History Gem – Grand Marais Shipwrecks

I received two emails from Miles Hague that included shipwreck photos he took in 2004 and 2005 of shipwreck remnants located on the beach east of Grand Marais. I researched information I posted on my blog on May 4, 2011, about these shipwrecks, (www.agatelady.blogspot.com), including photos I took at the time. When I posted the blog, I did some research to find out more about shipwrecks. There were three ships that went down in a storm on November 19, 1914. First, here is a photo of an 1871 schooner that most likely resembled the ships that went down in the 1914 storm.

Here are two articles about the wrecks.

Seney, Mich., Nov. 21. — Lifesavers reported today that a total of 12 bodies have been found on the south shore of Lake Superior during the 35 hours’ search which followed the fearful gale that swept the lake Thursday. The four bodies found since the searchers previously reported were all men. The two corpses of women have been unidentified. Among the wreckage cast ashore today were several life belts stenciled “Steamer Curtis.” As no trace of the steamer, C. F. Curtis has been obtained and as it is considered certain that one of her schooners, the Annie M. Peterson, sank near Grand Marais, local marine men believe the Curtis also went to the bottom. It is also claimed there were only seven persons on board the Peterson. The Curtis was known to have been towing the schooners, Peterson and S. E. Marvin when the gale struck her. No wreckage of the Marvin has been found so far as searchers in this vicinity have been able to learn.

Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Nov. 21. — Up to a late hour today, the last 24 hours had revealed little information to clear up the mystery surrounding the fate of the steamer C. F. Curtis and the lumber laden schooners S. E. Marvin and Annie M. Peterson in tow of the Curtis, which were caught Thursday in the season’s most severe storm on Lake Superior. That the Peterson went down in “the graveyard of the Great Lakes” near Grand Marais, seems absolutely certain in view of her bodies and wreckage which have been washed ashore. Two of the eight bodies recovered last night were identified today as members of the Peterson’s crew. Whether some of the other bodies were from Curtis or Marvin remained to be determined after identification had been made. The three missing vessels carried 26 persons in their combined crews. The fact that two of the bodies recovered were those of unidentified women caused many to believe the Curtis met the same fate as the Peterson inasmuch as it was thought one or both of women had been employed on that vessel. The sailing records did not reveal any women hands on the two schooners. The three ships cleared from Baraga with lumber for North Tonawanda, N.Y. Wednesday morning. They should have passed this port long ago but were not heard from until the Peterson wreckage was found yesterday. None of the several other steamers which went aground along the upper lakes during the gale was seriously damaged according to reports today.

There were 3 sections of wreck exposed on the beach. The longest section is at least 100 feet in length. The C.F. Curtis propeller schooner was built in 1882 in Marine City, MI. She was 197 feet in length. The Selden E. Marvin was built in 1881 in Toledo, Ohio. She was 175 feet in length. The Annie F Peterson was built in Green Bay WI in 1874. She was 191 feet in length. It is unclear if the sections of wreckage are from one of these ships, or from multiple.

During my research for this posting, I found another article about shipwrecks.

November 19, 1914: Three vessels wrecked on Lake Superior 

On this day on Lake Superior in 1914, the steamer C. F. Curtis and two barges under her tow wrecked seven miles east of Grand Marais on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. On the 19th the Curtis was headed to Tonawanda, New York, towing the lumber barges Annie M. Peterson (formerly a three-masted schooner) and Seldon E. Marvin, when she steered all three vessels directly into a November gale. All three vessels were lost, as were 28 men, fourteen on the Curtis and seven each on the Peterson and the Marvin. It was another huge blow to the vessels’ owners, the Edward Hines Lumber Company, which had lost three other vessels just the week before. The area in which Curtis, Marvin, and Peterson went down, reported the Duluth News Tribune, was “lined with the hulks of sunken ships…the worst spot on Lake Superior” and “the Graveyard of the Great Lakes.” In October 2003, Grand Marais residents spotted the remains of a shipwreck offshore about 6 miles east of the harbor. They are thought to be what remains of the Annie M. Peterson.

In addition, during my research, I found a website with even more information about the C.F. Curtis Steamer. I had to sign up for the wrecksite.eu website and pay a small fee, but they sent me the following information.

Below are photos taken by Miles Hague of the wreck site in 2004:

From another angle, here is a photo I coincidentally took of the wreckage in 2004.

In 2005, Miles went back to the site and took several pictures of the shipwreck sections. As you can see, more of the wreckage was exposed. Also, down-shore currents piled lots of driftwood onto the shipwreck pieces.

I went back to the same section of shoreline six years later in 2011. As you can see in the photos below, much of the wreckage was again buried in the sand. Not only was the sand carried by the west-to-east down-shore currents to build up that section of the shoreline, but the same currents also carried away most of the driftwood. There were two main sections of shipwreck pieces. The three photos below show the west sections.

The last three photos show the east sections.

I will make it a point this summer to revisit the wreckage site to see what is left.





Shipwreck photographs by Miles Hague and Karen Brzys.

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