The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Cayuga (Propeller), U126556, sunk by collision, 10 May 1895

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      Big Lake Steamer and the JOSEPH L. HURD Go Down Together in Lake Michigan.
      HURD's cook the only one to lose his life
      All the others of both crews rescued by the MINNOLA, The CAYUGA has disappeared.
Mackinaw City., Mich., May 10..-- During a heavy fog this morning, opposite Skilligalie light, the steamer CAYUGA, bound down, loaded with merchandise, ran into the steamer JOSEPH L. HURD, bound for Chicago with lumber, and both sank.
Both crews were picked up by the MINNOLA, except the cook of the HURD, George Johnston of Chicago, who was drowned. The HURD did not sink completely owing to her cargo of lumber, but the CAYUGA has disappeared.
The CAYUGA was the finest vessel of a fleet of 11 boats owned and operated by the Lehigh Valley Transportation Company, as well as the finest freight boat on the Lakes. The headquarters of the company are in the Coal and Iron Exchange. The CAYUGA was built by the Globe Iron Works of Cleveland in 1889 at a cost of $350,000. The vessel was 308 feet over all and of 3000 tons burden. Her hull was of steel and she was one of the very finest specimens of the shipbuilders art in every respect. Her crew consisted of 30 men.
The CAYUGA left Buffalo on the 5th inst. for Milwaukee, her first trip this season. She left Milwaukee yesterday morning at 8 o'clock on the return trip. Her cargo consisted of 38.000 bushels of oats and 1500 pounds of package freight. Arrangements have already been commenced to raise the boat. The manager of the company leaves for Chicago this afternoon to look after its interests, The cargo is valued at 160,000, fully Insured. The boat is also insured.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Friday, May 10, 1895

      . . . . .

      Both Boats Wrecked
      Mackinaw City, Mich., May 10. -- The steamship CAYUGA of the Lehigh Valley Line, bound from Chicago to Buffalo collided with the steamer JOSEPH L. HURD of the Lake Superior Line, lake Superior to Chicago, three miles this side of Skillagalee Lighthouse, at 4:30 this morning.
      The CAYUGA sand 25 minutes later. The bow of the HURD was knocked clean off and only her cargo of lumber kept her afloat.
      The only loss of life was on the HURD. George Johnson, the steward, was knocked overboard by the crash and drowned. The remaining members of both crews were picked up by the Minnesota liner MANOLA, and landed here this morning.
      There was a dense fog hanging on the lake at the time the boats came together. They were in a dangerous locality being on the main highway of the lakes on the passage through the Straits of Mackinaw. A strict lookout was maintained on both vessels, but their speed was not wholly slackened. They were not over 250 feet apart when their signals were distinguished, but then it was too late to avert the collision.
      The CAYUGA is rated A 1 in the Inland Lloyds and her value was about $200,000. Her net register was 1,939 tons, and she was built by the Globe Iron Works, Cleveland, in 1889. She was one of the Ocean pattern steamers, built of steel, with a double bottom. She was one of the best equipped steamships on the lakes.
      The HURD was rated A 2, and was valued at $15,000, she was built at Detroit in 1869 and registered 759 tons.
      The CAYUGA went down in 14 fathoms of water about midway between Skillagalee and Waugoshance Lights. She had on board 1,500 tons of flour from Milwaukee, valued at $70,000 and 30,000 bushels of oats, valued at $8,600. In addition there were a number of minor items which will bring the total value of her cargo to about $90,000. The lost steamer was commanded by Captain Graser, and this was his third season. He was ordered at noon by General Manager W. P. Henry to return at once to Chicago and report to E. J. Henry, the agent of the line in that city.
      The HURD, which is an old timer in lake business, was commanded by captain Charles E. Wilson. This is the first season she had been in commission for several years on account of dull freights.
      Chicago, May 10. -- The first intimation of the loss of the two steamers was received here in a marine news dispatch at 11 o'clock. Not long after Captain Charles E. Wilson, who was in command of the HURD, telegraphed General manager Austrian, Mackinaw City, that he had been in collision with the CAYUGA in a dense fog off Skillagalee, and that he had lost one of his crew and asked for instructions as to what he should do. "Our information is so meager," Mr. Austrian, said at noon, " that we do not know what course we shall pursue regarding the HURD. I will take it from Capt. Wilson's dispatch that the boat has been abandoned, and that the crew is all at Mackinaw City. I would naturally suppose that Capt. Wilson would have thrown his anchor overboard before deserting the ship, to prevent her from drifting on a rocky shore in that region. If such is the case, we shall immediately order a wrecking expedition to go in search of the boat, and save what is left of her."
      Chicago, May 10. --E. J. Henry, the agent of the Lehigh Valley line received a dispatch this afternoon from Buffalo fully confirming the loss of the CAYUGA. The dispatch stated that the steamer had gone down in 14 fathoms of water. Mr. Henry stated that the CAYUGA was fully insured as was her cargo. She left for Milwaukee yesterday, taking on her entire cargo at that port.
      Buffalo Enquirer
      May 10, 1895
      . . . . .

