West Michigan Lumber Prince Drowns in Lake Superior

     Duluth – On Friday, June 19th, 1881 from Muskegon County and Newaygo County, Michigan lumberman Sixtus N. Wilcox of 440 Washington St., Chicago perished in a cataclysmic squall in Lake Superior near the mouth of the Manitou River, a few miles north of now Little Marais, and 20-25 miles south of Beaver Bay.

   Born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1825 and named after either an early Pope or Saint, Wilcox, with little or no formal education toiled as an apprentice “tinner”, then moved with his family to Chicago where he continued in that endeavor for some period of his youthful years. His father Erastus, also born in Stockbridge in 1789 is listed on the 1880 Chicago census as a lumberman. Also on that same census at 440 W. Washington Street is Sixtus’ second wife, Sarah A., son Charles, 21, son Walter, 14, daughter Annie, 7, and three servants. They were coachman/butler Frank, Ann Koppen, 19, from Prussia and Annie Coughlin, 32, formerly of Wisconsin. All three Wilcox children were born in Illinois. Sixtus Wilcox’s first wife is listed on the 1860 census as Arabella, then 25. Also on this same census Wilcox, prior to the 1871 Chicago Fire had an estate valued at $49,000.00 which is around 1 million three hundred thousand dollars now.

    The Wilcox family was in Muskegon around 1837 and on the 1864, then Muskegon Township, Muskegon County plat S. N., Wilcox is listed as the sole owner of property on the west end of Muskegon Lake. That included Lake Michigan, the only house in now Bluffton with his name on it was a large residence, which if Sixtus never actually lived there, probably stayed there with his brother Ted, born in Wisconsin and again there were three servants, this time from the Muskegon area. The Wilcox mill not far from the now Bluffton/Edgewater area residence was up and running in 1850. Sixtus Wilcox had made the successful switch from being a tinsmith to an owner of a steam/sawmill in the wilderness still inhabited by trappers and the like who spent money at the Constant Trading Post. This was a few hundred yards north near the then shallow and winding Muskegon Channel just down a huge dune that would later be known as Pigeon Hill. Father Baraga had helped build a church there and baptized Native Americans in 1833-34, on the south side of the channel very close to what would become two Native cemeteries and the French Canadian settler cemetery, all this was just south on now Fulton Street, closer to the Wilcox firm. Wilcox would have gotten correspondence from Henry Pennoyer’s post office not far from where the now Coast Guard Station is, from out at the channel, closer to Lake Michigan.

    In early writings of Muskegon & Ottawa, plus Newaygo County to the northeast, there are lots of other Wilcox people, maybe cousins, maybe not related at all, so the names don’t always match up with Sixtus Wilcox. To date we have yet to find a picture in the U. S. or Canada of this first Wilcox family lumberman that we’re putting down on paper in the 21st century. And again, no photo of the Bluffton residence has surfaced, but one might show up in a drawer by descendents of lumbermen still living, sometimes right close to the former Muskegon mill. With the Chicago Fire Muskegon would eventually have at least 47 mills on Muskegon Lake. Wilcox owned a lot of land around Morgan Station, now White Cloud and in 1873 that inland mill would be in operation. Two historians and librarians from White Cloud and Fremont tend to think that Wilcox paid for a house to be built by, and for, one of is foreman named J.M. Gibbs. Then rather than Wilcox ever living there when up from Chicago, they think, he stayed at the Morgan Inn and gave his foreman the house at Pine Hill and 12th Street, which still stands today.

    The White Cloud operation sent lumber by water on the White River and by rail to Muskegon via the Muskegon & Big Rapids Railroad, which came down toward Dalton between Whitehall & now North Muskegon to Berry Junction. Then it either picked up south to Muskegon or in 1881, with the opening of the White Lake Mill at Whitehall, north to the mill, out 300 feet in the lake, where schooners would head out for places like Chicago. On the White and Muskegon Rivers, Wilcox and his family, plus partners, had over 60 log marks from 1863 to 1882. In short, the lumber business was booming in Western Michigan.

