The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Lac La Belle (Propeller), U15803, sunk, 4 Oct 1872

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The propeller LAC LA BELLE foundered 20 miles off Milwaukee on October 4, at 6 A.M. in heavy seas.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Tuesday, October 15, 1872

      . . . . .

Milwaukee, October 14. -- A private dispatch from Racine says that a boat with eleven men just came in here from the steamer LAC LA BELLE. She foundered about 20 miles off here this morning about six o'clock. The passengers think that all the boats are safe and that few, if any, persons were lost. She belonged to the Engleman Transportation Company, Racine.
Wisconsin, October 14. -- Second engineer of the steamer LAC LA BELLE, who was in one of the boats which arrived here gives the following account of the disaster. They left Milwaukee at nine o'clock last night. About midnight the steamer sprung a leak and made water rapidly. There was about twenty-five passenger aboard, including seven ladies and three children. The crew worked hard all night to try to prevent the vessel from sinking and threw considerable of her cargo overboard, but all to no purpose. Finding the vessel about to sink they prepared to take to the life boats, of which there were five. Into one of these five of the ladies were put with a good crew to manage it. They were however, tired out, having worked all night, with nothing to eat and suffering from the cold. When the last boat left the steamer we saw five men left on her. When she went down he saw four of them in the water, one clinging to a pile of timber. They must have been lost as we could give them no assistance without danger of swamping our boat. Two of the five boats drifted south towards Kenosha. W. Sanderson, clerk of the LAC LA BELLE said that we left Milwaukee at Nine o'clock Sunday night, having on board nineteen full passengers and two children. With a crew of thirty-two men all told. At about midnight, when about twenty-five miles off Racine the sea was running heavily and we shipped a heavy sea amidships which put out our fires and stopped the engines. It was blowing hard from the north and when the vessel lost her headway the wind swung her around and a heavy sea strained open the seams, so that the water rushed in with great force and in spite of all efforts of the crew, gained rapidly on us. About five a.m. it became evident that the steamer would go down. There were five boats in all, two lifeboats, a yawl and two small boats. We got all the people into these boats with the exception of five or six men who refused to leave the vessel and who I think were drowned. When she went down I had in my boat seven persons, Peter Wetter; M. Warner and wife; Robert Fogg; Louis Chersten; Rebecca Campbell, and myself. We landed six miles south of Racine at six o'clock this morning, having been over twelve hours on the water. During the forenoon a propeller with two smokestacks passed quite near us but made no response to our signals, although I am confident she saw us. Two of the five boats have arrived here, mine and the one occupied by the second engineer. My boat, as stated, had seven persons in all on board. The engineer's boat had ten of the crew including the first and second cook, a night watchman, one passenger and a boy, twelve person in all. The captain's boat, which is reported as arrived at Milwaukee, had twelve persons aboard. She is a very small boat. The other two boats, as seen by the engineer's boat, were striking north towards Milwaukee. Sanderson thinks they were picked up by a schooner, if not they will land somewhere between Racine and Milwaukee. Of the fifth boat, according to the statement by Sanderson, must have contained fifteen persons, there are as yet no tidings.
      Milwaukee, October 15. -- Five boats with the passengers and crew of the ill-fated LAC LA BELLE have all been heard from. Two of them are in at Racine, one at Kenosha, one was picked up by the schooner FLORETTA of Waukegan, and one landed at Calumet this morning. Mr. J.R. Dow, agent of the Engleman Transportation Company, at Grand Haven, Michigan, was in the boat picked up by the schooner FLORETTA. Before he left the LAC LA BELLE he tore out the leaf containing the list of passengers registered, which are as follows: S. Warner, Milwaukee; Rich and daughter of Pentwater, Michigan; E. Dow, Grand Haven; Warner and wife, Grand Haven. The residences of the following are unknown, A.E. Masterson; C. August; H. Smith, wife and child; J. Conners; J. Hurley, one unknown; H. Freeman; Weller; K.H. Lippencott; Somers; A.M. Downey; J. Cress; J.R. Fogg, and a cook, name unknown, who was going to ship aboard the schooner TOLEDO. There were thirty-two officers and crew. Mr. Dow thinks there were half a dozen who went down with the vessel. One passenger, named S. Warner, a traveling agent for a tobacco house here, is known to be lost. The following are the names of those known to be saved: Capt. W.H. Thompson; William Sanderson; T.A. Warner; Warner and wife; Albert Haus; Louis Chersten; Rebecca Campbell; Ed. Carney; R. Archer; David Martin; Charles Scott; Mrs. Smith and son; e. Rich and daughter, the names of the others in the boat are not known.
      Port Huron Times
      Thursday, October 17, 1872

      Propeller LAC LA BELLE (U.S.15803) of 872 tons, built 1864 at Cleveland, foundered October 13, 1872 twenty miles off Racine. Nine lives lost.
      Merchant Steam Vessels of the U.S.A.
      Lytle-Holdcamper List 1790 - 1868

      . . . . .

Steam screw LAC LA BELLE. U. S. No. 15803. Of 1,187 tons gross. Built at Cleveland, Ohio, in 1864 by Ira Lafrienier. 216.1 x 37.1 x 19.7 Twin screws. Lost Lake Michigan, 1872
      Herman Runge Notes

It is thought the wreck of the LAC LA BELLE has been found about 15 miles due east from Racine.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      May 27, 1873 3-5

Captain Davis, of the propeller REITZ, reports that on his last trip, when a little north of Racine, and about twenty miles out in the lake, they passed what they think was the pilot-house of the long sunk steamer LAC LA BELLE; also pieces of the vessels rail, and plenty of lumber and shingles adrift about the middle of the lake.
      Cleveland Herald
      November 6, 1876

Media Type:
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Reason: sunk
Lives: 9
Remarks: Total loss
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 43.68473 Longitude: -86.53036
William R. McNeil
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Lac La Belle (Propeller), U15803, sunk, 4 Oct 1872