The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
J. H. Tiffany (Schooner), sunk by collision, 28 Nov 1859

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COLLISION AND LOSS OF LIFE. - We learn by telegraph from Port Sarnia, that the propeller MILWAUKEE and schooner J.H. TIFFANY collided at midnight, Monday, in the Straits of Mackinac. Both vessels sunk in 16 fathoms of water. All hands of the MILWAUKEE took to the boats and were picked up by the propeller FREE STATE. Four sailors and the cook of the schooner were lost. The remainder of her crew were saved by the FREE STATE and taken to Port Sarnia.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      Thursday, December 1, 1859

      . . . . .
      THE TERRIBLE COLLISION OF TWO LAKE VESSELS. -- We gather some additional particulars of the loss of the propeller MILWAUKEE and schooner J. H. TIFFANY, in the Straits of Mackinac:--
The collision occurred in the upper part of the lake, east of Big Beaver Island and some four miles northwest of Isle aux Galets. The MILWAUKEE was bound down with a cargo of wheat and flour from Milwaukee to Buffalo. The schooner was bound for Chicago, loaded with railroad iron. When first discovered by the MILWAUKEE she was on a tack directly across her bows. The vessels collided, and the schooner was badly shattered. In endeavoring to get away, the schooner swung around upon the propeller, cutting a large hole in her, and she commenced filling rapidly. Her crew and passengers, some thirty in all, had only time to launch the small boats and leave her before she sank. The propeller FREE STATE was fortunately near at hand and they were all saved. Meanwhile the schooner was filling fast, and to make matters worse the small boat had been rendered worthless by the collision. The crew betook themselves to the rigging but a heavy sea washed five of them overboard and they sank to rise no more. The rest were saved by the FREE STATE. Those saved were Capatin, 1st Mate, and Frew Mellon, John M. Smith and Henry Merritt, seamen. The lost were Henry E. Graves, 2nd Mate, Wm. Thompson, a negro cook; George Smith, James Swail, and John Lufton, seamen. The schooner was worth about $16,000 and was fully insured. The MILWAUKEE's cargo was insured. The Detroit papers say it is very doubtful whether either of the vessels can be raised or any part of their cargoes saved.
The Express says, the following letter from Capt. Rounds, of the FREE STATE, should have reached us in time for our issue on Saturday.
      LAKE HURON, Nov. 30, 1859.
      At half-past 12 o'clock Tuesday morning the 29th inst, while coming down the Straits, and abreast of Skillagales Light, the propeller MILWAUKEE, bound down, and the schooner J. H. TIFFANY, bound up, collided, and both went down in 16 fathoms water. We were in company with the MILWAUKEE, and had run side by side all night; we were not more than 40 rods distant at the time of the collision. We immediately stopped, lowered our boats, and went to their assistance. The MILWAUKEE's crew had barely time to escape to their boats before she went down. We then took them on board, and started in the direction in which we last saw the lights of the TIFFANY, which was in the direction of Skillagalee Reef, which they were steering for, thinking to reach shoal water before she went down. After feeling our way along for about two miles, (as the night was quite dark and windy,) we were fortunate enough to find the wreck of the schooner, although nothing but a part of her topmast was above water, from which we rescued the captain, mate and three men. Her crew consisted of ten men -- five were lost. -- The five saved had nearly perished, and we had great difficulty in restoring them, but they are all doing well. The propeller struck the schooner at right angles, a little abaft her forehatch. The vessel was going quite fast through the water, which carried her past the propeller, and smashed her boats from her davits.
The schooner was from Oswego, with a cargo of 300 tons railroad iron -- the propeller from Milwaukee, with wheat and flour. Yours Truly
      W. H. Rounds, propeller FREE STATE.
      Buffalo Daily Republic
      December 5, 1859
      . . . . .
      Schooner J.H. TIFFANY, cargo railroad iron, sunk by collision with the propeller MILWAUKEE in the Straits of Mackinaw, November 1859. Five lives lost. Vessel total loss. Property loss, hull $10,500; cargo $14,000.
      Disasters to Oswego vessels During 1859
      Oswego (N. Y.) Commercial Times
      April 10, 1860

      . . . . .

      Capt. Morrison, of the schr. SURPRISE, which passed down yesterday, reports seeing the mast heads of a vessel sticking out of the water some 4 miles north west of Skillagalee, which, no doubt, are those of the schr. J.H. TIFFANY, sunk last fall by collision with the prop. MILWAUKEE.
      Detroit Free Press
      April 20, 1860
NOTE: Skillagalee = Ile aux Galets

Tim Smith of this village, and Ben. Campbell, of Beaver Harbor, have started out to search for a schooner that was sunk by xcollision with the propeller MILWAUKEE sixteen years ago, for the discovery of which one thousand dollars has been offered. Tim is said to be the only person who knows her whereabouts.
      Charlevoix sentinel
      August 16, 1873
      . . . . .
The Wreckers- We announced last week that Timothy Smith and Ben. Campbell had started out in search of the schooner TIFFANY, lost in collision with the propeller MILWAUKEE sixteen years ago. On arriving at the grounds, they found the owner, Capt. Falcon searching, and who soon after grappled her. Inasmuch as Capt. Falcon had agreed not to search, matters were arranged by the payment of $300 to Smith and Campbell, which gentlemen, also, before leaving, grappled the sunken propeller, and buoyed her. Capt. Falcon paid $6,000 for the wreck of the schooner, which was loaded with railroad iron, valued at $35,000. The work of raising the iron will be immediately commenced. She lies five
miles off Skillagalee in eighteen fathoms of water.
      Charlevoix Sentinel
      August 23, 1873
      Schooner TIFFANY lost in collision with the propeller MILWAUKEE 16 years ago has been found in 18 fathoms of water 5 miles off Skillagalee and Charlevoix. The cargo of railway iron is being salvaged.
      Toronto Globe
      Serptember 6, 1873
      . . . . .
      IMPORTANT WRECKING OPERATIONS. -- The Lake Michigan Wrecking Company, who, within the past few years, have performed several important feats in wrecking operations, have recently with their vessel, the ACTIVE, accomplished another undertaking which surpasses all others of this character by bringing from the far depths wrecks and property which was long since abandoned by others in that line of business. The first of these was the recovery of the cargo, consisting of rolling freight, in part, and the engine of the propeller MILWAUKEE, which was sunk fifteen years since by collision with the schooner J. H. TIFFANY, near Skillagalee. The machinery, which was found to be in good order, was landed in Beaver Harbor for further disposition. The boiler will be raised also and towed to that place under water. The hull of the ill-fated steamer separated fore and aft, and when released of the bed-plate of the engine will be cast aside. The next important success of the above work was the finding of the schooner TIFFANY, which, as above stated, shared the same fate as the MILWAUKEE. She had on board, as will be remembered, a cargo of railroad iron, nearly all of which has been recovered and landed at the point above named. The balance is now being got out, and the vessel will soon be got into port and ere long will once more be in commission. The TIFFANY was comparatively a new vessel at the time of the fatal mishap, and it is stated none the worse of her long submersion. The work above recorded is without a parallel in our lake history.
      Detroit Free Press
      August 23, 1874

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: sunk by collision
Lives: 5
Hull damage: $10,500
Cargo: $14,000
Freight: railroad iron
Remarks: Total loss ?
Date of Original:
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Language of Item:
William R. McNeil
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J. H. Tiffany (Schooner), sunk by collision, 28 Nov 1859