    A few observations – Wilcox’s brother George was drafted for three years into the Army at Spring Lake in Ottawa County at the age of 22. He was assigned to the Fourth Calvary and discharged prior to the conclusion of the Civil War on October 30, 1863. Fortunately he survived that ordeal. Second, in 1877, former Muskegon mayor, prosecuting attorney and onetime Lt. Governor for Michigan John Bagley ( R ) wrote a history of early Muskegon for future generations, hoping that not yet born citizens would care more about history than during his own lifetime. Holt (1831-1898) in his writings, lists mills on Muskegon Lake in 1850 and 1860 but he doesn’t list the Wilcox mill. He briefly writes Horace Wilcox had the first legal land claim in 1836 and in 1837 there’s a building put up by Ted Newell, a Wilcox brother-in-law and Erastus (i.e. Ernest) Wilcox, where the first town meeting would be held that same year. We think this Erastus Wilcox was a brother of Sixtus and was the first supervisor of Muskegon Township prior it being a county. He lived from 1822-1903 and died in Minneapolis, but is buried in Muskegon at Oakwood Cemetery. The first frame house up on now Lakeshore Drive, once called Lake Street was built and lived in by Horace. Holt later married Muskegon’s most famous lumber baron, Charles Hackley’s mother, Catherine, plus Holt was very good friends with the Ryerson, Hills & Company people. It looks like Sixtus Wilcox was given the cold shoulder and shunned by not only Holt, but also by the two Muskegon newspapers during those “lumber queen of the world” years. It’s only speculation but there was something going on back then and the details are either sketchy at best or just don’t exist. There were enough shysters to go around, but coming clean, even in the 21st century, it isn’t always going to happen. Was there ever a competitive threat and/or need/desire to do ill to others in the same kind of career? In these cases, probably.

    Willis Dunbar in his 1965 book “Michigan-A History of the Wolverine State”, then the revised edition by George S. May in 1980, doesn’t say much about West Michigan except that Muskegon area mills turned out a little more than half of what Saginaw Valley mills did. Hackley is mentioned but to no great extent and that’s the end of it for the west side of Michigan in the heyday of a whole lot of activity and future millionaires. Cynthia Wilcox is listed as a teacher for Muskegon Schools in 1867 along with a handful of other women including Margaret McIntyre-Hills, the second wife of Charles Turner Hills of Ryerson, Hills & Co. These early teachers didn’t make much money and we have no idea what connection Cynthia has to Sixtus Wilcox if any, but at least the lumbering era principles of the female persuasion were good friends, and sometimes were married to self-made men.

   In 1881 Sixtus Wilcox belonged to the Illinois Club, which was a fraternal organization in Chicago whose purpose was the “cultivation and promotion of literature, the fine arts and social intercourse.” There was to be no smoking, no liquor and no dogs in the clubhouse. At this time Wilcox was not a political person, but he reluctantly was talked into assuming the position of President of the West Park Board in Chicago. Clearly he had a lot of friends in that city, and also while other lumber barons like Martin Ryerson and Henry Getty had moved to Chicago we don’t see any of them associating with Wilcox or vice-versa.

   Needing a break from work, Wilcox, J. Frank Lawrence, R. H. Buckley and Scotland born Dr. Alexander C. Bell, (1807-1881) a pharmacist and owner of a drug store embarked on a two week fishing trip that included stops around Isle Royale, then into Canadian waters along the western shoreline of Lake Superior and the eastern boundaries of Minnesota. Wilcox wired home that the group was having “ a royal time.”

