Glen Haven, Oct. 5. -- While in a shelter from a storm at South Manitou Island, the steamer CONGRESS caught fire and was destroyed with her cargo of lumber. She was formerly the NEBRASKA and was valued at $30,000.
Chicago Inter Ocean
October 5, 1904
Fire destroyed the propeller CONGRESS and her cargo of pine lumber while she was lying in shelter from the storm at South Manitou Island Tuesday night. The CONGRESS formerly was the NEBRASKA and was engaged as an excersion boat during the Chicago World's Fair. She was worth $30.000 and was owned by John J. Boland & Co., of Buffalo. Capt. Davis o'Hagen sailed her.
Buffalo Evening News
October 6, 1904
The lumber laden propeller CONGRESS sank in 75 feet of water at her anchorage in South Manitou Harbor yesterday after having burned steadily for 13 hours, The cargo of dry pine lumber, liberated from the hold by the burning off of the decks, remained blazing on the surface.
Buffalo Evening news
October 7, 1904
Fire was the fate of the steamer CONGRESS. The 1904 fire that ravaged the 37-year-old ship in northern Lake Michigan was the second and final burning She was known as the NEBRASKA when extensively damaged by an earlier blaze at Chicago in 1871.
First launched as a passenger liner at Cleveland in 1867, the NEBRASKA was remembered as an excursion boat during the Chicago World's Fair. At 267 feet in length, the vessel also was considered in its day to be among the largest ships afloat on the Great Lakes, By 1871, however, the NEBRASKA was refitted to serve as both a freight and passenger carrier. On Sept. 28, the vessel was docked at the Galena grain elevator dock at Chicago, loading wheat and flour, when a fire broke out in the engine room at about 1:40 a.m. The blaze was discovered by an alert customs inspection officer who sounded the alarm and awoke the ship's crew of about 30 sailors, most of them asleep in the forecastle near the bow. Everybody safely escaped the burning boat.
When the fire reached the ship's superstructure, the flames threatened to spread to the adjoining dock and elevator. Chicago harbor tugs towed the burning ship out on the river where the fire was extinguished.
The Nebraska was towed from Chicago to Buffalo for rebuilding and consequently survived the great Chicago fire that struck a few days later. The ship served the lakes another 33 years before destroyed by a second fire.
The boat was renamed the CONGRESS after being rebuilt in 1902 as a lumber carrier. It survived only two more years under that name.
The hold and decks were laden with pine lumber when the CONGRESS anchored to the lee of South Manitou Island to wait out a Lake Michigan gale on Oct. 4, 1904. Fire was discovered at about 10 p.m. The island life saving service came to help battle the blaze, but the fire got in the cargo and could not be stopped.
The CONGRESS burned unchecked for 13 hours before sinking at its anchorage in 165 feet of water. By then the ship's woodon deck was burned away so the smoldering cargo of lumber floated free, the wind pushing the blackened raft on toward Point Betsy.
Diver Steve Harrington said in his book Divers Guide To Michigan," that the bull is intact with machinery, anchors and boilers still in place. Also the forward cabin, which escaped the fire, is still intact. (James Donahue's shipwreck column)
Port Huron Daily Tribune
February 10, 1997
Steam screw CONGRESS. * U.S. No.18093. Of 1,320 tons gross; 893 tons net. Built at Cleveland, Ohio in 1867. Home port, Buffalo, N.Y. 265.5 x 35.5 x 12.9 of 300 Indicated horse power and a crew of 18.
* formerly steam screw NEBRASKA.
Merchant Vessel List, U.S., 1903
The name of the steamer NEBRASKA will be changed to CONGRESS. The boat is now being fitted in Chicago for the lumber trade.
Buffalo Evening News
August 20, 1902