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Mason County Memories

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Schooner History History Column Dave Petersen It was said that the wooden schooners of the 19th century were sailed by men of steel. It is a few of these boats that we will cover in today's column. Pic#1 The 3 masted Schooner J.T. Wing is shown here under full sail. Built in 1919 at Weymouth, Nova Scotia the Wing had 8 owners of record. Starting out as the Charles F. Gordon then the J.O. Webster the name was changed to the J.T. Wing in 1935 and the Oliver H Perry in 1938. After being purchased by the Detroit Historical Commission the name was changed again to J.T. Wing in 1946 and remained so until the end of her days. The Wing traded its waters of the great Lakes for a bed of gravel and served her final days as a Museum on Belle Island near Detroit. She was burned in 1956 to make way for a new Museum building. Pic#2 Lucia A Simpson Two of the schooners the Lucia A Simpson and the Lydia that sailed in our waters were built in Manitowoc by H. B. & G. B. Burger. The Simpson shown here in full sail and a full load of pulpwood. The Simpson was built in 1875 and was 127 feet long and 28 feet wide, she ended her days as a clubhouse for the Town Hall Yacht Club and was burned in 1935. We will quote a few paragraphs from J. B. Mansfield's " History of the Great Lakes. Volume II, Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1899" about the builders. "Henry B. Burger, the senior member and founder of the firm of noted shipbuilders, is a man who, early in life, attained to the technical and practical knowledge of his trade. He is considered one of the best shipbuilders on the lakes, and has the reputation of building the staunchest and finest fitted steamers afloat. It is from his yard that almost all of those well-built steamers, sailing under the flag of the Goodrich line, comes. "1873 he entered into partnership, under the firm name of Rand & Burger, a combination which continued in force until 1885, when Mr. Rand died. The firm was then reorganized, Mr. Burger taking into partnership a nephew, George B. Burger, the business then being carried on under the firm name of H. B. & G. B. Burger." This shipyard built an impressive number of schooners and steamships ( Steamer Petoskey) as well as barges and tugs such as the Frank Canfield for service on the Great Lakes. That wee familiar sights in our ports. Pic#3 The Lydia shown here on the beach in an early photograph with what appears to be a group of sightseers rather then sailors. Built in 1874 with a length of 80feet by 20 feet wide this sturdy looking ship was endorsed as being abandoned in 1907. The fleets of Schooners by that time were dwindling rapidly as huge numbers of wooden sailing ships were retired and scrapped in favor of the larger and more powerful steamships. The age of sailing schooners on the Great Lakes had all but come to a close by the mid 1920's. Pic#4 Our last illustration today is the North West, A Canadian Schooner; this ship was constructed in 1882 and by some standards fared a bit better then some of the other ships on the Lakes. The North West was converted to auxiliary gas and classified as a Yacht and managed to continue sailing until she foundered in Lake Huron in 1943. While the commercial Schooners that sailed the Great lakes have long been gone from our waters tall ships are still a sight to be seen thanks to groups like the Maritime Heritage Alliance whose goal it is to restore and preserve these grand ladies of the lakes. Maybe Ludington will someday become a home to one of these grand schooners to compliment the new Maritime Museum and enhance our Maritime Heritage. Something to think about. If you have any photographs or stories you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at davep@blackcreekpress.com or 757-3240. As a side note we have identified 19 of the 26 third graders in last weeks Longfellow School photograph.

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