaker was passed in safety The second overset the boat, and all were thrown out. White, however, succeeded in getting hold of the painter, and righted the boat. The Captain was unable, at first, to reach up to the side of the boat, and allowed himself to sink and touch bottom, when he sprung up and caught hold of the rudder, and drew himself into the boat. Wm. Day also swum up to the boat and got in. Emmons and Gerhart had held on to the seat of the boat when it capsized, and came up again in it. The other two, Andrew Rector and John Webber, were drowned.
Those in the boat were left without oars for some time, but one happened to float by, and with its aid the boat was got in shallow water. The Captain and mate then got out and hauled the boat ashore. They landed near where the second boat had made the shore, which was found to be Birds Creek near Point aux Barques.
The crew and the three passengers, fourteen in all, were treated with the most humane kindness by the people at Point aux Barques, furnishing them with dry clothing, and everything was done for them which could be.
The Captain here chartered a fishing boat and with it brought all of those rescued to Port Huron, running the distance 90 miles in nine hours; and from there came down to Detroit on the steamer RUBY.
      The crew speak in the highest terms of praise of the conduct of Captain Alexander, on that trying occasion. The vessel sunk under the crew and the Captain was the last to leave her deck, which he did when the water had reached his waist, taking his chances for life in the smallest and poorest boat.
The propeller, as we stated yesterday, was owned by Holt, Palmer & Co., of this city and Captain Alexander, and was insured for $19,000. She was valued at $28,000.

      The following is a list of those saved:
Captain S. Alexander, of Buffalo R. Stoddard, 1st. Mate, of Buffalo
John White, 2nd. Mate of Buffalo A.H. Brown, Engineer, of Buffalo
Wm. Peters, 2nd. Engineer, Buffalo Samuel Chappell, Wheelsman, Buffalo
Richard Sparks, Stewart, Buffalo Peter King, Fireman, of Buffalo
Jack Rollinger, Fireman, Buffalo Anthony Gerhart, deck-hand, Buffalo
Thadeus Emmons, Porter, Elyria, O. Wm. Day, Passenger, Troy, N.Y.
Mrs. Martha Midforth, passenger, N.Y. Miss Emily Marble, Passenger, N.Y.

      Peter Shoemaker, late 2nd. Mate, Perrysburg, Ohio
      Daniel Brown, Wheelsman, Beaver Island
      Anderson Rector, Cook, Colchester, C.W.
      John Webber, Deck-hand, Buffalo
      George Rupperaugh, Deck-hand, Buffalo
      Henry Worener, Deck-hand, Buffalo
      Gearge Smith, Deck-hand, Buffalo
      Michael Stein, Deck-hand, Buffalo
      Jacob Marks, Deck-hand, Buffalo
One man, name not known, and who came on board at Port Washington, was missed over two hours before the first boat left, and, it is supposed, was washed overboard.
      The Democracy, Buffalo
      Saturday, November 18, 1854

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      The Detroit Advertiser learns that the upper works and deck of the ill-fated propeller BUCEPHALUS have been washed ashore between Field Bay and Goderich. The books alone have been saved from the wreck. They were washed ashore in the cask used to keep them in and brought to this city by the schooner JULIA SMITH.
      The Democracy, Buffalo
      Monday, November 27, 1854

NOTE:--Field Bay = Bayfield, 12 miles south of Goderich

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We learn from some fishermen who came down yesterday that, when some three or four miles off Point aux barques, they discovered the mast of the foundered propeller BUCEPHALUS. It was standing out of the water some ten or twelve feet --Detroit Tribune
      The Democracy, Buffalo
      Wednesday, May 9, 1855

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      THE BUCEPHALUS FOUND. - The Detroit Inquirer of the 12th, says that Capt. Cottrell, of the steamer HURON, on his last trip from Saginaw, passed the BUCEPHALUS, where she lies sunk. Capt. C. reports that she is sunk in about sixty feet water, nearly four miles and a half out in the lake off Bird River. Her masts rise out of the water a few feet. It is probable that she can be raised, having sustained but little damage.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      Tuesday, May 15, 1855

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Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: sunk
Lives: 10
Hull damage: $28,000
Cargo: $32,000
Freight: produce &c.
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 43.75002 Longitude: -83.66664
William R. McNeil
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Bucephalus (Propeller), sunk, 12 Nov 1854