     75 miles northeast of Duluth is a long way from being a charter member of the Muskegon Booming Company formed on March 9, 1864. Others in the party to help, from Minnesota, included an “Indian guide” with the French Canadian name of Julius Cadotte, his brother Ben, and John Taft. The tug Siskiwit with a captain took the party to their launch sites that morn. They all were along to manage the two boats secured from Jake Iddel, set up the campsites, do the cooking and in the Cadotte Brothers’ case to find sport fish of the highest quality. According to the June 20, 1881 Duluth News Tribune the cruise included a stop at Isle Royale, then a leisurely look along the north shore of the island. They then camped at Pork Bay about two miles south of the mouth of the Manitou River. The next morning there was a strong northeast wind, not atypical in Superior waters. Wilcox and Dr. Bell wanted to take their rowboat, the “Venus” up the river. The others made it crystal clear that it was a bad idea as the weather was getting more ominous. Despite the pleas from friends Wilcox and Bell along with Julius Cadotte doing the rowing headed toward the Manitou River. From the Duluth Weekly Tribune of June 24, - “Bell and Wilcox had made several attempts to cross the bay to the mouth of the river, during rough seas and in one case had succeeded in doing so. Feeling rather elated over their success, they became reckless. Bell however, wasn’t satisfied with his “catch of fish.” Thus the others gave in to the complacent, soon to be victims, of Superior as Bell and Wilcox, along with their “Indian guide” set out again for the prize fish in/or near the Manitou. When they were sixty feet off shore they ran into the strength of the current from the Manitou, plus increasingly choppy seas and with no time to do much of anything. Within seconds the Venus flipped in the violent squall. With one huge wave Wilcox went down and didn’t resurface. Cadotte was thrown out of the little boat as well but was able to swim to shore. He was bloodied by rocks but ran to the camp to inform the others of the accident. Meantime Bell was hanging on to the boat for dear life as it drifted rapidly toward the rocky reef. Then the Venus crashed hard, destroying the boat into hunks and slivers. Bell tried to hang on to a large piece of wood until another very powerful wave hit him and that was the last time the doctor/pharmacist was seen alive.

    By this time John Taft had arrived in his rowboat, the Mamie, but it was too late.

   By Saturday evening what was left of the expedition sailed on Taft’s boat to Beaver Bay, a distance of maybe 20 miles to seek help. Finally Julius Cadotte found Wilcox and brought him to shore after returning to the accident scene. Bell was a different story. According to the eyewitnesses they thought he’d been washed out into deep water and in ensuing days of looking, including with a tug boat, nets and draggling, the search proved fruitless and he was never found, at least in any accounts that we’ve uncovered in the data base, Inner ocean and Minnesota papers from that period.

   It is noted that Wilcox was represented in Duluth by Henry Clark who had been buying large tracts of land and timber for Wilcox. Clark said that Wilcox was his good friend who was genial, reliable, highly respected and his loss wouldn’t be forgotten in business and social circles.

   Ted Wilcox, who was Sixtus’ brother and Sixtus’ son Charles accompanied the “lumber prince” back to Chicago. The funeral was held at the Wilcox home on 440 Washington St., June 28th. Wilcox had joined the Jefferson Park Presbyterian Church when Dr. Alvin Bartlett had been the minister. He came into Chicago from Indianapolis to perform the service for his friend. Dr. Bartlett spoke in high terms of Sixtus N. Wilcox as a businessman, friend, and called him a public spirited man and a “liberal hearted citizen”. He closed in saying his work included his faithful and earnest service in favor of making the city more beautiful and pleasure giving. He proactively helped build and support parks, football fields and making barren places full with new sown green grass and trees. His legacy for all to remember, or know for the first time, is that he led a brave and kindly life. He was then buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago with other former Muskegon lumber barons.

   Wilcox and Bell had planned a July, 1881 trip to Europe. In fact Bell had already bought a ticket and then those plans were canceled by the families.

    In the July 15, 1881 Duluth Tribune the Last Will & Testament of Sixtus N. Wilcox was published. He left an estate of $600,000.00 which equates to $13,770,000 and change now. There were also life insurance policies for $10,000.00, all of which went to his family with George G. Wilcox acting as the trustee.

   There are two streets, one in Muskegon by Wilcox’s old mill named after him, and the current county seat of White Cloud in Newaygo County along with the library and school are all on Wilcox St. There is a Wilcox Township in Newaygo County and the White River runs through the center of it. There is a Wilcox Street in Montague, and across White Lake from Whitehall there is a road named Wilcox but it is thought that this street is named for Colonel Orlando Wilcox of Detroit who was a West Point grad and seriously wounded in the Civil War. He was not related to Sixtus Wilcox, who died at 56 years of age in Lake Superior. Son, Charles and his uncles continued to run the Wilcox Lumber Company, primarily but not exclusively out of White Cloud.

