The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
J. W. Westcott (Propeller), U76136, sunk, 7 Nov 1887

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Chicago.---Early Tuesday morning the steamer J.W. WESTCOTT sunk in lake Michigan, seven miles north of Chicago, and may prove a total loss. Her crew of twelve men escaped. The WESTCOTT, commanded by Captain G.A. Phelps, left South Chicago at 9 o'clock Monday night laden with 24,250 bushels of wheat, and was bound for Buffalo. The wind was blowing fresh from the southeast and the sea was smooth. At 11 o'clock the wind shifted to northeast, developing into a gale, and a heavy sea set in. At midnight when the steamer was about twenty-five miles below Chicago, the watchman sounded the pumps, and reported eight inches of water in the hold. This was the first knowledge Captain Phelps had that the steamer was leaking. The pumps and syphon were set in motion, and the steamer was put about, Captain Phelps intending to run back to Chicago. The inflow gained steadily, and soon got beyond control of the pumps. At two o'clock in the morning, when abreast of the Marine Hospital, the steamer's main deck was under water, and knowing that she would surely go down before the harbor could be reached, Captain Phelps headed her for the beach. She struck bottom in twenty two feet of water when about a quarter of a mile from shore, and settled in the quicksand until both rails were submerged. The crew took refuge in the boat house and remained there until daylight, when the yawl was lowered and they went ashore. Surgeon Goldsboro had seen the wreck and six men were on the beach to take charge of the shipwrecked crew as soon as they landed. They were at once escorted to the hospital, where a hot breakfast was in readiness. The Life-saving crew pulled out to the wreck and got there soon after she was abandoned, but there was nothing they could do. The Dunham Towing & Wrecking Co., will send an expedition to the steamer and two divers will endeavor to ascertain her condition. Fears are expressed that the sea will wash the sand from under her stern and that the weight of her heavy machinery in the after end will break her back. Captain Dunham thinks not. Captain Phelps is unable to account for the leak, as the steamer was in good condition and only four years old. He thinks the leak was forward and above the high water line. As the water in South Chicago was unusually low when the steamer loaded there, it is not unlikely that she got on the bottom and strained herself so hard that her butts were sprung, or that she struck an obstruction while leaving port. She is owned by Robert Holland, of Marine City, measured 451 tons, and valued at $45,000. She was insured for $15,000 in Crosby & Macdonald's pool. Mr. Holland also owned the barge LOUIE O'NEIL, which was lost in Lake Erie last spring, and the boat in which the WESTCOTT's crew escaped is the same one that carried the O'NEIL crew across lake Erie in a terrific storm. The WESTCOTT's cargo, shipped by Fisk, Thomas & Co., was insured for $18,187 of which $8,000 was in the Commercial Union, $5,187 in the Boston Marine and $5,000 in the Phoenix.
      The Marine Record
      Thurs. Nov. 10, 1887 p. 1

The steamer J.W. WESTCOTT, owned by Robert Holland, sunk off Chicago Monday night. She measures 451 tons and will be raised.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Thursday, November 10, 1887
      The J.W. WESTCOTT was raised and brought here yesterday by Dunham Towing & Wrecking Co. She will be repaired at once.
      Chicago Inter Ocean
      November 16, 1887

Chicago.---The steambarge J.W. WESTCOTT was released and brought into port at 2 a.m. on Tuesday by the Dunham Wrecking Co.,after about 15,000 bushels of her cargo of wheat had been pumped out. Her deck is raised somewhat. Her sinking was caused by striking a dock when leaving South Chicago which made a hole in her bow on the starboard side about eighteen inches long and six inches wide, two feet abaft the stem. She was drawing 11 and a half feet when she left South Chicago, and the hole in her bow is two and a half feet above that, and but for the heavy seas she had to encounter it is possible she would have arrived safely at Buffalo with her cargo intact. Robert Holland, her owner, is here from Marine City and will have her placed in the Chicago Drydock Co's dock for a thorough overhauling. She had the wet wheat, amounting to about 10,000 bushels, taken out when she arrived in port.
      The Marine Record
      Thurs. Nov. 17, 1887 p. 1

Steam screw J.W. WESTCOTT. U. S. No. 76136. Of 522 tons gross; 451 tons net. Built Marine City, Mich., 1883. Home port, Milwaukee, Wis. 169.2 x 30.7 x 11.0 Of 250 indicated horse-power. Crew of 14.
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1909

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: sunk
Lives: nil
Hull damage: $5,000
Cargo: $18,000
Freight: wheat
Remarks: Raised
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Illinois, United States
    Latitude: 41.85003 Longitude: -87.65005
William R. McNeil
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J. W. Westcott (Propeller), U76136, sunk, 7 Nov 1887