The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Charles Foster (Barge), U125581, sunk, 8 Dec 1900

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The iro ore barge CHARLES FOSTER in tow of the steamer IRON DUKE went to the bottom at 4 o'clock Sunday morning 10 miles off Erie and 8 persons were drowned. Her cargo consisted of 1,500 tons of ore and was owned by James Corrigan.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Monday, December 10, 1900

      Erie, Pa., Dec. 9 -- In the midst of the most bitter Winter gale that has ever swept Lake Erie, the iron ore barge, CHARLES F. FOSTER, in tow of the IRON DUKE went to the bottom of the lake, 10 miles off Erie, Pa., and eight persons were drowned as yet.
      The CHARLES FOSTER was one of the fleet of James Corrigan of Cleveland and had been running from Duluth to Erie with iron ore. Her cargo consists of 1,000 tons of iron ore.
      Capt. Ashley of the IRON DUKE, said: " The FOSTER was in tow, 500 feet astern. The seas were rolling tremendously from the north west and the gale carried with it a blinding snow storm. We made the Harbour light, all right. When we turned for the Harbour the sea was much heavier than the previous ones. I ran to the stern. Just as I got there the FOSTER plunged into an awful sea and dove down nose first. There was not a cry from any of the eight of a crew she carried. The tow line parted as she went down. The storm was so heavy I could not put about to hunt for anyone."
      "Aparently everything was alright aboard the FOSTER until she nosed down. There had not been a signal of distress from her up to that time."
      The Foster was valued at 19,000 Dollars her cargo was insured the schooner CHARLES was a Sandusky boat, hailing from this port she was built at Milan Ohio. in 1887, her gross tonnage was 997 and she measured 277' in length, 36' beam, and 15.9' in depth. She frequently came into this port and was named known to everyone.
      Sandusky Register
      December 10, 1900
      . . . . .

The name of one of the seamen lost with the Charles Foster is probably Fred Lee, an Englishman. The schooner passed this port, bound up, November 21, in tow of the IR0N DUKE, it being the first art of the trip which proved to be her last. Corrigan, her owner, telegraphed from Cleveland to Capt. J. W. Westcott to buy a new yawl and ship one man. Lee was engaged, and as the tow passed, he sculled the yawl out to the FOSTER and was taken aboard, together with the yawl. He was a young man, heavy and well-built, but of course nothing is known of his relatives or friends. It is thought certain here that he stayed on the boat after clearing for the down trip, as is the custom of many sailors going to Lake Superior, especially this time of the year, unless they intend to take to the lumber woods, which very few do.
The story of the foundering, as told by Capt. Ashley, of the steamer, sounds odd to local vessel men. The mysterious part of it is the allegation that without the slightest previous warning the schooner made one big dive and shot straight to the bottom, to be seen no more. How a vessel 225 feet long, fully loaded, with three heavy masts, could find space enough between two waves to dive to the bottom is the statement that makes people
doubtful. Even on the ocean it would be hard to conceive such a formation of the waters, let alone a little pond like Lake Erie, where the seas are short and choppy compared to the big upper lakes.
The condition of the schooner is considered her to have been good, otherwise she would not have been able to obtain the insurance which expired December 1 at noon. After she was brought back from the coast, and passed into the hands of James Corrigan, he spent a lot of money in making the repairs necessary to give her a good rating. Nobody accuses him of overloading her, a charge commonly made against the older class of vessels this year, for, being unable to get an insurance extension, except at prohibitive rates, he would be very likely to load her in the best possible trim to make her ride the seas well. Vesselmen are agreed that while the FOSTER was seaworthy, yet craft of her class should never be out after November 25, at the furthest, and the careful owner lays them up even before that date.
James Corrigan will probably remember the year 1900 as long as he lives. He began the navigation season with the foundering of the schooner R. HALLARAN, under similar circumstances, on Lake Superior, with the loss of several lives. She was a smaller boat than the FOSTER, and insured for part of her value. The capsizing and foundering of the schooner-yacht IDLER off Cleveland with Mr. Corrigan's wife and several daughters, was one of the noted disasters of the year in this country. About the same time he got an adverse verdict in a lawsuit against John D. Rockefeller for $1,200,000 he claimed was due him on some mining property. Several of his vessels, other than the two mentioned have gone ashore and been otherwise injured this season. The demon of disaster has scarcely left him this season.
      Detroit Free Press
      December 11, 1900

NOTE: Eight lives were lost when the FOSTER (US#125581) foundered off Presque Isle, Pa., December 9.

      Wreck of CHARLES FOSTER sighted on route from Buffalo to Cleveland, about 7 miles off-shore and between 6 and 7 miles west of the Erie Peninsula, her spar protudes about 20 feet above water on a still day.
      Marine Review
      December 27, 1900
      . . . . .

      Capt. William S. Hoag of the steamer JAMES B. NEILSON reports that the sunken wreck of the schooner CHARLES FOSTER, which foundered off Erie Harbor in December 1900, is a dangerous obstruction to vessels.
The wreck is about 9 miles N 82 degrees W true ( W by N mag.) from Presqu'Isle Light Station, and one of it's masts project 5 feet above the water at an angle of 45 degrees.
      Marine Review
      June 27, 1901

Schooner CHARLES FOSTER. U. S. No. 125581. Of 997.84 tons gross. Built Milan, Ohio, 1876. Home port, Huron, Ohio. 227.0 x 36.0 x 15.0
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1885

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: sunk
Lives: 8
Freight: iron ore
Remarks: Total loss
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Pennsylvania, United States
    Latitude: 42.12922 Longitude: -80.08506
William R. McNeil
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Charles Foster (Barge), U125581, sunk, 8 Dec 1900