Keeper Charles Carlson
In 1890, Charles married Barbara (“Sommers”) Carland in Hasting, Minnesota. Barbara Sommers was born in Ohio in 1850. On the 14th day of September 1892, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Charles & Barbara’s son Frank B. Carland was born. At the time of my birth, my father was stationed at: “Milwaukee Lifesaving Station.” This particular station was situated in the “State of Wisconsin,” along the shores of: “Lake Michigan.” On the 21st day of November 1893, I became a: “United States Citizen.” My citizenship sponsor was Jacob Sinniger, Keeper-in-Charge of: “Jackson Park Lifesaving Station.” Captain Carland spoke fluent: “English” and he had an excellent understanding of the “English” language.
United States Lifesaving Service
They were all fine able body of men and each of them were: “Expert Boatmen’s.” Several of them were: “Seamen” before they were assigned to my station. During his long and outstanding career, Charles Carland received many accolades. Here is just one of them:
“Charles Carland is the right man and in the right place.”
The “U.S. Government” noted: Captain Carland was a well-rounded sailor. He had plenty of experienced and was a very reliable man for the position he held. The: “Government” noted, Carland is a self-made man, a born sailor and has the right stuff to run this station.
1898 Rescues (Milwaukee Lifeboat Station)
Schooner D.P. Dobbins (Capsizes)
In mid-June of 1901, it seems my good fortune ran out. On the 20th day of June 1901, the: “Minneapolis Journal” published a newspaper article in the: “Tuesday Evening.” The article that was published about me was rather large. The title of the article was: “Shipping New of the Lakes”
“Captain Charles Carland was being brought up on: “Insubordination Charges.” These allegations were brought against two of the Surfmen who worked at the Lifesaving Station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.”
The U.S. Government decided to review the: “Insubordination Charges.” During their review they found those two Surfmen innocent of all charges. Subsequently, with the finding in, both men were cleared by: “Secretary Gage.” He removed me from my position as Keeper-in-Charge. On the 29th day of June 1901, I received a tentative appointment as Keeper-in-Charge of “Plum Island,” however due to my record being under strict scrutiny, I was promptly transferred to: “Plum Island Coast Guard Station.” On the 11th day of July 1901, I was quickly transferred to: “Old Chicago Lifesaving Station.”
Tugboat Indiana (Assists in Rescue Efforts)
Old Chicago Lifesaving Station
According to several eye witnesses:
“Keeper-in-Charge Charles Carland was absent from: 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.”
Reason given for my absence was listed as: “Personal Business” Over the next few days it was business as usual around: “Old Chicago Lifesaving Station.” Crew members were working around the station. During the early morning hours, they were taking classes and spending time participating in: “Lifeboat Drills”.
Carlson & His Crew (The “Eastland Disaster”)
“The Steamship Eastland Was Sinking!”
Surfman No. 2, S. Nedeau was scheduled to leave the station at: 8:00 a.m. on: “Regular Leave” and return to lifesaving station at “Midnight.” Unfortunately his leave was: “Cancelled.” As I dictated my thoughts to William E. Preston, Surfman No. 1, he wrote this in the station logbook:
“We found the “S.S. Eastland” had capsized with a load of passengers aboard. We estimated there were approximately 2,500 people on board and eighty crew members at the time she rolled on her side and sank into the muddy water. We succeeded in rescuing eight-four passengers from the steamship. We had the “Grim” task of recovering: 574 bodies in and around the capsized ship.”
On Sunday morning the 25th day of July 1915, the crew and I left the lifesaving station at: 7:30 p.m. Our destination was the capsized: “S.S. Eastland” that was lying on her side in the “Chicago River.” This time I only had four Surfmen with me:
Today my crew and I will work: “Two Shifts” as per our directive from the Twelfth District Office. We will continue to drag the Chicago River for bodies. Keeper Carland note: “None Were Recovered Today!” During the afternoon we rendered all types of services to those working the wreck site. We moved our efforts further down river. We continued to drag the waters near the mouth of the Chicago River. At: 1:45 p.m., the crew and I found a purse that had: $2.00 in it. Inside was some sort of identification that was pretty water logged. As I reviewed the contents inside the purse, I noticed it belonged to “Katherine Kerbel.” According to one of the items in the purse Katherine resided at: 1036 North Karlov Avenue, in Chicago, Illinois. I later discovered that:
“Katherine Kerbel lost her life while aboard the S.S. Eastland.”
We turned the purse and its contents over to the “Chicago Police Department.” The crew and I arrived: “On Station” at: 5:00 p.m. I recalled that one of us fixed dinner. All of us sat down to eat ate. Once dinner was done we cleaned up and left the station around at: 6:45 p.m. We arrived back at the site of the disaster. Our orders were to continue dragging the Chicago River until: 10:00 p.m. On Tuesday the 27th day of July 1915, the: “Old Chicago Lifesaving Station” crew spent the entire day overhauling and cleaning the: “Power Surfboat.” The crew and I had to replace some of the mechanical gears that were worn down and rounded over. My crew also overhauled the engine and transmission of the surfboat. I decided to suspend all boat drills for the remainder of the day. The temperature at sunrise was list as sixty-five degrees. There was a light breeze blowing out of the northeast, the surf on the Lake Michigan was calm and it was raining.
“If Captain Charles Carlson had been paid $5K for each of the lives he saved or helped saved over his thirty years of dedicated service, Keeper Carland would have been worth some $250K, if he was instrumental in the preservation of some 5,000 lives?”
Cook County Coroner, Peter M. Hoffman talked about
Captain Carland’s character during this maritime tragedy. Cook County Coroner,
Peter M. Hoffman wrote:
“The Eastland Disaster saw “844 people” drown that day. This was one of the high spots in Captain Carland’s life! Charles and his crew of dedicated Surfmen saved the lives of eighty-four passengers and recovered some five hundred bodies from the capsized “S.S. Eastland.”
“For Value Services Rendered to the Coroner, Eastland Disaster 1915”
On the left is the S.S. Eastland docked at Wyandotte, Michigan in 1910, Courtesy of Paul E. Petosky “Private Collection”