The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oconto (Propeller), U19369, aground, 5 Dec 1885

Full Text

The OCONTO was reported grounded near Charity Island, Saginaw Bay Sunday. The passengers and crew were saved. She was built at Manitowoc in 1872 by Rand & Co., and owned by Capt. W. McGregor and Renscelaer Van Sycle. She was 350 tons.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Tuesday, December 8, 1885

      . . . . .

      A P R O P E L L E R W R E C K E D
      Chicago, Dec. 12. - Word was received here last night that the propeller OCONTO was wrecked in a squall on Saginaw Bay during the recent gale. Twenty-nine men, two women and a child reached Charity Island and are now at a fisherman's hut.
      East Tawas, Mich., Dec. 12. - The first mate of the wrecked steamer OCONTO arrived here yesterday with the steward and six passengers. Reardon reports that the crew and passengers of the OCONTO numbered forty-seven. The crew are composed of Captain G.W. McGregor, of Lexington, Mich.; first mate, Charles Reardon of Port Huron; and second mate, James Ross, of Detroit. The engineers are not known. The steward was D.M. Leary of Rochester, N. Y.; clerk, R. Van Slycke; second clerk, John Van Slycke; cook, J.P. Levi; porter, Fred Stevens; pantry man, A. McCarty. The deck hands were all colored from Detroit. The Captain, first mate and passengers are in shanties on the Island. They are prisoners for a few days. All are very down-hearted. They have one deck-hand and one passenger very sick, and have no medicines. The mate and steward left Charity Island in a yawl boat yesterday morning and walked from Point Lookout here. There were two lady passengers and one child. Captain Plough and the life-saving crew have started for the Islands. The following names of passengers are all that are obtainable at present; G. Douglas, Lexington, Mich. Fred Wolf, Forestville; William Carr, Canada; William Bradley, Lexington; Mr. Richmond, Sand Beach; Moses Sauer, wife and child, Sand Beach; Miss henry, Muskegon; Thomas Dixon, Alpena; James Farley, Sanilac; Philip Mediaugh, Alpena; William Savage, Detroit; Nicholas Palls, Forestville.
      The mate says their experience the night of the storm was frightful and that the danger was greatly augmented by a number of horses and some cattle which were on board, breaking from their stalls and stampeding. Several of the animals were so severely injured that they had to be killed.
      There is a report that seven of the crew left the Island in a boat on Tuesday and have not yet turned up, but this lacks confirmation.
      Detroit, Dec. 12. - The steamer OCONTO left Oconto December 4 at 4 P. M. and soon encountered a terrible gale. When the storm set in it became impossible to see and the lights went out. There were twenty-two passengers and twenty-five members of the crew on board. At 12 o'clock Friday night Charity Island light was sighted. Within fifteen minutes the OCONTO struck bottom at the Southeast point of the Island. The starboard bulwarks were stove in and all the upper railings, two of the life-boats and all the light freight on the hurricane deck were washed away. A blinding snow-storm prevailed at the time. The sea was so heavy that the engines could not keep the boat going. Finally a light was sighted. Everybody took it for the Tawas Light. In fact it was the Charity Island Light. The Captain set the boat around to feel for the entrance, and almost immediately there was a tremendous shock. The propeller had grounded in about six feet of water, but whether on rocks or sand no one could tell. The vessel was about a mile from land. As soon as the boat struck the crew began dealing out life preservers. After all were ready for the ice bath in which nobody could have lived for fifteen minutes it was discovered that there was no leak. When day broke the colors were set at half-mast, and all whistles were blown. About ten o'clock the lighthouse was sighted, and the small metallic life-boat was put over the side, and in it the firemen went ashore, there they found two fish huts. They then took the passengers, Twenty-three in all, ashore. Two ladies and a child were taken direct to the light-keeper's house and the men began keeping house in the fish huts. Just before the OCONTO struck, Charles Brown, a colored cook, died of fright. The men who reached East Tawas had a terrible experience in the ice and they were completely exhausted.
      Buffalo Daily Republic
      December 12, 1885

      . . . . .

