The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Champlain (Propeller), burnt, 15 Jun 1887

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Propeller CHAMPLAIN of 356 Tons, owned by the N. M. Line. Home port, Milwaukee, and classed as A 2. On June 15, 1887, with a cargo of sundries, vessel burned on Lake Michigan, and became a total loss. Built in 1870. Property loss, hull $25,000, cargo $11,000
      1887 Casualty List (Total loss)
      Marine Record, Dec. 15, 1887 p.4

The steamer CHAMPLAIN burned around 10 o'clock Saturday night near Fisherman's Island, near Charlevoix. 27 were saved and about 19 were lost.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Monday, June 20, 1887

The steamer CHAMPLAIN, of the Northern Michigan Line, bound for Cheboygan, from Chicago, was burned at midnight on Thursday, between Norwood and Charlevoix, at the mouth of Grand Traverse Bay. The boat was running ten miles an hour, when flames suddenly shot up from beneath the engine, driving the engineer from his post withhis clotheson fire. He ran to the hurricane deck, plunged into a tank and then returned to his work, but was too late to stop his engine or connect the hose. The alarm was given, the sleeping passengers were roused, and when life-preservers were fastened on all they gathered on the forward deck. Two lifeboats and liferafts were lowered, but the steamer was running so fast that they got away. In ten minutes from the time the boat caught fire the passengers were all compelled to jump into the lake. There were fifty seven persons, passengers and crew, on the CHAMPLAIN, and of these thirty seven are known to be saved. Captain Casey says that within ten minutes from the time the fire broke out the boat was in flames. The Captain gave immediate orders for lowering the lifeboats and headed for Fisherman's Island. She grounded a mile from shore, however, and the passengers were forced into the water, many of them, in their excitement, jumping overboard. The books were lost. The clerk, Henry Brennan, died of exhaustion after being picked up.
Miss Ella Wilson of Petosky, says she retired about 10 o'clock, and was roused by a lady who said the boat was on fire. She first went aft, but came back and reached the bow, where she was let down by ropes into the water. She saw a gentleman clasp his little son in his arms and jump overboard. Both sank and were not seen again. Miss Wilson and a male companion floated for some time and finally reached a piece of wreck, to which they clung until rescued by Captain Casey.
W.B. Allbright, of Chicago, heard a shriek about midnight. It was the cry of the scorched engineer. He looked after the safety of some lady passengers, and then, with Mr. Russell, of Jackson, jumped into the water and struck out for shore. Mr. Russell became chilled and discouraged and startrd back. Allbright saw no more of his companion until he discovered his dead body on the beach. Allbright was rescued after two hours, though he would have been left to his fate had not a friend recognized his voice, and insisted upon his being taken aboard a boat which was even then loaded to the waters edge.
The passengers and crew of the steamer CHAMPLIAN when she left her dock on Tuesday, June 14, at 9 o'clock were the following:
Miss Mary Anderson, Traverse City.
Mrs. Mary Wakefield, Charlevoix.
Mrs. M. Keough, Chicago.
William Samson, Mackinac.
Ella Wilson, Petosky.
George Millar, Charlevoix.
Mrs. Ella Smith, Charlevoix.
Mrs. Bedford, Charlevoix.
Mrs. Martin LeBoe, Ella and Agnes LeBoe, the wife and children of the steward. The Crew were:
Edward Casey, Captain, Manistee.
Ira Bishop, first mate, Pulaski, N.Y.
James Thorpe, second mate, Milwaukee.
Martin LeBow, steward, Chicago.
Henry Brennan, clerk, Chicago.
John McCaffrey, engineer, Manistee
Four Indian deck hands, from the Peninsula
Frank Scully, a helper in the kitchen, Cheboygan.
Antione Sparrow, fireman, Milwaukee.
The other passengers got on the vessel at various points along the route. Captain Casey has been in the CHAMPLAIN since 1882. A year before that time the St. ALBANS was lost off Milwaukee while he was her captain. Before going into the St. ALBANS Captain Casey commanded the propeller CITY OF TOLEDO. Henry Brennan, the clerk of the CHAMPLAIN, who is among the missing, was 24 years of age. He graduated from the docks, having been in the employ of the company for seven years. Before going in the CHAMPLAIN he served a year in the office and two years on the steamer LAWRENCE. Mrs. Mary Keough, who perished in the flames, was the invalid wife of Martin Keough. Mabel, her daughter, was saved. The steward, Martin LeBoe, had early last week made arrangements for an excursion for his wife and two little ones to Cheboygan and return.
Accordingly Mrs. LeBoe, Ella, aged 3 years, and Agnes, aged 5 years, accompanied the steward on the trip. Late advices from Charlevoix say the steward and his wife were saved but the two little ones perished.
Ella C. Smith, of Charlevoix.
Robert Wilkes, of Charlevoix.
Mrs. M. Keough, of Chicago.
R. McKeel, of Charlevoix
stewart LeBoe's two children, aged 2 and 5 respectively, Chicago.
Captain Lucas, of Petosky.
Henry Brennan the clerk, a fireman, a second cook, and a cabin boy, of Chicago.
Mr. C.H. Russell, of the Jackson, Mich. Corset Co.
A gentleman and a boy from Milwaukee, bound for Mackinac.
One waiter and four Indian deckhands.
A lady and daughter from Frankfort, names unknown.
Those saved floated an hour and a half, when they were rescued by a yawl and fish-boats from the shore. Several of those saved were badly burned. The following are among the saved:
Captain Casey
Mates Harry Bishop and Joseph Thorp.
Wheelsman S. Bishop and James Parr.
Watchman James Markey.
Engineers John McCafferty and Warne, the former badly burned.
P. Katon, first cook.
Roy Hamilton.
Miss Keough, of Chicago, a waitress.
Mrs. Jangalls, of Petosky.
Mrs. H. Bedford, George Miller, Mary Wakefield, Wm. Stevens, Henry Wilks, Fred Wrisley, all of Charlevoix.
W.B. Allbright, of Chicago.
Stewart Martion LeBoe and wife, Chicago.
Mrs. Kane, stewardess.
Antione Sparrow, of Charlevoix, and one white deckhand.
R. Whittlemore, of Milwaukee
Miss Ella Wilson, of Petosky
E. Fall, of Bear Lake.
There are seven others not accounted for. The fire was caused by the explosion of a lamp, which was knocked off a table by a fireman. Seven bodies have been found, and two more bodies were found in the burned hull. J.F. Burke of Chicago, telegraphed P.J. Klein from Charlevoix, that fourteen of the twenty two bodies had been recovered. Some of them were buried Monday, and the day was one of general mourning at Charlevoix. The burned hull has been towed into shallow water at Round lake. She is burned down to the 10 foot mark aft and the 3 foot mark forward, and will probably prove a total loss, although the insurance companies will send an agent to look her over.
The lost vessel was built at Ogdensburg in 1868 for Burke & Klein, at a cost of $30,000, by the Keating Shipbuilding Co.. Her Gross tonnage registered 437.92. Her length was 135 feet over all, 26 foot beam, and 11 foot depth of hold. In 1874 she was rebuilt at Manitowoc at a cost of $15,000. She was equipped at Chicago with a new boiler and compound engines. Her freight, valued at about $12,000, was mostly of the package order, and will prove a total uninsured loss.
      The Marine Record
      Thurs. June 23, 1887

