THE SUNDAY HERALD
Grand Rapids, Mich., Sunday Morning, September 11, 1910
UNCLE SAM TO PROBE WRECK OF CARFERRY
OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION TO BE MADE BY INSPECTORS IN MILWAUKEE
DEATH TOLL IS NOW 28
SURVIVORS TELL THRILLING STORIES OF THEIR EXPERIENCES - SAD SCENES IN LUDINGTON HOMES
Milwaukee, Sept. 10 - An official investigation into the causes of the foundering of the Pere Marquette carferry No. l8 will be made at once. The investigation was ordered today and will be in charge of the federal steamboat inspectors for this districtt. Frank Van Patten and William Collins.
DEATH LIST NOW 28
Ludington, Mich., Sept. 10 - It is now definitely known that Eli Colbean of Saginaw, who was reported among those missing yesterday after the fatal sinking of carferry Pere Marquette No. 18, is alive. He is here today and states that he was discharged by the Chief Steward the night before the fatal trip. This reduces the list of known dead to 28. The body of the unknown fireman which was taken to Milwaukee on carferry No. 20 yesterday is believed to be that of a coalpasser named Reed, a deaf mute, who owns a farm near Ludington. Some of the effects of John Henderson Stone, a seaman, were found floating near the wreck by the crew of the steamer Pere Marquette No. 6 but no one has been found who knows the man. By J.T. Hutchinson (Staff Correspondent)
Ludington, Mich., Sept. 10 - Of all the sad days which this city has experienced, none is equal to this, the day after the suspense and excitement following the plunge beneath the waves of Pere Marquette carferry No. 18, bearing with it to death at least 11 of its own citizens, among them some of the best-known men on the Great Lakes, besides 18 others. While the remaining ferries of the Pere Marquette fleet come into port and go out again on their trips, and although one of them is even going out and back, with but a few hours delay, on the time of the ill-fated ship, this business necessity does not lift the pall of sorrow which has fallen over the entire city. People as they have recovered from the first shock tall( in husky voices and speak of the dead in trembling words, for they all have lost loved, tried and true friends.
SCENE AT THE MORGUE
At the morgue a constant stream of people went in and out, viewing the remains of the six who were brought in by ferry No. 17 last night. There lay the body of brave Captain Kilty, bearing marks of injuries which caused his death, probably a very short time after he struck the water. On another slab lies the body of young S. F. Sczepaned, whose wireless calls for help sung into the stations along the west shore of the lake and into the station at Ludington until the waters swallowed him up. There are no marks upon his body and it is evident that he was drowned. On still another marble is the body of W. H. Cummins, Advertising Manager for the Chicago Navigation Company. His skull is crushed, and many additional wounds baout the head indicate that he was killed by the blowing off of the upper works of the steamer as she plunged down into the 300 ft. of water. In a little room was the body of Mrs. Marion Turner, said to have been the only woman aboard. Mrs. Turner's home is a mle or two in the country from Ludington and her sorrowing relatives removed the remains to that place late today. Mrs. Turner's last cat, as the ship pitched on end, was to clanber to the very topmost portion of the boat, and there, with her eyes uplifted and her hands clasped as though in supplication, her prayer beads entwined about her fingers, the maelstrom which marked the disappearance of the ship claimed her.
NEW HOME DESERTED
In the homes of those who wre so suddently taken away sad scenes were enacted. Teh new home of Chief Engineer Leedham was turned in a day from the scene of the bustle of moving to the silent weeping of a widow mouning for him whose body even she is deprived, for the brave husband took his last orders from Captain Kilty not 10 minutes before the fatal plunge and went down to death, battening up the hatch after him, for the prime purpose of keeping any water out of his engine room which might follow a giant wave, but at the same time with the knowledge that he was shutting himself in to sure death by locking the only possible exit for escape should the ship go down.
In another home is a pile of furniture, scattered here and there, just as it was left by the moving van, as they deposited it in the newly purchased house of Second Mate W. H. Brown. Brown and Captain Kilty were at the house just before the ship sailed and saw the first load of household goods unloaded at the new home, which he proudly told the people of the neighborhood he had just arisen from a sick-bed, a proud mother with a three-weeks-old babe.
