Crisp Point Lifesaving Station (Shipwrecks)


I decided to do something different with this post. I took a long look back at the history of another one of the Lifesaving Stations along Lake Superior rocky coast. I hope you enjoy this post?

Saturn: 233 ton Schooner Wooden Barge, built and launch out of Jerusalem, Ohio in 1872.
Story: The Saturn was lost in a storm on the 27th day of November 1872. She was grounded just west of Whitefish Point, and according to all reports she was closer to Crisp Point.
Lost: The entire crew, the load of iron ore were lost to Lake Superior anger and violent furry.

J. L. Crane: Launched from Marine City, Michigan in 1891. She was a well-constructed Lumber Schooner-Barge. Her overall length was 187 feet and had a cargo capacity of 548 tons.
Story: This fine vessel had many mishaps and disasters as a lumber-hauler including a near fatal fate along Lake Huron in 1898. During 1898 she was known as the Fassett. On the 5th day of November 1925 the Steamer Herman H. Hettler had the J. L. Crane in tow. During the month of November winds can reach over 80 miles per hour and for those who travel this rugged coastline call the winds the “Gales of November”. Those gale force winds can play havoc with any vessels trying to make it safety. Well the J. L. Crane was caught in one of these stormy and violent blowing gales. Witnesses to the event said: “The J. L. Crane was on the opposite side of Crisp Point Lifesaving Station and was riding the waves until this huge wave came crashing down upon her.” The J. L. Crane broke her towline as the huge wave hit her hard. The force of that wave alone caused the J. L. Crane and her crew of seven to the bottom of Lake Superior.         
 Lost: All seven on board the J. L. Crane perished instantly. Witnesses said: “The only thing that was visible from the J. L. Crane was her broken mast sticking up just above the water.”

Indiana: Bulk Package Freighter launched from it's slip in Vermilion, Ohio sometime during 1848. The freighter measured 146 feet in length and a had load capacity of 350 tons. 
Story: In Marquette, Michigan the Indiana was loaded down with 280 tons of iron ore. On the 6th day of June 1858 the Indiana began taking on water through her aft section just 3.5 miles north of Crisp Point. Speculation on how the Indian was damage has been linked to a severe storm with huge waves of water that cracked the stern post and damaged the seal around the propeller shaft. While making their usual inspections rounds, one of the ship’s crew called to the captain after he noticed water leaking through the damaged propeller shaft. The captain instructed his crew to start pumping out the incoming water. The ships pumps couldn’t handle the amount of water entering the Indiana. The captain’s next order to this crew was to start bailing. Even with their best efforts to counter act the  situation the water continued to rise. The ship, her crew and the load of iron ore sat floundering in the water and eventually sank to the bottom of Lake Superior.
Lost: The captain and her crew were fortunate, because their lives were snatched from the jaws of death by the lifesaving crew from Crisp Point. In 1972 or 1975 during a sport diving expedition the Indian was discovered in about 118 feet of water just off Crisp Point. In 1979 the Indiana’s wrecked engine, fire pot containing partial burned wood, power train, propeller, wooden timber and boiler were recovered by the Smithsonian Institute, United States Army Corps of Engineers, Michigan Department of State, United States Navy and representatives from various Great Lakes Maritime Institutes managed to salvage a great deal of the Indiana. You can see all these items on display in Washington, D.C.

Phineas S. Marsh: Was a Bulk Freighter Schooner that was launched in 1867 from Black River, Ohio. The Marsh had a hauling capacity of 543 tons.
Story: The schooner was down bound from Portage, Indiana and was laden with a full load of limestone blocks according to Captain Somerville logbook:

“On the 25th day of August 1986 was a horrid and chilly night. The winds were blowing so strong that it cut a man’s skin raw. The winds were from the north and the night was an endless black hole with zero visibly. The waves were pounding the shorelines along the west side of the beach near Whitefish Point. The Phineas S. Marsh was making her way eastward under what would be described as very unfavorable conditions. The old schooner hull was being heavily battered by the ensuing waves. As the waves continued batter her old hull, the crew down below started to notice failures in the main hull and structure. As the Marsh began to leak her steerage capabilities were also lost as she was slowly being driven towards the breaker about five miles west of Crisp Point.  As time went on the Marsh continued to take on water, which slowed her progress down to a snail’s pace. Captain Summerville ordered the crew to the rigging in hopes of bringing her about. Captain Summerville was convinced his ship would either sink or be stranded about ½ a mile from shore if this trend continued on. The crew started to light torches in hopes of  someone might see the vessel floundering in the heavy seas of Lake Superior. The Marsh final fate came as heavy winds and seas blew onto the shallows along Lake Superior. The Marsh was dashed to pieces as she struck the shallows near Crisp Point on the 26th day of August 1896. The Marsh’s crew clung to the rigging as she went down.
Lost: The United States Lifesaving Service local crew from Crisp Point gave a magnificent rescue effort, just prior to the shipping going under.

