The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Merrimac (Barge), adrift, 1 Nov 1883


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On Sunday afternoon, the wind began blowing quite strong from the west, and by 3 o'clock on Monday morning it had reached a velocity of twenty-seven miles an hour. The blow was general at all ports of the lakes, and was accompanied by very cold weather...
Sand Beach, Nov. 12. Another very heavy gale has been blowing from the northwest since last night. The steam barge ESCANABA came in today with her cargo of corn badly shifted. She lost her consort, the MERRIMAC, thirty miles above here at 9 o'clock this morning. The tug JOHN OWEN, with the lifesaving crew in tow, went to look for her this after-noon, but failed to find her. ...
      Detroit free Press
      November 13, 1883



Port Huron, Nov.12 - The steamship ESCANABA, from Chicago to Sarnia with grain, arrived here today. Capt. Owen says that he never in his life had such a time of it. His boat shifted her cargo so that his rail was almost under water. It will be remembered that the ESCANABA is a double-decker, and has about eight feet of her side out of the water. Had she been outside one hour longer, Capt. Owen thinks she would have gone to the bottom. The MERRIMAC, her consort, parted from her at 8 a.m. off the point. Her foresail and jib were gone. she drifted with the west northwest wind to the Canada shore. The tug JOHN OWEN took the MERRIMAC's hawser from the ESCANABA and went in search of her towards the Canada shore. Telegrams to all points were sent, but no information can be learned of the vessel. There is about 8,000 or 10,000 bushels of grain wet in the ESCANABA. ...Sand Beach, Nov. 13. The wind is blowing up from northwest again tonight with some snow. ...The MERRIMAC was reported this morning off Goderich flying a signal of distress. The tug JOHN OWEN has gone after her.
      Detroit Free Press, Wednesday
      November 14, 1883



Insurance Losses. ...The MERRIMAC in distress at Goderich, left Chicago last week with 40,000 bushels of corn, which wax insured in the 'Big Four.' She rates A 1, and is valued at 860,000. She is insured for 840,000, divided equally between the Boston Marine and Crosby & Dimick's companies.
Port Huron, Nov. 14. The tug MOCKING BIRD left here this morning to tow the schooner L. C. BUTTS, now four miles from Goderich, to anchor with her canvas gone. The seas are still running high. It was first supposed that this vessel was the MERRIMAC.
      Detroit Free Press
      November 15, 1883



Sand Beach, Nov. 15. ...The OWEN has been over towards the Canadian shore looking for the MERRIMAC, but failed to find her." "Port Huron, Nov. 15. At 10 o'clock a message was received from Kincardine saying that a river tug was sighted off that port alongside of the large vessel at anchor off there. This is probably the JOHN OWEN or TORRENT looking for the MERRIMAC.
      Detroit Free Press
      November 16, 1883



Special dispatch to the Detroit Free Press. Port Huron, Nov. 16. The rescue of the barge MERRIMAC by the tug TORRENT, which arrived at 8 o'clock, is one of the best efforts of Capt. Chris Moore's life. He left here Wednesday night at 10 o'clock and found the barge fifteen miles off the Canada shore and four miles north of Kincardine. The crew of the MERRIMAC were in a most pitiable state, not having had a meal or slept any since Sunday morning. ...On Monday the vessel shifted her cargo so that her rail was under water, and again the same thing happened. Both times all hands trimmed the vessel back. Some of the men gave up, when the tug hove in sight. A hawser was passed from the tug to the vessel, and after five hours' work her cables were shipped, and they started for the west shore. When off Point au Barques the vessel again shifted her cargo. All the lights went out on both the vessel and tug. The vessel was leaking while in the seas. All hands were at the pumps for ten hours until they got under the land below Sand Beach. She arrived and will go under the elevator tomorrow. ...It is thought there is some wet grain in her. Tonight the captain gave way from exhaustion and fainted three times while coming from the vessel. He says that had the TORRENT been two hours later, she could not have found the MERRIMAC afloat. This vessel is in the worst shape of any schooner that has come into the river for years. She is a complete mass of ice and drawing sixteen feet of water. The TORRENT received bad usage. She is covered with ice and snow. Every dish, table, and chair on her is broken.
      Detroit Free Press
      Saturday, November 17, 1883



That the recent north-west gale was the worst in every respect that has visited the Great Lakes since 1867 is shown by the number of disasters which have occurred since Sunday last. A careful account shows that there were about forty-six vessels which went ashore or foundered.
      Detroit Free Press
      Tuesday, November 20, 1883



When they ordered the schooner MERRIMAC in 1881, Milwaukee's Inter-Ocean Transportation Company had probably intended her to become a "steam barge" one day. The Detroit Dry Dock Company built MERRIMAC in their leased Springwells yard. Simultaneously taking shape at their Orleans Street yard was the Inter-Ocean steam barge MASSACHUSETTS, designed to tow MERRIMAC. Both hulls were 235 feet long, and each originally carried four spars. MERRIMAC's plight in the 1883 gale seems to have troubled her owners. MERRIMAC spent that winter at the Orleans Street shipyard. There the Dry Dock Engine Works fitted her with a fore-and-aft compound steam engine with cylinders 21" and 48" in diameter and piston stroke of 40". MERRIMAC enjoyed a long career, passing to the Gilchrist fleet and in 1911 to Canadian registry. Bearing the name of "ROCK FERRY" she served Montreal's George Hall Coal Co. who abandoned her in 1924.
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      RESCUE OF THE " MERRIMAC."
The rescue of the barge MERRIMAC by the tug TORRENT, which arrived at 8 o'clock, is one of the best efforts of Captain Chris. Moore's life. He left Port Huron on Wednesday night at 10 o'clock and found the barge fifteen miles off the Canada shore and four miles north of Kincardine. The crew of the MERRIMAC were in a most pitiable state, not having had a meal or slept any since Sunday morning. They were used up, and upon arriving here the Captain of the MERRIMAC fainted three times from weakness. His crew also deserve the highest praise. On Monday the vessel shifted her cargo so that the rail was under water, and again the same thing happened. Both times all hands trimmed the vessel back. Some of the men gave up when the tug hove in sight. A hawser was passed from the tug to the vessel, and after five hours work her cabin was slipped and they started for the west shore. When off Point au Barques the vessel again shifted her cargo, all lights went out on both the vessel and the tug. The vessel was leaking while in the seas all hands at the pumps for ten hours, until they got under the land below Sand Beach. She arrived and will go under the elevator tomorrow. Her Captain and crew made a protest at noon and think there is some wet grain in her. Tonight the captain gave way from exhaustion. He says that had the TORRENT been two hours late she could not have found the MERRIMAC afloat. This vessel is in the worst shape of any schooner that has come into the river for years. She is a complete mass of ice and drawing sixteen feet of water. The TORRENT had bad usage. She is covered with ice and snow. Every dish, table, and chair on her is broken.
      Marine Record
      Nov. 22, 1883


Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Notes:
Reason: adrift
Lives: nil
Freight: grain
Remarks: Recovered
Date of Original:
1883
Subject(s):
Local identifier:
McN.W.10500
Language of Item:
English
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.640833 Longitude: -81.768055
Donor:
William R. McNeil
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Merrimac (Barge), adrift, 1 Nov 1883