The Storm of November 7-9, 1913
These gales became known as the “King of Storms” for good reason. Ships completely disappeared on four of the Great Lakes, including a government lightship and Canada’s largest and newest freighter. Over 250 lives were lost on the water, and several of the ships are yet to be found.
Lake Michigan is known for accidents that occurred in its northern island ‘chain’. The barges Halsted and steamer Louisiana were cast ashore on Washington Island. Louisiana caught fire and burned to the waterline. Its crew narrowly escaped and had to make their way through the isolated island for help. Just north of them was the crew of the barge Plymouth. This ship was deadweight for a tiny tug called the James Martin. The Martin was slowly sinking, and the crew signaled the barge that they were going to cut loose. The barge vanished only hours later. A bottle washed ashore near Hart, Michigan with a note inside. It said the tug left them ‘without ever saying goodbye’ and that the family of Christ Keenan should collect $35 owed to him by the shipping company. The Plymouth is still missing near Gull Island.
Another message came to shore near Buffalo, New York. It was from the captain on Lightship 82. He etched into a piece of cabinet that the ship was sinking fast. Strangely it was addressed “Goodbye Nellie”. His wife’s name was Mary. The entire crew was lost to the storm and it took months to finally locate the ship. It was rebuilt and sailed until 1935.
Lake Huron took the brunt of the 1913 Storm. Wheelsman Ed Kanaby was one of the last people to see the steamers Regina, Wexford, Price and Isaac Scott. Each sank with their entire crews. The brand-new 500-foot James Carruthers sailed out of DeTour and was never seen again. The Hydrus is also still missing. The steamers McGean and Argus were lost with their entire compliment, only to be found decades later upside down on the floor of Lake Huron. Kanaby would later disobey his captain and run the steamer HB Hawgood aground rather than take on another wave in the storm. His story is told in the song “The Wheelsman”.
Two other freighters on Lake Superior were also lost. The HB Smith left Marquette without even battening down her hatches. Captain Owen’s haste cost him and his crew the ultimate price. The Leafield is also still missing in northern Lake Superior. It was seen battered on the rocks at Angus Island before slipping into deeper water.