EXPECTED HUSBAND ALIVE
Mrs. Brown was told that her husband had been saved and that he was coming on the No. 17. Instead the ship brought not even his body, but the news that Brown was in 300 ft. of water, locked in the bottom of the steel hull prison. She was frantic from grief and nothing could console her.
Captain Kilty's home was equally sad. A widow who had seen Peter Kilty start out in the wildest gales and always come home safely could scarcely believe that the battered form which ws brought back was that of the man who, just past 50, had left not many hours before in perfect health and with no thought of danger...There are also two sons and a daughter to mourn. In other homes there is sadness beyond measure and everyone in general will mourn long and refer to the sinking of Pere Marquette ferry No. 18 as Ludington's greatest tragedy.
WHAT CAUSED SHIP TO SINK
Though little by little points are coming out concerning the probable or possible cause of the sinking of the carferry, it is not likely that the exact conditions will ever be known. The giant ferry, the largest and finest on the lakes of this type of boats, was making her first trip after having returned from Chicago where she had been under charter by the Chicago Navigation Company as an excursion steamer between Chicago and Waukegon. The government inspectors looked her over and did not find the flaw, if there was one, which sent her to the bottom. Many extra men were taken on the trip as there was not time to fit out completely wth new carpets, etc. before putting out.
HURRY TO ESCAPE FRIDAY
There was a great rush to leave port because of a superstition of setting out on Friday. She cleared Ludington harbor a few minutes before midnight, the beginning of Friday.
Though one - and possibly more - of the dead light were open, it is not thought that what water could wash in in this way could have been beyond the capacity of the pumps.
There was a stiff norther blowing and the big ferry rolled heavily with her 26 cars of coal and merchandise. It was, so far as anyone of the survivors know, somewhere abut 4 o’clock on Friday morning when they learned that they were in trouble and that the pumps could not gain on the water in the after compartments. The theory that the ship would not float with one compartment filled had never been disproved and no onebelieved that there was any danger.
Slowly and so slowly as to be scarcely perceptible, the great hulk settled in the water as it rolled and pitched in the heavy seas, Frequent inspection, though there was no way of getting to the apparent hole somewhere aft, failed to show any improvement. Finally Captain Kilty decided to cast his cargo overboard.
CARS HUNG ON THE STERN
In this work the men experienced great difficulty. The first car pushed off the stern dropped down as the pair of trucks passed off the end and hung there, resting on the forward trucks and the middle. In order to push the car over it was necessary to ram it inch by inch until it finally toppled off and plunged to the bottom of the lake. This same process was repeated with each car and when 13, more or less, as no two survivors agree on the number, had been rammed overboard the craft appeared to have raised nearly two feet at the stern.
During this exciting period every man was notified to get up and those who could be pressed into service found plenty to do. The last two cars which the crew attempted to get overboard, in spite of repeated bumping and battering still clung to the stern of the ship when it went down.
A general theory advanced is that a plate on the giant hull may have become loosened during the summer while the ship was carrying its human freight of excursionists out and into Chicago and that the great burden of 29 cars of freight, 10 of them coal, she went lower and the water found the treacherous breach. With the heavy sea, a loosened plate lapped over another might cut its rivets like a monster chisel and thus make a breach which would let in a flood which would take any ship to the bottom. The strain of battering the cars off the stern may also have been too much for the rivets and thus have opened a seam.
Captain Kilty was one of the most skilled navigators on the lakes and knew his ship as a watchmaker knows a clock. She has plowed fields of ice impenetrable by any other craft and no storm was sufficient to keep him in port. The ferry was believed to be the most seaworthy of any style of craft afloat and even when the great boat was low in the water with a torrent water in her after compartment and the stern completely submerged, he and his crew had faith that they could reach port. With her stern dragging the ferry which can ordinarily make 13 to 15 miles an hour made much slower progress. This was further impeded by the overhanging cars.
