Ill-Fated Vernon, The
DESCRIPTION: "All you true-feeling Christians, I hope you will draw near, And hear my doleful story...." The Vernon, with six men aboard, sailed on October 25. A storm blew up (on Lake Michigan). The Vernon sank with 25 passengers. Other ships refused to help out
EARLIEST DATE: 1932 (collected from John W. Green by Walton; supposedly composed 1887/1888)
KEYWORDS: ship disaster death
October 1867 - the Vernon Wreck
FOUND IN: US(MW)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Walton/Grimm/Murdock, pp. 176-177, "The Ill-Fated Vernon" (1 text plus mention of 1 more)
NOTES: Walton/Grimm/Murdock give only a brief account of this disaster, though they mention that it cost the lives of six men from Beaver Island. Benjamin J. Shelak, Shipwrecks of Lake Michigan, Trails Books, 2003, pp. 61-62, adds a number of details. The ship was new (about a year old), but though Walton/Grimm/Murdock say she was considered entirely seaworthy, but she was said to have had high upperworks which, combined with her narrow beam, made her hard to handle in rough weather (she was 177 feet long, had a 26 foot beam, and was 18 feet deep).
Walton/Grimm/Murdock and Shelak disagree about the date of the wreck; the former says October 25, 1887; the latter, October 28. Vernon says it had made a trip from Chicago to Cheboygan, Michigan, and was on its way back. The ship was in trouble by the time it passed Two Rivers, Wisconsin.
Reportedly the boat was overloaded. The number of people on board is unknown, but Shelak says it was between 36 and 41. At least some of the passengers and crew went into the water, but though other ships passed through the area and saw wreckage, none attempted to help. As a result, only one man -- a crewmember named Axel Stone -- survived; he was picked up two days after the sinking. Stone claimed to have told the captain that the ship was taking on water and suggested dropping cargo -- and was told off for it. The ship survived for some time after that, but went down around 3:00 a.m.
Stone reported that several ships came so close that he could make out the faces of those aboard, but they did nothing. Hence, presumably, the bitterness of this song. - RBW
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