June 29, 2015
June 13, 2015
“She was built in 1880 [by Linn & Craig in Gibralter, Michigan] and has been unfortunate from the start. Two years ago [in 1891] she was wrecked near Detour [at the north end of Lake Huron], and remained on the rocks all winter, being abandoned to the underwriters, who finally rescued the wreck and sold it.”
~ Buffalo Evening News Monday, October 16, 1893
Historic Arcadia Michigan tells the tale of The Wreck of the Minnehaha:
In October of 1893, the steam barge Henry J. Johnson was towing the Minnehaha from Chicago bound for Point Edward at the south end of Lake Huron with 58,000 bushels of corn. At 7:30 PM on October 13, the two ships found themselves off Point Betsie facing 90 mile per hour gale force winds. They tried to find shelter behind the Manitou Islands, but at dawn the next day, they were still south of Sleeping Bear Point fighting high winds and waves to stay out of shallow water.
Captain Benniteau of the Johnson decided to turn the ships south and head to Frankfort, the nearest refuge. However, somewhere near Frankfort high waves crashed over the Minnehaha’s deck, smashed two hatch covers, and began filling the hold with water. William Parker, captain of the Minnehaha, realizing his ship was in serious trouble, sent up distress signals, released the tow lines, and headed for the beach. There was nothing the crew of the Johnson could do but avoid the same shallow water.
The Minnehaha ran aground about a quarter of a mile offshore between Burnham and Arcadia. To avoid the waves sweeping the decks, all but one member of the crew, who drowned trying to swim to shore, climbed into the ship’s rigging. As the ship was breaking up, the captain called to the crew to grab whatever would float and go over the side anyway. But only the captain made it to shore safely. One crew member made it to a pier, but was too tired to hold onto a pole used to try to pull him to safety.
Read on for much more including photos of the Minnehaha.
More Michigan shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures!
June 9, 2015
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore tells the rich tale of the ghost town Aral:
Aral was located on Lake Michigan where Otter Creek empties into the Lake just south of Esch Road, a few miles south of Empire, MI. Today this is one of the most popular swimming beaches in the Lakeshore, but in the 1880s, Aral was a booming lumber town!
When the United States acquired land, it first had to be surveyed before it was made available to individuals. In the summer of 1849, Orange Risdon was one of the surveyors assigned to the area around Grand Traverse Bay. In 1853 soon after he finished the survey, Risdon and his wife, Sally, bought 122 acres where Otter Creek emptied into Lake Michigan.
The US Civil War began in 1861, and to induce able-bodied men to join the Union forces, the US government offered $100 bounty to men who enlisted. By 1863 the bounty was increased to $300, and finally a draft was instituted. An interesting provision of the draft act allowed drafted men to avoid service by hiring a substitute or by paying $300. One of the men receiving draft notice was Robert F. Bancroft, who was married and 30 years old. He chose to take advantage of this provision by hiring a German immigrant to take his place as a soldier, but interestingly he followed his replacement to the battlefield. Instead of carrying a gun, he brought his camera and became one of the first battlefield photographers.
Following the war, the veterans returned home, and Robert Bancroft settled with his wife Julia and daughter Anna in Traverse City. He began buying land in Platte and Lake townships as investments and in late 1864, he bought the 122 acres from Orange and Sally Risdon of Saline, MI.
Bancroft cleared 20 acres and built a log cabin for his family to live in. Then he planted some black locust trees and an apple orchard around the cabin. Lumber speculators soon arrived looking for stands of white pine. Most of the forest in this area was hardwood, but there were some stands of white pine inland from Otter Lake. By the late 1870s Daniel Thomas bought a 5-acre parcel on Lake Michigan south of Otter Creek, but he decided to build a house across the road from the Bancroft’s. Lumber speculators were on their way north as the forests near Grand Haven and Muskegon were harvested.
…By 1883, the lumber business was booming and the town was growing. A post office was required. The community was known as Otter Creek – the “Krik” by locals. When they applied for a post office, their name was rejected because there was already an “Otter Creek” in Michigan. “Bancroft” was the next suggestion, but again the name had already been used. One of the workers suggested the name “Aral” because of the beautiful Aral Sea in Europe. Locals continued to call it Otter Creek though. Dr. Frank Thurber was named the first postmaster. Keep his name in mind, for he too would play a central role in the murder.
Murder you say? Indeed – read on for lots more…
June 6, 2015
June 3, 2015
NPR has a feature on the upgrades to the SS Badger that allow the car ferry to continue to operate between Michigan and Wisconsin on Lake Michigan:
A slice of history sails across Lake Michigan, carrying cars between Ludington, Mich., and Manitowoc, Wis. It’s the SS Badger: the largest coal-fired passenger ship still operating in the United States.
For years, the ship was the focus of environmental scrutiny because of its practice of dumping waste coal ash directly into the lake. The pollution nearly stopped the Badger from steaming again — but now, the ash-dumping has ended.
…After decades of letting the Badger pollute the lake, the Environmental Protection Agency issued an ultimatum: Stop dumping or be grounded.
Finally, this off-season, the boat’s owner installed a $2 million solution: a set of blue pipes that collect ash each trip, about 500 tons per year. Once a week, that ash gets trucked to Charlevoix, Mich., for use in making cement products.