      Michigan City, May 10. -- During a heavy fog at 3:30 the steamer CAYUGA bound down with a load of merchandise ran into the steamer JOSEPH L. HURD bound for Chicago with lumber opposite Skilligalee light and both went down. Both crew were picked up by the steamer MINNESOTA except one of the crew of the HURD, who was drowned.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Friday, May 10, 1895

      . . . . .
      Mackinaw City, May 10. - The steamer JOSEPH L. HURD and the CAYUGA were in collision in a fog this morning. The CAYUGA was sunk and the JOSEPH L. HURD was badly damaged.
      Chicago Inter-Ocean
      May 11, 1895

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      The Collision Was Caused by a Heavy Fog and 0ccurred in the Straits of Mackinaw.
Chicago, Ill., May 11. -- It appears from the particulars now obtainable that the disaster to the CAYUGA and the HURD yesterday was caused by a heavy fog; The vessels were in the main highway on passage through the Straits of Mackinaw when the accident happened, a very dangerous locality. A sharp lookout was maintained on both vessels and their speed had been reduced. Their signals were not distinguished until they were scarcely 200 feet apart when It was too late to avert a collision. The disaster occurred at 4:30 in the Morning.
The CAYUGA was struck by the bow of the HURD on the starboard side just aft of the bulkhead, and a great hole, six feet deep and two feet wide was torn in her steel side. She was thrown over on her port side by the force of the blow, but righted and began to fill. The bow of the HURD was knocked completely in and she immediately filled with water. The crews of both boats immediately began lowering the life boats and succeeded in saving most of their clothes, as the CAYUGA was 25 minutes in sinking and the HURD remained afloat through her lumber cargo. The crews of both boats remained near the scene for an hour, when the MANOLA came along and picked them up and landed them at Mackinaw.
The CAYUGA went down in 15 fathoms of water about midway between Skillagallee and Waugoshance lights. Capt. Graser was in command of the CAYUGA. This was his third season and the vessel had never met with a serious mishap while under his command.
The HURD, which is an old-timer in lake business, was commanded by Capt. Charles E. Wilson. This is the first season she has been in commission for several years on account dull freights. She is rated at $15,000 and is Insured for $10,800. The underwriters are hard hit. It is estimated that the total insurance on the boats and their cargoes is about $300,000.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Saturday, May 11, 1895

      . . . . .

