The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
R. G. Coburn (Propeller), sunk, 15 Oct 1871

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Propeller R.G. COBURN, from Lake Superior, foundered in Saginaw Bay with the
loss of about 45 lives.
      Marine Disasters on the Western
      Lakes during 1871, Capt. J.W. Hall

      . . . . .

SUPPOSED LOSS OF THE R.G. COBURN. - The following telegram has been received by Capt. E.P. Dorr, from Detroit: "The propeller that went down in the gale of Sunday night is supposed to be the R.G. COBURN."
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Wednesday, October 18, 1871

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      Yesterday afternoon we published a dispatch from Detroit, stating that fear were entertained that the propeller R.G. COBURN, of the Atlantic, Duluth and Pacific Steamboat Line, had foundered in Lake Huron. We are pained to say that the fears were but too well founded. From Mr. E.T. Evans, Managing Agent of the Company, we learn that the propeller KEWEENAW, of the same line, has arrived at Detroit, with seven of the COBURN's crew, and three of her passengers on board, who were picked up. Mr. Condon, second mate, is amongst the saved. Two boats, with men on board, have not been heard from. Captain Gilbert Demoe; E. Major, clerk, with the engineer, stewart and mate, are probably lost. The COBURN was considered a staunch and good sea vessel. She completed a heavy load at Marquette, and left that port Thursday night. Her crew consisted of about thirty hands, but the number of passengers aboard is not known.
      The COBURN was 857 tons, new measurement; was built in 1870, and owned by Eber Ward, Detroit; she was expressly designed for the Lake Superior freight and passenger trade. This season she was chartered bt the Atlantic, Duluth and Pacific Company. At the time of the disaster she was on her trip from Duluth, having on board 6,000 bushels of wheat consigned to J.M. Richmond & Co., 6,000 bushels of wheat consigned to Preston & Wright, of Buffalo, 900 barrels of flour for Buffalo, and 2,000 barrels for Erie.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Thursday, October 19, 1871

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On the 15th. of October 1871, about eight o'clock in the morning, during a fearful gale, the propeller R.G. COBURN foundered in Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron, carrying down to a watery grave, sixteen passengers, the captain and fifteen of the crew, including every officer except the second mate. Twelve of the crew and six passengers were saved in the boats.
The COBURN was a fine, staunch, new propeller, of 867 tons burden, well found in every department, having come out in June, 1870. She was on her passage from lake Superior, laden with wheat and flour, and when about twenty-five miles to the northward of Point aux Barques, carried away her rudder, immediately becoming unmanageable, and fell off into the troughs of the sea, where she labored two hours before going down. All testimony in regard to the sad and fearful disaster showed conclusively that the life-saving apparatus was ample
and the boats alone would have saved every person then on board the ill-fated vessel if they had been properly managed. Two metallic life boats were picked up on the Canada shore, right side up, which evidently were not used, except by two of the crew, Porter and Barber, who were found dead upon the beach, near where the boats came ashore. The eighteen survivors had the wooden boats. If the anchors had been let go, so as to have brought the vessel's head to the wind, as the depth of water in the locality of the disaster is only from
thirty to forty fathoms, and the vessel having good anchors, with ninety fathom of chain each, there is a probility that this loss of life and property might have been lessened, if not entirely avoided. Value of steamer $80,000; cargo $40,000.
      "Hist.,of lake Navigation"
      the Marine Record
      February 17, 1887 p.6

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      (From the Detroit Free Press, Oct. 21st.)
      Captain Eber Ward yesterday morning received a telegram giving the names of those survivors who had reached Mackinac, and last evening the steamer MAGNET, which brought the news, arrived here, bringing more particulars. The reality is less cheering than the report, which was received by the propeller BROOKLYN on Thursday, for instead of two boats reported picked up, and eighteen people rescued, only one, containing eight persons was found. The following are the names of the men in that one boat: W.L. Hance, 2nd. mate; H.M. Rhodes, trader; Martin Manaring and James Warwick, watchmen; R. Kelly, of Buffalo, a passenger, who got on at Marquette; F.Mumford, Charles Miller and James Turner, colored deck hands.
      This boat was picked up about four o'clock Sunday afternoon, about the same time as the other one, by the bark ZACK CHANDLER, of Detroit, which transferred them to the CALDWELL the following day. They were left at Mackinac. Captain Drake of the MAGNET, offered to bring them down on his boat, but two passenger boats were expected there hourly, and they thought they could get here sooner by taking one of them, as the MAGNET was going to tow a vessel down. Some of the men on the MAGNET, who talked with the rescued men, say that the second mate told them he saw Captain Demont on the hurricane deck after the boat went down. The first report was that he had been washed off some time before. They also say that Mr. Westcott and his wife had resigned themselves to their fate, and at the time the boat went down were in the captain's room, with the little son of Captain Demont. The hopes are very slight that any of those in the other boat will ever be heard from, and in all probability the eighteen now known to be saved will prove to be the only survivors, leaving about thirty victims for the sea.
      Besides Lieut. Atwood, Indian Agent, R.M. Smith and wife, Mr. Major, the clerk, J.J. Rhodes, of the Garrison House, previously reported as among those of board, Robert W. Hutchins, brother of John Hutchins of this city, was also on board and among the lost. It is reported that two men came aboard of the COBURN at L'Anse, who were connected with the Houghton & Ontonagon Railroad, one of them a conductor engaged in the construction of the road. H.M. Rhodes is certain that his brother went down with the boat.
      A Despatch to Captain Ward, from Kincardine, Ontario, says that boxes marked "COBURN" have come ashore at that place, probably some of the deck-load or trader's stores.
      Kincardine, October 21. - Portion of the wreck and cargo of the propeller COBURN are coming ashore. Two bodies were picked up on the beach, one a mulatto, and the other a young man dressed in a grey suit.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Monday, October 23, 1871

