The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Morning Star (Barge), aground, 13 Nov 1880

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      The Barge MORNING STAR Caught In The Gale Of Last Thursday
      Reported Missing
      Buffalo:-- The tug SPRAGUE, of Tonawanda, Captain B.C.Yocom, arrived here yesterday morning with the sad news of the probable loss of the three-masted barge MORNING STAR, with all on board. Captain Yocom reports that the SPRAGUE left Toledo early last Wednesday morning, having in tow the MORNING STAR, with 40,000 bushels of wheat for Buffalo. About 10 o'clock Thursday morning during the heavy storm from the south-west, when about off Port Stanley, on the north shore of take Erie, the tow line parted, and as the vessel was weathering the high seas much better than the tug, Captain Thompson, master of the MORNING STAR, motioned the tug to keep away. Captain Yocom, who had all he could do to take care of the tug alone, then made for Long Point, down about 60 miles, where he put in for shelter.
      On Saturday morning when the wind had abated, he started out in search of the barge, but as he could not see nor hear anything of her, he came on to this port. He states that when the line broke the MORNING STAR had her fore-sail up, but it was soon after blown away. Captain Thompson then ran up the mizzen sail, so as to head the vessel to the wind before slipping his anchor. What happened after this, Captain Yocom could not say, but it is his opinion that the barge must have gone down in deep water, with all her crew. No tidings of her had been received here up to last night.
      The wind at the time when the tug left the MORNING STAR was very strong and the sea very high, but as the vessel was staunch and seaworthy, and the Captain a careful corageous and skilful navigator, it is barely possible she may have ran or dragged into some out of the way place and ridden out the storm. There is no denying the belief here, however, that in all probability she has shared the fate of many another craft this disasterous Fall, and foundered in the deep.
      Several vessel Captain's coming in yesterday, report passing wreckage above Long Point, but this needs not necessarily have come from the MORNING STAR.
      The vessel was built 1874 by W. Crothwaite at E. Saginaw, measured 498 tons and has a rating of B 1. And insured for $17,000 in the Pheonix, Great Western, Fanevil Hall & Manhattan Co's. Her master Capt. John W. Thompson, is also a resident of Buffalo, and has a wife and son. The crew is composed of six men. The cargo of wheat, is consigned to Messrs. Whitney & Gibson and is full insured.
      An interesting reminicence in this connection is the fact that the EVENING STAR, a full mate to the MORNING STAR went down on Lake Michigan in the summer of 1875, when in tow of the propeller MENDOTO,
the crew were saved but the propeller and several other vessels were wrecked at the same time and quite a number of lives were lost.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      Monday, November I5th.1880

      . . . . .

      A Lost Vessel And A Crew Without Survivors.
Buffalo - It is now settled without doubt that the three masted barge MORNING STAR, foundered on Thursday last, on Lake Erie, some 50 miles above Long Point, and it is almost as certain that not one of the seven
men on board at the time survives to tell the tale of the sad disaster. It will be remembered that the tug SPRAGUE left the vessel at 10 o'clock that morning, during the severe storm, some 60 miles above Long Point.
      The officers of a number of vessels, steam and sail, which arrived here on Sunday and yesterday agree in their reports of having seen, while coming down along the north shore, the three spars of a barge, projecting above the water at a spot about 30 miles above the Point and some eight to ten miles from shore. The Morning Star must therefore have been driven about 50 miles before the wind before she went down. There is not the slightest possibility that these masts belong to any other craft. Two or three of the officers of other vessels positivly recoginised them from their peculiarities of shape, as belonging to the STAR, even before they had learned of the surmises in regards to the STAR
      The top of a vessels cabin, boards and other evidence of a wreck were seen floating near the Point; a yawl, painted green, was discovered drifting bottom up, and it is known that the barge carried just such a boat.
      The MORNING STAR was built for the lumber trade, and is said to have solid sides up to the rail. Experienced sailors are of the opinion that her cargo of 40,000 bushels set her too deep in the water and that having no regular bulwarks, the heavy seas which washed over her could not readily be got rid of, and thus she was literally swamped, of course this is merely opinion, but it is a very good reason for her going down.
      Four days had elapsed up to yesterday afternoon since the disaster, and as nothing whatever has been heard from any of the crew, the belief that all perished amounts almost to direct knowledge. Their small boat gone, and the vessel foundered 8 to 10 miles from land in deep water, there was no chance of escape for anyone, except being picked up by a passing vessel, and had any of the crew been rescued, information
would surely have reached here by this time.
      Our reporter was unable to learn the names of any of the crew except the Captain, as no records seem to have been kept on shore. This again reminds us that there should be a law enacted making it compulsory
on all vessel masters to leave on land a full list of all employees and passengers on their boats, for each and every trip.
      Captain John W. Thompson was highly esteemed as a man and a navigator, was 53 years of age, and resided at no. 326 Eleventh St. this City, with his wife and one son. The latter, Richard H.Thompson and
Captain L.W. Drake, book-keeper for Mr. John Kelderhouse, the owner of the ill-fated vessel, have gone to the scene of the wreck, for the purpose of making a thorough examination.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      Tuesday November 16,1880

      . . . . .

