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Mason County Memories


"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus" ~ Mark Twain


History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News



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History Column 268 A number of years back there was a history correspondent by the name of Lenore Prince Williams who wrote quite a number of history columns. Many of these were direct interviews with early pioneers, lumberjacks and local sailors. Lenore started with the Daily News back in 1917 shortly after graduation from high school in Alpena. In 1934 she did a column titled "Windjammers and Lumber" that focused on an interview with long time lake Captain Allen Cory. Cory began sailing on the lake when Lincoln was still a thriving Village and operated the ferry between Ludington and Buttersville. One of the more unusual boats that Cory commanded was an old steam scow called the Helen Taylor. Originally owned by the Taylor Mill on the Buttersville Peninsula. Unusual because of its shape, it was dubbed the punkin seed in every port that the ship entered. Cory recalled the wreck of the Schooner Mercury near Pentwater, "The vessel, bound from Ludington to Chicago with a load of lumber was caught in the heavy sea with breakers running so high that the crew was in imminent peril of its life. During the afternoon the crew on the ill fated bark tried in vain to float a line ashore and a skiff was manned by three men, one of them was Henry Hawkins, and an attempt was made to reach the end of the line. They got near enough for Hawkins to reach the end of the line which he grasped just as the skiff capsized and all three were thrown into the water. Hawkins entangled in the line was drowned while the other two made it ashore safely." Captain Louis Henry Sterling began his career on the lakes as a cabin at the age of 10 years old. Being the son of a Ships Captain he worked hard, and his skill as a seaman grew until at age 18 he was able to secure his Captain's papers. At the time of the wreck of the Mercury Sterling was 21 years of age. He commanded the ferries Helen Taylor, Rival, and Cooper out of Ludington and also worked as a mate for the Pere Marquette Carferries for a time. "Discussing another wreck to which he was an eye witness Captain Cory called attention to the battered hull now half buried in the sand on the shore a mile south of the entrance to the Pentwater Harbor. "That is the remains of the Schooner gates", he declared. "She lay at anchor in the lake just off the piers waiting for a tug to tow her into the harbor to discharge her cargo. Nearer the piers lay the Schooner Monsoon. During the night a storm came up and both boats broke away from their anchors. "The Monsoon went ashore near the south pier and was not seriously damaged but the Captain of the Gates seeing his peril hoisted full sail and beached the vessel about a mile to the south where she still remains. People lined the piers and the beach all day watching the wreck and I was among the crowd." Captain Cory passed away at the age of 86 in 1942. At the time of his passing the Schooners which he sailed in his long career on the lakes had already preceded him. The last working Schooner on the Great Lakes the "Our Son" was lost in 1930. If you have photographs or stories you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240, email at davep@blackcreekpress.com or mail in care of Ludington Daily News PO Box 340 Ludington Mi 49431. Pic1 A Portait of Captain Louis Sterling Captain of the Schooner Mercury which was battered and pounded to pieces just south of Pentwater. Pic 2 The Mercury was a fine sailing vessel as you can see in this 19th century graphic depicting the vessel in better days.

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