Maritime History of the Great Lakes
'She' Was a Bull Of-the-Woods: Schooner Days MCCLXXVII (1277)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 7 Jul 1956
Full Text
'She' Was a Bull Of-the-Woods
Schooner Days MCCLXXVII (1277)

by C. H. J. Snider

OF all the hard-luck vessels whose bones have paved the bottom of the Great Lakes in three centuries the strangest was one wrecked on the south shore of Toronto Island 50 years ago this summer.

There was no reason for her being wrecked at all--except her persistent ill-luck. She was in good insurable shape, recently refitted, sailed by a sober God-fearing, Sabbath-keeping captain. The weather was not severe. We sailed the open centreboarder Frou Frou, an enlarged 16 foot skiff, across the harbor to the island in the height of it, and had fun.

The vessel was the Reuben Doud, owned by the Conger Coal Company, of this city, a "foreign bottom," replacing their schooner Augusta, which had been wrecked at Port Credit in December 1901.

The Reuben for whom the Doud was named was an unknown worthy in the state of Wisconsin 80 years ago. The vessel was built on the shore of the Wolf River in 1873--of the best white oak, and no skimping of wood, iron or workmanship.

The Wolf River is about as deep in the heart of Wisconsin as you can get without coming out on the other side. The Reuben Doud's first problem was how to get out of the woods and into blue water.

When she was caulked, painted tallowed and ready to float, it looked as though she would stay in Wisconsin all her life. The Wolf is navigable for 2 1/2 to 3 feet draft, though it is supposed to have a 4 ft. channel. The Doud would draw 4 ft. without her spars and 11 feet loaded, and she was 200 miles from water in which she could sail. No tug could get up for her, and she was too heavy to haul by hand or heave by handspike or capstan or windlass. Horses couldn't get through the rough spots in the bends of the winding river.

Oxen came to the rescue. Twenty teams were used in the long toil of dragging her down to Oshkosh. After that they got her into the Fox River, and more oxen helped her through canals and 37 bridges to the deep water of Green Bay, which somewhat resembles the Bay of Quinte off Lake Ontario. She passed through Death's Door into Lake Michigan, and got going in the bulk freight trade of the upper Lakes.

In the stormy fall of 1900 she came to Lake Erie for coal for the west. Starting back she encountered an equinoctial gale and lost her mainmast and mizzen. Under her foresail she made shelter somewhere and arranged for a tow as far as Detroit.

Another start in tow of an upbound steamer, and another gale. The steamer had to cast her off to let her run for shelter under her foresail again. In gybing over, she carried away her foresheet post, which left her unmanageable. Couldn't trim her foresail, couldn't sail without it.

She blew on to the Middle Ground in the Pelee Passage. The crew took to the rigging with the seas going over her like breakers on a reef. Strongly built a quarter of a century before, she held together. Lifesavers got the crew. A salvage tug and steam pump released her when the gale went down and she was towed to Detroit with the loss of her spars and cargo.

Here she wintered. But her hard luck career was "to be continued" as will be the tale of it in the next number of Schooner Days.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
7 Jul 1956
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 42.33143 Longitude: -83.04575
  • Wisconsin, United States
    Latitude: 44.53999 Longitude: -88.00455
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 41.847777 Longitude: -82.579444
  • Wisconsin, United States
    Latitude: 44.11082 Longitude: -88.71261
Richard Palmer
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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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'She' Was a Bull Of-the-Woods: Schooner Days MCCLXXVII (1277)