The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Marion L. Breck (Schooner), aground, 16 Oct 1900

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If the dispatches are correct, the ancient Canadian lumber hooker MARY L. BRECK (sic) will never again block narrow, damgerous channels and compel other craft to run on the rocks in order to avoid her. It will be remembered she did this to the Cleveland propeller C. B. LOCKWOOD last July, putting her underwriters to an expense of $20,000 to release and repair her. Now comes the report that during a heavy gale last Monday night she went ashore near Tobermory, Ont., loaded with brick, and will be a total loss.
      Detroit Free Press
      October 19, 1900
      . . . . .

      A.C.C.W.A Underwater Project 1970
      R.A.M. DIVERS
      The continuance of the 1969 fall project on the wreckage of the M. L. BRECK was carried out with a reasonable degree of success despite a number of set-backs. The weather in particular proved to be a formidable foe,
which at times made boating dangerous and diving impossible. About sixty percent of our efforts to reach the location were met with success.
      Before going into the details of the work carried out on the site, a study of tne vessel's history would he appropriate.
      The M. L. BRECK was launched on November 7, 1863 at the yard of Calvin and Breck in Garden Island, near Kingston and was presumably named after the sister of Ira Allen Breck. A portion of the hull used was originally
from the bark WILLIAN PENN. To write of the BRECK without consideration being given to the PENN would not give us the complete facts, therefore, the history really begins in the early 1840's when the PENN was built by
D. Carvin at Garden Island. During the following years she was involved in many accidents on the lakes. On April 22, 1850 she was dismasted on Lake Ontario while carrying a cargo of railroad iron. On May I, 1851 the vessel went ashore on the Canadian side of Lake Erie and then on October 22nd of the same year, she capsized on Lake Ontario with all hands assumed drowned. On July I5, 1853 the PENN again capsized, in Lake Erie, just off Cleveland and probably because of this incident she was rebuilt the same year and listed as 200 tons. In July of 1857, she ran ashore at Point Pelee in Lake Erie and was damaged to the extent of $500.00 -- a sizeable amount in those days.
      After rebuilding in 1863 as the M.L. BRECK, her troubles did not cease. In October 1866, the vessel went ashore at Snake Island, Lake Ontario with damages totalling $1,500 to the ship although the insurance was only for $800. At this time she was owned by J. Humphrey of Kingston and was listed as 299 tons. By the year I873, she was in the hands of H. Julien of Kingston. In 1876, the vessel had to undergo extensive repairs and then in 1877 she was rebuilt. On October 31,1883 the BRECK was damaged at Port Dalhousie by fire. The cause of the fire being given as "boiling pitch in the cabin". On June 8, 1868, there was a notice of sale of the schooner although no mention was made of the parties involved. It was said that she made some of the fastest trips ever by a boat in the lumber trade.
      At the time of her loss on October 16, 1900 the BRECK was owned by J. McGibbon of Sarnia. She was bound from Owen Sound to Blind River with a cargo of bricks when she went aground on the shoal at Bears Rump Island in Georgian Bay. The crew were rescued the following day by Flowerpot Island lightkeeper Dan Smith and his two sons. First reports received by the owner were that the vessel was a total loss but Captain Sutherland of the BRECK sent word that they should try and get her off the rocks.
John McGibbon immediately went to Midland to try and secure a tug for that purpose. Whether any attempt was made to carry the effort through is not known at this time.

      The listed details of the M.L. BRECK are: length 127', beam 23.5', depth 11.9, 284 net tons, 299 gross tons.

References: Toronto `Globe', Nov. 7, 1863; June 8, 1888. `Marine Casualties on the Great Lakes 1863-73' Sarnia `Observer', Oct. 26, 1900. Patrick Folkes, Marine Historian.

      THE 1970 DIVING LOG
I. The first dive of the season took place on the 14th of June and three divers rented a 16' boat for- the day. On arrival at the site a search was made in the deep water on the south side of the shoal and after a short time a portion of the hulk was located in 75' of water. The search was then moved into the shoal where the remains of a winch with its gears and a warping head were then located along with another iron deadeye and chainplate (as was found in the fall of 1969). In contrast to this, a small wooden deadeye was discovered --- perhaps the two different types were the result of the rebuilding of the vessel in 1877.

2. The second dive took place on the 12th of July, a perfectly calm day. This time, measurements and photos of the hulk were taken. The search was continued in deep water where further pieces of timber were located east of the main portion of wreckage. A further search of the shoal revealed an upper deadeye made of iron with a piece of wire rope still formed around it. Other items of interest located were two hawsepipes with a chain still inserted (probably from the rudder steering), a "twin sister" hook still in good condition, various kinds of pins and rings and part of the cargo of bricks which are worn from continued pounding on the shoal. Also found were some iron hold stantions, which again would probably have been installed in the rebuilding process of 1877.

3. The third dive on the 26th of July was begun by takinq photographs of the items on the shoal and carried on by a further search of the deep water (90-100') to try and locate the remainder of the hull section. This met with little success although many more heavy timbers were seen.

4. The fourth stage of the operation on the l5th of August was the site survey which took approximately four hours to complete. The results of this can best be observed in the accompanying graphics.

5. A fifth and final dive was made on the 12th of October to complete the measurements of some items and also to take extra photographs in deep water.

      Schooner MARION L. BRECK. Of 298 tons Register. Built Garden Island, Ont., 1863. Home port, Kingston, Ont. 127.1 x 23.5 x 11.9 Owned by John McGibbon, of Sarnia, Ont. No number.
      List of Vessels on the Registry Books of the
      Dominion of Canada on December 31, 1898

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: aground
Lives: nil
Freight: brick
Remarks: Total loss
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Geographic Coverage:
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Marion L. Breck (Schooner), aground, 16 Oct 1900