#TBT: Icebound Car Ferries in Ludington

Carferries Icebound in Ludington 1913

Icebound Carferries at Ludington, photo courtesy Karl Bahle

The caption reads “Carferries 15, 17, 18 and 19 – Fast in ice at Ludington, Mich March 22, 1913” and from that, I was able to dig up some tasty history! Carferries.com has great information on the Pere Marquette fleet of ferries that was based in Ludington. They say (in part):

At various times between 1897 and 1947, the Pere Marquette operated a total of 13 ferries on Lake Michigan, running between Ludington, Mich. and Milwaukee, Manitowoc and Kewaunee, Wis. These ships were then an efficient means of bypassing the congested rail yards in Chicago. They plied routes varying between 60 and 97 miles in length, and were often plagued by violent storms and heavy ice. Given the fact that most of the cross-lake runs were made at speeds of 12 to 14 miles per hour, a remarkable volume of freight was carried.

In those fifty years the Pere Marquette car ferries made well over 160,000 lake crossings and transported roughly 4.5 million railroad cars loaded with over 75 million tons of freight. Even these numbers are somewhat conservative, as early records no longer exist. They also carried approximately 1.6 million passengers and after the mid-1920’s, about 380,000 automobiles. Additionally, over the course of its history, the railroad operated a total of 4 river car ferries. These ran between Port Huron, Mich. and Sarnia, Ont., and between Detroit, Mich. and Windsor, Ont., connecting the PM’s Michigan and Canadian lines.

  • Pere Marquette 15 – launched in December of 1896 as the original Pere Marquette. She reportedly burned 30 tons of coal on an 1897 round trip from Ludington to Milwaukee. In 1924, the vessel was renamed Pere Marquette 15, and scrapped in Manitowoc in 1935.
  • Pere Marquette 17 – launched in 1901, hauled 2 “Jack Johnson” battleship guns in 1915, sold to the State of Michigan to be the car ferry “City of Petoskey” <-great info and photos there!
  • Pere Marquette 18 – here’s where the history gets a little murky, as the ship that was launched in 1902 sank in 1910 off Sheboygan, Wisconsin, so either the date is wrong on the photo above or that’s another ship! UPDATE: Karl informed me that the original 18 did sink in 1910, a new one was put into service in 1911 and sailed until 1954!
  • Pere Marquette 19 launched in 1903, ran aground numerous times before being sold for scrap in 1940. She was reduced to a barge profile and renamed the Hilda.

If you’re wondering “What happened to Pere Marquette 16?” that link has great info on the 16, only wooden car ferry in their fleet!

View Karl’s photo bigger and check out his Lake Boats album for many more photos!

#TBT: Winter Comes to Michigan

1930s Michigan Snowplow

1930s Snowplow, via Michigan Highway Department (now MDOT)

The Michigan Department of Transportation shared this awesome newsreel from the 1930s featuring all kinds of winter fun including ski jumping. Their predecessor, the Michigan Highway Department also used the video to talk up Michigan’s road system and winter road maintenance.

It was discovered by Nancy and Barbara Sleeper of Newberry, daughters of former Luce County Road Commission superintendent Sanborn Sleeper, and it’s super awesome!

#TBT: Remembering the Crew of Apollo 1

Remembering the Crew of Apollo 1

Remembering the Crew of Apollo 1, photo by NASA

“You’ll be flying along some nights with a full moon. You’re up at 45,000 feet. Up there you can see it like you can’t see it down here. It’s just the big, bright, clear moon. You look up there and just say to yourself: I’ve got to get up there. I’ve just got to get one of those flights.”
-Roger Chaffee (The New York Times, January 29, 1967, p. 48.)

Thanks to longtime Michigan in Pictures contributor Rudy Malmquist for the find on this. By total coincidence, Rudy will be back tomorrow with a photo!!

The National Air & Space Museum at the Smithsonian shared this photo yesterday, saying:

Remembering the crew of Apollo 1. On January 27, 1967, astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee perished in a fire during a pre-launch test for what was to be the first crewed Apollo mission.

