The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), September 23, 1900

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Port Huron, Mich., September 22. - There is no blockade in St. Clair river and boats are safely passing the wrecks of the Fontana and the Martin, which was sunk last night with a loss of four lives. About 12 o'clock last night it was ascertained that boats might pass all right on the Canada side, although it would be hazardous to pass abreast of each other. The Harlem set the pace and was the first out past the wreck.. The Yuma, the boat which sank the Martin, left about 12 o'clock for Duluth, it being evident that she was not damaged. The government survey boat is now at the scene of the accident, and it will be determined what is the best course to pursue in removing the wrecks.

There is not doubt but what Capt. James Lawless, of Lorain, Mate William Ross, of Toledo, cook Mrs. Bacon and a Swedish sailor, name unknown, went down with the boat. The cook was asleep in the cabin at the time.

L. C. Sabin, in charge of the government survey, says of the wreck: We have examined the position of the Martin wreck and find that she is about 120 feet west of the Fort Gratiot range lights and 1,200 feet below the Fontana wreck. Down-bound boats are passing between the two wrecks, and up-bound boats take the Canadian channel. We are advising boats with tows to have the assistance of tugs in passing the wreck."

The fleets which had accumulated during the night in both directions began moving this morning, and by 11 o'clock the blockade had been cleared. The wreck is in 40 feet of water with only the stub of a mizzen mast showing above water. A tug has been stationed at the foot of Lake Huron to notify all down-bound boats of the additional obstruction in the channel. A small scow will be placed over the wreck by the Kendall Marine Reporting Company. One bright light will be placed on the scow at night.

It is suggested that all up-bound boats pass to the eastward of the Fontana, and all of the down-bound boats pass to the westward of that wreck.. Captains of down-bound boats are advised to put the wheel to starboard as soon as they pass the Fontana, and leave the wreck of the Martin to port.

It is thought that a down-bound boat struck the wreck of the Martin last night, as a hatch and other pieces of wreckage, which generally cling to a sunken boat, was found floating. It will not be determined just what to do with the wreck until instructions arrive from the government. The Martin must have been cut almost to pieces, as wreckage of all description floated down the river within a short time after she sank. The top of the cabin, an ice chest and cabin furniture are among the debris. The wreck occurred about 500 feet below the Fontana and within 200 feet of the American shore, and as she lies now about ten feet of her mizzen mast sticks out of the water. The wreck completely closed the American channel as far as navigation for last night was concerned, and the tugs Boynton and Haynes did sentinel duty to prevent boats taking the American side up or down.

The Martin was loaded with iron ore and is a vessel a little smaller than the Fontana. The captain of the Grover, which was towing the Martin, says he hasn't the slightest idea how it happened. It was so quickly done that he didn't realize that anything had happened until the Martin was sinking. The tow line between the two parted when she sank.

U. S. Engineer Lydecker began advertising yesterday for removal of the wreck of the steamer (sic) Fontana in the St. Clair river. Bids are to be received up to 12 o'clock standard time, October 2, when they will be publicly opened. It is understood that the specifications demand immediate beginning of the work upon acceptance of the bid.

Chicago, September 22. - A feeling of intense relief was manifested in marine circles to-day when it was learned that last night's wreck at Port Huron did not block navigation completely at that point, as it was at first feared it would. For several weeks vesselmen have been fearful that another wreck near the Fontana would block navigation, and of late have been urging heroic measures by the general government to get the Fontana out of the way. The dangers of a blockade are now doubled by having two wrecks directly in the channel.

Cleveland, September 22. - Vesselmen held a meeting to-day, and were constantly in communication with Port Huron by telephone. M. A. Bradley, owner of the schooner Martin, who was present, said he considered the sunken boat gone for good and anything might be done with her to make the channel clear. The following telegram was sent to the secretary of war:

"The wreck of the Fontana has been a most serious obstacle to navigation. Many narrow escapes from collision in the narrow and swift current have occurred at Port Huron, and last night the steamer Yuma and schooner Martin collided at that point, the latter sinking with the loss of four lives. The Martin, ore laden, lies a short distance below the Fontana wreck, combining with it to make navigation there hazardous to a degree which must receive prompt and vigorous attention. Downbound steamers were stopped outside last night and the danger to descending vessels with northeast gales cannot be overestimated. The Fostoria and cargo have been definitely abandoned by owners and underwriters. The Martin will be. We petition for prompt action in removing the wrecks and meantime, a temporary order for patrol and and such regulation of passage as Col. Lydecker may prescribe."

Media Type:
Item Type:
Work began on reducing the wreckage of the MARTIN the next day and soon after removal of the FONTANA, which had sunk in a collision in early August, began. The channel was not completely clear until early November. Remains of both wrecks are still at the site.
Date of Original:
September 23, 1900
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Language of Item:
Dave Swayze
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), September 23, 1900