The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
W. O. Brown (Schooner), U26915, aground, 27 Nov 1872

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Milwaukee, Dec. 10 - Capt. Thompson, late of the LAC LA BELLE, who was on the propeller CUYAHOGA arrived here and reports the schooner MIDDLESEX ashore opposite Round Island, with all hands saved. The schooners W.O. BROWN and D.R. OWENS, from Duluth are reported lost with all hands on board. The schooner A.C GRISWOLD from Marquette, is reported lost with all hands. The barges JUPITER and SATURN, ore laden broke loose from the steamer JOHN A. DIX and drifted ashore at Whitefish point, all hands lost. The Canadian steamer CUMBERLAND is frozen in at Bear Lake, with 50 passengers on board.
      The Toronto Mail
      Wednesday, December 11, 1872

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      The barges SATURN and JUPITER, owned by Capt. E.B. Ward, were lost near Whitefish Point, on the morning of the 27th of November with all on board. The schooner MIDDLESEX went ashore on Point au Pins but all her crew were rescued.
The schooner W.O. BROWN laden with grain from Duluth and the ore laden schooner C.C. Griswold, from Marquette, are supposed to have been lost with all on board. Six were lost on the JUPITER and seven on the SATURN.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Friday, December 6, 1872

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VESSELS LOST ON LAKE SUPERIOR-- TWO BARGES AND TWO SCHOONERS GO WOWN WITH ALL ON BOARD. -- The Detroit Tribune has a dispatch dated Marquette, December 5. -- The propeller CHINA returned to that port from the south Wednesday evening, Mud Lake was closed on the 17th and nothing has passed down since. Thirteen propellers and a number of vessels are frozen in on the river and above the canal. The barge JUPITER and SATURN were lost near Whitefish Point on the morning of the 27th with all on board. The CHINA saw their masts out of water 5 and fifteen miles above the point. The GENERAL DIX is all right at the Sault. The schooner MIDDLESEX went ashore near Pointe Aux Pins but her crew were saved. The St. PAUL and ATLANTIC are at Sailor's Encampment. The schooner W.O. BROWN was loaded with grain from Duluth and the schooner C.C. GRISWOLD with ore from Marquette are supposed to have been lost with all on board. The schooners, ESCANABA, EXILE, GOLDEN RULE, and CAMBRIDGE and the barque HEMISPHERE on Wiaska Bay were all in the same storm and lost most all their canvas. The CHINA brought to Marquette 400 men. The barges SATURN and JUPITER were owned by Capt. E.B. Ward of Detroit and were loaded with iron ore, 840 tons all together were bound from Marquette to Wyandotte in tow of the steam tug GENERAL DIX. They left Marquette at three p.m. on Tuesday previous to the disaster. The JUPITER was commanded by Capt. Peter Howard of Detroit. He leaves a wife and children. The names of the balance of the crew, are not known. The SATURN was commanded by a man from Amherstburg and his name is unknown, he having shipped recently. The balance of the crew consisted of Harvey Cusher, of Defiance, O.; William langendorff who was accompanied by his wife, of Toledo, O.; George Archer, residence unknown; and two other men known only as James and Philip. There was no insurance on the barges, but the cargo was insured.
      Port Huron Times
      December 12, 1872
      . . . . .
Schr. W.O. BROWN of 400 tons. Owned Detroit by J.P. Clark. Bound from Lake Superior to Wyandotte. Foundered Lake Superior December 1872, a total loss with the loss of 8 lives. Loss to ship $12,000, to cargo $39,000. Insurance on ship $8,000, on cargo $6,500.
      Marine Casualties of the Great Lakes
      1863 to 1873, Report of U. S. Coast Guards

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      In the great gale that swept over Lake Superior on the 26th and 27th of Nov. the schooners C.C GRISWOLD and W.O. BROWN were lost. The fate of the crews were in doubt for a long time, but the following extract from a letter from Mr. James McGowan, shipkeeper on the steamer St. LOUIS at the Sault, to Capt. Ed. Kelley, of this city gives further particulars. The letter is dated December 28th, and says: "About a week ago the news came down from the North Shore that a vessel was ashore on Mamainse Point, opposite White Fish Point, but I could get nothing definite whether it was the BROWN or the GRISWOLD until today. We now learn that it is the BROWN, three of her crew having arrived here. The captain and mate were washed overboard outside; two men and the cook were frozen to death after landing. The men here say that she sprung a leak before the wind changed to the Northwest, and she became unmanageable; all they could do now was to keep her before it. The barges that the DIX lost I suppose you have heard from. One of them lies about three miles from White Fish Point, and the other two at Two Hearts River. No sign of the crews." - Cleveland Leader
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      January 14, 1873