    Jim Haley at the Montague Museum, Roger Scharmer of Montague, Damien Rostar from the Hackley District Library, Pamela Miller of the White Cloud Public Library, Sandy Vincent Peavy of Terry Wantz Historical Research Center in Fremont, Michigan and especially Linda Rau from the Duluth, Minnesota at the Duluth Public Library contributed to this article. This story is dedicated to the late Phyllis VanRiper-Taylor, a niece of Sixtus Wilcox and a longtime resident of Lakeside in Muskegon and later of the same in North Muskegon. She said there might be a story for the public not yet written. Thank you Mrs. Taylor for your long friendship and more. You passed away some months ago but you will not be forgotten. . . . .



Isle Royale National Park Information




Isle Royale National Park was authorized by Congress on 03 March 1931 by President Herbert Hoover "to conserve a prime example of North Woods Wilderness." Isle Royale National Park was established on 03 April 1940 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The park was designated part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1976, under the Wilderness Act, and remains today as an example of primitive America. In fact, over 98% of the land in Isle Royale is designated wilderness. Further honors were bestowed in 1981, when Isle Royale was designated an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations, giving it global scientific and educational significance.


The total park acreage is 571,790.11, of which 539,281.87 is federal and 32,508.24 nonfederal. Land area is 133,781.87; wilderness is designated in 132,018 of the land-based acres.

The Archipelago

In Lake Superior's northwest corner sits a wilderness archipelago - a roadless land of wild creatures, unspoiled forests, refreshing lakes, and rugged, scenic shores - accessible only by boat or floatplane. Travel on and around the island by foot, boat, or float plane. There are 165 miles of trails on Isle Royale, and the island boasts numerous inland lakes. And for more seaworthy craft there is, of course, Lake Superior itself.

Wolves and moose, the wild North Woods forest, ever changing weather and a cool climate, and the crystal clear waters and rugged shoreline of Lake Superior characterize Isle Royale National Park. This wilderness archipelago is 45 miles long and nine miles wide at it's widest point. The park encompasses a total area of 850 square miles including submerged lands, which extends four and a half miles out into Lake Superior. The archipelago is composed of many parallel ridges resulting from ancient lava flows, which were tilted and glaciated. Isle Royale has 165 miles of scenic hiking trails and 36 campgrounds for backpackers and recreational boaters. There is excellent fishing, historic lighthouses and shipwrecks, ancient copper mining sites, and plenty of spots to observe wildlife. Roadless Isle Royale is accessible only by boat or float plane. Isle Royale is relatively untouched by direct outside influences and serves as a living laboratory and Unites States Biosphere Reserve.

For much more information please go to www.isle.royale.national-park.com

Captain Remembers

George M. Cox

    The newly formed company the Isle Royal Transit Company purchased the Puritan in 1933 and renamed her the George M. Cox, after the President of the new company.

   In 1933 I was a sophomore in high school in St. Ignace and playing football and basketball.

   The George M. Cox left Chicago on the Isle Royal passenger run, with only 18 passengers aboard. She looked spanking brand new, begin thoroughly painted from stem to stern – her hull was painted white, her stack black and she really was a sharp looking vessel – also on board was her president George M. Cox.

   John T. Soldenski – Keeper of the “Rock of Ages Light” off the southern end of Isle Royal, sitting atop his 11 story lighthouse –saw twin spars rising above the fog – and they seemed to be on a collision course with his lighthouse. He excitedly sounded the fog whistle and the big ship kept getting bigger and bigger, rising out of the fog right at him.

    The Cox had left Houghton and steamed to the western end of the waterway entering Lake Superior again – the captain set her course for Rock of Ages Lighthouse and intended to turn to the right there and head for Fort William where 250 passengers were awaiting him.

   Captain Johnson then turned the ship over to his 1st mate and went below. The Cox then proceeded at about 17 knots through the heavy fog.

   At 17 knots she was considered a faster than average vessel.

   About 6:30 p.m. after the passengers had settled down, after their evening meal, there was a really heavy thud followed by several crashes. Plates, glasses, food and furniture tossed through the air, like toys – passengers too was tossed about as they rushed out on the tilted deck.

