The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Western Reserve (Propeller), U81294, sunk, 30 Aug 1892


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A LOST STEAMER.
      The Mammoth Western Reserve Foundered Tuesday Night.
      BUT A SINGLE SURVIVOR
      -------------
      Remained to Tell the Tale of the Wreck and Loss of the Crew.

      CAPT. MINCH WELL KNOWN.
      He Was One of the Most Widely Acquainted Men on the Lakes - His Family Among the Missing.
      --------------
      SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich., Sept. 2. -- The fish tug E. M. B. A. arrived down last night having as a passenger Harry Stewart of Algonac, a wheelsman, the only survivor of the mammoth steel steamer WESTERN RESERVE which foundered Tuesday night about 9 o'clock 60 miles above White Flab Point, on the course to Keeweenaw.
The WESTERN RESERVE, up-hound and light, left the Soo Canal Tuesday afternoon having on board as passengers Capt. Peter Minch, her owner, his wife, three children and his wife's sister, besides the regular crew of 22 hands.
The story as told by Stewart is as follows: "Everything went well until about 60 miles above White Fish, when the first warning any one aboard had of impending danger was a terrible crash about 9 A. M., caused by the huge craft breaking in two half way up the rigging. She took in water fast from the start and the yawl boats were lowered. Capt. Minch, his family, and the officers and crew of the boat to the number of 17 got into the wooden yawl and the others took to the metallic one.
"The Reserve sank in ten minutes, and before she had hardly gone out of sight the metallic yawl capsized. The other went to her assistance, but only succeeded in rescuing two of her occupants. Capt. Myer's son and the steward. The 19 survivors started for White Fish, 60 miles away. The wind was about west when they started, but veered to the north, making considerable sea. The yawl weathered the breakers all night until 7 o'clock the next morning, when about ten miles from Life saving Station No. 10 and about a mile from the shore it capsized,"
      Stewart says that he saw none of the occupants after that. He struck out for the shore, but the cries of the children, the screams of the women, and the moaning of the men were terrible for a few moments, when all became silent. Stewart was in the water two hours. He struck shore about ten miles above the station, and had to walk there before reaching any one to render him assistance.
A search failed to find trace of any other survivor of the wreck, and there is no question that they were all drowned.
The WESTERN RESERVE was one of the largest craft on the lakes, and has only been in the Lake Superior trade a little over a year. She was owned by P. C. Minch , who with his family was lost.
      The Lost Skipper.
Cleveland, Sept. 2. -- Capt. Minch was one of the best known vessel owners and masters on the 1akes. He was about 66 years old. He was horn at Vermillion and grew up in the business. His father, Philip Minch, was one of the most extensive owners of vessel property in his time. Capt. Minch sailed from his boyhood until about five years ago, when he came ashore to manage his large vessel interests. He with others owned the steamers WESTERN RESERVE, ONOKO, PHILIP MINCH, HORACE A. TUTTLE, A. EVERETT, JOHN N. GLIDDEN, and schooners GEORGE H. WARMINGTON and SOPHIA MINCH. The schooner FRED A. MORSE, which was lost a few months ago, was also owned by him. He was a kind hearted man and was well liked especially by those in his employ. Two sons, Philip, the oldest, a member of the firm Palmer & Co., vessel makers-and two grown up daughters survive him, The boy who was lost was about 10 years old, and the little girl about 7. The steamer was built by the Cleveland Shipbuilding Company in 1890. She was one of the largest and finest steamers on the lakes, and has several times broken the record for big cargoes. Capt. Meyers, her master, was in the Minch fleet for a number of years and was well known.
      Bodies Recovered.
      Newberry, Mich., Sept. 2. - Stewart walked 12 miles to the nearest life-saving station where he gave notice of the disaster. The savers began to patrol the beach today, and this morning found two bodies. One was identified as that of Capt. Minch, by his watch. The other was that of a dark-haired lady. To-night a telephone message stated that another body had come ashore. Stewart left here today for Sault Ste. Marie. Be appears none the worse for his terrible experience.
     
