Maritime History of the Great Lakes
The Shipping Disasters on the Great Lakes
Canadian Railway and Marine World (Toronto, ON), Dec 1913, p. 595
Full Text
The Shipping Disasters on the Great Lakes

What is, without doubt, the greatest disaster, or series of disasters, which has ever taken place in connection with the navigation of the Great Lakes, occurred chiefly during Nov. 9, when a severe storm swept the lakes from end to end. Though practically no part of the Great Lakes escaped some evidence of the storm, it seemed to have been most severe in Lake Huron, so far as damage to vessels and loss of life are concerned, but whether such damage and loss are due entirely to the storm, or to a possible bunching of vessels in the narrower parts of Lake Huron, thus restricting the area within which vessels might have run for safety, and making for possible collisions, is at present a matter for conjecture. Although a full enquiry will be made into all possible causes of the disaster, it is unfortunately, impossible to obtain any very clear details of what actually happened, as any evidence which could be given and which would have any real value in clearing up many of the clouded points, could only be given by men who went down with the vessels. It is to be hoped, however, that much will be learnt, which if put to its proper use, should make for a general betterment of navigation conditions on the Great Lakes.

Of the Canadian vessels involved in the disaster, four have been absolutely lost, and little or no wreckage has been discovered, while a fifth, the Canadian Lake and Ocean Navigation Co.'s s.s. Turret Chief, was driven ashore in such a position that it is doubtful if she can be salved. The officers and crew of this latter vessel got ashore, but those of the other four vessels were all lost. The largest individual loss was the St. Lawrence and Chicago Steam Navigation Co.'s s.s. James Carruthers, an illustration of which is given herewith. She was the largest freight carrying steamship engaged in the Canadian lake trade, and was only launched at Collingwood, Ont., May 22. Of theCanadian vessels lost, she was the only one built in Canada, all the others having been built in Great Britain. The loss of United States vessels is considerably heavier, both as to number and value.

Capt. W. H. Wright, who had been master of the James Carruthers since her first trip at the commencement of the season, has been master of most of the vessels of the St. Lawrence and Chicago Steam Navigation Co.'s fleet. He was promoted from the command of the E. B. Osler, which until the launching of the James Carruthers, was the largest of the company's vessels. On the recovery of his body, it was taken to his home at Toronto, the funeral taking place Nov. 17, when Capt. Crangle and J. H. G. Hagarty, director and Secretary-Treasurer of the company attended. The steamships Wexford and Leafield were in charge of Capt. B. Cameron and Capt. C. F. Baker, respectively, both of Collingwood, and the Regina, of Capt. E. H. McConkey, of Barrie, Ont. None of the bodies of the last three has been recovered at the time of writing.

In addition to total losses, there were a number of strandings, with consequent damage, these including the following Canadian vessels:--A.E. McKinistry, owned by Canada Interlake Line, Ltd., Toronto, near Brighton, in Lake Ontario; Acadian, owned by the same company, at Thunder Bay, Lake Superior; Huronic, owned by Northern Navigation Co., Sarnia, Ont., at Whitefish Point, Lake Superior, all of which were released without actual damage. The following U.S. vessels were also damaged by stranding, etc., but the extent of such damage is, at the moment, in most cases, unobtainable:-- Fred. G. Hartwell, Mutual Steamship Co., Duluth, Minn., ashore at Iroquois Point; Chas. L. Hutchison, H. Wineman, Jr., Detroit, Mich., aground at Iroquois Point; G. J. Grammer, Seither Transit Co., Cleveland, O., aground at Lorain, Lake Erie; H. B. Hawgood, Acme Transit Co., Cleveland, O., aground off the St. Clair River, in Lake Huron; H. P. McIntosh, Wilson Transit Co., Cleveland; J. M. Jenks, Acme Transit Co., Cleveland, O., aground near Midland Ont.; Lafayette, J. J. Freitus, Buffalo, N.Y., ashore near Calumet, Mich.; Major, W. H. Gratwick, Buffalo, N.Y., reported abandoned near Whitefish Point, Lake Superior; Manchester, Milwaukee Western Steamship Co., Milwaukee, Wis.; Mathew Andrews, Kinsman Transit Co., Cleveland, O., aground on Corsican Shoals, Lake Huron.