Chicago.---The rebuild of the burned steamer CHAMPLAIN is nearly completed, and she will be put in the water at Milwaukee Shipyard within a few days. Practically a new boat has been constructed. Of the CHAMPLAIN only the stern-post and a few feet of her keel remain. Her dimensions are as follows:- Length of keel, 167 feet, over all 180 feet; Beam 29 feet; Hold 12 feet 6 inches. The frames are spaced 20 inches from centers, and 4 inch timber has been utilized for outside planking and ceiling, the latter being edge bolted. The iron chords, one of 12 inches wide by five eights thick under the main beam, and another 10 inches wide under the promenade deck, run from stem to stern, while six diagonal straps, three at each end from the main chords to below ---- of the bilges. In constructing the hull the model of the CHAMPLAIN was preserved as much as possible, thus assuring speed, excellent sea-going qualities, and unusual strength. The new steamer will carry the engine of the CHAMPLAIN, the working portions of which have been thoroughly overhauled; also the shell of the CHAMPLAIN's boiler, the interior having been renewed at a cost of $3,000. Like the CHAMPLAIN, the steamer will have a full length cabin, provided with first-class accommodations for passengers. No name has yet been chosen for this craft. Captain Bishop will probably command the new boat when she goes into commission.
      The Marine Record
      Thurs. Nov. 3, 1887 p. 1


Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: burnt
Lives: 19
Hull damage: $25,000
Cargo: $11,000
Freight: sundries
Remarks: Raised & renamed
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 45.31806 Longitude: -85.2584
William R. McNeil
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Champlain (Propeller), burnt, 15 Jun 1887