Rudy pointed out that Chaffee was from Grand Rapids, and you can read a very detailed biography on Roger B. Chaffee from NASA’s History Office.  Here’s a few choice bits about his early life … and here’s hoping that Michigan in Pictures readers can do their best to instill a love of service, science and following ones dreams in the young folk in their lives:

“On my honor, I will do my best…” are the first eight words of the Scout Oath for the Boy Scouts of America. Individually, the words are short and simple. Collectively, however, they speak volumes and serve to inspire millions of boys to strive for excellence. Lieutenant Commander Roger Bruce Chaffee was a Scout for whom the Oath was more than just mere words. He took the pledge to heart and accepted the challenge to fully live the words of the Oath. Whether he was meticulously hand crafting items from wood or training to be the youngest man ever to fly in space, Chaffee always did his best by putting one hundred percent of himself into the effort.

…Earlier in his career, Don Chaffee had been a barnstorming pilot who flew a Waco 10 biplane. He was a regular sight at fairgrounds and made a bit of extra money on the side by transporting passengers. He also piloted planes for parachute jumpers. Later, Don worked for Army Ordnance in Greenville and in 1942, he was transferred to the Doehler-Jarvis plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he served as Chief Inspector of Army Ordnance.

Don shared his love of flying with his son and at the age of seven, Roger enjoyed his first ride in an airplane when the family went on a short excursion over Lake Michigan. Although it was a relatively brief flight, Roger was absolutely thrilled. To satisfy his continued interested in planes, Don set up a card table in the living room where he and Roger would create model airplanes piece by piece. By the time he was nine, Roger would point to a plane flying overhead and predict, “I’ll be up there flying in one of those someday”.

…By the time Roger was fourteen, he had developed an interest in electronics engineering and tinkered with various radio projects in his spare time. In high school, he received excellent grades and maintained a 92 average. Vocational tests showed that Roger’s strongest abilities were in the area of science. He also scored high mechanically and artistically. Mathematics and science were his favorite subjects, with chemistry being particularly appealing. Once the family switched to a gas heating system, Roger transformed the outdated coal bin area into his own private workshop where he spent countless hours experimenting with his chemistry set. By the time he was a junior in high school, he was leaning toward a career as a nuclear physicist. As a senior, he established a lofty goal for himself: he wanted to someday have his name written in history books. Before the world’s super powers took their first halting steps into space, Roger Chaffee had shared his dream of being the first man on the moon with his closest friends.

Here’s an article about the fire, and if you’re in Grand Rapids, check out the Roger B Chaffee Planetarium at the Grand Rapids Museum.

#TBT: Rephotographing Michigan, Baraga Edition

Downtown Baraga Michigan

Downtown Baraga, photo by Rephotographing Michigan

Paul started Rephotographing Michigan a few months ago. It’s a project to take old postcards of Michigan and photograph what the scene looks like today.

This photo shows downtown Baraga – check it out bigger and see lots more on the Rephotographing Michigan Facebook page!

#TBT: The Boblo Boat aka the Ste. Claire

Herbet Jackson and Boblo Boat Ste Claire

Herbert C Jackson and the Bob-Lo Boat, photo by Christopher Dark

One of the Boblo Boats, the Ste. Claire, is shown here at its new berth, where it was moved a couple of weeks ago.

The Ste. Claire Restoration Project’s History page explains:

The steamer Ste. Claire represents the typical propeller-driven excursion steamer of the turn of the century, a type once found in many parts of the country. Excursion steamers are steamships built primarily for passengers for day trips. Ste. Claire and her running mate Columbia represent the “ocean-going” type of excursion vessel although they were used on lakes.

The steamer Columbia and Ste. Claire are the last two remaining classic excursion steamers in the country; and the last essentially unaltered passenger ships designed by Frank E. Kirby; and for their essentially unaltered propulsion machinery of a type becoming increasingly rare ; as the two last vessels of the Detroit and Windsor Ferry Co.; as two of the few surviving vessels built by the Detroit Dry Dock Company, and for their unaltered propulsion machinery, which is of a rare type. Columbia is the oldest passenger steamer in the United States, excepting vessels properly classed as ferries. Columbia and her running-mate Ste. Claire are the last two steamers of their type with integrity left in the United States. The pair shared their original run from Detroit to Bob-Lo Island for 81 years, a record of service on a single run unequalled in U. S. history

There’s a ton of cool stuff on the Boblo Boat website including their media center, plans for the restoration and of course donations!