The following table shows the names of the vessels lost, their owners, dimensions, etc., and their approximate value and insurance. With the exception of the James Carruthers, the amount mentioned as insured is intended to represent that the vessel is insured for its full value, and not necessarily the actual amount for which it is insured. In the case of the James Carruthers, the owning company a few years ago adopted the policy of insuring only a proportion of the risk under a modified form of insurance policy, and crediting an insurance fund with the amount of the premiums saved in each year. The report for 1912 showed that there was at the credit of this account $109,290.47, and the directors stated that it was their intention to continue this policy until insurance could be obtained at what they considered reasonable rates and on reasonable terms. The amounts insured for the U.S. vessels cannot be ascertained, but it may be taken for granted that they are all well covered. It is not intended that this table should be taken as correct in every detail, as owing to varying circumstances, discrepancies are likely to appear, but it is believed to be correct.

In addition to the vessels mentioned, the U.S. Lightship no. 82 was driven from its moorings off Point Abino, Lake Erie, and lost, and the barges Halstead and Plymouth, and the tug Martin were also reported lost. The number of lives lost has been estimated at about 250, but in this there is a certain amount of guess work as, so far as the Canadian vessels are concerned, the numbers of the crews on their last voyage is not definitely known in several cases.

Name Owner Where and When Built Dimensions Tonnage Value Approx. Insurance Lives Lost Approx.
James Carruthers St. Lawrence and Chicago Steam Navigation Co., Toronto Collingwood, Ont. ... 1913 551x58x31 7862--5606 $385,000 $275,000 25
Leafield Algoma Central and Hudson Bay Ry., Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Sunderland, Eng... 1892 249x35x16 1454 - 922 $85,000 $85,000 15
Regina Canadian Interlake Line, Ltd., Toronto Dumbarton, Scotland .. 1907 250x43x21 1957 - 1280 $150,000 $150,000 20
Turret Chief Canadian Lake and Ocean Navigation Co., Ltd., Toronto Sunderland, Eng... 1896 253x44x20 1881-1197 $100,000 $100,000 --
Wexford Western Steamship Co., Ltd., Toronto " " ... 1883 250x40x24 2104 - 1340 $100,000 $100,000 20
Argus Interlake Steamship Co., Cleveland, O. 1903 413x50x28 4707 - 3380 $200,000 Not Known 24
Charles S. Price Mahoning Steamship Co., Cleveland, O. 1910 504x54x30 6322 - 4901 $325,000 " 28
Henry B. Smith Acme Transit Co., Cleveland, O. 1906 525x55x31 6631 - 5229 $325,000 " 26
Howard M. Hanna, Jr. Hanna Transit Co., Cleveland, O. 1908 480x54x30 5905 - 4413 $25,000 " --
Hydrus Interlake Steamship Co., Cleveland, O. 1903 416x50x28 4713 - 3384 $200,000 " 23
Isaac M. Scott Virginia Steamship Co., Cleveland, O. 1909 504x54x 6372 - 4840 $325,000 " 28
John A. McGean Pioneer Steamship Co., Cleveland, O. 1909 432x52x28 5100 - 3777 $250,000 " 23
L. C. Waldo Roby Transportation Co., Detroit. Mich. 1896 452x48x28 4466x-x3519 $200,000 " --
Louisiana F. M. Osborne, Cleveland, O. 1887 267x39x21 1929 - 1383 $20,000 " --
Matoa Pittsburgh Steamship Co., Cleveland, O. 1890 290x46x25 2311 - 1836 $50,000 " --
Northern Queen Mutual Transportation Co., Buffalo, N.Y. 1889 299x41x25 2476 - 1885 ... " --
Wm. Nottingham Great Lakes Steamship Co., Cleveland, O. 1902 380x50x28 4234 - 3070 ... " 3

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Item Type
Date of Publication
Dec 1913
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Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.65011 Longitude: -79.3829
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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The Shipping Disasters on the Great Lakes