The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Vernon (Propeller), sunk, 29 Oct 1887

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Milwaukee.---The loss of the passenger propeller VERNON, which was wrecked in the gale that swept Lake Michigan Saturday, and her crew of twenty-two persons and the passengers, number unknown, supposed to have been lost, involves a greater loss of life than any of the previous disasters on the lake this season, not excepting the propeller CHAMPLAIN which burned early in the spring off Charlevoix, causing the death of twenty-two persons. A most singular coincidence is that the VERNON was the vessel which took the place of the CHAMPLAIN in the Northern Michigan line, and had only been on the line since August 1st. She was one of the finest furnished passenger boats on the lakes, and had a valuation of $75,000. Captain Moran, of the steamship SUPERIOR, which arrived at 8:30 o'clock Saturday brought the first news of the wreck. Captain Moran, of the SUPERIOR, saw three or four rafts with men clinging to them, and also a small boat containing a woman and three men. Though he made an effort to rescue them, the high sea prevented the rendering of any assistance, the SUPERIOR being herself disabled, and requiring the crew's best efforts. It was about 10 o'clock in the evening when the first signs of the wreck, in the shape of floating cargo and furniture, were seen. About an hour later the rafts were sighted. On some the occupants were almost gone, while others signaled the SUPERIOR for help. P.J. Klein & Burk, who chartered the VERNON to replace the CHAMPLAIN, burned early in the season, received the first information of the disaster. After hearing the account as reported by Captain Moran he felt assured that it was the VERNON. He did not know what passengers were on board, and of the crew could only give the following names: The VERNON carried a crew of twenty-two men, among whom were the following: Captain George Thorpe, of Ogdensburg, N.Y., master; Captain Collins, mate, who formerly sailed the schooner GOLDEN WEST; Captain Higgins, second mate, who sailed the barge LELAND last year; F.W. Burke, clerk, he was the oldest son of Mr. Burke, one of the part owners of the vessel; Charles Marceau, first engineer; Frank M. Hall, second engineer, brother of Ed. Hall, of Chicago; Martin Beau, steward; A.Porter, a brother of Martin, both having been on the CHAMPLAIN when she burned. The VERNON was owned by A. Booth, of Chicago, and was valued at $75,000. She was a year old and insured for $35,000. She ran between Chicago and Mackinaw, and picked up freight at the ports where she touched, carrying it at the risk of her owners. She was built in Chicago and was the largest boat ever built there. Her tonnage was 560 tons, classed A 1, built by J.P. Smith in 1886.
Every vessel known to have passed the scene of the propeller VERNON's wreck off Two Rivers Point last Saturday, has undoubtedly reached port by this time, and as none have reported picking up anybody on the lake there is now no doubt that every one on board when she left Glen Haven is dead, as no one could have survived the exposure to the cold more than a few hours. The crew numbered twenty-six, and it is believed the passengers did not exceed ten in all, as the low state of water prevented the VERNON from landing at the two principal ports, Charlevoix and Frankfort. The only names additional to those given above are those of William Albers, Saukville, Wis.; Miss Dunlevy, of St. James, Beaver Island; and Mr. Dutcher, a deck hand. Five fishing tugs left Two Rivers Tuesday afternoon, and eight miles off the life saving station one of then encountered a mass of wreckage. It included a yawl boat with the name VERNON painted on it, a piece of an ice box, and a piece of the cabin. Five oars were strapped to the yawl, which was bottom side up and had two holes in her bottom. Twelve miles northeast of Sheboygan a fishing tug came across a life raft. But not a single body hasbeen found and the ten men who were reported frozen stiff and stark in their life preservers have not been seen again. The wind is off shore, and the tendency is to drive all the unfortunates to midlake. The wreckage must have been scattered in all directions, as sections of the pilot house have been found eighteen miles apart. The captain of the life saving station at Two Harbors examined the life preservers picked up off Cheboygan reefs and found them almost worthless. They had evidently all been worn, as the belts remained tied, but were made of grass instead of cork and had become so saturated that they were too heavy to float a body and had apparently been slipped off by the wearers when they found themselves being dragged down by their weight. (part)
      The Marine Record
      Thurs. Nov. 3, 1887 p. 5

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: sunk
Lives: 49
Hull damage: $65,000
Cargo: $7,000
Freight: sundries
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Wisconsin, United States
    Latitude: 44.15388 Longitude: -87.56925
William R. McNeil
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Vernon (Propeller), sunk, 29 Oct 1887