An hour before the ferry sank, it was thought that she would in time have to be abandoned but later when the stern rose after having been lightened by the cast off cars there was joy aboard and the crew hurrahed and held a celebration over their narrow escape. The men went to the cook’s galley and ate sandwiches, drank coffee and were merry.
It was a grim death dance, as survivors now recall it, when men stripped some of them to their trousers with their life belts buckled on, laughed and jumped about holding a cup of coffee in one hand and a sandwich in the other.
After this the boat began to settle again and it seemed to be a race with death for the ship crippled to almost helplessness.
About 10 minutes before the craft took it’s sudden and fatal plunge, Chief Engineer Leedham - one of the best on the lakes - came on deck and held his last consultation with Captain Kilty. They talked for a few seconds in earnest conversation when Leedham turned, as though they had decided not yet to give up the ship, went down, closed the hatchway and on down the ladder to his doom.
The engine room was apparently free from water up to the last as the engines were still running when she went down and the stokers were still stuffing the furnaces. Captain Kilty went back to his place after his conference with the engineer and was there when the end came.
A HERO OF THE TRAGEDY
One of the heroes of the tragedy is Simon Burke, Wheelsman. He was at his wheel when the boat "blew up" and was frightfully cut. In spite of this Burke aided in saving those about him and was the last to climb aboard the rescuing sister ship No. 17 when she left port six hours after her arrival with the survivors and six of the dead.
ROLLED IN BLANKETS, PUT TO BED
As fast as the men were rescued from the water by the boats of ferry No. 17 and taken on board, they were stripped, rolled in thick blankets ready for them, given hot stimulants and put to bed. The men say that they were stiff, numb and exhausted from their long stay in the water and battle with the waves, and went immediately to sleep, not waking again until roused when the boat landed at Ludington and they were summoned before the examining officials of the Pere Marquette Railroad.
All of those who survived were without clothing except undershirts and trousers of thin material and were taken by the company officials to a clothing store in this city and provided with new clothes throughout.
All of the men though cut and bruised were able to get about with the exception of two - Thomas Shields and Mike Petroskey, both of Chicago. Both of these men are at Paulina Stearns Hospital where Shields seems to be suffering from internal injuries received by being struck by a large beam. Petrosky is in a state of collapse from exertion and exposure but it is thought he will be fully recovered in a day or two.
STORY OF A SURVIVOR
Ray Bickford of Alpena, one of the porters on the ill-fated ferry and who was one of the survivors, tells a most thrilling experience. "Just two or three minutes before the boat went down she began to settle rapidly and we knew she was sinking," he said, "Mrs. Rurner, the cabinmaid, was near me fully clothed with a suit of Captain Kilty’s clothes beneath one arm and her hand bag under the other with a package containing some dresses. She had her prayer beads entwined about her fingers. I tried to tell her that she could not be loaded down like that in the water but she refused to cast them away and I took all away from her by force except the beads which she said she would not give up. The suit of the captain’s clothes we had given her half an hour before that she might take off her dress and put them on as she would be better able to take care of herself with the man’s clothes. We urged her several times to go to her cabin and change, but she put it off too long.
PLANNED ESCAPE IN THE FACE OF DEATH
"During the very last moments we gathered about and discussed the safest way of getting away from the whirlpool which would follow the final plunge of the ship.
Seymore Cochrane of the Chicago Navigation Company, who was going back to Chicago after having delivered the ship over to the Pere Marquette Company after the summer season’s excursion run from Chicago to Waukegan and who had a bag containing between $500 and $600 in cash, threw the money on the deck of the boat and said anyone could have it who would take it. Standing near, an Indian looked at it and then at the sea. He picked it up and tried to crowd it inside his lifebelt but it was buckled around him too tightly and he carried it in his hand. Just then the boat listed to port and the water rushed over the stern. I sprang upon the rail and jumped. As the boat went down there was an explosion and men and parts of the upper works flew high in the air, I saw the Indian clinging to the money bag high in the air, and also a dozen other it seemed to me. Then the whirlpool took me under and I went down it seemed to me 100 feet.