   The Cox had run up on the rocks, between the Rock of Ages Lighthouse and the charted buoy – the sudden stop was so great, it tore the engine loose from its secured foundations.

   The ships bow was well out of the water and setting on the rocky reef. Her stern was a wash and listing about 40 degrees. The radio operator was banging out SOS signals.

    Because of the serious list, it was impossible to launch the star-board boats (right) but the port (left) were launched OK – and they safely carried all the personnel to the lighthouse where they spent the night. The lighthouse quarters was too small to accompany all of them – so they took turns getting warm.

   The next morning the Coast Guard Cutter “Crawford” arrived from her base at Two Harbors, Minnesota and took all the survivors to Houghton, Michigan. The total people transferred was 120, the largest rescue in Lake Superior history.

   The real cause of the wreck was never satisfactory explained – but the court absolved the Captain – but censured the 1st mate – who the Captain claimed, steered the wrong course, across the lake. He steered NW1/2 N, instead of the given course NW 1/4N – the mate denied it – but the crew and court believed the Captain.

   That may have been the way the court handled it in those days – but today, the 1st thing the Coast Guard and inquiry board and the court would have asked – was – “Where was the captain?” Today anytime your approaching a land fall – most especially in foggy or limited visibility weather – that Captain is called and in the pilothouse a good hour before – with a boat load of passengers, he should have been in the pilothouse, without being called. The Captain is responsible for his boat and actions, regardless whose fault it might be. I would have been in the pilothouse in crystal clear weather.

    A Thunder Bay tug removed all personal belongings – including 2 new 1933 automobiles belonging to the Captain – the next couple weeks the upper Lake Superior pirates picked the wreck clean.

   The remains of the wreck broke in two, during an October storm and slid off the reef and into deep water.

   Today the wreck is part of Isle Royale National Park and off limits to skin divers.

   The Captain died in 1948, and until his death, was a Register of Deeds for Grand Traverse County. The George M. Cox 233’ x 40.5’ x 21.9’ - 1901 through 1933. She only made ½ a trip for her new owners.


    When I was 2nd mate – the Captain would occasionally, let the 1st mate, take the boat in and out of port, in ideal weather – then when he didn’t let him handle the boat – the mate would be pouting and sort of mad because the Captain didn’t call him to take the ship in. Seeing how the mate reacted to the Captain being nice to him I promised myself – if I ever got to be Captain – the Captain would take her in and out of port always and I always did – and I was always in the pilothouse, nearing all landfalls, rivers and harbors – and knock-on-wood – never had an accident.

   Also, you can, more or less time yourself to get up at a certain time. I never carried an alarm clock but would leave word to be called at a certain time and almost always I was up before begin called.

   Also, I never smoked or chewed and my pilothouse was smoke-free. If they needed a cigarette they could step outside. A lot of sailors didn’t like that rule – but – I didn’t like their tobacco either.

     In the old sailing days before gyro compasses, quite a few of the sailors smoked and would carry their tobacco in tin cans in their back pocket – like a can of Prince Albert smoking tobacco that tin can could attract the magnetic compass and change your steering course a bit if you were the wheelsman. So it was taboo for anyone carrying a tin tobacco can in the pilothouse.

     I was once wheelsman for a mate who chewed “Redmond tobacco” and he’d buy it by the case, so when his case would be nearing the bottom he’d bring his new package up to the pilothouse, open it and spill it all on the glass chart table. Then take a pencil and sort out the worms, then repack the tobacco in it’s paper package.

    I vividly recall when I first started sailing – they had no refrigeration – so on Sunday’s it was us deckhands job to go back to the galley – get the cooks, wooden ice cream barrel with all the fixings in it and go on the last hatch and crank that barrel making home made ice cream.

   And too in those days, there were no washing machines so we washed our clothes by hand and the clothes lines were always full of drying clothes. As a rule there was always a long line tied to the rail and someone’s levy’s dragging in the water to get washed.