Port Huron - The wrecking tug WINSLOW arrived here with the passengers and captain of the stm. OCONTO, aground and frozen in near Charity Island. The tug was unable to get within 3 miles of the propeller on account of the ice. Two men were left on board with horses and cattle. It is thought that the boat will go to pieces. An attempt will be made to take off the cargo on the ice. Most of the survivors left for there homes. The passengers and crew were being well cared for by the lighthouse keeper and fishermen, and were taken on board by the aid of small boats. The OCONTO is in good condition, save her upper works, which plainly show the terrible storm she passed through on that memorable night. The mate says the boat is dry, and generally in good condition, as also is her heavy loaded freight.
      The Marine Record
      December 17, 1885 5-4

      . . . . .
      S I G H T E D A S T E A M E R
A passenger on a Saginaw, Tuscola & Huron Railroad train which reached the city yesterday imparted to the Courier the important information that the propeller OCONTO, which went ashore on Little Charity Island as 13:30 o'clock on Saturday, December 5 last, had been sighted off Bayport. The boat was first seen on Tuesday evening, but darkness came on before it could be distinguished accurately.
The OCONTO lies between North and Heisterman Islands, about four miles from the former, and has evidently grounded on a bar. She is surrounded by ice and it is impossible to reach her in any direction. The gale which placed the OCONTO on the shore of Little Charity Island in December last, was the most severe of the season of 1855; the storm that lifted the boat from her winter retreat was the worse of the present season. The OCONTO drifted nearly 20 mile to where she now lies. That the vessel withstood the shock of being thrown on the Island, four months in the ice, and her latest cruise without captain or engineer, would indicate that it was of the best construction and is yet in good
      The Saginaw Courier
      April 8, 1886

      . . . . .

      The ill-fated steamer OCONTO, after contending with wind, wave and ice for four months and drifting nearly 20 miles from the place she first struck on that stormy night in December last, has gone to the bottom of Saginaw Bay, going down about where she hauled up in the storm of last week near North Island.
Mr. Merriman, of Port Huron, representing the wrecking company which had contracted with the insurance companies to rescue the steamer, arrived in this city yesterday from Bayport. He states that she lies in 14 feet of water, with the water two feet above the main deck, and that four men succeeded in boarding her on Saturday and report her as in good condition. Later Mr. Merriman endeavored to reach her, but could not on account of the ice. The tug PETER SMITH was to have left Bay City yesterday morning for the OCONTO, but when ready to do so, her commander was informed of her having gone down, and consequently did not leave port. As soon as the ice disappears sufficiently to permit of work being done, a wrecking outfit will be sent from Port Huron and she will be raised.
If the steamer is raised and is then found to be staunch and seaworthy, it is understood that she will be converted into a steambarge and used for towing purposes.
      The Saginaw Courier
      April 13, 1886

      . . . . .

      Sand Beach, Mich., April 27. - The tug J.H. REID arrived down from the wreck of the OCONTO this morning. She reports everything in good shape, and would have brought her off, but had only one pump. Capt. Merryman has gone to Port Huron for another. If the good weather holds he will have her off this week.
      The Saginaw Courier
      April 28, 1886

      . . . . .

      The steamer OCONTO, ashore at Charity Island since last fall has been released and arrived here this morning at 7 A. M. She will go into Wolverine Dry Dock for repairs.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Tuesday, May 4, 1886

      . . . . .

      The propeller OCONTO, now lying at Port Huron, is being thoroughly overhauled. The damage she sustained by being wrecked at the Charity Islands is not as great as was at first supposed. When the repairs are finished she will run as a passenger and freight boat between Point Edward and Duluth.
      The Saginaw Courier
      June 12, 1886

      . . . . .
Steam screw OCONTO. U. S. No. 19369. Of 505.35 tonbs gross; 447.60 tons net. Built Manitowoc, Wis., 1872. Home port, Harrisville, Mich. 143.0 x 32.0 x 10.0
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1885

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: aground
Lives: nil
Remarks: Got off
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
William R. McNeil
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
WWW address
Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.

Oconto (Propeller), U19369, aground, 5 Dec 1885