The freighter EDWARD U. DEMMER sailed but a brief 24 years before a collision sent it to the bottom of fog shrouded Lake Huron. on May 20, 1923.
The steel ship foundered about 40 miles off Thunder Bay after tangling with the steamer SATURN in the early morning hours. Crew members said the ship was gone in about 10 minutes. The sinking occurred so fast they said they barely had time to get away in the two life boats.
Capt. Joseph E. Burke of St. Clair, Mich., and 26 other sailors were rescued. by the passing freighters R.L. AGASSIZ and JAMES B. EADS.
The DEMMER, owned by the Milwaukee Western Fuel Co., was upbound on a trip to, Milwaukee with 7,000 tons of coal. Out of the fog came the ore carrier SATURN, under command of Capt. Z.H. Utley of Marine City, Mich. The SATURN rammed the ill-fated DEMMER on the starboard side. DEMMER crew members said the SATURN backed away then disappeared just as it had appeared out of the gloom. The SATURN's bow was badly crushed and the vessel was leaking.
The crippled steamer stopped at, Port Huron to have part of its load of iron ore removed before going on to a dry dock in Detroit.
Utley denied any responsibility for the crash. A statement he made to a U.S. marine inspection officer was never made public. DEMMER crew members said they barely had to time to get life boats away. Three of the sailors were asleep in the forecastle when the boats came, together. They escaped wearing only their underwear.
The captain of the AGASSIZ searched for lifeboats for three hours in the fog. He said he could hear the cries of the sailors but the fog was so thick he could not find them. A lone survivor, deck hand Niels Kruger of Buffalo, N.Y., was found by the steamer EADS in a lifeboat half filled with water. Kruger was surprised to find his shipmates also survived the accident. He said he thought the rest of the crew went down with the ship.
The survivors also included Fred O'Neil of Marine City, Jess Landridge, Elles Landridge, Richard Jackson and Lynn Folkerts, all of Algonac.
The DEMMER had two other names during its career. It was first called the ADMIRAL and later the J.K. DIMMICK. (Author James Donahue's shipwreck columns appears each week in the Huron Daily Tribune)
Port Huron Daily Tribune
By James Donahue
ADMIRAL * Built Nov. 18, 1899 Bulk Propeller - Steel
U. S. No. 107523 4651 gt - 3547 at 423.9' x 51.9' x 28'
* Renamed, (b) J.K. DIMMICK - US - 1913
(c) EDWARD U. DEMMER - US - 1920
Sunk in collision with stmr. SATURN, May 20, 1923, 40 miles south- east of Thunder Bay Island, Lake huron.
Detroit/Wyandotte Shipbuilding Master List
Institute for Great Lakes research
Steam screw EDWARD U. DEMMER.* U. S. No. 107523. Of 4,651 tons gross; 3,547 tons net. Built at Wyandotte, Mich., in 1899. Home port, Cleveland, Ohio. 423.9 x 51.9 x 28.0 Freight service. Of 1,150 indicated horse power. Crew of 27. Steel built.
* formerly Steam screw [a] ADMIRAL, [b] J.K. DIMMICK.
Merchant Vessel List, U.S., 1923