Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Milton D. Ward (Steamboat), U90162, collision, 8 Sep 1886
Full Text

The MILTON D. WARD Receives Serious Damage By Collision With Steambarge.
      About 9 o'clock last evening the steamer MILTON D. WARD was about two miles west and north of the Grosse Point lightship on her regular down trip from Port Huron to Detroit. At the same time and place the steambarge NORMA of Sandusky, O., loaded with stone, was passing up, bound for Port Huron. Both boats had their lights burning and were passing on their respective routes with nothing out of the ordinary routine to check their progress. Their bows had scarcely passed each other when there was a crash and a loud crackling of timbers. The hundrew or more passengers aboard the WARD felt the vessel quiver along its entire length.
      Then followed a scene of wild confusion. The passengers of the pleasure steamer rushed frantically about to learn the extent of the injury. A hasty glance at the port side of the vessel showed the absence of the entire guard back to the wheel house. The ragged ridge of what had not been torn away looked threatening in the moonlight and gave the impression that the accident was greater than it really was. There was a rush for the life-preservers. The more timid woman and children set up a cry that added greatly to the confusion. The life-boat on the port side had been carried away, with a portion of the timber on that side of the vessel. There was a scramble for the vicinity of the remaining boat. Those with the greatest presence of mind started for the upper deck to be free of obstructions if the situation became such that they would have to take to the water. Others seeing their action quickly followed. It was but a few moments until all, save the officers and crew, were on the upper deck and each one was clinging to a life preserver as though his or her existance
depended upon it.
      Scarcely a moment elapsed after the shock occurred before the officers of the WARD were on hand to learn the nature of the accident. They were not long in discovering that the steambarge NORMA had crashed in the steamer's port side A hasty examination satisfied them that no real danger existed. They quickly turned their attention to pacifying the passengers and assuring them that there was no real cause for alarm. These efforts were successful. Quiet having been restored, a more careful examination was made of the boat's injuries. It was then discovered that the shaft had been broken and that the steamer was unable to continue her journey. The NORMA was communicated with, and it was found that, although she too was injured, her engines were unimpaired, a line was thrown her and a request made that she tow the WARD to Detroit. With but comparatively little loss of time, the two boats were headed down stream and both, badly battered, arrived at Detroit about 11 o'clock.
      The WARD was tied up at the foot of Shelby Street and the NORMA at the foot of Randolph Street. The WARD's passengers were not slow to disembark. A crowd quickly gathered to view the wreck and listen to the story of how the accident happened.
      "I do not know how the accident occurred," said Capt, Grummond, owner of the WARD, "and I have therefore nothing to say about the affair. It is impossible to say at present how badly the boat is crippled; but I should think $1,000 would cover the loss."
      "I have been sailing for thirty-five years," said W.P. Wheeler, captain of the steam barge NORMA, and the accident tonight is the first I have ever had. This is a pretty bad one though. How did it happen ? The NORMA was bound up, loaded with stone. When off Grosse Point we met the WARD. I was on her port and was going to pass her on that side when she suddenly hauled across my bows. I jumped and caught the wheel and threw my helm to port, trying to clear her as she was almost across my bows. If I had not done that I would have gone clear through her. As it was I struck her a glancing blow just back of her wheel. I do not know how badly she was wrecked. I have a good share of the wreck aboard my boat. The NORMA is damaged to the extent of $400. Her stern post is badly smashed. The oakum was started about two feet from the water but she did not leak any. The WARD was so disabled I towed her down. The lights of both vessels were burning at the time. Neither boat sounded a whistle until she lapped my bow about a third, when she blew for me to go to port. It was too late. I jumped for the wheel and tried to save myself but it was too late.
      The NORMA is 2 years old and is owned by Frederick Oklemacher, of Sandusky, O. My wheelsman is a man named Henry Finke. He is an old hand at barging and consider him a competent man." [part]
      The Detroit Tribune
      Thursday, September 9, 1886

      . . . . .

Steam Paddle MILTON D. WARD. U. S. No. 90162. Of 538.31. Of 500 horse-power. Home port, Detroit, Mich.
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1871

Item Type
Reason: collision
Lives: nil
Hull damage: $1,000
Remarks: Repaired
Date of Original
Local identifier
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 42.38615 Longitude: -82.91186
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Milton D. Ward (Steamboat), U90162, collision, 8 Sep 1886