Car Ferry Marquette and Bessemer No. 2
DESCRIPTION: "Loud roared the dreadful doomday And stormy was the night When the car ferry Bessemer 2nd Left the port called Canneaut. With two and twenty sailors...." "Let us all unite together... for the loved ones We will never see again." Captain and others die
EARLIEST DATE: 1933 (collected from William E. Clark by Walton)
KEYWORDS: death storm ship wreck
Dec 7(?), 1909 - loss of the _Marquette and Bessemer No. 2_
FOUND IN: US(MA)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Walton/Grimm/Murdock, p. 223, "The Car Ferry Marquette and Bessemer No. 2" (1 fragment)
NOTES: Details about this particular shipwreck seem rather fuzzy. All the sources I've checked agree that the ship involved was very strong, and still fairly new. Most ships avoid the Lakes in December, but this particular vessel was thought solid enough to stand up to even a December storm. Yet she disappeared in 1909, and there is no real information on what happened to her. The wreck has not been located (as of 2008), and is considered one of the most sought-after of the lost ships of the Great Lakes.
Beyond that, accounts differ slightly. Ratigan, p. 232, calls the ship the Bessemer & Marquette No. 2, and says it set out from Conneaut, Ohio to Port Stanley, Ontario on December 9, 1909. He says that 36 crewmen were lost.
Berman, p. 253, agrees with Walton in calling her the Marquette and Bessemer No. 2. He gives no date for the sinking except "December 1909." He says that 31 lives were lost.
Walton/Grimm/Murdock says only that all aboard were lost. It lists the ship as five years old, but Berman says it was built in 1905, which would make it four years old, and Ratigan also says it was four years old.
The ship is enough of a mystery that I found five web sites with details about the ship and the wreck. All seem to suspect the same problem: The Marquette and Bessemer No. 2 was a car ferry, designed to take on fully-loaded railroad cars and transport them across the lakes. This was possible because she had wide doors in the back of her hull, not much above the waterline. This would be no problem if the doors sealed tight, but it is suspected that they did not, and that the doors flooded in the 1909 storm.
Bourrie, pp. 180-188, produces a far more dramatic tale. His speculation is that a storm hit, and the ship was unable to make port, and wandered around the lakes for many hours, and as a result the crew mutinied. They then abandoned the ship in a lifeboat, which was found with ten men aboard, but all dead.
The evidence for this is very thin -- the fact that Captain McLeod's body, when it was found much later, seemed to have been injured, and the men in the lifeboat were ill-dressed for the weather and had seemingly stuck a knife into the rail of the boat. Bourrie thinks a good prosecutor could sell this tale to a jury; I think he'd be laughed out of courts. All that is certain is that everyone aboard -- believed to have been no fewer than 30 and no more than 36 men -- died. - RBW
Last updated in version 2.5
- Berman: Bruce D. Berman, Encyclopedia of American Shipwrecks, Mariner's Press, 1972
- Bourrie: Mark Bourrie, Many a Midnight Ship: True Stories of Great Lakes Shipwrecks, University of Michigan Press, 2005
- Ratigan: William Ratigan, Great Lakes Shipwrecks and Survivals, revised edition, Eerdmans, 1977
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