The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
St. Joseph Herald (St. Joseph, MI), 25 July 1874

Full Text

Thirty-two years ago this coming November, on election day, a rain and snowstorm accompanied by a strong wind began which lasted many days. This storm, the first note of the "hard winter," found in its way a small schooner, and proceeded to demolish it. She was a staunch boat, and her brave captain, the mate, and three sailors worked like heroes, but at length they were carried on the beach at South Haven. In the night and storm, officers and men with difficulty saved their lives on an unknown shore. That boat was the schooner Florida, bound from Buffalo to Chicago, laden with salt, domestic and other goods, and apples. Harris was mate, and Nelson W. Napier was the captain. Geo. W. Byers, owns a saw-mill in the maple grove school district 3 miles from South Haven. Of a summer's day the men and boys meet and play base ball on the "Old Potter's Lot," near the mill. On that stormy November morning in '42, "Harv" Potter, the worst liar and best shot for miles around, was awakened by five tired drenched and hungry men, who had made their way from the wreck. His nearest neighbor was on the "Widow Wood" place five miles away, for South Haven was unknown and you could wade across the river in summer time and not wet your knees. The old fellow cared for the weary mariners, and they finally made their way to St. Joseph. I rode to Chicago on that staunch and beautiful steamer the "Corona," a few days ago and wondered if it really was possible that this grim old commander of the Goodrich line, and the oldest captain on the lakes, was the same man who went ashore on the Florida, so many years ago. Now as you look at him, you see a close shaven weatherbeaten kindly face, rahter long straight black hair, and a strong muscular form, which rumor says, has done good service many times; particularly on one occasion about two year [sic] ago, teaching a whisky sot to mind his own business, at which time "whisky sot" left his mark on the dock. He is well loved by all who know him and we go to sleep on the boat he runs feeling as safe as in our own bed-room. The Corona has run here so long and been so well run, that people for miles around feel that they own as much of her as do the Goodrichs'.

The wrecked Florida lay on the beach all winter and from miles away the curious settlers came, to see the wreck and to fish from the hold pieces of furniture and barrels of apples. These apples went far over the country and the carefully preserved seeds are the basis of many an old orchard of to-day. All over the country old settlers will tell you how they relished the first apples they had tasted for years, and many children saw the fruit then for the first time. "Harv" Potter had, for years after, a mahonony [sic] door on his old log house, and pieces of elegant furniture stood side by side with puncheon tables. Indians crowded the wreck with the whites, and the story goes that the young ones cracked the apples and ate the seeds for a long time, a la walnut.

Media Type:
Item Type:
This is an extract from a longer letter dated 22 July 1874, written by one January Toms and printed in the St. Joseph Herald. Nelson W. Napier was lost on the steamer Alpena when she foundered in 1880.
Date of Original:
25 July 1874
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Jon Wuepper
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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St. Joseph Herald (St. Joseph, MI), 25 July 1874