The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
John Martin (Schooner), U75717, sunk by collision, 21 Sep 1900

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Barge MARTIN Sunk By The Steamer YUMA In The St. Clair Rapids.
      Port Huron, Sept. 21. - The barge MARTIN, in tow of the steamer MAURICE P. GROVER, was sunk in the rapids at the entrance to the St. Clair River tonight, by the straight-back steamer YUMA, and Capt. John Lawless, of Lorain; Wm. Ross, mate, of Toledo; Mrs. Bacon, cook, of Toledo; and one sailor, whose name is unknown, are missing. Gabriel Peterson, of Cleveland, Walter Wendel and Rudolph See, of Cleveland and George Kyle, of Toledo, members of the crew, were saved. The YUMA was bound up, and the GROVER and MARTIN bound down, loaded with iron ore. The accident occurred just below the sunken wreck of the schooner FONTANA. The YUMA crashed into the starboard side of the MARTIN at the fore-rigging, and the MARTIN went down like a stone. Peterson and Kyle made a rush for the mizzen mast, and were on it when it broke off.
      Navigation through the channel is completely blocked. Tugs are out in Lake Huron notifying down-bound boats to anchor. Kyle said when interviewed after being picked up; "I saw the YUMA sheer, and Paterson and I, who were at the wheel, rushed up into the rigging. The mast broke and we sank. I don't thing anyone else was saved."
The MARTIN and the FONTANA lie close together, and one or both of the wrecks will have to be blown up in order to clear the channel.
      Saginaw Courier-Herald
      September 22, 1900