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      The Crew Of The Schooner W.O. BROWN Heard From.
      Statement Of One Of The Survivors. - Five Drowned And Three Saved.
      from the Chicago Tribune, Jan. 30.
      A sailor named Jugan Alberts, one of the survivors of the schooner BROWN disaster, eached Chicago yesterday afternoon. He lives in Freeport, and is on his way home to see his mother, who thinks he is dead, it having been reported in the newspapers that he was drowned. The vessel alluded to, the WILLIAM O. BROWN, of this city, went ashore near Mamainse Point, Lake Superior, during the storm on the 27th of last November, and an account of her loss has already been published in the Tribune. No mention, however, was made of the suffering of the crew, and accordingly the statement of Alberts is appended. "We left Duluth on the 23rd. of November, loaded with wheat, for Buffalo. The first three days out the weather was good, but about 12 o'clock on the night of the 26th. the wind commenced blowing from the southeast, and afterwards veered to the west-southwest and increased to a gale. The foreboom suddenly gave way, and, striking against the centerboard winch, tore it from its fastenings and lifted several planks, making quite a large hole in the deck. The waves washed fore and aft, and the water poured into the aperture so fast that we were fearful the schooner would fill and sink. The second mate, George Manning, procured some canvas and blankets and placed them over the opening, lying on top of them to keep them in position. The vessel was placed before the wind to avoid the deck washing, and no more water could get in among the cargo. It was bitter cold, and Manning, although suffering terribly, maintained his position. About 9 o'clock in the morning we saw land right ahead, and five or ten minutes subsequently we struck on the rocks, which are about fifty or seventy-five feet from the shore. Manning before this was unable to move, being frozen almost stiff. His clothing had been saturated with water, and was like a board. Two of us carried him into the cabin and laid him on the floor and did what we could for him. When the vessel went ashore I was in the cabin, and rushed towards the companionway door. I held fast to it, and could hardly keep on my feet, the schooner bumping violently on the rocks, and shivering like a leaf. I reached the deck finally, and saw the captain, R.L. Manning, the first mate, John Hanson, and a seaman, Henry Edwards, over-board , entangled in the port fore-rigging. The fore-mast had fallen over the side of the schooner. They were near the forecastle when she struck, and had been obliged to seize hold of the shrouds to prevent being washed into the lake, the water breaking over the vessel at a fearful rate. The mast fell on them and threw them into the water. They must have been crushed or seriously hurt, for they said nothing. They sank soon after I reached the deck, and I saw nothing ore of them. Five of the crew remained. I tried to get Captain Manning out of the cabin, but the water came in so fast that I had to leave. Poor fellow, he was drowned ! One of the other men suddenly disappeared, and no one knew what became of him. He must have been washed overboard. Only three of us remained then - John Ring, Malcolm McCloud and myself. Two of them were holding on to the windlass, and I kept a tight grip on the railing around the mainmast. We remained on board nearly two hours, watching the schooner being picked to pieces by the water. The vessel shifted round gradually, and came close up to other rocks, the top of which were above the water. The continual bumping unstepped the mainmast, the bottom of the schooner having apparently been crushed in, and the mast was pushed upwards several feet and fell over with a loud crash. I got from under before it came down, and with the two others succeeded in getting aft and jumping on to the exposed rocks. The wind had in the meantime gone down considerably, and we experienced no difficulty in getting on shore. Just before we landed, the schooner broke in two just in front of the cabin. I tell you we were thankful for our escape. We thought some of the others might have got ashore, and we looked around for them or their bodies, but could find no trace of them. Portions of the wreck were washed up on the beach, half a mile from where the schooner was fast. Finding no shelter, we concluded to go back to the cabin, which was by this time high and dry on the rocks. The weather was intensely cold, and no one had any matches. I found a dry shirt in one of the bunks, and an old revolver in mine, and I thought I could succeed in striking a light. The powder was fortunately dry, and withdrawing the bullets, I fired at the shirt, which ignited. We blowed the rag into a blaze, and started a fire in a tin pan, which was placed on the floor of the cabin. We remained on board until five o'clock in the morning, and then went ashore, being afraid to go to sleep in the cabin. We went into the woods, and laid down on the snow, but could not sleep on account of the cold. We had nothing to eat for over forty hours, and were very hungry. One of the men mentioned wheat, and we determined to go on board and get some. One side of the cabin was in good condition, and offered pretty good protection. Some of the wheat had been washed into it by the water, and there was sufficient on the floor to last us a week or two. We had never eaten any raw, and finding it was not very palatable in that state, we got another pan and boiled some. By keeping it on the fire for two or three hours it became soft and excellent to use. We stayed in the cabin two days and nights, and then, realizing that our position - alone in a deserted country, and the weather becoming colder and colder every day - was indeed dangerous. Accordingly we got some boards and made a small raft, and paddled out to the rock where the schooner's yawl was lying. We reached her without a mishap, and finding her sides stove in and the bottom somewhat demolished, we began to despair of ever seeing friends again. We, however towed her ashore. It took us three days to patch her up with boards and canvas, and she leaked very little. We launched her on the 7th of December, and pulled along the shore for about twenty-five miles. It commenced snowing shortly after we started, and the flakes fell so thickly that we could see neither ahead or the shore. We knew not where we were going, but as luck would have it, we arrived safely at Batchewausung Bay. We saw a light on shore between 8 and 9 o'clock in the evening, and on going ashore found a saw-mill. There were two white men there, and they gave us something to eat. We remained with them until Christmas, having been pretty nearly used up by the cold. A half-breed guided us across the country to Goulais Bay, and from there we went to the Sault. The people there were very kind to us, giving us clothing and paying our board. We left there on the 30th, I think, in company with Mr. Charlton, the Superintendent of the canal; Mr. Noble, the engineer, and Captain McIntyre. I started across the country to Bay City. My two companions remained behind. We crossed the Straits with a team, and went to Cheboygan, and from there to the end of the Lancing Railroad. I left there on the 20th of January, and came on to Chicago.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      January 31, 1873

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      THE W.O. BROWN. -- The party which went in search of the W.O. BROWN, has returned as far as the Sault. She was found badly broken up and cannot be raised and has been abandoned.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      June 17, 1873

Schooner WILLIAM O. BROWN. U. S. No. 26915. Of 306.98 tons. Home port, Chicago, Ill.
      Merchant vessel List, U. S., 1871

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: aground
Lives: 8
Freight: wheat
Remarks: Total loss
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 47.033333 Longitude: -84.783333
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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W. O. Brown (Schooner), U26915, aground, 27 Nov 1872