      Chicago, May 13. -- The expedition which was to have left Harbor Springs this morning to go in search of the sunken wreck of the Lehigh Valley liner CAYUGA was held in port by the northwest gale. The underwriters first want to find the exact condition of the boat and cargo before taking steps towards raising the wreck.
      Buffalo Enquirer
      May 13, 1895
      . . . . .
      Vessel Property Lost Since Opening of Navigation.
      summary of losses from the opening of navigation to June 1, shows that eleven vessels of an estimated value of $521,000 and 19,105 net tons capacity have been lost beyond recovery. The table makes no reference to cargo losses and includes only such vessels as have probably passed out of existence. Two small boats that were ashore, but have been released within the past week or ten days, the SAKIE SHEPARD and QUICKSTEP, are not included in the list, but the steamer Runnels, which burned at Ashtabula, and which will very probably be rebuilt is included. Of course not all of the lost boats in the list were insured up to the value placed on them, and some of them were not insured at all, but the underwriters have had a number of heavy losses from the stranding of steel vessels. However, it is probable that the estimate of nearly $1,000,000 to be borne by underwriters on the lakes thus far this season is entirely too high. It is safe to say that $250,000 will cover all losses thus far incurred by the underwriters on wooden boats and their cargoes, and total losses have been paid on only two steel boats. The table of total losses follows:
Date of Loss. Name of Vessel. Cause. Where Lost. Cap. Net Tons. Value.
April 30 Stm. EVERETT, A. Foundered Lake Huron 1,200 $50,000
May 3 Stm, FAIRBANK, N.K Fire Lake Ontario 1,650 30,000
May 4 Stm. GUIDE Fire Oswego L. Ont. 8,000
May 8 Schr. KIMBALL S.H. Collision Saginaw Bay 600 5,000
May 10 Stm. CAYUGA Collision Straits 2,600 5,000
May 10 Stm. HURD, J. L. Collision Straits 950 15,000
May 11 Schr. KITCHEN J.B. Ashore Middle Island 650 5,000
May 11 Schr. KELLEY, KATE Foundered Lake Michigan 550 3,000
May 21 Schr. NEW DOMINION Foundered Georgian Bay 550 7,000
May 29 Stm. RUNNELS, J.E. Fire Ashtabula 1,100 60,000
May 31 Stm. NORMAN Collision Lake Huron 255 163,000
      Total 19,105 $521,000
      Marine Review
      June 6, 1895

      Charlevoix, June 18. -- The search for the wreck of the Lehigh Valley steamer CAYUGA, sunk in the Straits of Skillagalee has been abandoned by Capt. Wilbur of the steamer CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS. Capt. J. D. Tuttle of Milwaukee, who was sent here by the underwriters to find the wreck if possible, will remain here for a time and will further prosecute the search with tugs. The CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS was engaged 10 days in trying to find some trace of the lost boat, but was wholly unsuccessful.
      Buffalo Enquirer
      June 18, 1895
      . . . . .
      Reid's Work on the CAYUGA.
Everybody on the lakes is, of course, very much interested in the efforts being made by Capt. James Reid to raise the steel steamer CAYUGA of the Lehigh Valley line, which was sunk in collision in the Straits of Mackinaw in the spring of 1895, in about 100 feet of water, and which is a package-freight steamer of about 2,500 tons capacity, valued when new at $155,000, and having triple expansion engines of about 1,000 horse power, together with other outfit and appliances common to the best lake freight ships. The latest account of operations on the wreck is given by Capt. J. V. Tuttle, insurance agent of Milwaukee. Capt. Tuttle visited the wreck a few days ago. He found the work progressing slowly and learned from Capt. Reid that everything may not be in readiness for a lift before August 1. There are five cable s to be posse d under the hull. One of these Is in position near the bow and the remaining four are still to be placed. They will be located amidship and fastened to a scow capable of carrying 1,000 tons, which will be placed directly over the hull and operated after the manner of all wooden pontoons. The steel pontoons, four in number, are cylinders 12 feet in diameter and about 25 feet long, with an estimated lifting capacity of 500 tons each. Two of these will be sunk on either side of the hull at the bow and two at the stern and made fast to the shaft. All but about 1,000 bushels of the 35,000 bushels of oats which the CAYUGA carried have been pumped out. In getting at the hatches perhaps thirty barrels or sacks of flour were removed and brought to the surface, but because of the lifting power it is expected to afford, the remainder will not be disturbed until after the wreck has been towed into Little Traverse bay. Capt. Reid says he has tested the CAYUGA's water bottom an and fin finds a that it can be in inflated. This is a matter of the highest importance to him in the attempt to lift the wreck. It is Capt. Reid's intention at first merely to raise the CAYUGA clear of the bottom, so that she can be towed into the quiet waters of Little Traverse bay, and after this has been accomplished all will be plain sailing for the wreckers, as the work of bringing her to the surface can be conducted without interruption winter and summer alike. The process of sweeping cables under the hull is the most tedious portion of the work in hand at present, as it can only be conducted in quiet weather and smooth water.
      Marine Review
      July 9, 1896
      . . . . .