Bark Arabia

     The 309 ton bark Arabia departed Chicago on her final voyage on Wednesday October 1, 1884, heading for Midland, Ontario at the southern end of Georgian Bay with 20,000 bushels of corn. The captain sailed his ship up Lake Michigan through the Straits of Mackinac and towards Tobermory across Lake Huron. On a Saturday, October 4, 1884 while still about 70 miles west of Tobermory a violent storm developed. Huge waves battered the Arabia repeatedly with savage intensity. Before long the ship began leaking badly. Incidentally the bark Arabia was a wooden vessel having been built in 1884. The normal life for vessels seemed to be around 25 years, but I am sure a babied wooden vessel would have surpassed that 25-year mark. After several hours of strenuous pumping the weary crew realized the hopelessness of their situation. After they passed the Cove Island Lighthouse, their vessel began to sink. At about 3:00 a.m. Sunday October 5, 1884 the Captain gave the order to launch the yawl boat and to abandon ship. The bark sank in deep icy water off Echo Island just after the last man scrambled into the yawl boat. Why is it a great many of the Great Lakes mishaps happen in the early morning hours. . . . .

    The Arabia crew bobbed around in those horrible conditions until just after sunrise when a passing tug boat rescued them and delivered them to Wiarton, Ontario.

   The three masted Schooner Arabia built by George Thurston of Kingston, Ontario and launched Tuesday April 26, 1853 measured 131’ X 26’ X 12’. Mr. Thurston had built 24 vessels between 1842 and 1869, all within 27 years. That’s almost a boat a year.

    The Arabia spent her first year sailing Lake Ontario routes but in 1854 made the big crossing from the Great Lakes to Glasgow in the British Isles loaded with 14000 bushels of wheat and 500 bushels of flour.

     The canals in the St. Lawrence River had been greatly improved by 1848 leading to the beginning of large cargo movements between Canada and Britain.

     The Arabia was not without her little mishaps in her lifetime. The Kingston, Ontario paper of Saturday October 19, 1867 reported the Arabia while in tow of a tug and passing through the harbor with a cargo of grain ran aground on Thursday at the shoal near Pt. Fredrick on which there is at present low water. She remained there until begin lighted and floated off.

   For about 90 years, the resting place of the Arabia somewhere off Echo Island north of Tobermory, Ontario remained a mystery. Commercial fisherman however knew she was in the area and new the wreck had to be close by – as the fish they were bringing in were corn stuffed fish. Finally late in 1971, Captain Albert Smith pinpointed the wreck. Further investigation resulted in the identification of the Arabia.

    The Arabia is in excellent shape, because she sits in freezing, dark water at 117 feet deep, an ice water show piece and one of Canada’s most famous shipwrecks.

   In her lifetime – 31 years - she had repaid her original price, many times over.


Name   Arabia

Rig    Bark


Size   131’ X 26’ X 12’

Launched   April 26, 1853, Kingston, Ontario

Lost   October 5, 1884

Cause   Foundered

Cargo    corn

Lives Lost    None

Location    Off Echo Island, north of Tobermory, Ontario

Depth    117’

Stmr. Philadelphia

    The Archer Line package freighter Philadelphia, loaded with coal and general merchandise, such as bottles of ketchup, Olive oil, hand lotion, jars of strawberry preserves, apple butter and iron stoves was up-bound on Lake Huron from Erie, PA and en route to Duluth, Minnesota, on the night of November 6 and 7, 1893. The Western Transit steamer Albany was downbound on the same lake at the same time with a cargo of grain from Milwaukee to Buffalo.

   Thick fog banks hovered in layers along the routes of the two ships. At about 2:00 a.m. on the morning of Tuesday November 7, 1893 the Philadelphia’s bow sliced about six feet into the Albany’s steel hull on the port side just forward of the #2 gangway. . . .for several moments both ships stayed stuck together.

