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Mason County Memories

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david k petersen

Ludington has had a love affair with the carferries for over a hundred years. Our maritime history goes back even farther but the carferries have remained a vital part of the community long after the last working schooner "Our Son" was lost 75 years ago and the other cruise ships were retired to the scrap yards. With this weekend being the annual carferry festival and that we will most likely have many new faces around town that may not know the background and history of the fleet I thought we would take a brief look at some of the Pere Marquette carferries that have called Ludington it's home port. The first steel carferry the Pere Marquette was put into service in 1897. In 1924 she was renamed the Pere Marquette 15, remained in service until 1930 and finally scrapped in 1935. The Pere Marquette 16 saw several owners and name changes in her career. She was built in 1895 as the Shenango Number 2, and was then renamed the Muskegon before being acquired by the Pere Marquette Railroad and renamed in 1901. The PM 16 was the only wooden hulled ferry in the fleet. Eventually laid up and sold to carry pulpwood she was renamed again as the Harriet B, converted to a barge in 1921 and sank in Lake Superior in 1922. The Pere Marquette 17 was built in 1901, laid up in the 1930's and eventually sold to the State of Michigan where she was converted, renamed The City of Petoskey and repainted white for use that the Straits of Mackinaw as an auto ferry until 1959 and was scrapped in 1961. In 1902 the ill fated Pere Marquette 18 was launched, this was a popular excursion ship and chartered out for several seasons in part because of her passenger accommodations. She sank September 10th 1910 with the loss of 28 lives, the cause of the sinking has been speculated for the past 95 years. Yet undiscovered, the location of the vessel when found may yield the clues to put this mystery to rest. Ignoring all tradition [and superstition] the ship which replaced the PM 18 lost in 1910 was also named the Pere Marquette 18 and put into service in 1911. She fared much better having a career on the lakes that spanned 4 decades before being scrapped. In 1903 the Pere Marquette 19 built in Lorain Ohio and the Pere Marquette 20 built n Cleveland were launched. Neither ship had been blessed with passenger accommodations, but they were however the first sister ships built to the same blueprint. The PM 19 was sold in 1940, converted to a barge and renamed Hilda. The PM 20 was sold to the State of Michigan, and like the 17 was used at the Straits of Mackinaw as an auto ferry. Renamed the City of Munising she also served until completion of the Mackinaw Bridge in 1959. She was finally scrapped in 1973. In 1924 both the Pere Marquette 21 and the Pere Marquette 22 were built at Manitowoc by the Manitowoc shipbuilding company with limited passenger accommodations. They would however both be refitted and the passenger cabins more then tripled to 40 in 1937. The PM 21 was sold in 1973, converted to a barge, carried the names of Esgran and then Consolidator before being caught by Hurricane Jean and sunk in 1980 off the Honduras coast. The PM 22 was sold in 1973 for service in Jamaica and renamed the Pegasus. In 1929 The City of Saginaw and in 1930 the City of Flint were launched. These were the new turbo electric propulsion that allowed them to reach speeds of 18 miles per hour. The City of Saginaw was sent to Wisconsin for an overhaul and caught fire while in Manitowoc. The damage was extensive and beyond repair, she was scrapped in 1973. The City of Flint operated until 1967, was sold in 1969 and converted to a barge by the Norfolk and Western Railroad. These ships were the heart of the carferry operations out of Ludington for the first part of the twentieth century. They made thousands of trips across Lake Michigan, carrying freight, families, railcars and trailers. They played an irreplaceable role in the memories and lives of the families who worked the boats and the families who traveled on them. It's a tradition that continues with the Badger and one that is celebrated during this festival. Where's Ludington? You know the place, it's on the Lake, with the big boat. Pic 446 The Pere Marquette 18 II ran agound near Manitowoc in 1926, the Pere Marquette 17 is taking on cargo to lighten the load on the PM 18 so she could be pulled free. 485 The City of Saginaw [left] and City of Flint [right] caught in a field of ice off Ludington. 536 Pere Marquette 22 as it lies in slip number 2 in Ludington

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