Tuesday, March 10, 2009

American Eagle to the Rescue

While spring is coming to Northwest Ohio, it has beeen only a few weeks since the U. S. Coast Guard rescued fishermen from Lake Erie when the ice broke loose and began to drift. This brought to mind an article I'd read while researching the Lake Erie vessel, the "American Eagle." The vessel (161 tons, 104 foot keel measurement; 24 feet wide with a draft of 9 feet) was built by John Monk in Sandusky, Ohio. She was sheathed with ice iron capable of breaking 8 inches of ice without stopping. By backing up and bucking the ice, the "American Eagle" could break through 24 inches of solid ice.

During the winter of 1898/1899, a large crowd was skating on the Sandusky Bay when the ice broke loose and began drifting out into Lake Erie. Captain Fred Magle and the "Eagle" were dispatched "to the rescue." The "Eagle" succeeded in getting alongside the ice field and then put a line on the field. Magle towed the ice field back to the Sandusky Bay while the skaters continued to skate all the way home.

The "American Eagle" was built for Wehrle and Werk of Middle Bass Island, later known as Andrew Wehrle and Son. Duing the spring and fall of the 1880s, she carried all of the wines from Middle Bass Island and Kelleys Island to Sandusky. During the summer months, the "Eagle" ran the Sandusky and Peninsula route to Put-in-Bay; stopping at Marblehead, Lakeside, and Catawba.

In the spring of 1882, while carrying sport fishermen to the Pelee Island Club on Point Sheridan, the "Eagle" raced the steamer "Jay Cooke." Between Cedar Point and Carpenter's Point, Kelleys Island, the "Eagle's" boiler exploded, killing Chief Engineer James W. Johnson, Fireman Frank Battle, and deckhands Frank Walker and Lorenze Neilson. The tug "Mystic" towed her back to Sandusky, where her boiler was rebuilt.

Three years later, during an excursion run from Lakeside to Put-in-Bay, she struck a reef about 1 1/2 miles west of Kelleys Island. The shoal still carries the vessel's name today. After repairs at the Detroit Drydock, she was chartered by T. F. Newman for the "fruit run" from the Lake Erie islands to Toledo and Cleveland. The "Eagle" transported tons of peaches throughout the 1890s. During the summer months, she continued to run excursions.


Reference Services said...

Very interesting post!

Nan Card said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it. The American Eagle certainly had a long and interesting history serving the Lake Erie Islands.