    The Philadelphia seemed to be holding up well against the water pressure of Lake Huron. The Albany on the other hand displaying a wide gaping wound was recognizably doomed. A line was attached to the sinking ship’s bow and she was towed for about a ½ hour before she sank in 150-Feet of water. Her crew was taking to the yawl boat and transferring to the Philadelphia just in time. The Philadelphia then continued to race full steam against time towards shore – but her wound also proved fatal. She just didn’t’ make it. She sank in 125-feet of water about an hour after the Albany was gone. The 46 men of the two vessels took to the Philadelphia’s two lifeboats while the Philadelphia’s engines were plowing full speed ahead. It was later theorized that had the Philadelphia not taken the Albany in tow for those 30 minutes she herself might have made it. The collision occurred about 8 miles off Michigan’s Thumb. The two shipwrecks now lie about 2.5 miles apart.

    The two lifeboats were desperately, hurried and launched, in the dark foggy night on Lake Huron. The first vessel contained 22 men while the second contained 24 men. The first lifeboat reached shore safely and the second lifeboat was found the next day over turned and almost broken in half, the press reported. The lifeboat’s port bow was stove in from the stem back to the second seat and clear to the keel, which shows she must have been struck by a fast moving object.

   Twelve bodies with lifejackets, one of them terribly mutilated with a crushed skull and a broken leg, along with a couple others noticeably heavily bruised, bobbed nearby. These twelve bodies were the only ones to be found from the 24 on board this lifeboat. The other twelve apparently without jackets sank to the bottom. The sea had been calm that night so the signs of violence on the lifeboat and bodies were strange and hard to explain.

    These lifeboats had contained in mixed numbers the entire crews of two large vessels that should have passed in the night but didn’t.

   Five hours of backbreaking rowing brought the first yawl with 22 men ashore near Point aux Barques but the second boat was missing. The local life saving crew found the upside down broken lifeboat 8 miles off shore. The City of Concord recovered the 12 bodies and took them to Tawas, MI the nearest up-bound port.

   The theory was that the men were injured while departing the Albany and some were forced to jump and may have hit floating objects. Some thought they may have been drawn into the City of Concord’s propeller.


Rig    Iron propeller

Size   236’ x 34’3” x 14’

Launched   1868 Buffalo

Lost   November 7, 1893 – found 80 years later

Lives Lost    16 of 22 men

Steamer Emperor

     The Emperor was built in 1910 and absorbed into the Canada Steamship Lines in 1913 where she remained for the rest of her life.

   She met her end under mysterious circumstances on a foggy day, June 4, 1947, after loading a cargo of grain. She entered Lake Superior down bound – when suddenly she hit hard on Canoe Rocks near Isle Royale – she hit with such force that the after end broke off and sank immediately in deep water trapping her engine room crew, who had no chance what-so-ever of escaping. The forward end remained pinned to the rocks and water covered the pilothouse. The mast remained above water and many of her crew were unable to get into life rafts.

     Even though the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball came to her rescue – 12 men were lost in the cold water – after a short spell the forward end also plunged into the deep water – taking her master with her. The Emperor served her owners well for over 37 years. She was a very attractive freighter. She was 525’ x 56.1’ x 27’.

   No attempt was made to salvage her.

Steamer Cetus

     The steamer Cetus was built in 1903 for the Glichrist Fleet and remained there until taken over by the Interlake S. S. Company and she remained there until 1942 when she was traded for new tonnage to the U. S. Maritime Commission for the duration of World War II. After the War ended in 1945 the Cetus and 46 other War Fleet vessels were laid up in Erie, PA., to await the torch and scrap in Hamilton, Ontario. The Cetus’s turn came in 1947.

   I sailed on three of those vessels scrapped: the Gygnus the Hemlock, and the Colonel – all around 450-feet.

   I mention this article to emphasize the number of ships all laid up in one harbor awaiting the torch.

Steamer Senator

    The Senator was launched in June 1896 during her lifetime she had 11 different owners.

   She was almost lost when she collided with the Steel Trust vessel Norman B. Ream in August 1909, one mile above Pipe Island in the St. Mary’s River. No lives were lost, but she lay submerged with her masts above water until salvaged and towed to the shipyard where she was repaired and returned to service.

   During her last year she was engaged in the auto trade where she had a mishap with the Cleveland Cliff vessel, Marquette, off Port Washington, Wisconsin on October 31, 1929. She sank taking 20 of her 29 crew with her.

   She was 410’ x 45.4’ x 23.9’ which was a popular size during that era.