      There are no new facts to state about the ill-fated barge MORNING STAR, which foundered off Long Pt. Cut in Last Thursday's gale. Mr. John Kelderhouse the owner of the craft has given up all hopes of ever seeing any of her crew alive. He has not been able to ascertain the name of the boat, and no inquiries have thus far been made by relatives or friends for those who might have been on board. The question has again been agitated whether thre should not be a law requiring a duplicate list of crew and passengers of all boats left on shore. A copy of the shipping article is required from all sea-going vessels, but none is demanded from coastwise traders and vessels navigating the inland lakes. There are many reasons why this would be impracticable on the lakes, chief among which are liability of crews to desert just as the vessel is ready to leave port, and the refusal of sailors to sign the shipping article after going on board. The crews are changed so often that it would require the most of a captain's time keeping track of them, and greatly delay his vessel. The loss of Capt. Thompson has caused universal regret in marine circles.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      November 16, 1880 3-4

      . . . . .
The 3-masted barge MORNING STAR (not a canaller) is reported lost on Lake Erie. There were nine persons on board.
      Kingston Whig-Standard
      November 16, 1880

      The insurance on the lost barge MORNING STAR 's cargo of wheat is distributed as follows:
      New England Underwriters ...............................$12,000
      Phenix Co. ............................................................... 7,000
      Orient Co. ................................................................. 6,000
      Manhattan Co. ......................................................... 3,600
      Great Western Co. ................................................. 6,000
      Pacific Co. ................................................................. 5,000
      Mercantile Co. ......................................................... 1,700
      Buffalo Company ..................................................... 1,700
      Toledo Fire and Marine ........................................ 1,600
      Total ..........................................................$44,000
      The Chicago Tribune of yesterday makes the following comment on the disaster: "In the construction of the MORNING STAR great carrying capacity was studied, to the utter disregard of fine lines. A degree of strength proportionate to the burden she was calculated to bear was also lost sight of by her builder, who used quantities of pine where oak should have been substituted. Hence she never classed above B1, and at the time of her loss had graded down to B1 1/2. Pine will do well enough for lumber carriers, but grain freighters should be constructed either entirely of oak or of iron, to make them perfectly seaworthy in heavy weather. It must therfore be held that the underwriters are greatly to blame for the terrible calamity that has befallen the craft and her crew, for it was their power to confine her to the trade for which she had originally been intended. An interesting reminisence connected with the disaster is that the EVENING STAR, a full sister of the MORNING STAR, in tow of the prop. MENDOTA, went down on Lake Michigan off Pt. au Betsy in Sept. 1875. The MENDOTA and several others foundered at the same time.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      November 17, 1880 1-8

      The correct list of insurance on the cargo of 40,400 bu. wheat in the MORNING STAR is as below:
Smith & Davis pool,$16,000; Continental and New England Underwriters, $12,200; Orient, $7,000; Phenix, $5,800; Manhattan, $3,000; in all $44,000.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      November 17, 1880 4-5

      Mr. R.H. Thompson, son of Capt. Thompson, of the barge MORNING STAR, and Mr. L.W. Drake, returned from Port Burwell yesterday, whence they went last Monday to make an examination in the vicinity of the place where the barge was lost. They searched the shore for miles above and below Port Burwell, but did not find a single article belonging to the boat. It was too rough to go to the place where the barge lies. A description of Capt. Thompson was left at different points, by which to recognize the body should it be found. Parties living near the place report having seen a vessel disappear at the point named on Thursday morning.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      November 19, 1880 1-6

The story of the Lighthouse Keeper at Long Pt. Cut that he saw the barge MORNING STAR and another vessel disappear in the gale of Thursday, the 11th inst., is not believed as far as it concerns the MORNING STAR. She did not go down at the place he describes, and he was too far away from the place where she did founder to make out any boat with the most powerful glass. No other vessels have reported missing, and his eyesight must have been obscured by the thick weather.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      November 20, 1880 1-8

It now transpires that the cook of the ill-fated barge MORNING STAR, which foundered in the terrible storm of the early part of this month on this lake, taking down all hands, was a woman named Annie McGill. She was shipped by Capt. Thompson on the 3d instant at Smith's Intelligence office in this city and left port so hurriedly that she had no time to secure a chage of clothing. She was a fine looking young woman, and this was her first experience in a seafearing life. Her identity was established by her 2 sisters calling upon Mr. Kelderhouse, owner of the ill-fated barge, and making inquiries with reference to her.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      November 24, 1880 3-4

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: aground
Lives: 6
Freight: grain
Remarks: Total loss ?
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 42.555833 Longitude: -80.197222
William R. McNeil
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Morning Star (Barge), aground, 13 Nov 1880