The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Fred Mercur (Propeller), U120513, aground, 1 Nov 1883

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      Erie, Pa., Nov. 16. -- Last night at 5 o'clock during a severe snowstorm the propeller FRED MERCUR, of the Lehigh Valley Line, with a cargo of coal bound from Buffalo to Chicago, went ashore about a quarter of a mile east of the flash light. As soon as she struck Captain Pope blew for a tug. The tug ERIE went out to her assistance, but on account of the terrible sea was unable to do anything. Captain Pope then scuttled the MERCUR and she now lies easy on a sandy beach. The sea has gone down some and unless the wind should blow strong from the north or northeast she will no be in great danger. She lies imbedded in about four feet of sand. Captain Henry, Superintendent of the Lehigh Valley Line, will arrive from Buffalo at 4 o'clock this afternoon, and will take steps for her release. Captain Pope says that if the old land light had not been discontinued he would not have gone ashore. He could not see the present lights.
      J.W. Hall Great Lakes Marine Scrapbook, November, 1883

The propeller FRED MERCUR, which foundered off here last week, was released on Monday. She was got off the beach and towed into Erie. Her cargo is nearly all saved. Erie Report.
      Marine Record
      Nov. 22, 1883

      . . . . .

An official investigation by steamboat inspectors into lake disasters is something new at this port, and it is doubtful whether a case of the kind has ever been brought up. Our readers will remember the great gale in November last in which thousands of dollars worth of vessel property was destroyed and many lives lost. It was during this gale, or towards the close, when the prop. FRED MERCUR, commanded by Capt. F.L. Pope, on her way from Buffalo to Chicago with a cargo of coal ran ashore on the Erie Peninsula at Erie. The vessel was released and brought to this port at a cost of $4,000 for wrecking services. All the officers of the vessel were on deck at the time of the accident, but each gave different reason for the stranding. Capt. Henry, superintendent of the Lehigh Valley Transportation Co., has therefore decided to have an official investigation, so that the blame may be placed where it belongs. The examination was commenced this morning in the office of the Steamboat Inspectors Learmouth and Dickson in the White Building. Capt. Fred Pope is one of our best lake captains, old in service, careful and trustworthy. His fellow officers were Peter McKenna, first mate, and William McCullon, second mate.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      February 12, 1884 3 - 5

      . . . . .

      The inquiry into the stranding of the prop. FRED MERCUR at Erie, during the heavy storm in November last, closed with the testimony of Capt. M.M. Drake of the Union Drydock Co. Capt. Drake testified he had known Capt. Pope for over 15 years and would have no hesitation in declaring him a capable and skillful master and a first class pilot. The board reserved its decision.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      February 15, 1874 3 - 1

      . . . . .

      The following is the decision of the U.S. Local Inspectors in the recent propeller FRED MERCUR investigation. It will be seen that the old and experienced navigator, Capt. Fred Pope is exonerated from all blame:
      Office of the U.S. Local Inspectors of Steam Vessels
      Buffalo, N.Y., Feb. 20, 1884.

      We the undersigned, U.S. Local Inspectors of Steam Vessels, Buffalo, N.Y., find in investigating the cause of the stranding of the stm. FRED MERCUR on Erie Peninsula, while endeavoring to make the harbor of Erie, on the afternoon of Nov. 15th. 1883, during a heavy wind and snow storm. In carefully considering the testimony taken, we find the cause of said stranding was owing to neglect of Mate Peter McKinnon and 2nd. Mate Wm. McCullon in not reporting soundings to Capt. Pope who was at his post directing the movements of the steamer previous to turning around for Erie harbor, and from that time up to the time of stranding, and we exonerate him from blame. We therefore revoke the license of Wm. McCullon, second class pilot, for gross neglect of duty as pilot in not
reporting the soundings to Capt. Pope of the steamship FRED MERCUR, while attempting to enter the harbor of Erie, on the noon of November 15th, 1883.
      George B. Dickson,
      Robert Learmonth,
      Local Inspectors Steam Vessels.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      February 21, 1884 3 - 6

Steam screw FRED MERCUR. U. S. No. 120513. Of 1224.37 tons gross; 966.24 tons net. Built Buffalo, N.Y., 1882. Home port, Buffalo, N.Y. 232.0 x 35.0 x 18.0.
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1885

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Reason: aground
Remarks: Got off
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Pennsylvania, United States
    Latitude: 42.12922 Longitude: -80.08506
William R. McNeil
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Fred Mercur (Propeller), U120513, aground, 1 Nov 1883