You can get all the info on the Badger right here. For an added dose of awesome in your day, check out The Steamer 43 Song by Pete Host, featuring photos of the SS Badger on Absolute Michigan. It’s from a 45 Pete recorded in the early 70s about a sailors life on the C&O carferries out of Ludington, Michigan. With his spare time aboard the Badger, he learned how to play the guitar, and in just a few months, went to Milwaukee Wis. and recorded this song.
More Michigan ships and boats on Michigan in Pictures.
April 20, 2015
We can call it “Shipwreck Sunday” – With Lake Michigan ice gone for the season the crystal clear, deep blue waters of northern Michigan are back (albeit still VERY VERY cold at an average of 38 degrees).
During a routine patrol this past Friday, an aircrew captured these photos of a handful of the many shipwrecks along the Lake Michigan shoreline. These photos were taken near Sleeping Bear Point northeast along the shoreline to Leland, Michigan up to Northport.
Information on the shipwrecks is scarce, please post if you recognize any of the photographed sites.
View the Coast Guard’s photo bigger and click through for photos of other wrecks including the James McBride. Definitely follow them on Facebook for more cool shots of Michigan’s coastline from above!
Regarding the Rising Sun, the Leelanau Enterprise shares Leelanau historian George Weeks account of the wreck that includes a photo of the grounded Sun:
In October 1917, the Rising Sun went to High Island to get potatoes, rutabagas and lumber to take to Benton Harbor. On 29 October, in one of the early-season snowstorms that sweep the Lakes, the Rising Sun went aground at Pyramid Point. Lifeboats were launched and all thirty-two people aboard eventually saved.
As was often the case with Great Lakes wrecks, shoreline residents, not the U.S. Coast Guard, were the first to provide assistance. In this case, Fred Baker, summoned in the night by survivors pounding at the door of his home atop the Port Oneida bluff, was the first to respond. He hastened to his barn, quickly unloaded 60 bushels of potatoes that were on his wagon, hitched his team, and went down to the beach. The survivors, including a woman found unconscious on the beach, were brought to Baker’s house. (By the 1990s, Baker’s daughter, Lucille, who was four years old at the time of the wreck, was still residing at Port Oneida, the wife of Jack Barratt, great grandson of Port Oneida settler Carsten Burfiend.)
The Coast Guard beach rescue rig arrived from Glen Haven, pulled by two teams of horses borrowed from D.H. Day. A man who was asleep when the others abandoned ship was rescued by the guardsmen.
Remains of the Rising Sun are visible from the shore on a clear day, and are popular for recreational divers. As with other wrecks, the remains are protected objects within the Manitou Passage Bottomland Preserve.
Read more about the Rising Sun, it’s caro and final voyage and the House of David that owned it from Chris Mills and see more shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures.
March 27, 2015
One of my favorite Michigan fine art photographers is Bill Schwab, and I still remember the day when I pulled up the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr to find he’d added some of his photos to the group, including the one above.
This morning I learned that he will be presenting an artist lecture “Across Iceland” for the Charlevoix Circle of Arts:
Fine art photographer, Bill Schwab has been taking photo-expeditions to Iceland since 2009. He will share some of his favorite photographs of Iceland’s harsh, yet beautiful, landscape. Schwab is also the founder of PhotostockFest held annually in Harbor Springs. The Artists Adventure Lecture Series are free and open to the public.
Click above for more on the event and visit the Charlevoix Circle of Arts for more about them. Bill’s PhotostockFest takes place June 18-21 and you can register and get details on workshops and the event at that link.
The photography site RFOTOFOLIO has a great interview Seeing the Beauty: Bill Schwab that starts out:
My father’s side of the family was very much into photography. My Great Grandfather, Frederic C. Lutge had a portrait studio in late 19th and early 20th century Detroit and it branched out from there. My father always had interesting cameras and my uncle had a darkroom. I was fascinated by the gear. Even when I was too young to have a camera, I would draw pictures of them. After cutting them out I would pretend to use them and then draw the pictures “taken” with my cut out cameras and show them to people. Apparently I was hooked at an early age, but it wasn’t until I was twelve that I started processing and contact printing my own film from an old Ansco kit. After that, it is all a blur.
…Growing up in Detroit, pretty much everyone worked in the automobile manufacturing industry and I knew very well at a young age that wasn’t going to be my destiny. I can remember very clearly my dad asking me what I wanted to be at about age five. I said that I would get a job like his and he basically said, no way. Then there was my mom with her unbridled curiosity. She was an early news junky and I seriously think she missed her calling by not going into journalism. The major happenings of the day were right there on the TV during dinner and I was very aware and interested in what was going on. We had subscriptions to Life Magazine and Look and I loved to go through the pages looking at the photographs.
Read on for lots more and some beautiful photos.
View Bill’s photo of the ruins of the pier at Cross Village bigger on Flickr and see lots more from across the state in his Michigan slideshow. You can view and purchase prints at billschwab.com. He’s a good follow on Facebook and also just started up an Instagram @bill_schwab, so you might want to follow along there too!
More Michigan photographers on Michigan in Pictures.