     
      ADDITIONAL PARTICULARS.
      The Ill-Fated Steamer Went Down With Her Engines Working.
Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Sept. 2. - Harry Stewart, the only survivor of the wreck of the WESTERN RESERVE, which broke in two in the lake Tuesday morning, was somewhat recuperated this morning and was again interviewed by an Associated Press representative who was the first and only one to see him on his arrival here and to whom he told his story in private.
The only additional fact obtained was that the WESTERN RESERVE went down with her engines going. As the crew pulled away they, could see the monster puffing and plunging in the waves until she sank out of sight. There is no way of identifying the place where the steamer went down. It was out of sight of land and there is no way of locating the wreck. The yawl was capsized at the first shoal from the shore by the breakers. It is not probable that any of the occupants survived the cold and waves long except Stewart, who had a heavy knit close-fitting jacket which he say's alone saved him, he was entirely exhausted when he struck shore, and almost unconscious for an hour before he could move and then he could hardly walk and had to half crawl the ten miles to the life-saving station, where he was rubbed and well taken care of until the tug brought him here. The men at the live-saving station report that several bodies have been washed ashore. Stewart will therefore remain here for a few days to identify them.
     
      FURTHER PARTICURALS.
      Of the Extraordinary WESTERN RESERVE Disaster on Lake Superior.
      PROBABLY BROKEN IN TWO.
      Experience of the Sole Survivor - Local Opinion
      Nothing else was talked of in marine circles today but the extraordinary WESTERN RESERVE disaster. Its like was never before heard of on the lakes. Two theories were advanced by the vessel men. Capt. John Green and Capt. William Robinson, two veterans, were of the opinion that the vessel sheared herself and broke in two and broke in two from the upper deck down. "Shearing" is the cutting of rivets by the working and twisting of the plates they are bolted through. They say the weight to be sustained by main strength of fabric when the vessel's bows were out of water for 40 or 50 feet of her length, together with the pound of her wide, flat bottom on the seas, would cause any vessel to shear herself. The other theory is that of accident or explosion on board the boat or striking an obstruction in the heavy sea. Capt. J. J. H. Brown and Capt. Dan McLeod think the WESTERN RESERVE was too staunch a vessel to be otherwise sunk. The first theory, however, has the more supporters. A recent survey of the WESTERN RESERVE, shows that she was 300 foot long and 42 feet of beam. She was built of mild steel with a tensile strength of 60,000 pounds and riveted according to regulations. Her upper deck of steel was strengthened by angle bulb beams on every frame, giving unusual strength. The upper dock stringer, plate and upper shear streaks have each partial double butt straps. The bilge was triple riveted, and the sheer streak doubled to provide for the cutting of two more gang-ways if necessary.
There is general sorrow at the wholesale wiping out of the Minch family. Capt. Minch was very highly thought of all over the lakes, and was a most genial and progressive man. It is thought in some quarters that this disaster will be sonething of a setback to the building of steel vessels on the present plan. With a cargo, or with engines and boilers amidships to give the steamer even draft fore and aft, the mishap would not have occurred. It would be impossible for a staunch wooden steamer to break completely in two as the survivor of the WESTERN RESERVE says she did.
      DISTRESSING PARTICULARS OF THE ACCIDENT.
Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Sept. 2. -- All vessels passing through the canal today have their flags at half mast in memory of the steamer WESTERN RESERVE, which now lies in 600 feet of water 60 miles northwest of Whitefish Point. Harry Stewart, the only survivor gave some additional particulars of the disaster today. It was a pitiful tale of a hopeless struggle for life. He said : "The yawl that I was in was two small to hold the crew of 19. It was loaded down to within a foot of the water and all night the spray kept breaking over us. We worked continuously bailing out the water with the only pail we had and our hats. I remember Mrs. Minch hanging to one of the children and making a desperate effort for life. Just then I heard Mr. Minch cry out: My God, there goes one of my children. Carl Myer, the Captain's son, and I were together. He asked me if I thought we could reach the shore. I said we will try. The last I saw of him was four or five rods from the boat which had capsized. This boat was afterwards found by the life saving crew.
      "While we were in the yawl," young Stewart continued, "a steamer passed us, which I think was the NESHOTO. We could see her red light, but they could not see us. We were to the westward of them. We shouted and screamed for half an hour, but in the roar of the storm they could not hear us. If we had had a light they could have seen us. As a final resort we tried to burn one or the women's shawls, but it was too wet and would not light. I do not think the bodies will raise. Those who held life jackets were the two ladies, Carl Meyer, Burt Smith and one fireman. The life jacket I secured was in the bottom of the yawl when she capsized. Someone had thrown it off and I got hold of it and put it on in the water. It is not true that the crew were in a panic at the time the steamer broke in two. On the contrary everybody seemed cool. We put the children in the lifeboat first and then all hands got in. The metallic life boat broke up very soon, and we had to take its occupants off it. It was not long before the steamer went down. As she sank we heard a very loud report, but do not know what it was. I have no idea what caused the steamer to break in two. She was carrying water ballast aft, but I don't think there was any forward, I do not understand why the mainmast should have broken and fallen on the deck, it is all a mystery to me.