SAW PEOPLE IN THE DEPTHS
"As I opened my eyes I could see men and timbers and splinters all about. A piece of the cabin rail struck me in the left leg rendering it useless. Two people struck me with their feet while I was down there. I tried to go toward the top and finally I made one final effort and saw daylight. It seemed as though I went up and down two or three and I thought it was all off.
"When I made my last struggle I was probably going up as fast as my cork belt would carry me but it seemed many minutes before I reached the surface.
"I came up near a life raft and climbed upon it. It was rigged with oars and row locks and had I been able to move I could have picked up two or three near me. My whole left side was cramped and I lay on my back until picked up, the rescuers first saving those not as safely fixed as I".
WENT BELOW TO INVESTIGATE
Herman Memrow, a coalpasser and deckhand, graphically tells of the last hour on the ship. "I went below with ‘Joe’ - Joe Bresniski, 1st mate - to investigate the report that water was coming into the after compartment and that the pumps could not keep pace with it. The place was almost full of water and we could not get to the deadlights, which someone said were open. We went on deck and Joe reported to the captain. I was on deck helping get the cars off the stern of the boat. Joe worked like a tiger handling the men and jacks and blocking like a man with the strength of a giant. We all made plans to be taken in tow by No. 17 and got a hawser stretched out ready to put on a life belt. We worked with these on, everyone stripped down to pants and undershirt. We got 13 cars off before she went down. Every man stuck to the last minute.
MANY BRAVE MEN
"I never saw such brave men. About a half hour before the boat went down we all went to the galley and ate. The ferry was rolling so we could not eat off a table, so we put beefsteak between slices of bread and ate. Everybody felt good for we thought we had got off enough cars to keep us from sinking. Some sang, others told stories and we all laughed about how near we had come to going down."
NEARLY DRAWN INTO SMOKESTACK
Grover Cooper, First Porter of Beardstown, Ill., one of the survivors, had a burned arm which in itself tells a story unparalleled. Cooper, when the boat went down, was near the stern but as the craft tipped on it’s end and sank in the whirlpool sucked him almost into the smokestack. One arm was drawn down in and painfully burned before the vise-like suction let him go. Cooper tells a story somewhat similar to other survivors of his experience in the water. He went down it seemed to him a hundred feet and was struck a dozen times by wreckage. He is an expert swimmer and while beneath the surface he saw people and debris all about him. He bears several cuts about the face and body.
SWAM TO NO. 17
"After I came up", says Cooper, "I started to try to swim to No. 17, I was pretty full of water, for who wouldn’t be with beams and boards and things striking you beneath the surface. It seemed to me I was hit a hundred times. Finally after I got to the top the big waves washed over me and I wasn’t on top more than half the time. In a sea like that a fellow like as not gets hit right in the nose just as he is about to breathe in some air. I finally swam alongside of No. 17 and they took me aboard."
EVERYTHING AFLOAT INSIDE
Leroy Anderson, Porter, of Waukegon, Ill., seems to have been one of the last to go below into the sleeping compartments of the crew.
"Everything was floating around. Mattresses and whatever was movable were slamming about against the sides. Two electric light bulbs, hung from above, were floating on the water, still burning. Some of the deadlights were open and water was coming in through them. In one of them the glass was broken out while we were in Chicago and someone had tried to shut up this with a piece of board. The water was splashing inthrough the portholes, too. Of course, I could not get down there and went back."
ONE THEORY EXPLODED
One of the theories concerning the loss of the Marquette and Bessemer No. 2 in Lake Erie last December was exploded by actual test in the present accident. It was stated when that ship went down leaving not a single survivor to tell the tale, that a string of cars on one side probably had broken loose and ran off the back end of the boat causing her to turn turtle. The absolute impossibility of cars running off the end of the ferry, even though it be almost submerged, was demonstrated when the crew on No. 18 attempted to run the cars off and were compelled to butt each one off as they caught and hung with the front trucks offthe stern.
The hulls of these ferries are made entirely of steel, there not being a piece of wood about them except that used in the construction of the upper works, and now that the theory that the Marquette and Bessemer No. 2 did not turn turtle from the sudden loss of one side of the cargo, the belief is that something happened to it similar to that which brought the fateful end to No. 18. The probabilities are that the bulkheads or air-tight compartments which are made of steel, must have been crushed in from the wash of water from the rear and that gradually filling in like a huge iron kettle, they went down with a mighty plunge.
