Return to Ships of John Gregory
John Gregory built the tug A. B. Ward (US No. 388/381) at the Miller Brothers’ Shipyard in Chicago on 30 April 1866. Her gross weight was thirty tons and her Official No. was corrected from 388 to 381 on 12 December 1894. Her owners were Justine Bowman and John A. Crawford both of Chicago. Her original master was Frank S. Butler.
A.B. Ward Enrollment Papers
LEFT: April 30, 1866
RIGHT: April 26, 1878
Chicago Tribune, 25 July 18651:
The tug, A.B. Ward, having on board Governor Oglesby, Col. Bowen and Col. Snyder of the Governor’s staff, U.P. Harris, Dr. Brainerd, several members of the Common Council, and the usual sprinkling of representatives of the Press, was the first to make the circuit of the crib, and soon with the tug Continental took a “line” and commenced to tow out the crib to its final resting place. This occupied about an hour and a half, the journey being rendered rather disagreeable by the drizzling rain which set in, and a decent swell, which, however, did not materially retard progress. Before noon the crib was in position, two miles from shore, in the middle of the anchors put down several days before, and whose places were marked by buoys, the lines cast off, and the tugs preparing to return to the city.
The only accident occurring to the party was a small one to the tug S.V.R Watson, which got her screw entangled in one of the buoys, and was unable to get clear till a boat was procured form shore; her passengers were transferred to the Ward. It is worthy of remark in this connection that no accident involving personal injury has occurred since the commencement of the work, nearly two years ago.
The Crib in the Lake, 1867
A. B. Ward
Chicago Tribune, August 21, 1881
The most fearful and destructive accident that ever happened to a tug-boat on the Chicago River has to be chronicled this morning. Yesterday, a few minutes before 6 a. m., the tug-boat A. B. Ward, then engaged in towing the barge Adams to the lake, blew up at the Clark street bridge, the result being the loss of three lives and the destruction of their $20,000 worth of property.
The barge G. W. Adams, heavily loaded with grain, was being towed toward the lake. She had on board over 60,000 bushels of grain,and was taken out by two tugs. One of these had the tow-lined, and the other, the ill-fated A. B. Ward, held the stern-line, and was supposed ti regulate the speed of the vessel. The tug in the rear had only to help the barge through tight places, such as bridge-graws and the like, and did no towing, Yet just as the barge and its convoy reached the Clark street bridge, while passing through the north draw a sudden explosion shook the air.
THERE WAS ONE GREAT CRASH,
marking the annihilation of the tug Ward, and then an ominous silence. The boiler of the Ward was projected 150 feet, and in its progress cut down the heavy piles in front of the bridge as if they were straws. Splinters, parts of the deck and upper-works of the tug, and fragments of its hull were hurled through the air. Thirty seconds later there were a dozen boats in the water. The Clark street bridgetenders, just as soon as they realized their precious lives had been spared, got to work and threw planks in the water for the victims to catch on to. Three of the crew of the tug were recovered alive. Michael McDonald, fireman, and Frank Winegard, the cook, escaped with slight damage. A Greek sailor, who was the sole occupant of a yawl, which was towing astern of the Adams, also got off with a few bruises. Capt. F. S. Butler, who was in charge of the A. B. Ward, was
BLOWN THROUGH THE AIR
and fell on the deck of the Adams. That vessel was towed to the nearest dock at State street, where it found that Capt. Butler’s injuries were such as would undoubtedly prove fatal. His head was terribly lacerated, although the skull was not fractured, as was first supposed, and there was scarcely a square inch of his body but showed a contused wound. He was taken to his house, No. 529 Hulbert street, and no hopes are entertained of his recovery.
Within three minutes from the time of the explosion the tug lay at the bottom of the river. Buried, with it were the bodies of William McDonald, the line-man, and William Weston, the engineer. The latter was recovered later in the day. But McDonald’s body is still in the wreck, which has been towed to Miller’s dry dock. The engineer’s body was brought up by Capt. Peter Falcon, who said it was no use attempting to recover the other body until the vessel was docked. Capt. Butler had a wife and three children. McDonald had a wife and one child, residing in Ogdensburg, N. Y.
THE FATED TUG.
The tug Ward was built in 1866. She was believed to be a staunch and reliable vessel, and was inspected April 22, and stood an hydrostatic pressure of 165 pounds to the square inch, which is far above anything that should have been called for in ordinary use. The boat was owned by John A. Crawford, John Bowman, and Frank S. Butler. It was valued at the $6,200, and was not insured.
