Return to Ships of John Gregory
Inter Ocean, July 23, 1874
A new tug built by John Gregory for O. B. Green, and christened the Alert, was out on the river yesterday on her trial trip. The new craft is of smallish size, being only seven feet longer than the Martin Green, but is pretty well modeled and strongly put together. She will be employed in Mr. Green’s business, and will tow vessels as a rule. Captain Napier will have charge.
Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1876
The tug O. B. Green has been chartered to tow dredges and scows in Cheboygan, Mich., which will be used to deepen that harbor.
Since speed was very important in reaching distressed ships, tug races in the Great Lakes were very common. Unless a disabled ship sent for a specific tug, it was usually first come, first served in freeing the ship and or bringing her in for repairs.
The Alert was involved in several races. On 28 Nov 1878, she raced another John Gregory-built tug, the O. B. Green (US No 18913) and lost. It is documented that she raced the S. S. Coe (US No 23450) on 22 April 1880, but no winner was given. On 16 August 1902, she did win a race against the Fred Drews (US No. 121151).
The Alert burned to the waters on 13 June 1883 near Marinette, WI at the mouth of the river. The flames communicated to the lumber on the dock belonging to Sawyer, Goodman & Co., destroying 250,000 feet, valued at $30,000, but uninsured. The Alert was valued at $10,000 but was insured at Chicago at an unknown value. The tug was rebuilt in July of that same year.
Chicago Tribune, March 27, 1888
There is no bridge at Wells street, yet there is a Wells street bridge; there is no Dearborn street bridge, though there is a bridge at Dearborn street. Three thousand persons, male and female, shivered two mortal hours in the March wind of yesterday afternoon in order to spring this riddle on their friends before the answer should appear in the morning papers. And this is the answer:
Though there is still a Wells street bridge there is no bridge at Wells street because the Wells street bridge has been floated down the river; there is thus a bridge at Dearborn street to be sure, but the Wells street bridge at Dearborn will never be the Dearborn street bridge until it is possible to cross it without the aid of a derrick or a balloon.
After many days of promises and of getting up at unholy hours in the morning the multitudes who had set their hearts on seeing Wells street bridge sail majestically down to Dearborn street or plunge ignobly to the bottom of the creek at 5:30 yesterday gave vent to their feelings in a prolonged shout of exultation. At that hour the bridge moved slowly off the center pier. Notwithstanding Engineer C. L. Strobel of the Keystone Bridge Company, attired in a new lavender spring overcoat and red walking gloves with heavy black stitching on the backs. stood solitary and calm on the top of the swaying structure-notwithstanding this sublime spectacle of confidence based upon infallible scientific calculations, the crowd was not unmindful of the duty which always derives upon onlookers under such circumstances. Their shouts of warning and command were incessant. but the men engaged in the work paid not the slightest attention.
The rain and sleet of Sunday retarded preparations, so that the moving was accomplished twelve hours later than intended. At 10 o’clock yesterday morning the work was abandoned for the same reason. An hour or so of warm rain and south wind however, decided the men to go on with the work. The two pairs of scows with their deck-works of heavy pine timbers were soon placed under the bridge on each side of the center pier, the scows having been filled with water till their decks were nearly on level with the surface of the river. The weight of the bridge, denied of all flooring and other woodwork, was about ninety tons. In order to raise the bridge off the center pier it was therefore necessary to pump that much water out of the scows. The pumping began at noon and continued until the voyage began. Sixteen men worked four hand-pumps on each scow. When it was observed that a portion of the weight of the bridge was borne by the scows the pumping out process was materially hastened by stream-siphons operated from two tugs the Alert and the Allen. When the bridge began to clear the pier a force of men went to work taking off the rims of iron which serve for bearings for the wheels upon which the bridge revolves. These rims. the wheels. and the heavy iron cap of the pier with its track and cog-rim. were left behind. They will have to be transferred to the same position at Dearborn street, however. before the bridge can be lowered and the scows laken from under it.
The structure swayed from side to side and the scows seemed hardly able to bear their burden.
READY TO BEGIN THE VOYAGE
“Strobel knows what he’s about.” said a man in a tarpaulin. “You see there are two scows eight or ten feet apart upon which the timbers supporting the bridge are placed. The bridge wiU make its voyage end foremost. If there were only one scow at each end of the bridge a little inclination would shIp the water in It to one side and over the thing would go. There being two scows this is mpossible. While the bridge is being turned endwise with the current you observe that the greatest care is used to prevent any sudden jar that might change the centre of gravity.”
With the tug Alert behind and the Allen in front to guide the strange craft. and with Mr. Strobel. dapper and natty, walking aloft issuing orders, the bridge was floated down to Clark street. As a precaution against accidents a guy-line made fast to schooners along the south shore was paid out by a gang of men on the rear larboard corner of the hindmost scow. When the Allen blew her whistle Clark street bridge could not have held a dozen more people. An ineffectual attempt was made- to drive them off, and then the bridge turned. It ‘Has opened barely fifteen minutes. The distance between the piers at Clark and Dearnborn streets is so short that it was necessary to begin to turn the front end of the floating bridge to the only one of the trip—the north before the rear scows had cleared the draw. What might have been a serious accident—the only one of the trip—was narrowly escaped here. While the Allen was pulling at the front scows those behind drew dangerously near the pier. A workman saw the danger and yelled to the Captain of the Alert:
Back ‘er, Cap, quick!
Then he and half a dozen of his fellows threw their shoulders against the pier and prevented a collision, though the end of the scow grated against the heavy timbers with a thrillingly suggestive sound.
At 6:45 the Wells street bridge rested on the scows above the pier at Dearborn street.
The last enrollment papers were filed on 28 Feb 1913 and was abandoned in 1915.
1875-1900 – O.B. Green, Chicago
1901-1902 – Green’s Dredging Co., Chicago
1903-1907 – W. A. Lyden, Chicago
1908 – TBD – Great Lakes Dredge (& Dock) Co., Chicago