The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
George J. Whitney (Schooner), sunk, 1 Sep 1872

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The schr. GEO. J. WHITNEY, which left Chicago Sept. 27th, with a cargo of 23,700 bushels corn, consigned to R.R. Buck, of this city, has not since been heard from. There are grave fears that she must have been lost with all on board in the gale of Sept. 29.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      October 16, 1872 3-5

      . . . . .

It is now 19 days since the schr. GEO. J. WHITNEY has been heard from. The fears entertained concerning her safety have grown almost to a certainty that she is lost with all on board. The crew consisted of 7 or 8 persons, names unknown, except Capt. Wellington Carpenter, who resided near Watertown, N.Y. His wife has been anxious regarding his fate for some days, and telegraphed here but received no particular news. The vessel has a most unfortunate record for disasters, having been raised and wrecked 3 times. She was owned by Hosea Rogers, of Rochester.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      October 17, 1872 3-5

      . . . . .

      The schooner G.J. WHITNEY, which sailed from Chicago on Sept. 27 is supposed to be lost with all on board.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Wednesday, October 23, 1872

      . . . . .

The names of 2 others who were lost by the foundering of the ill-fated schr. G.J. WHITNEY have reached us. The mate or first officer of the ship was Lafayette Carpenter, brother of the captain, also the cook, Kate Kelly, whose home was at Otter Creek, 5 miles from Monroe, Mich.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      October 30, 1872 3-5

      . . . . .

Part of a lengthy article about Capt. Hosea Rogers a vessel owner at Rochester, N.Y. entitled "Hosea Rogers, Builder of Boats" by Polly Tyler.

Up to this time none of Captain Rogers' vessels equalled the GEORGE J. WHITNEY in value, though some were larger. The building of the schooner was done by Captain George Hardison. She was 143 feet in length, 26 feet beam, 14 feet depth of hold, with a capacity of 23,000 bushels of wheat or around 690 tons burthen. She cost approximately $30,000 when completed and ready for sailing. It is interesting to note that there were twenty tons of bolts in the hull of the vessel alone.
George J. Whitney, after whom she was named, was engaged in the milling and grain business, and built a large grain elevator in Rochester in 1857. Whitney presented the vessel at the time of the launching, Saturday, April 20, 1867, with the customary suit of colors. The launching took place at Charlotte at four o'clock in the afternoon. Captain Rogers was unable to attend the ceremony because he suffered from a severe case of the ague, commonly called, in those days, "Genesee Fever."
A number of gentlemen of this city, appreciating the good work of Captain Rogers in sending out from the port of Rochester so many nice vessels, as well as his good taste in giving this craft the name of a respected and entertaining citizen, have united in the purchase of a library to be presented to the WHITNEY for the use of the captain and the crew. This library was selected at Steele and Avery's, some two hundred volumes of excellent books placed in a handsome case, made for and donated to the vessel by Messrs. P. M. Bromley & Co., the well known furniture house in this city. This is the first evidence that the public, or any portion of it save the Press, appreciated the enterprise of Captain Rogers in sending out elegant craft to sail the Great Lakes and bear the name of Rochester as their hailing place. This is a slight token but it will do for a beginning. (Rochester Union and Advertiser, April 22, 1867.)
From the very beginning it seems that the vessel was doomed. Captain Carpenter, her master, had a great deal of difficulty for more than a year before she was sunk. She was grounded, due for the most part to the dense smoke caused by the disastrous forest fires in the northwest, on Sugar Island, October 9, 1871. At that time she had nine feet of water in her hold besides the cargo of coal. The coal was damaged to the amount of thirty five cents a ton. All during the month of October various means of getting her afloat were tried. The tug SWEEPSTAKES took two steam pumps, in addition to the one already in use, out to her rescue. The three pumps failed to lessen the water beyond ten inches in depth, and the attempt was declared futile. On the 28th of October an expert went out to see what could be done to get her ashore. He could do nothing and the vessel was abandoned until July 1872 when she was finally released from the island and taken into Detroit for reconstruction. The sum total paid to the Detroit Dry Dock Company for the repairs was $2326.22.
On the first trip out, after being repaired, the Whitney was wrecked at Vermilion. It was said that while lying at dock at Chicago, Captain Carpenter displayed all his flags at half mast, the American ensign with union down. Upon inquiring why he did this the Captain explained that it was merely an invitation for the tugs to transfer him up the river. (Mansfield, J. B., History of the Great Lakes, vol. 1, p. 723.)
During a severe storm in September 1872, in the middle of Lake Michigan the vessel and her entire crew of eight men were lost. No one ever heard from the vessel or the crew, and so far as is known no one saw the wreck and the manner of her disappearance will always remain a mystery. Captain Rogers said that she was loaded with corn on her way to Buffalo when the wreck occurred. He also said, "I owned her at the time, and she was the only vessel I ever did lose entire."
      Inland Seas
      July 1947 pp. 155-160

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: sunk
Lives: 8
Freight: corn
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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George J. Whitney (Schooner), sunk, 1 Sep 1872