Maritime History of the Great Lakes
P. H. Walters (Steamboat), sunk, 20 Jun 1887
Full Text

Propeller P.H. WALTER home port, Lorain. Classed as OO. foundered in Lake Erie with a cargo of stone, June 20, 1887, and became a total loss. Property loss, hull $3,000 cargo $2,000.
      1887 Casualty List (Total loss)
      Marine Record, Dec. 15, 1887

P.H. WALTER side wheel steamer of 102 Tons. Built Sandusky by Jackman in 1872. Rebuilt 1880. Owned by Homegardner. Home port, Sandusky. Class OO
      Inland Lloyds Vessel Register, 1884

      A terrible disaster occurred on Lake Erie Monday evening, in which eight human souls went down to death without a moment warning. The Steambarge P.H. WALTER, loaded with stone at Marblehead, started for Cleveland Monday afternoon, having on board the captain, J.G. Gillespie, J.H. Flora, mate, an engineer, fireman, two deck hands, and a cook, and, Captain Gillespie's wife and four children. About 7 o'clock, after the boat had well started on her trip, a heavy squall struck the barge and capsized her, the vessel filling from the hatches. The squall struck so suddenly that no preparations had been made to receive it, and the result was that water rushed down the hatches and filled the barge, while some of the crew were resting below. The boat went down with twelve persons aboard, and out of this number but four were saved. The Captain grasped his wife with one arm, and a child under the other, and sprang over the side as the barge sank. The mate was in the wheelhouse, and he jumped through the window over the side of the boat into the water. The sea rushed over the sunken ship, and the only persons not drawn beneath the waves was the Captain, his wife, two children, and the mate. The captain's wife despite his efforts to rescue her, slipped from his grasp and sank beneath the boiling waters. The brave master clung to the child and floated about until he saw a loose fender near him. Grasping this he lifted the child upon it, and clung to the buoy himself. In the meantime the mate was struggling for life in the seething sea. Seeing someone near him he called out, and a voice replied that it was the captain's eldest son who was floating near him. He swam to the boy's aid and the two secured fenders, tied them together with the ropes attached to them and thus formed a small raft. While on the raft they espied the captain clinging to a fender, and they went to his rescue. All night long the men and boys clung to the raft. Several times the lights of passing vessels were seen. They shouted for aid, but the noise of the storm drowned the voices. At last, towards morning, they espied the lights of the PEARL.
Almost discouraged by the failures to be heard by other vessels, they renewed the call for aid. The steamer had passed them when they saw her turn and run towards them. They were almost completely exhausted when drawn on board the steamer. Every attention was paid to the rescued men by Captain Edwards and his crew, and at 6 o'clock Tuesday morning, they arrived in Cleveland. The number of unfortunates who have been lost is eight. The list of the lost is as follows:- Mrs. J.G. Gillespie, the master' wife, Port Clinton; Alphos Gillespie, the master's son; Jenny Gillespie, the master's daughter; Peter Grimes, Engineer, Cleveland; John Peterson, Fireman, residence unknown; Gust Shafer, Wheelsman, Sandusky, his first trip on the vessel. Peter Powley, Deckhand, Lighthouse Station, Ohio; Kate Powley, wife of Peter, Stewardess. Captain Gillespie is completely overcome by the terrible loss he has sustained. He will charter a tug and make a search for the bodies of the unfortunate crew and members of his family. Mr. Flora, the mate describes the squall as terrific. The force of the wind, he says, bore the vessel over on her side until the water rushed in torrents through the hatches into the hold. He says the time was so short between the first puff of wind and the sinking of the barge that not an order could be executed. He does not think that more than 15 seconds elapsed between the time the squall struck the ship, before she sank. As she went down he sprang from the wheelhouse into the water. Captain Gillespie has requested all vesselmen who may find floating bodies of the drowned, to telegraph him at Sandusky or Port Clinton.
      The barge P.H. WALTER was built at Sandusky in 1872, rebuilt 1880, and was owned by Homegardner. Her tonnage was 102 tons and she was graded OO
      the Marine Record
      June 23, 1887

      The stmb. P.H. WALTER capsized on Lake Erie Monday and 8 or 12 persons on board were drowned. The captain, mate and 2 children clung to the hatches and construct a raft out of them upon which they floated for 9 hours and were finally picked up by the stm. PEARL and taken to Cleveland. The remainder of the crew together with the captain's wife and 2 of his children are lost. The captain heard their death struggles but on account of the darkness was unable to find them or to render assistance.
      Port Huron Commercial
      June 29, 1887 8-3

Sandusky.---The steambarge WALTERS, sunk off Lorain, has been located and a diver is now at work on her. She will soon be raised.
      The Marine Record
      June 30, 1887

Lorain. - The P.H. WALTER has been raised partially and was towed about a mile nearer shore
      Marine Record
      August 25, 1887

Cleveland.---Deputy Collector of Customs, Owen Kane was at Lorain Monday on official business. He says that the wreckers on the steamer P.H. WALTER, which foundered with the loss of several lives off that port, a short time ago, have succeeded in bringing the boat to a point abreast of the west pier and about 300 feet from the harbor. During the last storm they lost her chains and are still trying to recover them. Mr. Kane speaks of the boats position in order to warn vessels entering Lorain at night, as bad weather will not allow lights to burn on the wreck.
      The Marine Record
      Thurs. Sept. 15, 1887 p.1

      Cleveland.---The wreck of the P.H. WALTER shifted position last Saturday night in the storm, and part of her may be seen east of the pier. It is thought she is in pretty bad condition.
      The Marine Record
      Thurs. Oct. 27, 1887 p.1

Cleveland.---R.K. Winslow's steamer EGYPTIAN is still sunk at Lorain. The hole in the boat's bottom is a large one, as two steam pumps fail to lower the water in her. The boiler of the propeller P.H. WALTER, on the wreck of which the EGYPTIAN sunk, has been taken out and is on the dock at Lorain.
      The Marine Record
      Thurs. Nov. 17, 1887 p. 1

Item Type
Reason: sunk
Lives: 8
Hull damage: $3,000
Cargo: $2,000
Freight: stone
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original
Local identifier
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ohio, United States
    Latitude: 41.45282 Longitude: -82.18237
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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P. H. Walters (Steamboat), sunk, 20 Jun 1887