The explosion which scattered wreckage in every direction is believed to have been caused from one of two things. Either the cold water when it struck the boilers, caused them to let go or else the air in the cabin which compressed by the water rushing on when the boat slid stern down with the bow almost straight skyward found an opening much as does the air in a paper bag filled tight, held shut at the end and struck between the hands.
All who witnessed the wreck and live to tell it state that there was a loud report and men and wreckage flew high in the air. Even milk cans in the refrigerator were seen on the surface within a few seconds after the boat foundered and indications were that the entire upper works were blown off.
SCZEPANEK SAVED ARIZONA SAME WIRELESS OPERATOR’S S.O.S. BROUGHT AID TO HER
Muskegon, Mich., Sept. 10 - Stephen Sczepanek, the Purser and Wireless Operator, who lost his life in the wreck of the Pere Marquette carferry, seems to have been fated to perish at sea. Sczepanek was the wireless operator on the Goodrich steamer Arizona, which nearly foundered in a heavy sea January 7 of this year. The Arizona was bucking a head wind about midnight three hours out of Chicago on the Chicago-Grand Haven-Muskegon run, when the cylinder head of the engine blew out enveloping the ship in steam and throwing the passengers into consternation. The young wireless operator sought the Captain immediately and was ordered to summon aid.
His "C.Q.D. " call was incessant and was the first answered from the Chicago office and then from the Indiana and Iowa, the sister ships of the Arizona, which were on the Chicago-Milwaukee run. The Arizona was helpless with no steerage way, drifting in the trough of the sea, with battened gangways.
It was by means of the wireless message sent by Sczepanek, repeated at intervals, that allowed the Captain of the Indiana to find the crippled boat, put a line aboard and keep her headed into the sea until the Indiana arrived and was enabled to attach a line and tow her toward Chicago until a tug could be sent to the rescue.
Several members of he crew of the Alabama which was in port today, knew the dead operator intimately and say he was one of the most conscientious and efficient operators in the employ of the United Wireless Company on the Great Lakes and they were not surprised to learn that he met his death at his post of duty.
Veteran vessel men here attribute the loss of the carferry to the leaving of a rear deadlight open. Their theory is that the vessel ran light to Ludington from Chicago with the port hole open for ventilation and that the crew neglected to close it before the cars were loaded aft and the water poured into the porthole, which was located close to the water line. They say a similar neglect came nearly very near sinking the carferry Grand Haven of the Grand Trunk line some years ago but the leak was discovered when the after compartment was about half filled with water. A seaman was sent below and closed the port by an almost super-human effort, standing in water to his chin. The neglect was noticed by reason of the water gaining rapidly on the pumps which were in full operation with the water rising in the well.
SOME OF THE SURVIVORS OF LOST PERE MARQUETTE No. 18
Henry Jensen, Racine, Wis.; Grover Cooper, Beardstown, Ill.; Jim Riley, -; August Page, Chicago, Art Preber, Chicago; T. R. Decker, Grand Rapids; Roy Anderson, Waukegon; Ray Bickford, Alpena, Mich.; Vanner Charleston, Buffalo, N.Y.
Second Mate Brown had just left his wife and 3-weeks old babe and a newly furnished home. His widow is in a critical condition from the shock. Brown’s body is probably still in the sunken hulk of No. 18.
HERO WHO WENT TO HIS DUTY KNOWING THAT DEATH AWAITED
E. R. Leedham - But a short time before the ill-fated carferry took her final plunge Chief Engineer Leedham, after a conference with Captain Kilty went to his duty below, fastening the hatchway to keep out the seas at the same time cutting off all possibility of his own escape.
COMMANDER OF LOST CARFERRY WHO FOUGHT AGAINST FATE AND THE ELEMENTS TO THE LAST
Captain Peter Kilty of Pere Marquette Carferry No. 18
Back to Remembering the Steamer, Pere Marquette 18
Launched: 03/29/98 Refitted: