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Mason County Memories

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david k petersen

I was fortunate enough recently to come into the possession of a number of newspaper articles, photographs and negatives that had belonged to Captain Alan K Hoxie who for 58 years sailed on the Great Lakes starting first as a deckhand aboard the lumber schooner H. M. Avery in 1896. When he started working aboard the lake boats at the end of the 19th century the only navigational aid was the compass and the stars above. In his 58 years working aboard some of the grandest ships of the Great Lakes Captain Hoxie saw many changes, starting with the diminishing of the schooner fleet that dwindled from 3,000 ships to the end of "Our Son", the last working schooner on the Great Lakes in 1930. The old schooners were replaced by increasingly larger steam powered, coal fired and steel hulled boats in less then 30 years. According to his Ludington Daily News obituary on February 2nd 1963 he longed to sail on the lakes as a boy and that " Boyhood dreams of sailing came true for Captain Hoxie at the age of 17 when his parents out for a buggy ride after the family had moved to South Haven saw the H M Avery heading into Lake Michigan under full sail not knowing that their son Alan was aboard." Alanson "Alan" K. Hoxie was born in Raymond Iowa August 12th 1879 and once he set out to sail and work on the Great Lakes he probably spent more time on the water then on land. After working as a deckhand aboard the Avery by 1900 he was engaged and married Mary Elizabeth Chatfield on December 26th 1900 in Paw Paw Michigan. Alan and his wife had two children, a son A. Preston and a daughter Marion. By 1903 Hoxie had worked his way up to second mate and was serving on the Dunkley Williams Steamship City of South Haven that had just been completed in 1903 by the Craig shipbuilding Company in Toledo Ohio Looking forward and always attempting to further his skills and expertise Alan secured his pilot's license in 1903 and his Master's license in 1906. He took his first command, that of the City of Kalamazoo in 1906. He filled in temporarily and did not serve full time as Master of a lake boat until 1910. He is mentioned as Master of the Glenn in 1907 and that he continued working for the Graham and Morton Steamship Line until the end of the 1909 season when he left to go to work for the Pere Marquette Line out of Ludington. Hoxie went to work for the Pere Marquette Line in 1910 as Captain of the PM #4 and from that point on he always sailed as a Ships Master. He was master of the PM 4 from 1910 to 1913 and again in 1920 after the loss and sinking of the PM 3 on March 7th 1920. Hoxie was named Captain of the PM #3 in 1913 and on March 7th 1920 was on vacation for a month when his substitute Captain McCauley took the ship out and it was caught in a field of ice just outside of Ludington along with the PM 17 and 18. The loss of the ship and cargo reportedly almost put the owners out of business. As the story goes this was the only vacation the Captain ever took when his ship was in operation and that the ships under his command never left port without him after the sinking of the PM 3. Hoxie is quoted as saying " I never lost a life or a ship" and it was a record that he was proud of. One of our illustrations is a postcard photo of the sinking and on the back we quote what was written by Hoxie in his own hand " Steamer Pere Marquette 3 crushed in the ice and sank off Ludington Harbor on the night of March 7th 1920 at 10:30 PM and stayed in this position, her bow held up by ice until 10 AM Tuesday March 9th 1920 when she sank leaving the top of the pilot house smoke stack and spurs above the water and which was carried away two days later by the moving ice. The carferry to the right [PM 18] was only one hundred feet away and is the one that the crew went aboard that night. The 3 had run across Lake Michigan for 32 years winter and summer." As Captain of the PM 3 he weathered his first great storm and was later quoted as saying "In 1913 we [the PM No. 3] were caught in the blow soon after leaving Milwaukee bound for Ludington where we laid for the rest of the storm". In another mishap the captain and bridge crew had to make a jump for their lives. When coming out of Milwaukee and coming under the Broadway Street Bridge, it [the bridge] was caught by a heavy gust of wind and dropped down removing the pilot house and texas deck. The ship was repaired by the City of Milwaukee. The PM 3 had been built in Gibralter Michigan by the Detroit Dry Dock Company in 1887. It was a wooden hulled boat 190 feet long and 32 feet wide. The PM 3 was raised by the tug Favorite in July of 1920 and towed to Manitowoc Wisconsin. The Ship was declared a total loss. END of part 1

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