      Wreck Lies Beside The FONTANA In The River Below Fort Gratiot.
      Nine-Tenths Of The Lake Fleet Will Be Held Up Indefinitely By This Wreck.
The blockade of the Fort Gratiot deep channel by the sunken schooner JOHN MARTIN for all craft except those of the lightest draft, is without precedent in the annals in the history of the Great lakes. The various blockades of the Soo River by boats sunk in collision bear no comparison to this. In those instances the wreckers were hindered neither by depth of channel nor by rapidity of current. Therefore, in the course of a few days in each case, the channel was cleared to admit of the passage of everything. But even with that short delay the loss to vessel, shipping and commercial interests generally mounted into the millions.
The MARTIN blockade means that all loaded craft will be held up for perhaps weeks. As nine-tenths of the commerce of the lakes passes Port Huron, the loss to the forgoing interests will be enormous. It will be inestimable. In a general way it will be entirely reasonable to say that shippers, railroads having lake connections, manufacturers, jobbers, and consumers over a large stretch of territory, being deprived of their sources of supply for the time navigation is blocked, will be subjected to losses totaling many millions of dollars. As to the vessel interests, the majority of owners will care little whether their boats run or at the time, so deplorable is the general conditions of all freights owing to the great over-supply of tonnage. Some carriers have several cargoes coming to them on good contracts, and they will lose. All the big lake and rail lines and steel corporation fleets will suffer loss, as their work is cut out for them, regardless of going rates.
      As the FONTANA wreck has been on the bottom nearly nine weeks the owners and underwriters being utterly unable to obtain bids on it from lake wreckers, the difficulty in store for those who attempt to remove the MARTIN may be foreseen. Without doubt the United States government will immediately take steps to dynamite the MARTIN wreck, without giving the owners or underwriters even a day in which to decide on a course to pursue. What to do is an all important question the answer to which rests solely with Secretary Root, of the war department. It is safe to say that today if the report of a complete blockage is strictly true, he will order the hiring of wreckers and apparatus to remove the wreck in the quickest possible way, which means by a liberal use of dynamite. And while the big task is in progress the dynamiting of the FONTANA wreck will be made a part of it.
      Port Huron, Mich., Sept. 21. -- The schooner JOHN MARTIN , in tow of the steamer MAURICE B. GROVER, iron ore laden, bound down, and the steel steamer YUMA, bound up, collided abreast of the FONTANA wreck at 8 o'clock this evening, the MARTIN sinking almost immediately underneath the YUMA and carrying four lives down to watery graves.
      Of the MARTIN's crew of 8 only four were saved - sailors Geo. Kyle, of Toledo, O; Gabriel Peterson, of Cleveland; Walter Wendel, Cleveland, and Rudolph See, of Cleveland.
      The missing and undoubtedly lost are Capt. James Lawless, Lorain, O.; Mate Wm. Ross, Toledo O.; Steward, Mrs. Bacon, Cleveland O.; Unknown sailor.
      The collision occurred in the American channel, in which the boats were attempting to pass, the two coming together just abreast of the FONTANA wreck. The YUMA struck the schooner in the forward rigging on the starboard bow and cut her open diagonally across, and almost half way through. She sank instantly, even before the YUMA could back out of the wreck.
      The YUMA at the time was going up close along the American shore, while the GROVER and consort were between her and the FONTANA's wreck. The two steamers exchanged the proper signals and passed with fifty feet of sea room, but as the YUMA approached the MARTIN, either one or the other, it cannot be definitely stated which, sheered and they came together with an awful crash, the force of the contact being so great that the sound of crushing timbers could be distinctly heard all the way down town, a distance of over a mile.
      Capt. Lawless was on the quarter deck at the time, with sailors Kyle and Peterson at the helm. As soon as the boats were onto each other Kyle and Peterson made for the rigging, but could not race fast enough to keep ahead of the fast rising water. They were carried underneath the surface by the suction, but grabbed some wreckage as they again came to the top, to this they clung until rescued by R.A. Chrisner, one of Kendall's marine reporters, with his small boat. Wendel and See, who were asleep in the forecastle, were tumbled out of their bunks, but were awakened sufficiently by the shock to grab hold of wreckage as the boat was sinking beneath underneath them, and were later picked up by the crew of the YUMA.
      None of the rescued saw or head anything of the others of the crew after the vessels struck, they having no time to think of anything but their own safety. Capt. Mooney was in charge of the GROVER and Capt. Daniel Bule of the YUMA, at the time, but neither could give an explanation of the awful affair.
      The YUMA, as far as can be ascertained, is not damaged to any extent, and backed down after laying to a short time, and is tied up at the Botsford elevator dock. The ill-fated vessel is lying in about fifty feet of water, 400 feet below the FONTANA and 200 feet out from the American shore, with nothing but the top of one spar out of water.
      Tonight's mishap completely blocks the passage for all up or down vessels for the present, and the cost of removing the wrecks and opening a passage will be an expensive and hazardous task owing to the swift current.
      The tug HAYNES has been stationed at the mouth of the river to warn the down-coming fleet, while the tug BOYNTON will guard below the wreck.
      The collision occurred in the channel abreast of the FONTANA wreck and justifies the warnings of the marine men that a serious accident would result from its being left to block the river. The MARTIN was nearest the FONTANA, the YUMA being between her and the American shore.
      After the collision the MARTIN drifted down the river but 400 feet, sinking across the river in about fifty feet of water.
Vesselmen say that the two wrecks, place a complete embargo on commerce. Coming at this point, it bids fair to eclipse the historic blockages of the St. Mary's River in 1890, when the DOUGLASS, HOUGHTON and the NAIDA were across the channel. In both cases only the traffic from Lake Superior was affected, but this will shut off all the through business on the lakes for Chicago, Milwaukee and all the Lake Michigan and Lake Huron craft must pass Port Huron, as well as the ships that trade to Lake ?.
      Strenuous efforts will be made at once to dispose of the wrecks, but the work promises to be long and costly. Both craft are loaded down with iron ore and this makes wrecking work difficult. The swift current at this point all but prevents diving operations, and even if the wrecks are destroyed by dynamite, it will take many days to accomplish the task.
      At Chicago the immediate quantities of grain have been chartered to go to Lake Erie, and in some cases the boats which are to load it have not yet passed out of Lake Erie.
      At the time of the accident the night was dark but weather clear and neither of the captains of the steamers mad any claims of the misunderstanding of signals, nor that the proper signals were not given.
      Sailor Kyle, when interview by a Free Press representative, said that it was his trick at the helm, and when approaching the FONTANA, mate ROSS had sent Peterson astern to help him safely steer the vessel by the obstruction. The captain had just given an order to starboard the wheel and as he was complying with the order he noticed the YUMA's red light and her bearing down on their boat. He remarked to his mate, Peterson " Here is going to be a collision." almost the same instant the steamer plowed her way through the MARTIN's hull, entering on the starboard bow.
      He continued: "She walked right through us to the mizzen. I ran up the mizzen rigging on the port side, Peterson following. In five seconds the foremast was broken off and directly after the cabin top cut off the starboard mizzen rigging. My feet caught in something as it was being drawn by the suction, but I arose to the surface after a few seconds and grabbed some of the wreckage floating about, to which I clung until picked up by the small boat. I saw nobody after we struck except my mate Peterson, who came up within six feet of me."
      Capt. Bule, of the YUMA, when seen by the Free Press representative refused to make any statement beyond the mere fact that the boats had come together and that it was a very unfortunate affair.
      Capt. Mooney, of the GROVER, likewise kept mum and would not say anything beyond that the proper signals had been given. Both were disposed to defer all explanations, if they had any, until required to make statements by the proper authorities.
      The MARTIN was carrying ore from Two Harbors to Lake Erie ports, while the YUMA has a cargo of coal from Toledo to West Superior.
Capt. Lawless, the master of the MARTIN, who went down with his vessel, was 63 years of age and one of the best known sailors of the lakes, having been on the water for the past forty years. He sailed for the Bradley's nearly all of that time and was skipper of one of the first vessels of their fleet, the NEW LONDON. He is survived by a family of a wife and several children.
      Capt. Lawless was about 63 years of age, and well known in Detroit. He brought out the big wooden propeller MAJESTIC, and sailed her a number of years. Prior to that time he had for nearly a score of years sailed various vessels for the late Capt. Alva Bradley, of Cleveland, and after leaving the MAJESTIC he entered the employ of Bradley's son, M. A. Bradley, who manages the Bradley fleet, to which both the GROVER and MARTIN belonged. Lawless bore the reputation here of being a skilled, reliable lake master.
      The propeller GROVER is commanded by Capt. Ed Mooney, and the YUMA by Capt. Daniel Bule, and both have A 1 reputations as lake sailor men.
      The schooner JOHN MARTIN was 21 years old, built at Cleveland by Thomas Quayle; registered 937 gross tons, was 220 x 34 x 14 feet in dimensions, rated A 2, and was uninsured, it being Bradley's policy to insure only his best boats. In her day, the MARTIN was one of the crack lake schooners, being a large carrier and a fast sailer. Her original cost was about $80,000, but last week she might have been bought for $20,000 or less.
      The YUMA is a steel propeller of the 'straightback' pattern, owned by the Thomas Wilson estate, of Cleveland. She was built seven years ago at that port by the Globe Iron Works, registers 2,194 gross tons, id 3213 x 42 x 19 feet in dimensions, rates A 1 and is valued at about $165,000, and fully insured in a foreign companies.
      Detroit Free Press
      September 22, 1900