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      THE TRIP OF THE BROCKWAY - The BROCKWAY left Port Huron last week Tuesday and arrived back October 24th. From Captain White we learn the following: The tug left for the relief of the barges BIRCHEAD and MILLS at Goderich, where the weather was very rough. The tug pounded heavily on the bottom at this place but sustained no serious damage. The barges she was after were 5 in number, washed ashore on the beach at Kincardine, the TWILIGHT and BRAINARD. Further on near Fishing Island near Georgian Bay she found the barge JUPITER and barge INDUSTRY which she brought to Chantry Island, where off the pier the schooner LA PETITE was found a total wreck and deserted. The crew had been taken off by the barge BIRCHEAD the week previous. The schooner LUCY AUCHARD was found near Goderich ashore and a total wreck, loaded with telegraph poles. The ADELAID HORTON was also on the pier at Goderich split in two, and of course a complete wreck. One man who was saved from the LA PETITE by the HORTON was wrecked a second time. The owners of the LA PETITE are Messrs. Wickham and Co., of Huron, Ohio. At Kincardine where the tug stopped there were washed ashore the bodies of three negroes, boxes of merchandise and between three and four hundred barrels of flour, probably part of the COBURN's cargo. The BROCKWAY also ran through in the lake probably about four hundred barrels of flour. . . The recent gales have been the cause of many disasters. The following disasters are reported: Schooner J.S. MINER of Detroit, went ashore Sunday near Kincardine, and has since gone to pieces; schooner DAVID FERGUSON has gone ashore and a total loss; LA PETITE capsized and lost on Lake Huron; Propeller R.G. COLBURN foundered on Saginaw Bay with nearly all lost; schooner EXCELSIOR lost, with but one of her crew; schooner GEORGE J. WHITNEY, sunk but can be raised; schooner JOHN BURK sunk at Leland, Lake Michigan; tug DISPATCH and barges on Port Austin Reef; which will prove a total loss; the propeller GALENA ashore at Au Sable has been pulled off may be injured.
      Port Huron Times
      October 26, 1871

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      The Detroit Tribune says that as far as the owners of the boat have been able to determine the COLBURN did not exceed ten passengers on board including Indian Agent Smith and his wife and Major Atwood, the officers and attaches of the boat known to have been lost are as follows: Capt. Gilbert DeMont, and his oldest son Charles, Mrs. DeMont died last spring, and the dead captains five children are orphants. The live on Lewis Street near Forest in Detroit; William V. Simons, the first mate, Detroit; A.S. Robinson, first engineer, Marine City, son-in-law of George H. Cottrell, of that place; Frank Hutchinson, second engineer, boarded at 333 Congress St. Detroit; George S. Wescott, steward, Marine City; his young wife perished with him; Edward Major, the clerk, Froomfield, Ont., single; Charles Migault, single man, 225 Elizabeth Street, Detroit, porter; the names of the wheelsmen who are supposed to be lost are not known; nor of those of the deckhands that perished. Among the passengers who are known to have been on board and undoubtedly perished are Mrs. Thomas Holton, Cincinnatti; on her way home from Superior City; Miss Mary Mann, an artist, a companion of Mrs. Holton and Miss Farmer of Toledo. Capt, Gordon who took charge of one of the boats from the COLBURN which was picked up, came to this city Monday evening with another man who was one of the boats crew taken to Mackinac. Capt. Gordon was very reticent on the subject, but his companion loudly declaimed against Mr. Eber Ward whom he thought had not treated him well. Latest intelligence renders possible that nearly fifty lives were lost by this disaster
      Port Huron Times
      October 26, 1871

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: sunk
Lives: 32
Hull damage: $80,000
Cargo: $40,000
Freight: wheat & flour
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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R. G. Coburn (Propeller), sunk, 15 Oct 1871