      An attempt will be made to raise the CAYUGA by using pontoons she is now on her side in 106 feet of water.
      Chicago Inter-Ocean
      May 6, 1897
      . . . . .

Capt. James Reed, the wrecker, is going to try again to raise the sunken Lehigh Valley liner CAYUGA. She lies on her side in 106 feet of water, and if Reed's pontoons succeed in floating her he will have his hands full of work.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Thursday, May 6, 1897

      . . . . .

Six pontoons have been sunk in place by the side of the CAYUGA, and Capt. Reid expects the remaining two will be placed by the first of next month. It has been greatly delayed of late by the continued windy weather in the Straits. It has the effect of kicking up a sea that rocks the steamer from which is worked the air pumps, and the tugs on the hoisting rope and air-hose are much more than the submarine workers can stand.
      The fact that a diver was injured while at work on the wreck last week is said to have been due to his own negligence, and that this rule applies to all divers hurt, unless it happens to be that their suits or the hose or the pump gives way, or that they are caught in some part of the wreck; but all of this rarely happens. The general run of divers are careless as to the length of time they stay under water. Especially is this the case with those who work at a great depth. Capt. James Reid says that his men can easily stay under one hour at the CAYUGA, and that this could be stretched into two hours. But he prefers one hour as after that they are subject to a depression of the bones that affects the marrow, and for the time, at least, unfits them for their duties. Their reason for wishing to remain below as long as they can is the trouble to themselves of being hoisted to the surface, removing the helmet, partaking of the effect of the change of air, then donning the helmet and sinking to the bottom again. During all this time they are accomplishing nothing, and are putting themselves to great inconvenience. Especially do they find this to be the case at the CAYUGA wreck. The depth is more than 100 feet, which it will be seen, is a long distance when it comes to being hoisted and lowered again to the bottom.
      Capt. Reid is fortunate in having secured the services of Adam Klosh, an Indian, and one of the best divers the lakes has ever seen. He has not only a hardy constitution, but is skilled in submarine carpentry and steel work. For several years past he has been one of the ablest assistants in the record made by the FAVORITE as a wrecker.
      While the persistence of Reid and his success in lifting the big boat out of the deep bed of mud in which she lay have won over to him the moral support of many who once scoffed at the idea he would raise the boat, yet there are many skeptics who believe still that he cannot bring her up the 100 and odd feet, or that he can even raise her sufficiently to tow her into shallow water. They give no particular reason for their disbelief, except that she is a very large boat; that many hundreds of tons of cargo still remain in her, and that his method is largely an experiment. At the same time scientific men all over the lakes are taking an interest in his attempt, and it is probable that when he announces readiness for the first general lift some of them will be present to study the thing.
      Milwaukee Library Scrapbook
      June 24, 1897

      . . . . .