Newberry, Mich., Sept. 2. -- The life saving crew of the Grand Marias Station are patrolling the beach for ten miles each way today in the search for bodies from the steamer WESTERN RESERVE, which foundered off this port Tuesday night. Up to noon but three bodies had been recovered. One of them is known to be that of Capt. Peter Minch, the steamers owner. The body of the woman found last night is still unidentified. The remains are but partially clothed, indicating that she had rushed from her stateroom to the deck only to find the steamer sinking. She had not had time to return for her clothing, but had been hurried into the yawl boat. The third body is also unidentified.
      Harvey Stewart. the sole survivor, is expected this afternoon to identify the bodies. Telegraphic orders were received from Cleveland today to properly care for the dead and the son of the owner will reach here tomorrow to take personal charge.

      POSITIVE SHE BROKE IN TWO.
      Cleveland. Sept. 2. -- The survivor of the WESTERN RESERVE disaster, Wheelman Stewart, says positively in an answer to an inquiry that the steamer broke in two in forcing her way into a big sea. The excitement among Capt. Minch's friends at the disaster has caused much discussion regarding its cause. Well informed vessel owners are satisfied that the boat was being rushed into head seas, as big steel steamers of her kind always are, great dependence being put in the water bottom. It is thought that the boat was being unduly pushed on account of her owner being aboard. The steamer was doubtless out of water 100 feet each way, as she rode on the crest of a big wave. Had she been a wooden boat a leak would have shown the danger, but being of steel the rivets holding her together broke all at once under the strain.
      Buffalo Enquirer
      Friday, September 2, 1892

      . . . . .

The steamer WESTERN RESERVE with 27 aboard, broke in two in Tuesday night's gale and sank 20 miles off Sable Point, lake Superior. Harry Stewart, the wheelsman, is the only survivor. She sank in 10 minutes' and carried to their deaths. The vessel owner Foster J. Minch, his wife, son, and daughter, his sister-in-law and her daughter.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Friday, September 2, 1892
     
      . . . . .


      A prominent vessel man in conversatlon with an ENQUIRER reporter this morning said: "I would like to know if it is true that the forward water ballast compartments of the WESTERN RESERVE was always kept filled when the vessel was running light. If such was the case all doubts as to the cause of the accident are at rest, for according to calculations, the strain amidships under the circumstances would be almost beyond belief. Cleveland papers will say nothing about it, but no vessel could stand for any length of time the strain thus imposed when running into a head sea." Another vessel man who was in Cleveland Sunday, saw Stewart, the sole survivor of the disaster, and says Stewart told him that to get to the boats at the time of the accident he distinctly remembers that he had to jump a crack fully three feet wide that extended across the upper deck of the steamer just forward of the mainmast. This should settle conclusively that the WESTERN RESERVE did not blow up, but actually did break In two as was first reported.
      Buffalo Enquirer
      Tuesday, September 13, 1892

     
Steam screw WESTERN RESERVE. U. S. No. 81294. Of 2392.05 tons gross; 1965.08 tons net. Built Cleveland, Ohio, 1890. Home port, Cleveland, Ohio. 300.7 x 41.2 x 21.0
      Merchant Vessel List U. S., 1891
     


Media Type:
Text
Newspaper
Item Type:
Clippings
Notes:
Reason: sunk
Lives: 21
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
1892
Subject(s):
Local identifier:
McN.W.22422
Language of Item:
English
Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 46.76947 Longitude: -84.95258
Donor:
William R. McNeil
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Western Reserve (Propeller), U81294, sunk, 30 Aug 1892