The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Thomas H. Howland (Schooner), U24978, sunk by ice, 27 Jun 1900

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      Ice Broke A Hole In Her Bow - Captain And Crew Taken On Board The Tug.
Buffalo, May 12. - With a hole in her bottom, the schooner THOMAS HOWLAND, coal laden from Buffalo to Bay City, Mich., began filling when about four miles out of port this afternoon, and sank within 15 minutes in 40 feet of water. Outside the breakwater she encountered large fields of floating ice, but the powerful tug hauled her through and on for a mile in open water, when it was discovered that she was filling through a great hole in her bow, which had been jammed full of ice, preventing a leak until dislodged by the action of the water. Captain John Jacobson rushed to his cabin for some valuable papers, and the crew of six men lowered a yawl and stood by until the captain should reappear. He barely escaped the rushing water, which was close upon him as he sprang up the companion way. Capt. Jacobson leaped to the yawl just as the HOWLAND plunged bow foremost into the lake and sank. Capt. Jacobson and his crew were taken on board the tug. The HOWLAND was owned by W.H. Davis, of Milwaukee.
      Saginaw Courier-Herald
      May 13, 1900
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      Buffalo, May 12. -- The schooner THOMAS HOWLAND was cut through by ice in Lake Erie today, and sank off Windmill Point in thirty-five feet of water. The crew were all rescued. The HOWLAND, in command of Capt. Jacob Jacobson, had 650 tons of coal on board, and was in tow of the tug DANFORTH. She had gone but one and a half miles beyond the ice --?-- when it was discovered the boat was sinking. The yawl was immediately got ready, while the captain went to his cabin to get his papers. When he came up the water was even with the galley. The yawl was safely launched, and the seven men were picked up by the DANFORTH and brought to Buffalo. The schooner went down fifteen minutes after the crew left. She is owned by W. H. Davis, of Milwaukee, and was not insured. The cargo, however was covered. There have been several narrow escapes from disaster on account of the vast ice fields which still exist in Lake Erie, but this is the first ship that has been lost from it.
      Milwaukee Library Scrapbook
      May 13, 1900
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      May 15, 1900 3-3 Capt. Jacob Jacobson of the sunken schooner HOWLAND said yesterday that negotiations are now pending with a wrecking company at Detroit for the raising of the schooner. If the boat is raised it will be done with pontoons. Davis, the owner of the HOWLAND arrived in town yesterday.
      Buffalo Morning Express
      May 15, 1900 3-3

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The McMorran Wrecking outfit arrived here yesterday and the work of raising the sunken schr. HOWLAND will be begun this morning. The boats of the wrecking company took out the clearance papers last night for Fort Erie so as to be ready to make an early start. The HOWLAND is lying in 35 ft. of water and it is thought that she can be raised without any trouble. Two hugh pontoons connected with chains, will be sunk and placed about the boat. Then the water will be pumped out and the air chamber filled. The HOWLAND after she is raised, will be towed inside the breakwater, where repairs will be made.
Nothing new developed between the owners of the schooner and the insurers of the coal cargo. The wrecker who took out part of the coal cargo unbeknown to the owners of the schooner made no attempt yesterday to continue their work.
      Buffalo Morning Express
      June 9, 1900 10-1

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      George W. Pfohl & Son, who claim they bought the coal cargo of the schooner THOMAS L. HOWLAND, which sunk off Windmill Pt. some time ago, on Wednesday secured an injunction through the Canadian courts against the McMorran Wrecking Col. of Port Huron restraining it from wrecking the boat.
The papers were issued at Welland, and on Wednesday afternoon Mr. Pfohl and court officer went out to the wrecked schooner on a tug. Foreman Diefenbach of the McMorran Wrecking Co. was in charge of the work, and the papers were handed to him. He immediately stopped the work and came to Buffalo, where he had a conference with Mr. Davis, one of the owners of the HOWLAND. Mr. Davis wired Mr. McMorran at Port Hurron of the situation, who inturn notified his attorney at Sarnia. Mr. McMorran's attorney went to Welland and met Mr. Pfohl's attorney. Both attorneys came to Buffalo yesterday and consulted with Harvey Brown, attorney for Mr. Davis, one of owners of the boat. A compromise was finally settled upon and it is said the work of wrecking the OWLAND will be continued today.
At the time the injunction papers were served 4 chains had been placed under the schooner. One more chain will have to be put under the boat before the huge pontoons will be attached. It is expected the schooner will be raised tomorrow
      Buffalo Morning Express
      June 15, 1900 10-1

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The McMorran Wrecking Co. of Port Huron has succeeded in raising the schooner THOS. L. HOWLAND, sunk several weeks ago by the ice off Windmill point, Lake Erie.
      Marine Review
      June 21, 1900
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The schr. THOMAS L. HOWLAND which was sunk by the ice early in the spring an raised a couple of days ago , has been towed into the breakwater. Capt. Jacobson said last night that an examination of the boat showed her to have a small hole stove in her bow. However, the captain alleges that her deck was seriously damaged by the wreckers who went out to the sunken boat to remove her coal cargo. Instead of removing the hatches, Capt. Jacobson alleges that the wreckers rammed the sandsucker which was used to take out the coal through the hatches. The HOWLAND will be brought inside of the harbor today and her coal removed. Repairs to the schooner will be made at once.
      Buffalo Morning Express
      June 25, 1900 8-1

