BARGE SINKS IN CHICAGO RIVER
Crew Work All Night To Save Vessel -- Narrowly Escape Drowning At Last.
With bow close to a dry dock which she was unable to enter, the steam barge CLEVELAND, owned by William Mueller & Co., went to the bottom of the north branch of the river early yesterday morning, near the Haisted street viaduct. So rapidly did the vessel sink that the engineers and firemen and men at work in the hold escaped only by a miracle from drowning. The CLEVELAND is a 1,200 ton barge, 150 feet long, and completely blocks navigation in the river to all except small boats, as she lies.
By diligent work with the pumps the ship had been kept afloat since 10 o'clock Saturday, when at last the rising water flooded the fires and stopped the pumps. When the pumps no longer worked the water soon flooded the hold, and there was a lively scramble by all hands to escape a watery grave. Striking the water she keeled over on her starboard side until that part of the deck was entirely sub merged.
How It Occurred.
On Saturday the CLEVELAND was moored in the Stetson slip, but put out in the evening for the North Branch to take on a load of cedar ties and posts. Captain Higgey had been under way but a few minutes when shouts from below warned him that the ship had sprung a leak, and that the water was rising rapidly. He gave orders to put on the pumps and make for Miller's dry dock, near the North Halsted street viaduct. Before they had gone far the water threatened to inundate the vessel, and the services of a tug were summoned to give them a tow and increase the speed toward the dock. The boat sank lower and lower, and as bridge after bridge was passed the captain gained hope that he might land the boat in safety before she was on the bottom.
When the dry dock was finally reached about midnight it was found closed and no means of entering it could be found. So the hands and all power was put on the pumps and a desperate fight begun to keep the big vessel afloat until morning. Shortly before 4 o'clock the disaster inevitable and all hands at work below were warned to watch out for the sinking of the boat at any minute. That moment was not far away. The hold was filled with water almost in an instant, the fires extinguished and the lives of the men endangered. When the boat lurched over on its side several were thrown into the river, but were rescued at once.
Will Raise Barge.
The cause of the leak that started the trouble is not known, but it is believed a rock was struck. As the boat was not laden the owners think the damage done was comparatively slight.
Work was begun at once to raise the boat, but although a derrick was in operation she had not been lifted an inch at nightfall. Divers were later put to work on the leaks, and today oil barrels will be used to lighten the boat.
Milwaukee Library Scrapbook
July 9, 1900
Steam screw CLEVELAND. U. S. No. 4376. Built Cleveland, Ohio, 1860. Of 335 tons gross. 135.0 x 25.9 x 11.6. Burnt 1880 and rebuilt 1881. Dismantled 1900 and hull made into a barge which was towed by the steamer STEPHENSON which had the engines from the old CLEVELAND.
Herman Runge Notes
LEAKY CRAFT ON THE LAKES.
Existing Hull Inspection Regulations Condemned
IN MANY OLD FREIGHTERS LIVES ARE IN JEOPARDY
Matters To Be Brought Before River And Harbor Committee.
Chicago, August 5. -- "Heavy losses of life among lake sailors is almost certain to occur when the fall gales set in unless some method of regulating and inspecting sailing vessels is instituted. Vessels are daily leaving port which are unseaworthy and which are liable to go down with all on board in any heavy weather. There is absolutely no inspection of these craft before they sail or at ant time."
This statement was made yesterday by Capt. Tony Everett, commanding the schooner FORD RIVER, one of the staunchest wooden craft that plies from this port. It was prompted by a discussion of the narrow escapes of the crew of the JOHN MINER and a number of other exciting adventures on leaky crafts during the present season. The alleged lack of inspection will soon be brought to the attention of Congress and a new inspection law asked for. The JOHN MINER is a three masted schooner built in 1866.
When a crew could no longer be persuaded to sail in it, or when its captain-owner was unwilling to risk himself outside with it, it was run into Magazine slip, near South Halsted street bridge, and was left there to fill and sink and rot away. There it lay for three or four years, until last fall, when the freight rates went to a high figure, and everything that had a bottom left in it was brought out and pressed into service.