THE CAUSE OF THE EXPLOSION
is shrouded in mystery. An engineer who examined the boiler as it lay under the bridge offered to stake his professional reputation that everybody had been asleep, and that there was but one drop of water in the boiler. He alleged that engineers and firemen were required to work twenty hours per day, and therefore could not possibly attend properly to their business. It appears, however, that Capt. Butler and his crew quit work early on Friday, and did not go on duty again until 5 o’clock in the evening.
There were some strange experiences recorded. Everything north of the bridge was cut down to the water’s edge. The sidewalk for a space of twenty four feet was blown into the air, and two men who were standing upon it found themselves in the road in short order. The safety valve of the Ward, weighing some forty or fifty pounds, was landed in the Northwestern freight house, east of Clark street. A five foot length of supply pipe was blown over the barge and settled in Pat O’Brien’s saloon, twenty feet from the road, but fortunately did no harm. Ha the accident occurred an hour later, when Clark street bridge is crammed with pedestrians, the loss of life would have been frightful. Traffic over the bridge has been stopped, and can scarcely be resumed before tomorrow.
Michael McDonald, the fireman, and Fred Winegard, the cook, were picked up by a tug as they were clinging to the wreck of the sunken vessel. Both men were scalded and burned, but not seriously. The Greek, who was in the yawl, and who is known only as “Charley,” was
BADLY SHAKEN UP,
but not seriously injured. The Captain has been in charge of the boat since she was launched in 1866, and has the reputation of being one of the most careful and temperate seamen in the harbor, thoroughly reliable in every way. He was at the wheel when the accident happened, and landed on the deck of the Adams with some spokes of the wheel in his hand. The fireman, cook, and linesman were attending to their duties at the time, and there seems to be no reason to suppose that there was any neglect shown. The tug was supposed to be in good shape, and the boilers had been inspected and pronounced sound. The vessel was overhauled and repaired last spring, and was in good condition.
There is a great diversity of opinions among tugmen with respect to the cause of the disaster. Several said that
THE PRACTICE OF OVERWORKING ENGINEERS
was responsible, and others claimed that this was the one of the mysterious “blow-ups” which periodically occur, without rhyme or reason, and defying all explanations of practical men or scientists.
Two jagged projections, parts of the upper works of the tug, showed where she lay, but in the afternoon the entire debris was removed to Miller’s yard. Probably a scientific examination of the boiler may throw some light on the cause of the explosion. The engineer of the tug, Kramer, who examined the wreckage, said, said there was no water in the boiler when the blow-up occurred. The pipe which was blown into O’Brien’s saloon showed an old fracture, oxidyzed all through, and it seems that the fixtures, at least (leaving the boiler out of the question), were not in good shape. The owners of the vessel state that they cannot account for the accident, and that they believed the Ward was in first-class shape.
The approaches to the bridge were crowded all day, although it was difficult to say what the people hoped or expected to see. The operation of the divers were watched with breathless interest, and the crowd spent the afternoon discussing the causes and the probabilities of the blow-up. A man who alleged that he was standing on the west side of the bridge, just over where the boiler cut into the woodwork, and who claimed to have been blown into the middle of the street by the force of the concussion, related his story to all and sundry, but varied his yarn so greatly that after a while the people began to drop on him, and his chances for beer diminished in like proportion.
At a late hour last night Capt. Butler was lying unconscious at his home, in a heavy stupor. His physicians did not think there would be any change in his condition for forty-eight hours at any rate. It appears that Capt. Butler is subject to epileptic fits, and what is feared is that his injuries will bring on one of these fits, and that it will be very likely to end in his death.
The A. B. Ward at the Chicago Terminal Transfer Railroad Bridge that crossed the Chicago River at an angle north of 12th and south of Taylor Street, 1900
Four days later he was resting much better and there was reason to believe that he will fully recover from this terrible shock.
The A. B. Ward has since been rebuilt.
Chicago Tribune and Inter Ocean, August 19, 1904
The tug A. B. Ward in the rescue attempt of a car plunging in the Chicago river at Rush Street Bridge.
1 There seems to be an a discrepancy on dates. The Enrollment Papers for the A. B. Ward specifically say the tug was built in 1866. However this Tribune article proclaims the tug A. B. Ward was used to haul out the crib a year earlier. While it is possible there was a prior tug with the same name, but usually there would be a mention of the name transfer in the Enrollment Papers. A more likely scenario is that the tug may have been sea worthy in 1865, but may not have been enrolled till 1866.