The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Wells Burt (Schooner), U80365, sunk, 21 May 1883

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      Captain Fountain, His Son, and a Crew of Nine Men All Find Watery Graves.
      [ From the Inter Ocean. ]
The dreadful results of the great storm continue to transpire, and it is greatly to be feared that the end is not yet. The vessel sunk off Evanston proves to be the WELLS BURT, owned by james S. Dunham, Esq., and captain Fountain, his son Daniel, a boy of 18, and a crew of nine men are all lost.
      The WELLS BURT was laden with 1,540 tons of coal for Chicago from Buffalo, consigned to Hedstorm & Co. Those on board are as follows:
      Master, Captain Thomas Fountain.
      Passenger, Daniel Fountain.
      Mate, Captain William Cody.
      Second Mate, White.
      Seamen, T. Hickey; Thomas George; Jeff Powers; Wilkie McCarthy, and two names unknown.
      Cook, name unknown
      Eleven in all.
Jeff Powers is a brother of Richard Powers, President of the Seaman's Union. In giving this name there is some guess-work, as it is not positively known that he left Buffalo on the BURT, though Mr. Richard Powers fears that he did.
leaes a wife and five children. A little son of about 14 made his appearance in Captain Channon/s store last evening, and asked for his father. The little fellow's piteous tone and anxious eyes as he scanned the faces about him was too much for the strong men congregated. Mr. Dunham, the owner of the vessel, turned away in tears, and all were affected. No one could comfort the boy, and he went away crying bitterly. Up to this time the terrible news has not been made known to the widow. Mr. Dunham and his family would call at the house in the evening.
      Captain Fountain was about 48 years of age, and had sailed most all his life. He was mate with Captain Arthur Atkins in the bark NORTHWEST, and afterwards commanded the schooner MARQUETTE, WILLIAM CROSTHWAITE, bark BOARD OF TRADE and PENSAUKEE, and from her went into the WELLS BURT. It will be remembered that the underwriters made a great fuss over the sinking of the BOARD OF TRADE, but it never transpired that Captain Fountain did anything in the least dishonorable. he disaster was one that might and does befall any master. He was an excellent navigater and had hosts of friends. His famile reside on Church Street, on the north side.
Measured 800 tons, was built at Detroit by the Detroit Dry-dock Company in 1873, rated A 1½, and was valued at $35,000. She was insured as follows-
      Continental Company - - - - $5,000.
      Western of Toronto - - - - - - $3,000.
      Boston Marine - - - - - - - - - - $5,000.
      Thames and Mercury - - - - - -$3,700.
      State of Pennsylvania - - - - - $4,000.
      Unio of Philadelphia - - - - - - $5,000
      Total - - - - - - - - - - $25,700
      The cargo of coal is also insured.
      Mr. Dunham will visit the Evanston wreck on a tug this morning, and a diver will probably be taken along.
      J.W. Hall Great Lakes Marine Scrapbook, May 1882


The schooner SEA GULL has gone down off Chicago (May 20),of 210 tons from Oswego.
Schooner WELLS BURT, loaded with coal went down in the storm of Monday, 11 men lost - near Evanston.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Thursday, May 24, 1883
      . . . . .

      The Three masted Schooner WELLS BURT, of this port (Chicago), owned by J.S. Dunham, went down off Evanston, on Sunday night. The Captain, Tom Fountain, his son Dan, and the remainder of the officers and crew, numbering eleven in all perished. It is feared that some other vessel collided with her, and that she also has gone down with all hands.
      Marine Record
      May 26, 1883


      The WELLS BURT has been visited by the Sub Marine Diver Captain Falcon and it is now believed that she foundered, half of her coal cargo is washed out, and it will be impossible to raise her as she is broken up and worked into the clay bottom. On the night she sunk the Captain of the Schooner C. B. JONES thinks he heard the captain of the WELLS BURT cry "For Gods sake send us a tug, we are sinking."
      Marine Record
      June 2. 1883


WELLS BURT Schooner, of 756 Tons. and 10 years old. a total loss on Lake Michigan 1883. Value $33,000.
      Lost Tonnage on the Lakes in 1883
      Marine Record, December 27, 1883

      . . . . .

