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Mason County Memories

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

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david k petersen

History Column 300 PM 18 Centennial Dave Petersen This column is my 300th since I started writing it back in 2004 and this week marks the September 9th Centennial of the sinking of the Pere Marquette 18 about 20 miles off from Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Twenty nine lives were lost that fateful day. The story has been told many times over the years, the sinking garnered national attention at the time as the story was retold in publications across the Country. Even Popular Mechanics devoted a cover and story to the sinking, all of them asking the same question....... How did this ship sink? The investigation was hindered by the loss of every officer of the ship and the ship to this day has not been located, or if it has no one is talking about it. Speculation runs deep but no definitive cause has been agreed upon by all parties. The most common theory is that there was a loose plate or open deadlight allowing water to rush in too fast for the pumps. 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. Mail in care of the Ludington Daily News PO Box 340 Ludington Mi 49431 Pic 1 The Ludington Appeal's front page story led with the sinking, the loss of the PM 18 and her Master. Captain Peter Kilty was well known and liked. Officers of the day enjoyed a certain notoriety and were popular local celebrities. (Courtesy of Gladys Leedham) Pic2 E. Ross Leedham was the Chief Engineer of the PM 18, he along with his crew sealed themselves in and stayed in the engine room trying to keep up the steam and keep the ship moving and the pumps operating. They lost their lives in a valiant effort to save the ship, the engines still running as the ship slipped below the waves. Pic 3 Engineer Leedham's wife Grace and their two small children were still unpacking boxes and settling into their new home when they received the word that the PM 18 had been lost. According to the family she walked out to the end of the pier daily after the loss of her husband. (Courtesy of Gladys Leedham) Pic4 Their were several artist renditions of the sinking of the boat as Jacob Lunde as a young man was working aboard the PM 17 when that ship responded to the SOS and witnessed the sinking. Many of those who died were killed by falling debris from the explosion of the upper works as the ship sank or being pulled into the whirlpool and drown. Pic5 The Pere Marquette 18 is shown here in the Ludington harbor about the winter of 1905. Built in 1902 its loss was the worst disaster to strike the fleet. Ignoring tradition a replacement was ordered, renamed the PM 18 II, built within 90 days and launched. The new ship featured a 5 and 1/2 foot Seagate. Pic6 The cooks and some of the crew of the ill fated ship are posing for posterity. John Schraufnagel is sitting in the lower left front. He was but 23 years old and was one of those lost in the sinking. Details about most of the passengers and crew are scarce in particular the two stowaways from Detroit.

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