Manitowoc, WI Steamship SUPERIOR Wreck, Oct 1887



Milwaukee, Wiss[sic].October 30 - The steamship Superior, arriving here last night, brought the first news of the total wreck of the large passenger propeller off Manitowoc, Wis. That the wreck is that of the propeller Vernon, of the Northern Michigan line, is established at most beyond doubt. She was due here yesterday, and from the description of the fragments seen by the crew of the Superior, her owners here consider her identity fully established. She had on board a crew twenty-two men and several passengers, the exact number not being known, and it is supposed that all hands perished. CAPTAIN MORAN, of the Superior, saw three or four rafts with men clinging to them, and also a small boat containing a woman and three men. Although he made an effort to rescue them, the high sea prevented the rendering of any assistance, the Superior herself being disabled, and requiring the crew's best efforts. It was about 10 o'clock in the morning when the first signs of the wreck, in the shape of the floating cargo and furniture, were seen. About an hour later rafts were sighted. On some the occupants were almost gone, while others signaled the Superior. CAPTAIN WILLIAMS of the schooner Joseph Paige, arrived last night at 9 o'clock, and reported having seen wreckage about six miles east of Two Rivers point, evidently of the passenger vessel. One of the crew saw a body, and a piece of the pilot house with a man on it was next seen. The sea was running so high that it was impossible for the Joseph Paige to get near enough to the man to pick him up.

CAPTAIN MORAN, of the steamship Superior, brought the first news of the wreck tonight. "I passed one man on a raft appealing for our help, another dying from exposure, and a small boat in which we could see one woman and three men, one waving a coat to attract attention, all being tossed about in the terrible sea, without our being able to render them any assistance, was heartrending in the extreme" said CAPTAIN MORAN. "We were also fighting for our lives. With the exception of the cooks, every man was down below. Our tiller had become disconnected from the rudder post leaving us at the mercy of the seas until we managed to rig up a temporary tackle. With this we kept our vessel out of the trough of the sea, and kept her before the gale. It was three hours before we could handle ourselves, and then we were out of sight of the shipwrecked men. There is a possibility that a large schooner coming up the lake after us may have picked up the persons in the boat. She was three or four miles astern of us, and I could see through a glass that she was heading towards them, but she may have been bound for Manitowac [sic] and could have passed without seeing them. There was little possibility that she could have taken the men off the rafts, and it is even doubtful if she could pick up the yawl in such a sea. If she could get close enough to throw them a line, as she scudded by, and they held on to it, there might be a chance for them to be saved. It was as heavy a sea as I have experienced in all my life on the lakes. The Sandusky which we had in tow, sometimes buried herself so that only half of her mast could be seen. Once she stayed under so long I thought she was gone."

Many will attribute the vessel's loss to overloading. Without a cargo she was a deeper draft vessel than any on the lakes and it was impossible to load here with profit to her owners without making her unseaworthy. In order to obtain great speed her builder sacrificed buoyancy and stability, and every experienced man who saw the Vernon after she was launched predicted that she would sooner or later meet with disaster.

News of the loss of the propeller Vernon was received among the Chicago vesselmen with great surprise as she was recognized by them as one of the staunchest boats for her size that was on the lake, and captains who had sailed her all agree that she should weather the roughest storm if handled properly. As the vessel had four good boats it is thought that some of the thirty or more aboard must have escaped. The night was freezingly cold. Nothing is known as to what passengers were aboard. The captain of one vessel reports passing three dead bodies near Three (Two?) Rivers. The vessel cost $65,000 and was insured for $37,000.

The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, GA, 31 October, 1887