The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Merchant (Propeller), aground, 6 Oct 1875


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Dispatches were received in this city yesterday stating that the iron prop. MERCHANT, of the Anchor Line, bound from Chicago to Milwaukee, struck on Racine Reef Wednesday night, sprung a leak, and sunk in 13 ft. of water, her bottom resting on the rocks. The vessel was loaded with 20,000 bu. corn, 200 barrels of flour and 2,000 bags of flax seed, which will undoubtedly be greatly damaged. The cargo is insured. Tugs, pumps and l;ighters have been sent to her relief from Chicago. In consequence of this accident the prop. GORDON CAMPBELL, which had been in ordinary for some months, was ordered into commission, and left last evening for Chicago and way ports. Advice received this morning state that the boat can be raised without difficulty.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      October 8, 1875 3-4

      . . . . .

      THE PROPELLER MERCHANT SUNK
      Special Dispatch to the Detroit Tribune.
Chicago, October 7. - The propeller Merchant, of the Anchor Line, is ashore at Racine Reef. The vessel sunk in nine feet of water, but can be raised without much difficulty. She had on board 30,000 bushels of corn and 1,200 barrels of flour.
      Detroit Tribune
      October 8, 1875
     
      . . . . .

Chicago, Oct. 8. -- The iron propeller MERCHANT, of the Anchor Line, is ashore on Racine Reef. The vessel sunk in some nine feet of watert but can be raised without great difficulty. She had on board 30,000 bushels of corn.
      Toronto Daily Globe
      Saturday, October 9, 1875

      . . . . .

The only additional news received in this city from the sunken prop. MERCHANT since yesterday is that the deck load had been removed by lighters and taken into Racine, also that pontoons have been ordered to the scene with the view of raising her. The Chicago Inter Ocean of yesterday has the following in regards to the accident: At about 8 or 9:00 Wednesday night she struck the reef, as stated, and knocking a large hole in her hull, filled with water and sunk decks to. It blew stiffly from the N.NE. by N., and this fact probably accounts for her hugging the shore so closely. Her grain must be all wet and as part of the flower was also in the hold that must be wet. Indeed if any of the cargo escapes, it will be through the meerest chance. She lies heading southwest, and when the COLORADO passed her yesterday, there was no smoke coming anywhere from her. There seemed to be no one on board. The tug RESCUE with 3 steam pumps, left last evening to go to her assitance and other expeditions will probably go from Milwaukee. In his misfortune Capt. Niland has the sympathy of many friends and acquaintances. The MERCHANT is iron and had a high valuation. She is insured and also her cargo.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      October 9, 1875 3-6
     
      . . . . .
     
THE MERCHANT. - The following is the dispatch received by the Chicago Tribune with regard to the disaster to the propeller Merchant: "The propeller Merchant, of the Anchor Line, which left here Wednesday afternoon with a cargo of flour and corn for Erie, struck the Racine Reef, and is now resting on it, full of water. Capt. Beers, the agent of the line, as
soon as he learned of the disaster, made an arrangement with Capt. Berriman, of the Coast Wrecking Company, who is at present in the city superintending the raising of the schooner John Dunn, to send the tug Rescue to her aid. The Rescue and pontoons left last evening, and it is believed that they will succeed in getting her off. The Merchant is one of the best vessels on the lake, and will not easily go to pieces.. Her cargo, however, will undoubtedly be greatly damaged."
The following dispatch was received from Racine in regard to this disaster on Thursday evening: "Considerable excitement exists in marine circles here from the fact that the propeller Merchant is aground just below our harbor and is leaking badly, having at present seven feet of water in her hold. She cleared Chicago yesterday for Buffalo, having a cargo of 1,300 bbls of flour and 20,000 bu corn, and struck the reef about 11 o'clock last night, turning completely around and settling in a position directly opposite from the one she was
headed."
Information was received here last evening from Buffalo, that strenuous efforts were to be made at once to release the ill fated vessel. The reef is a dangerous one, and should a gale spring up, the worst consequences will follow. A rumor was afloat during the afternoon that the merchant was a total wreck, but we are unable to trace it to any authoritative source. She is an iron freight propeller of 1,009 tons burden, built by David Bell, at Buffalo in
July of 1862, rated A1, was lengthened in 1873, and was valued at $85,000.
      Detroit Tribune
      Sunday, October 10, 1875

      . . . . .
     