Shelden E. Marvin: Lumber Schooner-Barge launched from Marine City, Michigan in 1882. Marvin was 177 foot long with a lumber hauling capacity of just a little less than 618 tons.The Marvin ran into the one of the biggest storms ever recorded on the 19th day of November 1914, which destroyed this great old barge.  
Story: Sheldon Marsh was laden down with a load of lumber. Her fellow barge called the Annie F. Peterson was in tow with another lumber barge called the Hooker C.F. Curtis. The three vessels were immediately blinded when the screaming gale force winds struck, with heavy snow and wind driven icy spray. As a result each of them became separated from one another. Each of them lived out their final hours in dramatic form.
Lost: The Marvin had the most mysterious end. She was apparently ripped apart by the combinations of heavy seas and those gale force winds. Wreckage from the shattered Marvin was strewn all along the beaches near Crisp Point and continued on as far east end of Grand Marais, Michigan. This wreck was tragic not only was the Marvin scattered everywhere, her entire crew was missing. The remains of the Marvin’s crew were never found.

Montgomery: Bulk Freighter Schooner Barge, 204 feet long and capable of caring 709 tons of cargo. She was launched in 1856 out of Newport (Marine City) Michigan as a passenger/freight steamer converted to a schooner in 1879. Her registration stated she was owned by A. Hitchcock from Port Clinton. This converted vessel has served her maker for over 45 years as a steamer schooner and then a schooner barge, when she finally met her fate off the shores of Crisp Point Lifesaving Station on the 19th day of October 1901.
Story: She was in tow with the steamer Leland when they were both struck by a heavy gale. The Montgomery towline suddenly broke. The crew of the Montgomery made a valiant effort to reconnect her to the Leland. It was soon apparent the lumber laden Montgomery was going to strike a sand bar just off the rocky coastline. The Leland went on to Whitefish Point, where the captain of the Leland reported the loss of the Montgomery. The Leland went back to pick up the Montgomery’s crew that same day. From all accounts the Montgomery was pounded in place by the violent gales. The high rising waters extinguished her boilers and the crew of the schooner made a valiant fight to save their ship, but as time went on the crew knew the ship was doomed to the rugged Lake superior coastline. The rocky shores and heavy seas caused the Montgomery to collide with such force that when she hit all anyone could see were pieces of what was once a great old wooden sail vessel.
Lost: All lives were saved thanks to the efforts of the Leland crew; however the captain loss his faithful and loyal companion Duff. The events leading up to the sinking of the Montgomery and the death of Captain’s dog are still somewhat questionable.  For some reason the dog wasn’t unaccounted for during the rescue operation. One of the surfmen from Crisp Point told the captain that maybe Duff swam ashore, but the despite the surf man’s reassurances, Captain M. M. Duff figured his companion went to his water grave. The surfmen kept looking along the beach but despite their best efforts the dog was never found.

Neshoto: 284 foot wooden steam freighter built in 1889 and launched out of Cleveland, Ohio. Her total capacity was 2,225 tons and she was 284 feet long. The steam freighter was stranded on the 27th day of September 1908 about 2.5 miles northeast of Crisp Point Lighthouse and Lifesaving Station. The events of that day the Neshoto sank are as follows:
Story: The Neshoto was one of several vessels that were blinded by the smoke and ultimately destroyed by because of heavy smoke from nearby forest fires. The freighter was down bound on Lake Superior with a full load of iron ore in her holds. She sailed into a big plume of smoke from the fires to the southwest. The Neshoto unable to find her bearings, she was forced to steam right up to the shallow waters near Crisp Point. Due to the blazing inland forest fires any type of rescue efforts were hampered because of the heavy smoke. The crew out of Lifesaving Station No. 10 (Crisp Point) made a valiant rescue attempt. There heroic efforts paid off, the lifesaving crew managed to save the entire crew from the Neshoto. The good news was no lives were lost, and the steamer was thought to be recoverable, but a storm struck a few days later and tore her limb from limb.
Lost: The Neshoto was declared a total lost. The wreckage stands in about 15 feet of water along Lake Superior shoreline.

Plymouth: She was a Lumber Schooner that was lost between Grand Marais, Michigan and Crisp Point. The Plymouth was lost as she floundered in a heavy gale on the 24th day of October 1888.

Steamer Barlum, Thomas: On the 7th day of August 1915 ran aground near Crisp Point Lifesaving Station. Sources told the Marine Review, no one was uninjured and the steamer was released from shoreline unharmed.

