The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Pere Marquette No. 18 (Propeller), U208305, sunk, 9 Sep 1910

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PERE MARQUETTE 18 Steam screw, of 2909 gross tons, built 1902. Official U. S. Number 150972. with sixty one persons on board propeller foundered off Sheboygan, Wis., with the loss of twenty seven lives, Sept. 9, 1910. Vessel a total loss.
      Loss of U. S. Vessels on the Great
      Lakes, Merchant Vessel List, 1911

      Conflicting Reports By Wireless tell Of Sinking Of
      Boat With All Or Part Of Crew In Lake Michigan.
      Ludington, Mich., Sept., 9.- One of the worst marine disasters in the history of Lake Michigan navigation occurred early today when car ferry PERE MARQUETTE No. 18, flagship of a fleet of six steel car ferries owned and operated by the Pere Marquette Railroad Company, Wis., with an estimated loss of 20 lives. The boat was valued at $400,000, and the cargo, which included 29 loaded cars, at $100,000 to $150,000. The total loss will exceed half a million dollars, fully insured.
      "Car ferry No. 18 sinking--help?" was the C. Q. D. wireless message that brought the first news of the disaster to this city about 5 A. M. today.
      The lost car ferry carried a crew of 50 men, and had on board two women passengers said to be from Saginaw.
      Ludington, Mich., Sept. 9. - W. L. Mercereau, superintendent of the car ferry line, has received a wireless stating that only 30 of the 50 men on board car ferry No. 18 had been saved. The message came from a passing steamer, which was in communication with No. 17 and is accepted at Pere Marquette marine headquarters as reliable. Twenty are said to be lost, including all officers.
      Milwaukee, Wis., Sept. 9. - Thirty-nine members of the crew of the Pere Marquette car ferry No. 18 were lost and three saved, when the car ferry sank in mid-lake about 30 miles off Sheboygan today, according to reports received here.
      All the members of the crew hailed from Ludington.
      The car ferry left Ludington at 11:40 last night, after a thorough inspection before entering the freight carrying traffic across the lake. The first work of the ferry being in distress was received in a wireless message from the captain, asking for assistance from car ferry No. 17 and for the dispatch of tugs.
      First reports received also indicate that the crew had been saved, but a later dispatch at 10:30 brought the news that only three out of a crew of 42 had been saved.
      There is absolutely nothing known as to the cause of the sinking.
      Detroit, Mich., Sept. 9. - At Pere Marquette railroad headquarters in this city it is said that car ferry No. 18 had a crew of 32 to 35 men and that work from Ludington is that all were rescued by car ferry No. 17. The latter left Ludington at 5 A. M. in response to No. 18's wireless signal of distress and reached the scene of the wreck about 7 o'clock.
      Buffalo Evening News
      September 9, 1910

      . . . . .