      . . . . .

Port Huron, Mich., Sept. 26. -- The spars have been pulled out of the wrecked schooner MARTIN. Some steamboat captains have failed to pay attention to the rules of Col. Lydecker for running boats past the wreck in the river, and it is his intention to proceed against the offenders in the general interest of navigation. Under the law he has full power to do this, and captains who have run the rapids when they were told to wait for orders, will be asked to pay some big fines.
      Saginaw Courier-Herald
      September 27, 1900
      . . . . .
The steel steamer YUMA sunk the schooner JOHN MARTIN in the St. Clair River, near this port on Friday night. Capt. James Lawless, mate, William Ross, Mrs. Bacon and an un-known-named sailor were drowned in the casualty. Marine Report, Port Huron
      Marine Record
      September 27, 1900
      . . . . .
      Judge Hazel of Buffalo has rendered a decision in the admiralty action of George Stone et al, libelants against the steamer YUMA and the Wilson Transit Co. The action grew out of the loss of the schooner JOHN MARTIN which was sunk in a collision with the YUMA in the St. Clair River on Sept. 21, 1900. Judge Hazel holds that the collision was due to concurrent negligence on both the crews of the YUMA and the JOHN MARTIN.
      Marine Record
      September 11, 1902
Schooner JOHN MARTIN. U. S. No. 75717. Of 937.75 tons gross; 890.87 tons net, Built Cleveland, O., 1873. Home port, Cleveland, O. 220.2 x 34.2 x 14.2
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S. , 1885

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Reason: sunk by collision
Lives: 4
Freight: iron ore
Remarks: Total loss
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William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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John Martin (Schooner), U75717, sunk by collision, 21 Sep 1900