The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Sumatra (Schooner), U115240, sunk, 30 Sep 1896

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The barge SUMATRA of Port Huron, with steel rails, foundered off the Government pier at Milwaukee this morning and four sailors were drowned. She was owned by Mills Trans. Co., and was 803 tons.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Wednesday, September 30, 1896

      . . . . .

      The SUMATRA, Laden With Iron, Founders in Lake Michigan This Morning.
      Wreck Occurred A Mile and a Half From Milwaukee Harbor.
Milwaukee, Wis., Sept. 30. -- The barge SUMATRA, consort of the B. W. ARNOLD, bound down from Chicago with a load of railroad iron, foundered off the Government pier this morning. Four sailors were drowned. The captain, mate and cook were rescued.
The SUMATRA was bound for Milwaukee loaded with railroad iron and intended picking up the HATTIE WELL here, She was leaking on her way up, and had the pumps worked all night. The sea was running high, and the crew had great difficulty in keeping her from sinking. When she reached South Point she got in the trough of the sea and in a short time her hatches were washed off and her rails carried away.
The steamer sounded her whistle and the tug SIMPSON at once put out for the wreck. The sea at that time was running very high and great trouble was experienced in getting near the sinking barge. Just as the SIMPSON reached the SUMATRA she foundered. The tugmen succeeded in rescuing the cook and mate from the wreckage. The Live Saving crew was on hand and worked hard to save the other men on the barge, but all were drowned with the exception of the captain who was taken ashore by the Life Savers. The SUMATRA is badly broken up and only her mast can he seen can be seen out of water now. The wreck occurred about a mile and a half from the harbor entrance.
The members of the crew lost were : Arthur Burnsted, West Bay City: Charles Hemmer, West Bay City: Patrick Peterson, West Bay City: Peter Anderson, West Bay City.
The rescued are: Capt. Charles Johnson, West Bay City: John Burbeck, mate of the Barge, West Bay City: Ira Purser, cook West Bay City. The ARNOLD is now moored in the harbor.
Large crowds of people are congregated in sheltered spots along the shore looking at the wreck, one spar of which is visible above the water.
Last night the wind reached a velocity of 30 miles an hour in Milwaukee, blowing straight from the north. During the night the barometer dropped to 29:38. At 8 o'clock this morning the wind was blowing from the northwest at 20 miles an hour and the barometer stood at 29:46.
      Buffalo Evening News
      September 30, 1896

      Detroit, Mich., Oct. 6. -- Diver Quinn has contracted to recover the cargo of steel rails from the schooner SUMATRA which foundered off Milwaukee. He will leave tomorrow with a force of divers for the wreck. The work will be done from the steamer MARY GROH, which left Port Huron today for Milwaukee with the outfit.
      Milwaukee Library Scrapbook
      October 7, 1896

      . . . . .

      Up to Tuesday noon, 635 rails have been recovered from the wreck of the sunken barge SUMATRA off Milwaukee. As four rails constitute a gross ton of 2,240 pounds the amount recovered amounts to about 159 tons.
      Milwaukee Library Scrapbook
      October 24, 1896

      . . . . .

      The steamer B.W. ARNOLD, which had in tow the barge SUMATRA when the latter foundered off Milwaukee harbor with the loss of four lives, lies upon the beach near Salmon Trout River, Lake Superior, a burnt out hulk and total loss.
      The ARNOLD was bound from Duluth for Chicago with 800,000 feet of lumber, and had in tow the barge JAMES MOWATT, also lumber loaded. About noon on Saturday, off Ontonagon, fire broke out in the deck load forward, and despite every effort to check it spread the entire length of the steamer, compelling the crew to take refuge on the MOWATT, after which the tow-line was cut and the steamer allowed to drift away.
      The Portage Lake lifesavers reached the burning craft at 5:30 P. M. after having rowed a distance of fifteen miles and finding that they could do nothing better, assisted in navigating the MOWATT to the canal, which point was reached at midnight.
      The tug VALERIE steamed to the burning craft from Houghton with the intention of towing her to a point where an effectual fight might be made against the flames, but a line could not be run on account of the heat. Hence the ARNOLD continued to drift before the wind, a burning pyre which lighted Lake Superior for miles, until she fetched up on the bottom near Salmon Trout River, and there was slowly consumed to the water's edge. The steamer and her cargo are a total loss.
      Insurance on the ARNOLD to the extent of about $13,000 was carried in the agencies of Worthington & Sill of Buffalo and C.A. McDonald & Co. of Chicago. The remainder, about $25,000 was placed with what is known as the Port Huron pool, made up of vessel owners at that point. The SUMATRA, which foundered off Milwaukee was similarly insured, and the loss on that vessel is said to have virtually wiped out the premiums for the season of the Port Huron pool people.
      The B.W. ARNOLD was built at West Bay City by F.W. Wheeler in 1885 for the Mills Transportation Company of Marysville, Mich., the present owner. Her net tonnage measurement was 674, rated A 1*, and Inland Lloyds valuation $50,000.
      Milwaukee Wisconsin
      November 23, 1896

Schooner SUMATRA. U. S. No. 115240. Of 845.34 tons gross; 803.08 tons net. Built Black River, O., 1874. Home port, Cleveland, O. 204.0 x 34.0 x 14.0
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1885

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: sunk
Lives: 4
Freight: steel rails
Remarks: Total loss
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Wisconsin, United States
    Latitude: 43.0389 Longitude: -87.90647
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Sumatra (Schooner), U115240, sunk, 30 Sep 1896