      Boat Goes Down In Lake Michigan With Little Warning
      And Cause Of Accident Is Enveloped In Mystery.
      Ludington, Mich., Sept. 10. - Thirty lives were lost yesterday when Pere Marquette car ferry No. 18, bound from Ludington to Milwaukee, went to the bottom of Lake Michigan halfway across the lake.
      The dead include Capt. Peter Kilty of Ludington; S. F. Sezepanek of Chicago, purser and wireless operator, whose signal of distress brought assistance to the sinking steamer, and two members of the crew of car ferry No. 17, who lost their lives in an effort to rescue the crew of No. 18. E. Colbean of Saginaw, Mich., a member of the crew of No. 18, would make a 31'st victim, but it is believe that he was not on board when No. 18 set out from here last night on her fatal trip.
      THE DEAD.
      The Dead: Peter Gilty, of Ludington, captain.
      Joseph Brezinski of Manitowoc, mate.
      W. H. Brown, second mate, of Ludington.
      S. F. Sezepanek, purser, Worcester, Mass.
      F. R. Leedham, chief engineer, Ludington.
      Chalmer Rosencranz, assistant engineer, Northport, Mich.
      Paul Renuehe, second assistant engineer, ludington.
      Unidentified oiler, Norwegian.
      A. J. Mack, steward, Westfield, N. Y.
      W. H. Cummings, Chicago.
      John Schraufuagi, cook, Milwaukee.
      N. L. Bertrand, passenger, Ludington.
      Michael Hayethaler, fireman, Forestville, Mich.
      Samuel Bouchie, fireman, River Bourgeois, N. S.
      W. Parker, fireman, Marine City.
      Mrs. Marlon Turner, cabin maid, Ludington.
      Peter Hire, watchman, Ludington.
      Unidentified lookout.
      Ole Bakken, wheelsman, Ludington.
      Joseph Marion, scrubber, Ludington.
      Two stowaways, Tom Kelly and brother, Detroit.
      Frank Warner (Chicago Frank), porter, Chicago.
      Jacobson, seaman, residence unknown.
      Charles Jensen, oiler, Ludington.
      Joe Peterson, watchman, Steamer No. 17.
      Jacob Jacobson, scrubber, Steamer No. 17.
      Two unidentified seamen.
      The steamship company issued a list of 35 names of survivors of the wreck, all members of the crew, and most of whom were brought here on Pere Marquette car ferry No. 17.
      Eight bodies were recovered, six being brought here on car ferry No. 17 and two being taken to Milwaukee on ferry No. 20. The bodies brought here were those of Capt. Kilty, Purser Sezepanek, Steward Mack W. H. Cummings; N. L. Bertrand and Mrs. Turner.
      The cause of the disaster is enveloped in mystery. F. F. Potvin of the cabin watch said that the boat was very low at the stern when the first alarm was given. He said they pushed 29 railroad cars into the lake to ease the vessel, but without avail.
      Seymour Cochrane of Chicago, another survivor, said he was reading a magazine in his berth when a cabin boy rapped on his door about 4:30 A. M. and shouted that the boat was sinking. Cochrane floated on a cabin door until picked up by No. 17. The Purser had given hin $1,000 which was due Cochrane's employes. Cochrane would not load himself down with the coin and tied the money to the steamers rail as the boat went down.
      Many of the lifeboats were stove in by wreckage tumbling in every direction on the tossing sea. The occupants of the small boats were thrown into the water and many of then drowned.
      The crew of No. 17, upon reaching the scene, rushed overboard with a lifeboat with four men. The waves picked it up in an instant and crushed it against the ferry's steel side. Two of the sailors were rescued by those on board, while the other two, Joseph Peterson and R. J. Jacobson, a scrubber, immediately sank.
      Another lifeboat was successfully launched. This boat, in charge of Duncan Milligan of Ludington, did heroic work and in less than an hour picked up 14 survivors who were floating about and clinging to bits of wreckage.
      Then another lifeboat was manned and in the face of great danger more than 30 persons were saved. Meanwhile, the tug A. A. C. Tessler of Milwaukee, car ferry No. 20, steamer No. 6 and a tug from Sheboygan towing the Sheboygan life saving crew, arrived on the scene.
      Buffalo Evening News
      September 10, 1910

      . . . . .

      Real Reason For Disaster On Lake Michigan, Which Cost
      29 lives, Will Never Be Known, Officials Believe.
      Ludington, Mich., Sept. 10. - That yesterday's wreck of Pere Marquette car ferry No. 18 and the loss of 29 lives was not due to a storm, to over-loading, or to a break down in the vessel's machinery, and that the real cause of the disaster will never be fully determined is the conclusion reached by General Superintendent, W. D. Trump of the Pere Marquette Railroad, who came here yesterday to investigate the wreck.
      According to the report sent by Mr. Trump to Pere Marquette headquarters in Detroit today, Capt. Russell of steamer No. 17 was merely asked by Capt. Kilty of No. 18 to stand by when he arrived at the scene. Capt. Kilty evidently not believing that his vessel was in imminent danger.
      Capt. Russell, however, observed that No. 18 was sinking, and lowered his lifeboats just before No. 18 went to the bottom.
      According to Mr. Trump there were 62 people on the steamer No. 18. The 16 above the regular crew were four employes of the Chicago Navigation Company, with Seymour E. Cochrane, vice-president of that company, and a corps of extra scrub boys, carpet layers, etc., who were working while the boat was moving in order to save time. Mr. Cochrane was saved, but his four men were lost.
      The first intimation those on board No. 18 had that anything was wrong was when the wheelsman about 4 o'clock A. M. found that the vessel was not responding quickly.
      The compartment aft of the engine room was then found to contain a considerable amount of water, though not enough to disturb the firemen and deck hands sleeping there. Distress signals were given as the vessel continued to sink and the lifeboats on the port side were lowered, but not cut away from the ship. Capt. Kilty continued to head the steamer for the west shore of Lake Michigan. All of the survivors jumped or were thrown from the boat when she sank and were picked up by boats from steamer No. 17
      Buffalo Evening News
      September 11, 1910

Steam screw PERE MARQUETTE No. 18. U. S. No. 208305. Of 2,777 tons gross; 1,660 tons net. Built Chicago, Ill. 1911. Home port, Grand Haven, Mich. 338.0 x 57.6 x 21.7 Freight service. Crew of 40. 2,500 indicated horsepower. Steel Built.
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1911

Media Type:
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Reason: sunk
Lives: 27
Remarks: Total loss
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Wisconsin, United States
    Latitude: 43.75083 Longitude: -87.71453
William R. McNeil
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Pere Marquette No. 18 (Propeller), U208305, sunk, 9 Sep 1910