The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Topeka (Propeller), U145510, collision, 15 Aug 1916

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TOPEKA Steam Propeller. Official U. S. Number 145510, built 1889, of 1,376 Gross Tons. On Aug. 15, 1916, with 20 persons on board, vessel collided with Propeller CHRISTOPHER in the Detroit River, off Sandwich, Ontario. No lives were lost but vessel was classed as a total loss.
      loss of American Vessels Reported During 1917
      Merchant Vessel List of the U. S. for 1917

      Small Coal Steamer Rammed And Sunk In Fog.
      Capt. Wright And Crew Do Great Rescue Work.
      Detroit, Mich., Aug. 15. - The TOPEKA, a small coat boat, was rammed by the steamer CHRISTOPHER in the Detroit River off Sandwich, Ont., early today. The TOPEKA sank in forty feet of water after the crew had been rescued.
      The TOPEKA is owned by the Lake Shore Steamship Co, of Milwaukee. The CHRISTOPHER is the property of D. Sullivan & Co. of Chicago.
      The crew of the TOPEKA had narrow escapes, and some of them would have been drowned but for the quick work of Capt. Wright of the CHRISTOPHER and members of his crew. They lowered their boats with wonderful speed, and worked like heroes in their efforts to save the men off the coal boat. That they succeeded in getting all hands safely aboard the CHRISTOPHER is considered wonderfully fortunate, for there was a heavy fog on the river at the time and the boat could be seen with difficulty by the crew of the Sullivan boat.
      Some of the sailors of the TOPEKA were taken out of the water, and some jumped into boats just before the little ship took her final dive. The accident caused plenty of excitement in the river, for there was a rumor quickly circulated that several men had been drowned.
      The CHRISTOPHER is a steel ship, 445 feet long, of 48 feet beam, and a carrying capacity of 6,400 tons. The TOPEKA is a wooden steamer, 228 feet long, 36 feet beam, and 2,100 tons carrying capacity.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      August 16, 1916

The United States lake survey has sent out the following notice to masters; On the morning of August 15, the steamer TOPEKA, 228 feet long, thirty six feet beam and 19.2 feet depth, was sunk in collision with the steamer CHRISTOPHER in the Detroit River. The TOPEKA lies in about thirty feet of water about 800 feet from and abreast of the lower end of the Mullen Coal Dock at Sandwich, Ont. It constitutes a menace to navigation, but there is ample room for passing vessels. The spars and cabin of the wreck are showing above water, and the owners are having it lighted at night by two white lantern lights.
      Buffalo daily Courier
      August 18, 1916

      Milwaukee, Aug. 20. - A. J. Blair of the Lake Shore Steamship company, owners of the steamer TOPEKA, sunk by the steamer CHRISTOPHER in the Detroit River early Tuesday morning has returned here. Announcement will be made this week as to whether the boat will be raised.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      Augsut 21, 1916

      Detroit, August 27. - The Lake Shore Stone Co., owners of the steamer TOPEKA, which was sunk in a collision with the steamer CHRISTOPHER in the Detroit River two weeks ago, will advertise within a few days for bids to raise or remove the vessel from the river.
      The TOPEKA was sunk in the path of traffic in the river, and the company desires to have it removed as soon as possible. An examination by divers disclosed a great hole in the port side. The investigators, however, were unable to ascertain whether the damage was of such extent as to prevent the boat being repaired.
      If it is found when the craft is brought to the surface that it may be repaired it will be towed to a drydock. Since the boat was sunk it has been necessary to place warning lights on the spars to keep other vessels off the wreckage.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      August 28, 1916

      Detroit, Sept. 25. - Work of removing the wreck of the wooden steamer TOPEKA from the Detroit River opposite the Sandwich, Ont., fueling dock of the Mullen Coal Company will be started this week by the Trotter Towing & Wrecking Co., of Amherstburg, Ont. The contract was awarded the company by the Lake Shore Steamship Company, Milwaukee, owner of the TOPEKA.
      The wrecking company is to receive a sum of money and the salvage from the vessel, including her cargo of 1,800 tons of soft coal. The TOPEKA, upbound, was sunk by collision with the downbound steamer CHRISTOPHER August 15, and has since constituted a menace to navigation.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      September 26, 1916

      Detroit, Oct. 8. - Awaiting the arrival of a dominion government inspector and the bonds, which he is to sign as a guarantee of satisfactory performance of the work. Capt. Fred J. Trotter of Amherstburg, Ont., will remove the wreck of the steamer TOPEKA, which was sunk in Detroit River, opposite the Mullen Coal Dock at Sandwich, in collision with the steamer CHRISTOPHER, the morning of August 16. Capt Trotter has his derrick scow in readiness to remove the TOPEKA's boilers and machinery and his steamer J. E. MILLS is waiting with steam pumps to recover the TOPEKA's cargo of 1,800 tons of coal. After completion of the salvage work the TOPEKA's hull is to be destroyed.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      October 9, 1916

      Capt. Trotter of the Trotter Towing & Wrecking Company expect to make an effort to salvage the coal cargo off the sunken barge FILER when he completes the salvaging of the steamer TOPEKA in the Detroit river. The latter work has been interrupted by the steamer SAMUEL MATHER when she hit the wrecking outfit in a fog on Tuesday, but the work will be resumed tomorrow, Trotter expects.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      November 4, 1916

Steam screw TOPEKA. U. S. No. 145510. Of 1,376 tons gross; 1,111 tons net. Built Milwaukee, Wis., 1889. Home port, Milwaukee, Wis. 228.3 x 36.0 x 19.2 Crew of 16. Freight service. Of 755 indicated horsepower.
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1911

Media Type:
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Reason: collision
Lives: nil
Remarks: Total loss
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 42.28318 Longitude: -83.05925
William R. McNeil
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Topeka (Propeller), U145510, collision, 15 Aug 1916