CREW FOR A ROTTEN BOAT,
A local dealer in old barges then bought it, had it pumped out and raised and towed up to the North Branch. When an attempt was made to calk the boat, it was found so rotten that many planks had to be replaced, and when these were put on many of the timbers underneath were too old to hold them. Vesselmen all along the river watched the work of repair amazed, and doubted that a crew could be found for her. One was found, however, and the MINER was towed out of the river and loaded coal in Toledo for Marine City. It reached the latter port some days later with the crew exhausted from forty-eight hours at the pumps. Fortunately the weather had been calm, for had a gale sprung up, it is believed that the boat would have gone to pieces. The crew deserted at the dock in Marine City. When vesselmen here heard the story they became indignant. Many persons wondered that the inspectors had allowed the vessel to pass, and then it transpired that there is no inspection for sailing vessels, except a private one in the event of application for insurance.
"No one seems to care what become of the lake sailors," said Capt. Everett. The rottenest vessels are allowed to run with the staunchest without regard to what cargo or depth. As a result the old-timers are brought out, loaded deep, and run up and down until a gust of wind strikes them and sends them to the bottom. The past season was free from gales, so the loss of life was small, but the present summer has been one of uncertain winds and the fall promises to be stormy, if it is, its death roll will be a long one.
INSURANCE INSPECTION LAX
"Years ago, when the sailing vessels were in the grain trade, the insurance inspectors used to come aboard every trip and see that the boats were all right before they allowed them to be loaded, but that is not done now. There was a law, I think requiring the inspection of sailing vessels. If there was it has been lost. The big lumber and coal people found it to their interest to substitute barges for sailing craft and tow them behind steamers. They do not insure them, and no one knows how rotten they are There are seven of them running out of Chicago that will almost break in two when they run into a sea. Sailors are, for the most part men who have to take any job they can get, so the owners of these craft are able to pick up a crew, though the men know they take their lives in their hands when they sail.
"Then the boats are overloaded. Years ago, when the sailors were organized, they forced the adoption of a 'Plimsoll' mark or load water line on every vessel, and it was not allowed to carry deeper than that. Such a regulation exists on salt water. The Lake Carriers Association, however, composed of rich vessel owners, found this was preventing them from carrying the last hundred bushels or so of cargo, so they had the insurance people abolish it. The seamen are not now able to get it restored. The boats in the ore trade are being systematically overloaded and the captains as well as the crew are protesting, but without avail."
MUST BE HANDLED GENTLY.
"There are vessels running out of this port," said a tug captain, "that we have to handle gently so we won't pull them apart. "The MINER was a fair example, but there are others. The schooner AMERICA, that sank last year, was one. They go without any inspection whatever, and the government, apparently, pays no attention to them except through the demand that they list the cargo they are carrying and keep the collector informed of their departure, arrival and destination."
Even the freight steamers - and passenger as well - are without regulation as to the amount of cargo to be carried, and the former are regularly loaded at upper lake ports until their decks are awash. An inspector of hulls is stationed at Chicago, who is supposed to examine each year into the condition of all boats hailing from this port and determine their seaworthiness. The thoroughness of this work always has been a matter of opinion between the inspector and the vessel owners on the one hand and the sailors on the other. The latter point to the recent experiences of the steamer as an illustration on their side. The CLEVELAND, a forty-year-old steamer, after sinking at the mouth of the river last fall, was raised, recalked and allowed to run again. There is said to be no regulation of the manner of calking. At any rate, the steamer sank again, almost as soon as it returned to port. The inspector, Capt. C.A. Richardson, came in for considerable criticism at the time, as it was charged by sailors that he had allowed the steamer to go out in an unseaworthy condition. He defended himself with the statement that it was running under old papers issued at Port Huron, and he was not required to inspect it until those papers had expired.
GO BEFORE CONGRESS.
The whole matter of vessel inspection and vessel loading has been brought to the front by these accidents, and by others, among which was the loss in Lake Erie two years ago, with nineteen persons, of the steamer IDAHO. Though the agitation has not as yet come to a head, the mariners hope to be able to get action on it from some of the seamen's organizations in time to make a showing before the River and Harbor Commission [?damaged line of type?] lakes this month, they believe a motion can be put through the next session of congress, providing for a load line and thorough inspection of all vessels' hulls.
Detroit Free Press
August 6, 1900