Two Masted Schooner

N 42° 37.501′, W 086° 31.635′,  Off Saugatuck, Michigan

1873 was a particularly nasty year for shipping on the east side of Lake Michigan. The steamer Ironsides foundered in September, the Lizzie Throop foundered in October, and the schooner Hamilton disappeared in November.

The Hamilton was built in 1847, by Crockett, at Oswego. She had a length of 113 feet, a beam of 22 feet, and a depth of almost 9 feet. The Hamilton and her sister-ship The Titan, were part of the Red Bird Line. Subsequently, their hulls were painted blood red.

A November 15, 1873 article from the South Haven Tribune does a great job of describing the loss of the Hamilton:

 “The schooner Hamilton, owned by the Messrs. Donaldson of Chicago and Chas. La Mott of Pentwater and sailed by Capt. H.L. Burch of Chicago, left Muskegon Wednesday morning last (November 12, 1873) at half past eight o’clock with a cargo of 117,000 feet of lumber bound for Chicago. After three or four hours sailing she was struck by heavy seas and sprung a leak, the men working the pumps until about three o’clock in the afternoon when they were obliged to take to the yawl, laying under the lee of the wreck until 12 at night, the schooner then rolling over and the seas driving the yawl from its position. From this time until 10 o’clock the next morning, Thursday, these men were at the mercy of the waves, in a 17 foot yawl, with nothing for nourishment but a basket of bread. They came ashore about a mile north of this harbor, being at their reckoning some forty miles from Chicago at the time they gave up the schooner.

 The names of the men are Capt. Harvey L. Burch, G. H. Hughes, mate; Samuel Martin, Steward, D. G. Holcomb, Thos. Williams, Richard Jones and Wm. Backus, seamen. The Captain and men desire to express their thanks to Messrs. Crosby Eaton and J.B. Starkey who assisted them to their houses and treated them with all the hospitality they could have shown to brother; also to Mr. M. Strong of the Pacific (hotel) for the generosity in administering to their wants after getting able to come over into the village.

As we go to press the men are still here but leave on the first boat for their homes. In all the instances of a wreck recorded in the Sentinel this is the most miraculous escape from death we have yet to known, and much is due to the bravery of Capt. Burch and men for holding out eighteen hours in a small yawl during such weather as we have had this past week, the boat being a mass of ice when she struck the beach”.

Artist Robert Doornbos's drawing of the hamilton wreck site

Artist Robert Doornbos’s drawing of the Hamilton wreck site

In 2007, while filling in a narrow gap in previous search grids, MSRA verified the existence of a schooner rumored to have been found by local marine contractor and revealed to a local dive shop owner a few years ago. Subsequent dives by MSRA’s technical dive team have led us to believe the wreck is that of the Hamilton.

Take a video tour of the wreck: