Maritime History of the Great Lakes
E. M. Peck (Propeller), U135983, aground, 19 May 1897
Full Text

      On the jagged point of the Hyde Park reef, where it rises at its southeastern extremity to within twelve feet of the surface of Lake Michigan, four miles from land, the big steam barge E.M. PECK grounded hard at 2 o'clock yesterday morning. When she was released, fourteen hours later, $10,000 dollars had been added to the record of damage to marine property caused by the solid ridge of dangerous rock that stretches into the lake from the Chicago beach hotel at Fifty-first street.
      Had the PECK passed twenty feet to the east of the spot where she struck she would have cleared the reef. The steam barge, when she brought up with a crash that shook her from stem to stern, lodged with her outer edge against the red and black painted buoy that in daylight shows to the mariner the eastern end of the reef, but at night cannot be discerned, because it is unmarked by light of any kind. The craft, coming from the north at a speed of five miles an hour, went on the reef hard enough to send twenty-five feet of her heavily loaded bow nearly five feet out of water.
      Heavy smoke, blown upon the lake from the city by a light west wind, and hanging over the water like a fog, was the principal cause that landed the PECK on the reef five miles further south than her destination, the Chicago river. Unable to see the shore lights clearly or discern familiar landmarks, the PECK's navigator lost his reckoning and was feeling his way waiting for daylight when the crash came.
      Captain Chamberlain commands the PECK and had resigned her temporarily to First Mate Robinson after midnight yesteday morning while he went to his cabin to sleep a couple of hours. A little while after the captain retired the mate saw a flash light which he took to be the Grosse Point signal, thirteen miles from the Chicago river. The light was really the signal at the outer breakwater off Chicago. A little later he saw a flash quite close at hand, which he recognized as the light at the Sixty-eighth street crib. He knew at once the Peck was in dangerous Waters. He gave the signal to reverse the engines.
      As the big screw began to revolve in the effort to stop, the bow of the ship struck the reef and there was a shock that threw the sleeping crew into a sudden panic. Succeeding the first crash the vessel went ahead several feet with a grinding noise and then settled firmly on the rock.
      Captain Chamberlain at once signaled for assistance. Although the sea was not rough there was a light wester blowing that gave threat of becoming stiff and the skipper knew that a heavy sea would add to the damage. In response to the first alarm the tug LUTZ came from South Chicago, but her pulling and hauling were wasted. Ten tugs could not have moved the boat from her lodgment. Captain Chamberlain and Mate Robinson had a yawl made ready and were rowed to the Hyde Park shore. They telephoned the Independent Towing Company and the tug C. H. CHARNLEY was sent out with forty workmen to remove part of the steamers load.
      After the workmen reached the PECK at 7 o'clock they were instructed to shovel coal into the lake from the hold of the steamer as fast as they could. For this each man was paid $I an hour - an unusual rate for members of the Lumber Shovers' Union. For ten hours they shoveled coal out of the hold, more than 100 tons of which was dumped into the lake.
      The waste of coal, worth $4 a ton, came to the knowledge of Captain Rogers of the scow TWO HENRYS. He got up steam, went out to the reef and, lying his scow beside the PECK, asked the men to throw a shovelful or so on deck every now and then. What did not fall into the water went into the TWO HENREYS and in four hours Captain Rogers had thirty-five tons of coal for salvage. He could not carry any more.
      There was less waste in like afternoon when the coal derrick SPRING HEEL No. 2 and the old lighter C. C. TROWBRIDGE. once the fastest schooner on the lakes, reached the reef, in tow of the tug CHARNLEY. The derrick saved over 100 tons and the coal was shoveled on the lighter faster than it was thrown in the lake.
The salvage was taken charge of by the McCurdy & Pryne Underwriting syndicate in which the PECK is insured for $100,000 and her cargo of 2,500 tons of coal for $10,000. Captains Herriman and Hitchcock directed the lightering and at 6 o'clock ordered the tug, which had been straining and puffing unavailingly for two hours to make another effort. This time it was successful and the PECK was free of the reef. She reached the Chicago river before 9 o'clock last night, with estimated damage, including loss of coal, of less then $10,000. her composite build saved her from worse injury, as her wooden bottom was not badly smashed. She has steel frames and topsides. She was built by the Detroit Dry Dock Company in 1888 and is worth $100,000. Her coal cargo is for the O. S. Richardson Coal Company and will be unloaded at the Halsted street Bridge. She is chartered by L. C. Waldo of Detroit.
      The reefs rear Hyde Park have cost underwriters and vessel owners dearly. The steamer ARAGON went aground Oct. 24, 1896, in the same place, and was damaged to the extent of $9,500. The MONT EAGLE struck on Morgan's Reef in November 1894, with damage of $10,000, and the INTER OCEAN was on the rocks in 1892 for five days, costing the Underwriters $30,000
      Captain Chamberlain was in a memorable disaster. He commanded the steamer BRUNSWICK, the first ironsides of the Great Lakes, in 1880, when she collided with the CARLINGFORD in Lake Erie and sank, with a loss of four lives and a valuable cargo.
      Milwaukee Evening Wisconsin
      May 20, 1897

Steam screw E.M. PECK. U. S. No. 135983. Of 1,809.11 tons gross; 1,573.34 tons net. Built 1888 at Wyondette, Mich. Home port, Detroit, Mich. 282.6 x 40.2 x 18.6
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1891

      E.M. PECK Built May 3, 1888 Bulk Propeller - Composite
U. S. No. 135983 1809 gt - 1572 nt 252.6' x 40.3' x 18.6'
* Renamed (b) MALTON - Can - 1915 (C 130439)
Broken up at Port Dalhousie, Ont., in 1935.
      Detroit/Wyandotte Shipbuilding Master List
      Institute for Great Lakes research
      Perrysburg, Ohio.


Item Type
Reason: aground
Lives: nil
Remarks: Got off
Date of Original
Local identifier
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Illinois, United States
    Latitude: 41.81198 Longitude: -87.55116
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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E. M. Peck (Propeller), U135983, aground, 19 May 1897