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Mason County Memories


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History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News



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Propeller Manistee Stuck in the Ice

Propeller Manistee

Our illustration today is from a photograph taken February 24th 1873 of the Propeller Manistee as it lay bound in a field of ice ranging from 5 to 9 feet deep and subject to the whims and mercies of the winds that would push the ice fields up and down the lakeshore from 1 to 18 miles out from shore from Big Point Sauble to Whitehall for weeks during the winter of 1873.

The photographers name was A.J. Lawson and he maintained a photographic Studio in Ludington in those early years.

The propeller Manistee was built in Cleveland Ohio by a shipbuilder by the name of Peck for N. Engleman of Milwaukee. Originally at a cost of 65,000.00. Adjusted for inflation the price would be nearly 780,000.00 and it would be hard to imagine that this same vessel could be built for that amount of money in the year 2005.

The Propeller Manistee made her debut in the Ludington Harbor on April 1st 1868 as reported in the Mason County Record "she came in with several colors flying and presented a beautiful and impressive sight" The Manistee joined the Messenger, Bertschey, and Barber, all boats of Engleman's Northern Steamship Line providing service to ports from Manistee, Ludington, Muskegon, Chicago, Milwaukee and more.

This description was furnished by the Editor of the Cleveland Press and published in the September 24th 1867 issue of the Mason County Record.

"The following are the dimensions of this new propeller: Length 162 feet, Breadth of Beam 27 feet, and two feet guards making 31 feet in all. Depth of hold 11 feet and will measure about 550 tons and will cost about 65,000.00. The frame is one of the strongest ever put in any vessel upon the lakes.

There is a beam on every frame, the topsides keyed together making the fastenings more ordinarily solid, Mr Peck introduced the new plan in the matter of keying which will undoubtedly add largely to the strength of the vessel frames. The bottom of the vessel is completely solid and will resist successfully a heavy pounding if she should ever be brought unto shoals or rocks.

The stern will be strengthened by iron and she is heavily braced forward. A watertight Bulkhead is built across forward, if her stern is completely stove in she will still float without difficulty. These extra precautions are necessary as this steamer is intended to run during the winter. The engine will be one of the very best celebrated make of Cayuga works the cylinder is 37 x 32 inches she will have two boilers. The fire hold will be entirely cased in Iron rendering it completely fireproof . When finished she will be placed on the route between Milwaukee Muskegon and Manistee."

The Manistee and another ship of the same line the "Messenger" were put to the test during the winter of 1873 when they became ensnared in fields of ice up to nine feet thick. The Manistee had already been stranded about four weeks at the time this photograph was taken and was about 8 miles off the Ludington shore. Now let that thought sink in for just a minute. Lawson, as well as Silvers both Ludington photographers ventured out 8 miles onto the ice floes with their cameras, and they weren't pocket sized Kodaks to take some very rare and what are early views in treacherous conditions.

Needing supplies the crews of these stranded ships would also venture out when they were close enough to shore and a village where they might secure food and fuel. It was reported in the February 26th 1873 edition of the Mason County Record that Captain Morgan and nine of his crew ventured out across the ice and landed 3 miles south of Ludington. The journey took 7 hours and they drug a boat with them so that they would have a way across the intervening open spaces of water.

The Manistee at that time was in the middle of a field of ice a mile or more in diameter with no immediate hope of being freed. Captain Morgan reported that the crew was in good spirits in spite of being ice-olated. It would appear that their sense of humor was intact as well in spite of having to pack 400 pounds of supplies back to the ship.

She continued to drift with the ice for several weeks from Grand Haven to Little Point Sauble to Lincoln and it was reported by the March 26th 1873 Record that on Sunday March 24th she steamed into the Ludington Harbor. The accounts of the Manistee were of great interest, and a story with photographs taken by Silvers Studio were to have appeared in the New York Illustrated Daily.

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