Nothing new has been received in this city this morning from the prop. MERCHANT, sunk on Racine Reef. Saturday Capt. W.D. Robinson, the experienced wrecker, left here for the scene of the accident, to assist Capt. Briggs of the Anchor Line in the effort to raise the boat. Capt. Merriman of the Coast Wrecking CO., has been released from his contract to raise the schr. DUNN sunk at Chicago, and will cooperate with the others. The boat is reported to be in a very bad condition, and the chances of saving her rather slim, the rent in her bottom being much larger than was at first supposed. The work of raising her will be pushed with all possible speed, as if a heavy sea should come up it would be almost impossible to save her. The mate was in command at the time of the accident so that Capt. Niland is relieved of all blame.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      October 10, 1875 3-5

      . . . . .
     
THE PROPELLER MERCHANT. - The Milwaukee Wisconsin says that there is much doubt about the propeller Merchant being recovered. The corn in her hold is all wet, but the flour is not thought to be much damaged.
      Detroit Tribune
      October 11, 1875

      . . . . .

THE PROPELLER MERCHANT. - The condition of the propeller Friday night is thus reported by the Chicago Post and Mail: "She is breached clear through and the rocks have knocked out her bottom, not a living soul was on board, and it was more than probable that she would be a total wreck. The Merchant was built in 1862 by David Bell, of Buffalo, was lengthened and fully repaired, and originally cost $125,000, but the registered valuation is only $85,000. The cargo was valued at $12,000, and was fully insured, as was the vessel.
      Detroit Tribune
      Tuesday, October 12, 1875
     
      . . . . .
     
The Anchor Line steamer MERCHANT, with 20,000 bushels of corn and 400 barrels of flour, bound from Chicago to Milwaukee, struck on Racine Reef about nine o'clock on Wednesday night, and filled in some twenty minutes. At latest advices she was laying on the rocks in thirteen feet of water, easy, and no sea running. Lighters have been sent to take off her deck load, and the Coast Wrecking Company's tug RESCUE had gone from Chicago to her relief. The steamer GORDON CAMPBELL which had been in ordinary most of the season, will take the MERCHANT's place in the line. In pursuant of this sudden arrangement the CAMPBELL cleared port for Chicago and intermediate ports.
      Toronto Daily Globe
      Wednesday, October 13, 1875

      . . . . .

      The latest advice from the MERCHANT, which is fast on Racine reef are not favorable to her release. The weather during the past 2 days has been stormy and the wrecking party have been unable to do anything toward getting her afloat. The following letter from Capt. W.D. Robinson, who writes from Racine under the date of Oct. 11, contains the most reliable news in regards to the propeller's condition:
"I have been on board the MERCHANT and she is pounding heavily on her port bilge today. Since the disaster the weather has been so bad that nothing could be done. She lies on flat bottom wuth few boulders, and chains can not be got under her. She is in a very exposed position. If she can't be pumped out I think it is very doubtful if the pontoons can be used effectively this fall, on account of the bad weather. The chances of are that the first heavy northeast wind will take her upper works off. She is twisted considerably, but as yet, shows no sign of damage except about the decks, which are crowded up in the center. With good weather she may be saved. We have sent to Detroit for 5 pumps, to Chicago for 2, and the 3 on hand will make 10 in all, none less than 12 inch ones. If we don't succeed in pumping her out with these, why, pumping will be useless."
Letters received from other parties contain substantially the same information as the above. Every effort will be made, and if the MERCHANT is not recovered, no matter whart her condition, there will be no chance to blame any one.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      October 13, 1875 3-4

      . . . . .
     
FOR THE MERCHANT. - Five steam pumps left this city yesterday evening from the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad for Racine reef, where the propeller Merchant is presently lying.
      Detroit Tribune
      October 13, 1875
     
      . . . . .

THE PROPELLER MERCHANT. - A special from Racine of the 11th says: "All hope of saving the propeller Merchant has been abandoned by experienced seamen conversant with the facts of the case. It seems that the unfortunate vessel has lost almost her entire bottom, and as soon as she is lightered sufficiently to enable her removal from where she now is she will go to the bottom. About half of her cargo has been removed, but in a very damaged condition. The Merchant must have been running at a full rate of speed when she struck, as she had grounded such a distance on the reef and is so firmly in position that the heaviest seas fail to make any impression whatever. An old wrecking captain told your correspondent the only way to save the vessel was by using large pontoons, but says there are none large enough nearer than Lake Erie, and that owing to the late season the chances of getting them here in time are too slim to warrant the attempt. There are several conflicting rumors as to the cause of the accident. The captain claims that he had turned in just north of Waukegan, after having given the second mate, whose watch it was, specific orders as to his course when in the vicinity of the reef. The second mate supposed he was off the coast from Kenosha, ten miles out, his reckoning only, and did not discover his error until he saw the buoy. From the fact that the buoy has been dragged out of position some 2,500 feet, and transferred to the opposite side of the reef from where it was, the mate was under the impression that he was on the eastern side of the rocks, when in reality he was on the shore side. He instantly headed the vessel east and landed it near the middle of the reef in about fourteen feet of water. If it is true that there was $100,000 in insurance on the vessel and $12,000 on the cargo, it was a fortunate accident for the owners.
      Detroit Tribune
      October 13, 1875

      . . . . .

