Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Sunbeam (Steamboat), sunk, 28 Aug 1863
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Steamer SUNBEAM, foundered on Lake Superior in a gale. Total loss with all on board except for one wheelsman, who was saved on top of the pilot house.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Wednesday, January 20, 1864

      . . . . .

SUNBEAM paddle-wheel steamer of 398 tons, built Manitowoc 1861. Foundered August 28, 1863 near Eagle Harbor, Mich. . Total loss with the loss of 34 lives.
      Merchant Steam Vessels of the U.S.A.
      1790 - 1868 Lytle - Holdcamper list

      . . . . .

      THE WRECK OF THE STEAMER SUNBEAM. - The Chicago Post brings such particulars as can be obtained of the wreck of the steamer SUNBEAM on Lake Superior. The ill-starred vessel left Ontonagon on the evening of Aug. 27th. About Midnight the gale began. The Post says:
      The SUNBEAM struggled with the gale from four o'clock till eight, during all of which time, the wheelsman states, the storn neither abated or increased. At eight o'clock the captain endeavored to wheel about to make, it is supposed, the harbor at Isle Royal, there being no harbors at Eagle River, Ontonagon or Eagle Harbor. About this time she was seen by people on the copper bluffs at Copper Falls Mine, laboring heavily in the troughts of the sea, with her jib and foresails set. The wheelsman says that the wheels would not answer, the sea was so heavy; that her machinery was rendered powerless, and she never succeeded in turning round. A few minutes past eight she was struck by a tremendous sea and leveled broadside on the water. The passengers and crew finding the vessel would not be able to recover her upright position, commenced betaking themselves to a small boat in the hope of escape. A few minutes later the SUNBEAM was struck by another heavy sea, a terrible crash followed, the upper works or hurricane deck was torn off and tumbled into the boiling lake, and the ill-starred vessel, with all on board, sunk beneath the waves.
      The fortunate wheelsman had gone into the small boat with others, but became convinced that she would soon be swamped and leaped upon a fragment of the upper deck. With some of the rope attached to the flagstaff, which he obtained, he lashed himself to the floating timber. In this condition he floated on the lake thirty hours, and was finally washed upon the beach. He crawled nearly six miles on his hands and feet, being too nearly famished to stand upright. He was picked up by an exploring party and taken to the head of the Portage almost lifeless. With great care and the administration of powerful stimulants, his life was saved. He says shortly after lashing himself to the piece of timber he picked up a jug of port wine, which he kept with him and drank incessantly until he was cast upon the beach. There is no doubt that without the wine the man would have perished. He states that he saw many persons floating about dead, with life-preservers on.
      The crew of the vessel numbered 21 persons, the deck hands being Indians. There were about 6 passengers on board, among whom was Augustus Colburn of Ontonagon, a brother-in-law of Rufus Wheeler, of this city. The SUNBEAM was built at Manitowoc winter before last; was 348 tons burden and valued at $40,000. She was insured by her owner, A.E. Goodrich, of Chicago, for $20,000.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      Thursday, September 10, 1863

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Media Type
Item Type
Reason: sunk
Lives: 34
Hull damage: $30,000
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original
Local identifier
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 47.45713 Longitude: -88.15122
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Sunbeam (Steamboat), sunk, 28 Aug 1863