The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Robert Willis (Schooner), sunk, 23 Nov 1853

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WILLIS, ROBERT Schooner, cargo wheat, foundered in gale on Lake Michigan. Total loss. Property loss $29,000 and ten lives lost.
      Buffalo Express
      Jan. 2, 1854 (casualty list)

THE LOST SCHOONER -- The Chicago Journal of last Thursday, publishes the following extract from a private letter, dated Buffalo, Jan. 28, 1854
      " A letter was received here yesterday by a man by the name of Clark, saying that the Indians who carry the Canadian mail called on the writer of the letter at the request of John Clark and Sandy, who were known to have been on the ROBT. WILLIS, and got him to write and say that his nephews John and Sandy, were well, and would be down before long. Said the WILLIS and cargo were safe in Traverse Bay,"
      "It looks plausible from the fact that the man who wrote the letter could not have known the names of the crew of the WILLIS."
      The WILLIS cleared from Milwaukee in October last, loaded with grain for this city, and was reported lost in the severe gale on the week following her departure.
      It hardly seems possible that she should have outrode a gale of the longest continuance, and put into the most distant harbor, and no authentic tidings from her captain or any of her crew have ever reached here within the intervening three months. The rumor is probably false.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      February 8, 1854

The Express thinks that we must be in error in stating that the missing schooner WILLIS cleared from Milwaukee in October last, loaded with grain for this city. The Express says she cleared from this port on the 29th day of October, as appears from the marine list, for Chicago. She cleared again from Chicago on the 22d of November, and did not put into Milwaukee at all. The fact of her having left Milwaukee as we stated, we saw in the Sentinel of that city, which spoke authoritatively. That, however, could not well be when the schooner left here on the 29th of that month, and the presumption is that the Sentinel was mistaken. There are hopes that all doubt will soon be cleared up -- perhaps the dead may be made alive again.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      February 10, 1854
SIGNS OF WRECK. -- We are informed by Capt. Pratt, of the steamer GLOBE, that a quantity of provisions have been discovered upon the Manitou Islands, which have washed ashore during the winter, probably from some vessels wrecked in the vicinity of the Straits. On the North island, about eighty barrels of flour and several barrels of pork were found, and on the South island about sixty barrels of flour. The flour was of course in a condition more or less damaged. The barrels containing it were marked "C. & B. Curtiss." It is supposed these articles formed part of the cargo of the ROBERT WILLIS, which was lost last fall with all on board - neither vessel nor crew having been heard of after the disaster which occasioned her destruction. - - - Detroit Inq., 4th.
The ROBERT WILLIS had no flour or provisions on board on her last trip. Her cargo consisted entirely of wheat.
      Buffalo Daily Republic
      Saturday, May 6, 1854
Schooner ROBERT WILLIS. Built Buffalo, N.Y., 1850 by Bidwell & Banta.
      Herman Runge List

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: sunk
Lives: 10
Freight: wheat
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
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  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 43.68473 Longitude: -86.53036
William R. McNeil
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Robert Willis (Schooner), sunk, 23 Nov 1853