      Pumping Coal From the Bottom of Lake Michigan
The schooner Wells Burt foundered in Lake Michigan last fall with a cargo of 1,540 tons of coal, and the appliances used and the efforts recently made to recover the cargo are made the subject of a lengthy article in the Chicago Tribune from which the following is selected:
Among the apparatus selected was an eight inch centrifugal steam pump, which its manufacturers claimed would pump all kinds of coal not exceeding eight inches in diameter. Such a pump Capt. Dunham had found operating with success on an ocean wreck, but nothing of the kind had ever been used on the lakes. It was a new invention, and the manufacturers said that if it did not do all that they represented they would refund the money. The pump arrived in Chicago, and, as an experiment, was placed at work on the Wells Burt. The schooner A. Mosher was moored over the wreck with the pump on board. Pipes were attached to the pump and run down to the bottom of the lake. , connecting with a flexible hose that runs into the hold of the Wells Burt.
The pump is really a very simple device considering the wonderful work it performs. It consists of a bronze-metal wheel similar to the ordinary propeller wheel, only instead of four fans there are three. This wheel is encased in a cast iron box, and, when at work, makes from 300 to 400 revolutions per minute. A powerful steam engine propels the wheel. Owing to the inexperience of the engineer considerable difficulty was encountered in getting the pump started, but this was soon overcome. In the ordinary centrifugal pump a foot valve is attached so that the pump may be easily primed, but in pumping coal the foot valve cannot be used, as the coal would, as the coal would force the valve upward and allow the water to run out. This problem was overcome by attaching an air-syphon to the pump, and by sucking the air out rapidly the water was rapidly lifted.
After the pump was all ready for work a diver placed a suction hose among the coal and the pump commenced to revolve. A minute later a stream of coal and water came surging up the pipes. A large coal sieve was placed at an angle of 45 degrees at the edge of the hatch, the water and sediment passing through the sieve, and over the side of the Mosher, while the coal, thoroughly cleansed, was dumped into the hold. The coal passes through 53 feet of pipes, is pumped up at an average rate of 40 tons per hour, and is transported from the bottom of the lake to the hold of the Mosher entirely by machinery. The Mosher has already brought in one cargo, and is expected to return with another to-day. Monday the wreckers pumped up 200 tons. Yesterday a chunk of coal 15 inches long and seven inched thick came up the pipe besides other pieces from six to eight inches square. Several days ago a car-coupling, made of one and one-eighth inch iron, twelve inches long and four inches wide, was pumped up. Another proof of the success of the pump came up in the shape of a piece of board 18 inches long and three inches wide. So far 850 tons have been recovered and it is supposed that there are about 500 tons remaining. The diver thinks fully 200 tons of the cargo have been washed away.
      Detroit Post and Tribune
      July 3, 1884

      . . . . .

WELLS BURT Schooner of 756 Tons, built 1873. Wrecked off Evanston 1883, crew of 10 lost.
      "Hist.,of the Great Lakes"
      by Mansfield pp.802

BURT,WELLS Schooner of 756 Tons, built 1873 at Detroit by the Detroit Dry-Dock Company. Owned by Dunham & Mosher. Home port,Troy. Value $32,000 Class A1 and 1/2 REMARKS :- 3 masts.
      Inland Lloyds Vessel Register, 1883

      . . . . .

      It is believed at Chicago that the mystery of the disappearance of one of a number of vessels trading to Chicago which have been swallowed up in Lake Michigan without leaving a trace, is soon to be solved. While out looking for tows two miles south of Grosse Point and two miles out in the lake, Capt. William Smith of the tug PERFECTION discovered a floating spar in the course of vessels going from Milwaukee to Chicago. It was found the spar was still held by the wire stays to the wreck of a vessel on the bottom. By the use of a lead line Capt. Smith could make out the outline of a large craft 48 feet below the surface. Marine men are of the opinion that the wreck is that of the schooner WELLS BURT, which was lost in a gale in 1882. Nothing had ever been found to indicate where the boat went down.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Saturday, June 25, 1904
      WELLS BURT Built 1873 Schooner - Wood
U. S. No. 80365 756 gt - nt 212.0 x 34.0 x 14.0
Foundered off Evanston, Illinois, Lake Michigan, May 20, 1883; all hands (10) lost.
      Detroit/Wyandotte Master Shipbuilding list
      Institute for Great Lakes research
      Perrysburg, Ohio.

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: sunk
Lives: 11
Hull damage: $33,000
Cargo: included
Freight: coal
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 42.65811 Longitude: -79.03476
William R. McNeil
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Wells Burt (Schooner), U80365, sunk, 21 May 1883