Christopher got this great shot of the Herbert C Jackson upbound on the Rouge River as she passed the Ste. Claire. Click to view it bigger and see more of his photos on Facebook.

More great night photography and more ships on Michigan in Pictures.

#TBT Big Waves on Lake Michigan Edition

And they call this a lake

And they call this a Lake, photo by RJE

The Detroit Free Press reports that massive waves of up to 20 feet in height are forecast for Lake Michigan:

An intense low pressure system is still projected to slam into the western Great Lakes on Wednesday night.

The main hazard with this storm will be incredibly strong winds in excess to 45 m.p.h. at times. This will cause numerous issues, including downed trees and the potential for power outages.

In addition to impacts on land, Lake Michigan will also suffer the wrath of this strong fall storm, where waves could reach as high as 20 feet offshore. A gale watch has been issued by the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids for the Lakeshore and will be in effect from Wednesday evening through Friday afternoon.

NOAA’s Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System has a ton of resources for visualizing live data and forecasts for all of the Great Lakes. Be sure to check out the animation of forecasted wave heights on Lake Michigan – pretty cool to watch. In case you’re wondering, the tallest (recorded) wave on Lake Michigan is 23′ from September of 2011. Of course the bouys shut down for the winter in December, and they only started measuring in 1988.

Also check out the Grand Haven Surfcam for a live look! 

RJE caught this massive wave breaking against the Ludington lighthouse back in November of 2011. View the photo of  big as Lake Michigan and see more of his great photos of Ludington on Flickr!

More Michigan lighthouses, more waves and more about the Ludington North Breakwater Light can all be found on Michigan in Pictures.

#TBT: Comet Biela and the Great Michigan Fire of 1871

House fire

House fire, photo by Ogedn

“The proponents of the cometary explanation cite many fascinating details confirmed by eye witness reports: the descent of fire from the heavens, a great ‘tornado’ of fire rushing across the landscape and tearing buildings from their foundations, descending balls of fire, a rain of red dust, great explosions of wind accompanied by blasts of thunder, buildings exploding into flame where no fire was burning, and a good deal more.”
~thunderbolts.info

We all probably know of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow and the Chicago Fire that burned over three miles of the city to the ground, but perhaps you’d care to take “Fires beginning October 8, 1871” for $500? Four fires began 144 years ago on this day in 1871: the Great Chicago Fire, the Great Michigan Fire, the Peshtigo (Wisconsin) Fire and the Port Huron Fire.

I’m going to let the crew of thunderbolts take it away with an excerpt from their fascinating feature The Comet and the Chicago Fire:

Contrary to popular folklore, the Chicago fire is not the worst in U.S. history. It was not even the worst to occur on October 8 that year. The same evening—in fact, at the same time, about 9:30—a fierce wildfire struck in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, over 200 miles to the north of Chicago, destroying the town and a dozen other villages. Estimates of those killed range upward from 1200 to 2500 in a single night. It was not the Chicago fire but the simultaneous “Peshtigo Fire” that was the deadliest in U.S. history.

And there is more. On the same evening, across Lake Michigan, another fire also wreaked havoc. Though smaller fires had been burning for some time—not unusual under the reported conditions—the most intense outburst appears to have erupted simultaneously with the Chicago and Peshtigo fires. The blaze is said to have then burned for over a month, consuming over 2,000,000 acres and killing at least 200.

Concerning the Michigan outburst, it is reported that numerous fires endangered towns across the state. The city of Holland was destroyed by fire and in Lansing flames threatened the agricultural college. In Thumb, farmers fled an inferno that some newspapers dubbed, “The Fiery Fiend.” Reports say that fires threatened Muskegon, South Haven, Grand Rapids, Wayland, reaching the outskirts of Big Rapids. A steamship passing the Manitou Islands reported they were on fire.