The Chicago Times of Saturday says:- "But little additional intelligence was learned yesterday concerning the sinking of the iron propeller MERCHANT on racine Reef." It appears the captain of the propeller was not on deck at the time of the accident, it being the second mate's watch, and the disaster occurred by hugging the reef too closely.
      During yesterday a strong North-east wind was blowing, causing a heavy sea and nothing could be done in consequence towards relieving the vessel from her perioous position. The tug RESCUE with pontoons, left this city and the tug HAGERMAN has also gone from Milwaukee to render any assistance possible. It is not believed, however, that anything can be sone to effect her release unless they are favored with fair weather. It was rumoured last evening that the propeller had moved her position, and getting into deep water had gone to the bottom. This however, is not credited, but it appears to be assumed that her entire cargo of corn will be lost, and that the vessel cannot be raised until next year.
      The Milwaukee Sentinal, of the same date, has the following: -- "Nothing was done yesterday towards getting the propeller MERCHANT off racine reed, the idea of attempting to free her with steam pumps having been abandoned and as it was blowing steadily from the north-east most of the day, it is doubtful whether any of her cargo was lightered, at least nothing went from this port to the wreck."
      Toronto Daily Globe
      Thursday, October 14, 1875

      . . . . .
     
RETURNED. The parties who left here with five steam pumps via the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad, on Tuesday for the relief of the propeller Merchant, returned early yesterday morning. When they arrived at Grand Haven it was found impossible to get the steam pumps on board of the steamer Amazon, and they immediately telegraphed to Racine, stating that it would be necessary to lay over for about ten hours in order to procure a vessel. The answer was received in reply to the telegram to return home with the pumps, as it was impossible for them to render any service to the vessel in her present shape. It is stated that there is a probability of the machinery being taken out and the hull abandoned.
      Detroit Tribune
      Friday, October 15, 1875

      . . . . .

AT CHICAGO. - The wrecking tug Rescue cleared last evening for the stranded propeller Merchant, with three steam pumps on board. The propeller is in a bad condition, and if she is ever gotten off it will take a small fortune to repair her. Numerous small boats from Racine and Kenosha sail out to the wreck and carry off the good corn.
      Detroit Tribune
      October 15, 1875

      . . . . .
     
The Chicago Inter Ocean says: "The wrecking tug RESCUE returned to Chicago yesterday morning, it having been found impossible to make any impression on the wrecked prop. MERCHANT with steam pumps. The only hope now is in pontoons, and it is doubtful if she can be rescued even with these. Her injuries are very severe, and it is pretty safe to say that che has ended her career. The captain of the schr. DAN. LYONS passed within sight of the wreck yesterday, and reports no change in her appearance or position. Three men were seen on board. All hopes of pumping the prop. MERCHANT were given up on Wedensday. Having 5 pumps at work on that day, they were unable to lower the water more than one inch, and it was ascertained that the port side of her bottom was all used up."
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      October 18, 1875 3-6

      . . . . .
     
THE MERCHANT. - The wrecking tug rescue returned to Chicago yesterday morning, it having been found impossible to make any impression on the wrecked propeller Merchant with steam pumps. The only hope now is in pontoons, and it is doubtful if she can be rescued even with these. Her injuries are very severe, and it is pretty safe to say that she has ended her career. The captain of the schooner Dan Lyons passed within sight of the wreck yesterday, and reports no change in her appearance or position, Three men were seen on board. -
Inter-Ocean, 16th
      Detroit Tribune
      October 18, 1875
      . . . . .

      The propeller MERCHANT has been abandoned on Racine Reef and is probably a total loss.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Tuesday, October 19, 1875

      . . . . .
     
Mr. O. B. Green, of this city, has offered to raise the propeller Merchant, on Racine Reef, if desired. - Chicago Tribune, 20th.
      Detroit Tribune
      October 21, 1875
     
      . . . . .
     
AT CHICAGO. - The wrecking tug Rescue has arrived with the traps of the stranded propeller Merchant, which has been stripped and abandoned till next spring. Her upper works and cabins are not gone, as has been reported, nor have they ever started. The hull of the steamer is in a bad was, and, as one of the Rescue's men remarked this morning, "Her whole bottom is out." O. B. Green, of this city, is anxious to obtain the contract for raising her and bringing her to this port.
      Detroit Tribune
      October 22, 1875

      . . . . .