      Capt. Reid Visits Milwaukee and Talks of His Work on the Wreck.
      Capt. James Reid, who is engaged in an attempt to raise the steamer CAYUGA from the bottom of Lake Michigan near Skilligaliee reef, paid a brief visit to Milwaukee Tuesday. Capt. Reid came up on the Lehigh Valley liner TUSCARORA and accompanied that vessel to Chicago. the object of the trip being to astudy the interior arrangement and construction of the sister ship of the CAYUGA closely and put the knowledge thus obtained to good use in the recovery of the latter craft.
      During a stop of less than two hours in Milwaukee, Capt. Reid talked freely to an interested party concerning the progress of his wrecking operations. He stated that impropitious weather had hindered the work, but everything is in such shape now that he hopes to be able to attempt a lift between the 1st and 10th of August. Three wire cables have been passed under the hull - one at the bow, one aft and one amidship - leaving but one more cable to be placed, and that amidship, to complete the complement for the big scow pontoon. The cable aft is made fast to the hub of the wheel. The ends have been attached to two of the pontoons and the latter sunk to the bottom for a preliminary test of their condition. The pontoons to be use at the bow are still at Harbor Springs and will not be towed out to the wreck until the fourth cable has been placed in position and everything else is in readiness for the proposed lift.
      Capt. Reidl said that an attempt to inflate the compartment from which the oats were removed had proved a failure, and he assigns as a reason that the steamer's main deck may have been sprung at the point by the collision with the HURD. However, the imperfect condition of this compartment has in no wise dampened his ardor or shaken his confidence of ultimate success. The captain pins great faith to the water-bottom of the CAYUGA, which he considers both water and airtight. As the steamer lies upon her side there is good reason to believe that the inflation of this water-bottom will turn the hull bottom upwards. Nobody is better aware of this than Capt. Reid, it seems, and he says he would rather lift it in that than her present shape, because the inflation will be rendered more secure and it will be as easy to right it with a full turn as with a half turn. Capt. Reid has made a thorough study of the boiler connection of the TUSCARORA, in order that he may be able to close all possible openings in the CAYUGA'S boilers and inflate them. He does not want to lift the wreck from the bottom more than 8 or 10 feet at first, as that will be sufficient to tow it to the shelter of Little Traverse Bay.
      In explanation of the fact that one cable is attached to each st of the cylindrical pontoons, it should be stated that the pontoons are provided with bridles for the purpose of equalizing the strain. The large scow pontoons have a pair of bridles, one for each of the two cables.
      At Chicago today Capt. Reid inimated that it will be a long time before the CAYUGA is finally brought to the surface. The steel pontoons sunk at the stern worked perfectly, and now more are to be built, In all 18 steel cables 8 inches in size will be attached to the wreck before he is ready for the final lift "It is a long job," Capt. Reid remarked, "and a great many things turn up to keep us back." The steel pontoons are a perfect success. We wanted to try them before we had built a large number.
      Milwauke Wisconsin
      Wednesday, July 22, 1896
      . . . . .
      An echo of the CAYUGA - HURD disaster came up in the Wayne Circut Court yesterday when judge Hosnier ordered a judgment against Edmund hall, of this city, in favor of Henry McMorran, of Port Huron, for $4,902.80. Hall, as is well known, furnishes the money, which for several years has kept wrecker James Reid at work, on the thus far vain attempt to raise the CAYUGA, which lies in 105 feet of Lake Michigan water near Skillagalee light. He rented a lot of wrecking apparatus from McMorran and Reid used it off and on in the work. McMorran demanded a certain sum for the use of his property, and Hall refused to pay, with the foregoing result.
      Detroit Free Press
      August 9, 1900
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Steam screw CAYUGA. Of 2,669.47 tons gross; 1,939.26 tons net. Built at Cleveland, Ohio, in 1889. Home port, Buffalo, N.Y. 290.0 x 40.8 x 13.6 Steel built.
      Merchant Vessel List, U.S, 1891

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Reason: sunk by collision
Lives: nil
Remarks: Total loss
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  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 45.6764 Longitude: -85.17312
William R. McNeil
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Cayuga (Propeller), U126556, sunk by collision, 10 May 1895