There can be no doubt that weather conditions at the time favored wildfires. But never before, and never since, has the U.S. seen such wildly destructive simultaneous conflagrations. This “coincidence”, combined with many unusual phenomena reported by eyewitnesses, has led some to conclude that an extraordinary force, one not of the earth, was a more likely “arson” than either a misbehaving cow or a regional drought.

In 1883, Ignatius Donnelly, author of Ragnarok: the Rain of Fire and Gravel, suggested that in early historic times our Earth suffered great catastrophes from cometary intruders. To this claim he added: “There is reason to believe that the present generation has passed through the gaseous prolongation of a comet’s tail, and that hundreds of human beings lost their lives”. He was referring to the conflagration of 1871.

Definitely read on for much more about the possibility of a comet’s tail, perhaps Comet Biela, fueling the fires.

Ogedn took this photo of a controlled burn by the local fire department, who practiced on this house before letting it burn. View the photo background big and see this and lots more in their slideshow.

Tons more Michigan history on Michigan in Pictures.

PS: I definitely did more research on this than I should have on this, and while the cometary theory and Comet Biela was observed to be broken apart on its pass in 1846, it may be that Biela’s Comet returned in September of 1872. In any case check the article out and also their Picture of the Day for a lot more than you’ve probably thought about.

#TBT: Beach Day at Port Austin

Beach Day at Port Austin Lake Huron

Beach Day at Port Austin, photo courtesy Don Harrison/UpNorth Memories

I believe this spot is now the Port Austin Harbor, but if you’re looking for a swim, the Port Crescent State Park on Lake Huron looks pretty great!

Check the photo out background big and see TONS more pics mainly from Michigan in Don’s massive UpNorth Memories Photo Tribute to Michigan Historian Dave Tinder slideshow.

More beaches, more Lake Huron and more Throwback Thursdays on Michigan in Pictures!

#TBT: Yesterday & today at the James Scott Memorial Fountain

James Scott Memorial Fountain 1932

James Scott Memorial Fountain, c 1932, photo by Tom Clark

Here’s a fun pair of pics. Tom went back to where this family photo was taken in the early 30s and got a picture of the scene. You can see the one above background big, the one below right here and see more including another shot from the Belle Isle Conservatory in his Wonderful Michigan slideshow.

James Scott Memorial Fountain Bell Isle

More Belle Isle including the story of the James Scott Memorial Fountain on Michigan in Pictures.

#TBT Michigan Asylum for Insane Criminals … and a Postcard Show!

Ionia Michigan Insane Asylum

Michigan Asylum for Insane Criminals, photo by Don (the UpNorth Memories Guy) Harrison

Don wanted me to be sure to let everyone know about this weekend’s annual Traverse City Antique Postcard & Rare Paper Show on August 16 from 10 AM – 4 PM at Northwestern Michigan College’s Hagerty Center. It’s a great chance to view some incredible pics of Michigan’s history … and from all over!

Speaking of history, Asylum Projects page on the Ionia State Hospital says:

The building of the Ionia State Hospital was authorized in 1883 and was opened under the name of the Michigan Asylum for Insane Criminals in 1885. It was found that this name was objectionable as not all of the patients in the hospital were criminals, so the name was changed by legislative action to Ionia State Hospital. The patients committed to this hospital were insane felons, criminal sexual psychopaths, insane convicts from other prisons, patients transferred from other state institutions that had developed dangerous or homicidal tendencies and persons charged with a crime but acquitted on the grounds of insanity. Initially the hospital patients were housed at the site of the Michigan Reformatory.

The hospital was called the North Branch and the farm located on Riverside Drive was called the South Branch. When a large fire broke out at the hospital, all of the rooms were needed to house prisoners, so all of the hospital patients were sent to the South Branch farm. Since that time, the hospital has been located on the grounds of the Riverside Correctional Facility. The hospital was used to treat the mentally ill as well as the criminally insane until 1972, when civilians were removed from the hospital. In 1977, the Legislature transferred the operation to the Department of Corrections when it began operation as a correctional facility. The facility was closed with the reopening of the Michigan Reformatory.

Click through for some pics including a couple of cool panoramas!

View the photo background big and see more from UpNorth Memories on Flickr!