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Mason County Memories

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david k petersen

Mail Ships History Column 204 Dave Petersen There were a number of ships that came into the harbor at Ludington that traveled and stopped at ports all along the Lake Michigan shoreline to bring us mail during the years when travel by road was more difficult if not impossible at times. Prior to the advent of the automobile and before our roads were improved, shipping packages, freight and mail by lake ships was the norm. There are several ships that stand out and they include the Missouri, the Kansas, and Illinois. The Missouri was built in 1904 by the Chicago Shipbuilding Company for Northern Michigan Transportation. She had a steel hull and was 225 feet long and 40 feet wide. The Missouri went through a series of owners; Michigan Transit Company took her over in 1918 and then in 1926 Ludington resident Warren Cartier purchased her and then in 1932 sold her to the Milwaukee Boat Company. In 1933 The Wisconsin and Michigan Steamship Company out of Muskegon purchased the Missouri and subsequently transferred her to the Sand Products Company which was the parent company that took over other ships such as the Nevada. As a side note the ships wheel from the Nevada was discussed in an article last year, we had hoped to find a donor who could purchase it for the new maritime museum but it appears that the wheel is now being offered to other collectors and will soon become what I would refer to as a lost treasure. One of the unusual aspects of the Missouri and Illinois (to me) is that in the ships history it was not renamed, but remained known as the Missouri until she was scrapped in 1947. The Illinois was built in 1899 by the Chicago Shipbuilding Company for Northern Michigan Transportation. She was a steel hulled ship, also 225 feet in length and 40 feet wide. In 1921 the Illinois changed hands to the Chicago Racine and Milwaukee Line. It also went through a succession of owners before being scrapped in 1947. The Virginia was a common sight in the Ludington harbor for many years. Having first been built by the William R Trig Company out of Richmond Virginia in 1902 for the Old Dominion Line she was sold in 1923 to the Pere Marquette Line. She was 201 feet in length and 39 feet wide and as you can see in the photograph had doors on the side f the ship. The Virginia could pull along side the dock next to the grain elevator and load and unload freight and even cars. The Nevada had similar features. The Virginia served on the Great Lakes for 50 years for several other concerns, after leaving Ludington for Muskegon in 1935 she was sold again in 1940, passed to the Philadelphia & Norfolk Steam Company in 1941 and then to the United States Government in 1942. After being sold to a foreign buyer in 1952 she disappeared from the rolls and her disposition is unknown. The Kansas is the oldest of the ships we are looking at today, she was built in 1870 as the Champlain by A.C. Keating in Ogdensburg New York and in 1888 was named the City of Charlevoix and then in 1904 as the Kansas. She was also the smallest of the ships with a length of only 135 feet she was more in line with the Black Boats of the Pere Marquette then her peers during the days of carrying mail. She was burned in Manistee Michigan while at dock in 1924. If you have any stories or photographs you would like to share with our reader please feel free to contact me at 757-3240, davep@blackcreekpress.com or in Care of the Ludington Daily News PO Box 340 Ludington Michigan 49431 Pic 1 This is a great view of the Illinois when she sailed for the Northern Michigan Line. The photographs came from an old album of a scout excursion to Portage Point at Onekama about 1915. Pic 2 Deck View of the Illinois showing the pilot house in detail. Pic 3 everyone ashore! Note the US Mail sign on the side of the Illinois. This photograph was taken near Benton Harbor. Pic 4 The Virginia taken, from a real photo postcard attributed to Erhardt Peters. Pic 5 The Kansas was originally built as the Champlain.

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