The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
A. W. Colton (Propeller), U106025, sunk by collision, 6 Sep 1883

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Detroit, Mich., Sept. 6. -- The tugs BALIZE, bound down, and the A.W. COLTON, bound up, collided just above the head of Belle Isle Park, about 1:30 this morning, sinking the COLTON. By the assistance of the BALIZE and the tug BEARD, which was passing, they got the COLTON in shoal water below the lighthouse on the island, her stern being in 10 and her bow in 18 feet of water. Both captains claim the other at fault, as they had exchanged whistles.
      J.W. Hall Great lakes Marine Scrapbook, Aug. / Sept., 1883

      . . . . .
Mr. A.W. Colton, Manager of the Wabash Line of steamers in this city, received intelligence from Detroit this forenoon that when the tug COLTON, which left here at 4 o'clock this morning, reached a point in the Detroit River near the head of Belle Isle, a collision took place between the tugs BALIZE and COLTON, in which the latter was struck on the starboard bow and soon went down by the head with her stern above water. Captain Huntly, who, it is thought, was on watch at the time of the accident, received some injury, but from what can be gathered it seems his injuries are not serious. He got wet and was chilled, but it is thought he is all right by this time. he was in communication by telephone with Mr. Colton at about noon today. One of the firemen, supposed to be Henry Sullivan, brother of Lafayette Sullivan of this city, was below deck when the collision took place, and it was found necessary to chop a hole in the deck to extricate him. All others on the tug escaped without injury. There were on the COLTON Captains Huntly and Chamberlain, two firemen, and the cook. They will return to Toledo this evening on the steamer WAITE. The COLTON will be at once raised and repairs made. For the present she will be left in charge of Captain Mullen, of Detroit, manager of the Ohio Central Coal and Barge Company's boats. The tug COLTON has been very unfortunate since she commenced towing. Last year she and the steamer MILTON WARD ran against each other and the COLTON had her starboard bow crushed in, causing her to sink. She was repaired at Detroit at a cost of about $4,000. Nothing has yet been learned as to how badly she is injured. The COLTON was built by Bell, of Buffalo, and cost about $20,000. She is one of the finest tugs on the lakes. -- Toledo Blade, Thursday.
      J.W. Hall Great lakes Marine Scrapbook, September, 1883

The Tugs BALIZE and A.W. COLTON collided at the head of the Detroit River a few mornings since, sinking the latter near the shore. There is a fair show for going into admiralty for a final settlement. -- Detroit Report.
The iron tug COLTON, which went on the beach last Thursday, has been abandoned. Her machinery is utterly ruined. - Duluth Report
      Marine Record
      Sept. 13, 1883

The tug COLTON, which sank near the foot of Belle Island, Sept. 6, was raised Friday night, and towed to the Springwells Dry-dock. An attempt was made to put the tug in a slip, when the chains parted, and she again sank in deep water. She is being raised again.
      J.W. Hall Great lakes Marine Scrapbook, Aug. / Sept., 1883

Steam screw A.W. COLTON. U. S. No. 106025. Of 92.61 tons gross; 48.46 tons net. Built Buffalo, N.Y., 1881. Home port, Toledo, O. 81.0 x 18.0 x 10.0
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1885

A bad decision by the helmsman on the upbound tug A.W. COULTON caused a collision that stirred a big commotion on the Detroit River one autumn night in 1883. The officer, identified as B. Chamberlain ordered the COULTON's wheel turned to port when lie should have said starboard. The wayward tug crossed the bow of the approaching downbound tug BALIZE and the two boats collided. The BALIZE hit the COULTON broadside, slicing through the hull ,almost to the keel. The COULTON drifted for a while down stream before sinking in shallow water on the American side of the river.
Chamberlain was blamed for the accident, which happened above Belle Island sometime between 1 and 2 a.m. on Sept. 6. Not only did he give the wrong command, critics said his tug was operating on the wrong side of the river.
Capt. W.H. Hutchinson, master of the BALIZE, said he believed the COULTON was off course when it came upon the BALIZE. For some unexplained reason, thie COULTON was upbound on the American side of the river, where downbound boats make their way even to this day. Hutchinson's mate Charles Conroy, who stood watch that hour, said the BALIZE passed the downbound tug BEARD, which had the schooner A. FORD in tow, and was about 130 feet in front of the Beard when the lights of the COULTON hove in sight.
Although the BALIZE was already close to the American side of the river, Conroy said he blew a warning blast on the whistle and turned the vessel hard to starboard, expecting the approaching boat to steer the other way. Conroy believed that if the BALIZE hadn't struck the COULTON, the BEARD would have.
The BALIZE took extensive damage to the bow in the crash, then was hit in the stern by the drifting schooner FORD. The BALIZE did not sink and nobody was hurt on either boat. The tug remained in service until it was dismantled at Midland, Ont. in 1915. (Author James Donahue's shipwreck columns appears each week in the Huron Daily Tribune)
      Port Huron Daily Tribune
      By James Donahue

      On examining the tug A. W. Coulton*, it was found that the door to her collision bulkhead was open, and that a rope which passed through the door prevented its being closed. As the Coulton took about an hour in sinking, it will be seen at once that she would not have gone down had the door been closed as it should have been.
      Detroit Post and Tribune
      November 7, 1883

Media Type:
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Reason: sunk by collision
Lives: nil
Remarks: Raised
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 42.34004 Longitude: -82.98047
William R. McNeil
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A. W. Colton (Propeller), U106025, sunk by collision, 6 Sep 1883