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Mason County Memories

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Lower Lakers History Column Dave Petersen We call them Lower Lakers, those behemoth's of the lakes that carry our iron ore, grain, We see them off in the distance most often, and occasionally close up when they bring a load into our little harbor. Today we are going to take a look at a few of the ships that plied the waters of the Great Lakes carrying their loads of ore and grain. Pic#1 The first ship is the Clemens A Reiss, originally built by the American Ship Building Co. in Cleveland Ohio in 1910, this ship sailed the lakes until it was scrapped in 1974. At 504 feet long and 54 feet wide this ship was a sight to be seen when it was launched. In 1910 there were still commercial schooners on the inland seas although they were fast fading into memory alone. It must have dwarfed the schooners, as well as other ships such as the Pere Marquette black boats, and what a marvel to imagine seeing the new ore boats, schooners, steamships, lightships and other such craft all at the same time in some of the larger harbors. Named after the founder of the Reiss Steamship Co, Clemens A Reiss was a German immigrant who operated a coal company in Sheboygan Wisconsin in the 1880's. Shipping coal at first in wooden schooners, and as the company grew they had facilities in ports all over the great lakes and a full fleet of ships. They operated until 1969 when the company was sold to the American Steamship Co. Pic#2 The Horace Johnson was built in 1929 for the Pittsburg Steamship Company in Lorain Ohio and operated for them from 1929 to 1952 when she was purchased by the U.S. Steel Corporation and owned by that company until being scrapped in 1984. She was 587 feet long and 60 feet wide. Pic#3 The Eugene P. Thomas was built in 1930 at River Rouge Michigan by Great Lakes Engineering Works for the Pittsburg Steamship Company and operated by them until 1952 when she was also sold to U.S. Steel Corporation and scrapped in 1984, The Thomas was a foot longer then the Johnson at 588 feet long and 60 feet wide. Pic#4 Originally built as the Andrew Carnegie in 1897 for the Wilson Transit Company. The Wilson Transit Company was formed in 1890 by Thomas Wilson, this company was a primary shipper of grain and ore on the Great Lakes for much of the first part of the 20th century until being sold in 1967 to Litton Industries. This ship was significantly smaller then some of our other vessels that were built at a later date. At 403 feet long and 48 feet wide the difference between the Thomas and Carnegie would have been quite noticeable. This goes to also show the progression in size of these ore boats over a short period of time. The Reiss was built at 504 feet in length in 1910 and the Thomas at 588 feet in 1930. Renamed in 1914 as the A.W. Osborne she served until 1946 before being scrapped. Ore boat construction such as we see in the William Delancey would eventually top 1000 feet in length. Pic#5 The Joshua A. Hatfield was built in 1923 for the Pittsburg Steamship Company in Lorain Ohio by the American Shipbuilding Company. They started out as the Cleveland Shipbuilding Company in 1888 before changing it's name in 1900 during a period of growth. Here we see the crew of the Hatfield posing in this circa 1935 photograph. The Hatfield was 586 feet long and 60 feet wide and served in the Pittsburg fleet until 1952 before being taken over by the US Steel Corporation where she also served until being scrapped in 1984. If you have any stories or photographs you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com

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