The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Free Trader (Schooner), storm bound, 1 Sep 1848

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"Ripley's Rock." - The Marquette Journal of a late date thus tells the story of how the rock in Marquette harbor, bearing the above title, was named:
      "In the fall of 1848, during the early period of navigation on Lake Superior, occurred the incident which we are about to relate. Capt. Ripley, and old lake captain, and well known to many of our people to-day, was sailing a small schooner called the FREE TRADER, which vessel plied from the Sault St. Marie, along the lake, carrying supplies. etc. In the latter part of September of that year a fearful storm was prevailing on the lake, described by our informant as the heaviest he has witnessed during 20 years in this section. The waves were rolling fearfully high, and the bay seemed one sheet of boiling, seething foam: the rocks, which to-day are some eight or ten feet out of the water, being most of the time inundated by the waves, now and again showing their white crests for a moment, only to disappear from sight the next. A small crowd of settlers, some six or seven perhaps - indeed about all there were here at the time - had collected on the shore to witness the fate of the vessel they had decried in the bay, endeavoring to make a landing. On the boat came, rolling and plunging through the waves; it seemed to the anxious spectators on shore that every plunge must be her last, and they were prepared to render what feeble assistance lay in their power to the crew.
"The vessel, which proved to be the FREE TRADER, was headed directly toward the rocks, but just as she seemed about to strike, suddenly came around, directly under the rock, and the Captain having everything in readiness, at once grappled and made his boat fast. The storm lasted three days, during which time the FREE TRADER lay behind the rock, tossing about like an egg-shell, in imminent danger of going to pieces at every moment. The party on shore built bonfires, and for three days watched with breathless anxiety the fate of the passengers and crew. At the end of that time the storm abated, and Capt. Ripley was enabled to reach shore. The circumstances related gave the place the name "Ripley's Rock," by which it has since been known."
      Detroit Advertiser and Tribune
      November 11, 1868

NOTE: The Free Trader was 80 feet and 52 tons, built at Milwaukee in 1843.

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: storm bound
Lives: nil
Remarks: Uninjured
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 46.54354 Longitude: -87.39542
William R. McNeil
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Free Trader (Schooner), storm bound, 1 Sep 1848