The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Champion (Tug), U5720, fire, 15 Sep 1903

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Cleveland, Sept. 15. --A dispatch from Put-in-Bay, O., says that the steamer CHAMPION has been burned to the water's edge. All on board were safely landed, but many narrowly excaped death.
      Buffalo Evening News
      September 15, 1903

      Divers Are at Put-In-Bay To Reach Her Cargo
      She Has 250 Tons of Pig Iron
      Captain Dodge of Put-In-Bay has found in Lake Erie a vessel lost 36 years ago. The vessel contained 250 tons of pig iron and has never up to now been located, although many have looked for her. The tug CHAMPION is now at Put-In-Bay to send a diver down to ascertain whether or not any of the cargo remains.
      Sandusky Register
      Tuesday, September 15, 1903

      . . . . .
      Tug Made Beacon Fire of Herself
      Three Men On Her As She Lay At Put-In-Bay Were Saved
      The tug Champion, owned by H. W. Baker, of Detroit, burned to the waters edge at Put-In-Bay Tuesday forenoon. She was towed to the beach at Gibralter Island and now rests on bottom. The cause of the fire is unknown. Loss is $32,000, insured for $5,OOO.
      Three of tne crew, Mate H. B. Leonard, the second engineer and cook, were aboard.
      Captain Baker is master of the tug. He was ashore at the time and was just reading a telegram notifying him to bring the CHAMPION to lime kiln crossing for a wrecking job, when someone told him to look at his boat. He did so and found the CHAMPION in flames. This was at 8 in the morning, and by 9, all the upper- works were gone.
      At the time of the outbreak of the fire, the cook was busy in the galley. Mate Leonard smelled smoke, saw the boat was doomed to destruction and ran to the hold to get out the engineer. He also ran to the galley to tell the cook, but that worthy thought the mate was joking and kept at work. When smoke came in a window, though, he lost no time in escaping.
      The tug lay at a point a half mile from land. The only available boat was in flames, and escape seemed cut off. The cook went out hand over hand on the anchor chain until his body was under water and hung on. The chain got hotter and hotter but the cook could do nothing but hang on or drown. He chose the chain, and although his hands were badly burned he hung on till rescued.
      Meantime Leonard and the engineer were out on a rope and hanging on for dear life. They were also rescued. Neither was injured.
      Nothing could be done to extinguish the fire, and Captain Baker and his crew had to be content to allow her to burn. When the upper works had been consumed, the little steamer IAN got a line on the CHAMPION and towed her to a reef near Gibralter and she went to the bottom in about 10 feet of water.
      The CHAMPION was at Put-In-Bay to recover the cargo of an old vessel which sank 36 years ago. All preparations had been made and the divers were to have gone to work at tne time of the fire.
      The crew lost everything. Money, valuables, watches, clothing, etc., went with the flames, the saving of any of it having been impossible. The only garments they had were those on their backs and they were lucky to escape with these.
      The tug will be raised and rebuilt. Her boiler held all during the fire and it is thought her machienry is in fair
shape. The hull does not appear to be noticably damaged. The CHAMPION is an old boat, however, having been built in 1868. Her gross tonnage is 268; length, 135 feet; beam 21; and depth, 11 feet. Beeson's Marine Directory gives her owner as C. A. Chamberlain but she has changed hands this year.
      The sight from shore was a pretty one. The big smoke stack grew red hot then white and finally melted off and fell into the water, sizzling and sending out huge white clouds of smoke for several seconds. Many went out near the burning vessel and enjoyed the fire, and spectular immensely, until somebody yelled that there were tons of dynamite aboard, when the hurry of the row boats to get as far away as possible was remarkable.
      Sandusky Register
      Wednesday, sept. 16, 1905

      . . . . .

      Inspector Baker, owner and manager of the Baker Wrecking Co. of Detroit, came to Put-In-Bay via the steamer KIRBY Tuesday. The object of his visit there was in regard to the raising of the big tug CHAMPION which caught fire and sank in the middle of the bay about a year ago. Mr. Baker will attempt to raise her, and if successful, Will tow her to Detroit where her machienery will be removed. The hull is not in a condition to stand repairs
      Sandsuky Register
      Wednesday, Oct. 12, 1904

      . . . . .
The Baker Wrecking Companie's little steambarge SNOOK is at Put-In-Bay and preparations are being made to remove the machinery of the burned tug CHAMPION. It is likely the hull will be entirely abandoned.
      Sandusky Register
      Sunday, Oct. 15, 1904
      . . . . .

The large steam tug CHAMPION which burned at Put-In-Bay over a year ago has been removed to Detroit. The boiler is in good shape, it is claimed. The steam tug SNOOK of Detroit with two divers did the job. The harbor presents its old time appearance again and yachtsmen will be glad to hear that the CHAMPION has been raised.
      Sandusky Register
      Friday Oct. 31, 1904

CHAMPION Built 1868 Steam Tug - wood
U.S. No. 5720 263 gt - 147 nt 134.6' x 21.4'
Burned at Put-In-Bay, Ohio, Lake Erie, September 15, 1903
      Detroit/Wyandotte Master Shipbuilding List
      Institute for Great Lakes Research
      Perrysburg, Ohio

Media Type:
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Reason: fire
Lives: nil
Remarks: Removed
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ohio, United States
    Latitude: 41.65838 Longitude: -82.81658
William R. McNeil
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Champion (Tug), U5720, fire, 15 Sep 1903