Miztec:  A 186 foot Steamer called the Myron was towing a 202 foot Schooner-Barge named the Miztec. The Miztec was launched in 1888 out of Grand Marais, Michigan, and her cargo held about 2 million board feet of lumber. The Miztec cargo capacity was one million board feet of lumber. Captain Walter Roger Neal, his crew of 17 and the captain piloted the Myron.
Story: Captain Walter Neal decided to make a run towards Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan on that faith full day in November 1919. Unfortunately the Myron and the Miztec were running head long into the teeth of a violent storm. The storm came along Lake Superior around 14:00 hours, with winds blowing out of the Northwest at some 60 miles an hour. The crew of the Myron noticed the vessel was leaking badly. The sump pumps in the cargo hold were having a hard time keeping up with the rising water line below her deck. Captain Neal decided to run the Myron close to the Miztec. Neal’s though process was to get close enough to the Miztec in order to let the barge captain cut the towline. Neal hoped by cutting the line between the 2 vessels it would allow him to make better progress in the violent storm. Captain Neal knew there was slim chance that both vessels could collide during this tricky maneuver. As the violent storm continued to rage along Lake Superior shorelines, the Myron found herself in deeper peril. The bitter cold caused large formations of ice on the Myron. Heavy seas, splashing waves across her top and lower decks cause her to run deeper than normal. The weight of the ice and the continuation of leaking water caused the Myron to run deeper in the lake. These conditions and the on slot of the winds continued to slow the Myron’s progress. Captain Neal ordered all steam engines ahead full in order to gain speed while battling the storm. The Myron continued her battle with the raging storm; unfortunately, she was losing the fight. The extra weight of the ice and the lake waters pouring into her holds only continued to slow the vessel down even faster. Captain Neal hoped they could reach safe harbor in the calmer water near Whitefish Bay. According to Neal, he and his ship only had a few more miles before they would reach safety harbor, however as time went on things were getting grimmer by the minute for the Myron and her crew as they struggled just off Crisp Point. The sea continued to worsen as they struggled off Crisp Point. Captain Neal gave the order to start sending out distress signals as the crew continued to battle the rising waters in her holds. At around 4:20 p.m. with darkness approaching and the center of the storm fully upon them now, Captain Neal gave the order to his crew to man the lifeboats. The crew from the Myron were split into two lifeboats and put into the stormy seas in record time. As with all captain’s Neal decided to stay with his ship as the lifeboats were launched. The crew pleaded with the Captain to get into the lifeboat, but he refused. According to his crew before they launched, Captain Neal’s last words were:

“I will go down with this ship if need be”.           

Five minutes after the lifeboats were launched the Myron sank. As the Myron continued her downward trend to the bottom of Lake Superior, the crew commented they could see the boiler fires go out as they were sunk below the waterline. As the wooden pilothouse was torn from her hull as the raging waves engulfed the ill faded ship. The crew watched in horror as Captain Neal held onto the ships wheel in the pilothouse as the wave continued to takes its toll on the Myron. The crew saw the pilothouse and Captain Neal disappeared into the darkness of Lake Superior.
Rescue efforts were underway, the Adriatic and the H.P. McIntosh (Coast Guard Vessel) were working their way through the lumber infested waters of Lake Superior. Both vessels were forced to dodge the floating logs in an attempt to save the crew stranded in the Myron’s lifeboats. Arriving first was the McIntosh with hopes of rescuing the crew stranded in the lifeboats, but because of the heavy seas and floating logs their rescue efforts failed. The crews stranded in both lifeboats were lost even though the crew from the McIntosh was able to get a line to one of the lifeboats. The winds, heavy seas and nightfall approaching fast caused the lifesaving efforts to stop as the 2 lifeboats disappeared into the night.
            On the 23rd day of November 1919 around 12:00 noon Captain W.C. Jordan from the Steamer W.C. Franz sighted the Myron’s pilothouse floating in the water. Captain Jordan saw Captain Neal’s nearly dead body lying on the top of what was left of the Myron’s pilothouse. Captain R. Neal and the pilothouse were found near Parisienne Island on the Canadian side of Whitefish Point. Captain Jordan thought by all indications the man was dead. He ordered the lifeboat crew out to the vessel in order to conduct an investigation. As Captain Jordan’s rescue team assembled Jordan kept a close watch on floating pilothouse and the body perched on top. As Captain Jordan kept his vigil, he noticed a slight movement in Captain Neal’s hands. The United States Coast Guard continued their search for the other seventeen members of the Myron’s crew. The crew of seventeen was never found and the search was called off.
Lost: Several days later a tug off Whitefish Bay found nine of the Myron’s crew frozen and hulled close together in one of the lifeboat. During the spring of 1920 the other eight bodies were found melting on the icy shoreline near Salt Point. Their remains were laid in a pine box made at a nearby mill and transported to an Old Indian Cemetery at Mission Hill which overlooks Iroquois Point, Michigan.

 Unnamed Scow: Lays two miles east of the station and approximately 1/4 of a mile off shore. There is one unknown wreck that sits approximately one mile north of the Crisp Point Lifesaving Station.

As the odds go most of the shipwreck victims weren’t expected to survive due to the frigid waters of Lake Superior. In most cases victims were thrown overboard or forced into the water as their ships sank to the bottom of Lake Superior. Depending on your body type hypothermia takes only five minutes before you sarcoma to unconsciousness or death. 
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