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The schr. THOMAS L. HOWLAND, which was sunk by the ice in the spring was yesterday sold to the McMorran Wrecking Co. of Port Huron. The HOWLAND was raised several days ago and towed into the breakwater. There she will probably remain until necessary repairs and made to her bow and deck.
The deck of the HOWLAND is damaged considerably, and it is said it will cost nearly $1,000 to repair it. The injury to the deck, it is said, was caused by letting down a pump to remove the coal cargo. The bow of the boat has a small hole stove in it.
The price paid by the McMorran Wrecking Co. is not known. The McMorran Wrecking Co. wrecked the boat, and it is said a proposition was made before the ship was raised whereby the wrecking company would buy the vessel if the owner did not want her. Mr. Davis, one of the owners, saw that the deck of the HOWLAND was damaged considerably and decided to sell her. Mr. Davis and Capt. Jacobson, master of the boat, left last night for Milwaukee. Capt. Jacobson has the option of selling the HOWLAND, but it is not known whether he will accept.
      Buffalo Morning Express
      June 27, 1900 8-1

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      Buffalo, July 5. - The entire story or even the most absorbing part of it, that has to do with the case of the schooner T.H. HOWLAND would make a decidedly good sized volume. It involves so much that lake men ought to know, and mostly would like to know for their profit as well as for general information and amusement, that at least a small chapter ought to be given on the proceedings. The poor schooner lies at the Buffalo breakwater with her decks out and generally forlorn. It was found that few men, not actually experts, imagined that there would be air enough in a coal cargo, or water pressure enough outside of it to take out a sunken vessel's decks. The first diver that went down to HOWLAND reported that her deck engine had gone down through the deck, but this statement was disbelieved.
      Then as to the liability of the cargo. As it was a matter of 650 tons of hard coal, some interested persons reasoned that it was worth $2,500 - no doubt more than the vessel itself, and possibly much more at a depth of 50 feet. So it was argued that the cargo ought to pay the great part of the cost of raising both, and the vessel interest strenuously resisted all effort to take the coal out before the vessel was raised. It would not be of much account to rehearse the tactics that were resorted to by the three interests that entered the war over the vessel. As she lay in Canadian waters some of the proposed legal proceedings had to be dropped before they were begun, but there were a few injunctions and counter injunctions got out and made to add very materially to the cost of getting the vessel.
      One of the things that were pretty clearly settled, for the thousandth time, was that it seldom pays to consult a lawyer who is not up on admiralty business, for his advice, as it appears to have been in this case, too often turns out to be very expensive. Had the vessel interest the case to conduct over again, in the light of the experience obtained by the events growing out of it, the vessel would hardly have been at present in the hands of the wrecking company that raised her, and with possibly a big bill on top of her value to meet besides, for it is understood that the price agreed on for raising her was $4,000.
But the point that carried most of all and showed that the insurance interests knew what they were about all along in resisting the effort to saddle on the cargo most of the cost of raising the loaded schooner, is that it is the best of law never to ask the cargo to contribute more to such a wrecking job than it would cost to raise it independent of the vessel. This point has been settled in the most positive way in Canadian admiralty litigation, and it stands to reason, of course. Now the insurance agents had let the job of raising the cargo at $2 a ton and 150 tons had been taken out at a cost, it is said, of not over 70 cents a ton, when the vessel interest stepped in and stopped the proceeding. It was after that that so many war tactics, even to going out to the boat with a load of men to "clean out" the workmen on the schooner only to find a bigger gang on her, were resorted to, all very expensive at the time, and all very "funny business" as looked at now.
It is not proper or at all desirable in this mention of the case to make disparaging allusions to anyone connected with it, for it was all a matter of acting on misinformation and failing to see the main, point - that the cargo could not legally be made to pay more in assisting in the raising of the vessel than it would cost to pump it to the top of the water. A Canadian case where this fact was affirmed over and over in original decision and appeal after appeal was presented to the vessel interest to show what ought to be done, but without making any Impression. It was only when the attorney for the wrecking company, who luckily happened to have some admiralty lore in his head, came down to look the case over that some real progress was made. He at once said that the insurance was in the right and that the other side would have to yield.
This was at length done and behold the contractor who was to raise the cargo, paying the wrecker $800 for his share of the contribution and making money by sitting down and doing nothing. At the outset the insurance had offered $1,350 for the cargo's share of the work. So the HOWLAND case ought to go down to posterity as a celebrated one, though of course it stands small chance of doing so, if only from the fact that it did not go through the regular proceedings of a court. For this reason I have made the effort to record some of the points of real account in it.
      Marine Review
      June 28, 1900

Schooner THOMAS H. HOWLAND. U. S. No. 24978. Of 298.73 tons gross; 283.80 tons net. Built Manitowoc, Wis., 1872. Home port, Chicago, Ill. 138.8 x 26.2 x 11.1
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1891

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Reason: sunk by ice
Lives: nil
Freight: coal
Remarks: Raised
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 42.868333 Longitude: -79.008333
William R. McNeil
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Thomas H. Howland (Schooner), U24978, sunk by ice, 27 Jun 1900