THE PROPELLER MERCHANT. - Capt. Joseph Nicholson, of Detroit, and Capt. D. W. Robinson, Capt. George Berryman, Capt. Ben Hammond and Capt. John McKenna, of Buffalo, have been to the scene of the wreck of the propeller Merchant to ascertain what could be done toward raising her. They are working in the interest of the underwriters, and $10,000 - an assessment of 10 per cent on her insurance - has been placed in their hands to prosecute the work, which, it is believed, is more than sufficient for raising the vessel. The plans submitted by Capt. Robinson for raising the propeller were approved, and he was authorized to proceed with the work. It is proposed to raise the vessel by means of trusses and pontoons, and the greatest amount of the work can be done in ordinary weather. After the necessary preparations have been made it is expected that the vessel can be raised from her present position and brought into port inside of twenty-four hours of good weather. Capt. Robinson will commence operations at once. The Chicago Bridge Company will furnish the trusses and the Coast Wrecking Company will provide the pontoons.
      Detroit Tribune
      October 29, 1875

      . . . . .

THE MERCHANT. - A dispatch was received at the office of the Detroit Fire and Marine insurance company yesterday conveying the important information that the iron propeller Merchant, which went ashore about three weeks ago, on Racine reef, has gone to pieces, the heavy gales which have prevailed on lake Michigan since she struck the reef being too much for the stoutly built vessel to withstand.
      Detroit Tribune
      November 2, 1875

      . . . . .

THE MERCHANT. - This propeller is pronounced a perfect wreck, and Capt. Robinson has rescinded the orders for the trusses ordered from the American Bridge Works of this city, and started for Buffalo today. Thus ends the career of a fine and popular steamer: was built of iron in 1862 by David Bell of Buffalo, lengthened and repaired in 1873, and originally cost about $125,000; her registered valuation was $82,000 and it is said that she was insured
for $100,000. - Chicago Post and Mail, 3rd.
      Detroit Tribune
      November 2, 1875
     
      . . . . .
     
A dispatch was received at the office of the Detroit Fire and Marine Insurance Co. Monday, conveying the important intelligence that the iron prop. MERCHANT, which went ashore about 3 weeks ago, on Raccine Reef, has gone to pieces, the heavy gales which have prevailed on Lake Michigan since she struck the reef being too much for the stoutly-built vessel to withstand.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      November 3, 1875 3-4

      . . . . .

      The Buffalo Express of yesterday says: Capt. Robinson telegraphs from Racine Reef, and says the MERCHANT has broken in two, and is not worth raising. The last storm evidently proved too severe for her endurance. She will doubtless be abandoned by the underwriters. The loss including vessel and cargo will reach about $150,000. Another dispatch was received at the office of the Detroit Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Monday, conveying the important intelligence that the iron propeller MERCHANT, which went ashore about three weeks ago, on Racine Reef has gone to pieces, the heavy gales which have prevailed on Lake Michigan since she struck the reef being too much for the stoutly built vessel to withstand.
      Erie Daily Dispatch
      November 4, 1875 3-4

      . . . . .

It will be remembered that the large iron steamer MERCHANT, of the Anchor Line, struck Racine reef on the 2d of November, 1875, and became a total wreck; that she was stripped and abandoned to the Underwriters. Well, on Saturday the wreck was sold for the benefit of the Underwriters, and was bid in by S. B. Vanbuskirk for $400.
      Cleveland Herald
      Friday, September 22, 1876
     
      . . . . .
     
Racine Matters. -- Messrs. Knapp & Gillen are making preparations to raise the engine and boiler, and what remains of the wreck of the propeller MERCHANT, lying in the reef off that port.
      Detroit Tribune
      Wednesday, May 9, 1877
     
     
      Messrs. Knapp & Gillen, who bought the wreck of the propeller MERCHANT that went down on the Racine reef in October, 1875, have begun raising her. To make her float will be an expensive and laborious task, and probably one that will consume several weeks.
      Cleveland Herald
      July 2, 1877


Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Notes:
Reason: aground
Lives: nil
Hull damage: 150,000
Cargo: inc.
Freight: corn
Remarks: Total loss ?
Date of Original:
1875
Subject(s):
Local identifier:
McN.W.15765
Language of Item:
English
  • Wisconsin, United States
    Latitude: 42.72446 Longitude: -87.75341
Donor:
William R. McNeil
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Merchant (Propeller), aground, 6 Oct 1875