Return to Ships of John Gregory
Inter Ocean, April 17, 1872
LAUNCHED.—The freight scow built by Thayer & Gregory, of Sheboygan, Wis., for parties in Chicago was launched on Monday last.
This three masted schooner was built by John Gregory during August, 1872 in Sheboygan, WI. At 173 feet, the Higgie & Jones (US No. 18746) was one of the larger schooners to sail the Great Lakes, and weighed over 400 tons. She was considered a fast boat as in 1873 she made the round trip from Chicago and Buffalo in 13 days. The original owner was William Higgie. The Higgie and Jones was renamed Higgie on 9 March, 1882
Chicago Tribune, March 5, 1882
John M. Higgie sold one-eighth of the schooner Higgie and Jones to William F. Higgie for $3,000, and transferred three-eighths more of the vessel to the same party for $1.
Chicago Tribune, November 9, 1882
An Extraordinary Trip by the Schooner Higgie
The schooner Higgie (formerly the Higgie & Jones owned an commanded by Capt. William F. Higgie, which arrived from Buffalo Tuesday, made a most wonderful trip. She left this port for Buffalo on the evening of Oct. 27 with a cargo of grain, lay at anchor in the Straits for eight hours, was detained at Buffalo thirty-four hours unloading and loading, and was back to Rush street Nov. 7, thus making the round trip in the wonderful time of eleven days and eighteen hours, a speed that equals the best running time of the fastest lake steamers. It is doubtful if the performance of the Higgie has ever been excelled by any vessel that ever sailed the great lakes. It is needless to say that Capt. Higgie is the recipient of many compliments from all who know anything about marine matters.
Chicago Tribune, May 11, 1884
The Schooner Higgie.
Edward E. Ayer is sorry that he bought the schooner Higgie. Yesterday he filed a bill in the Circuit Court against William F. Higgie, the former owner of the vessel, and Robert Meadowcraft, a banker, to prevent them from negotiating two notes for $14,000. He alleges that he bought the schooner from Higgie for $19,000, paying $5,000 cash and giving two notes for the balance. One note for $10,000 is due Aug. 1, and the other, for $4,000, is due Jan. 1, 1885. He bought the vessel this spring. She has been chartered by David Dows & Co. to carry a cargo of wheat to Buffalo as soon as navigation opened, and as she was loaded in December he was unable to make a thorough examination of his property. Higgie, however, so Ayer says, represented that the vessel was perfectly sound and seaworthy, and stated that he would make Ayer a present of her if there was a rotten timber in her. Ayer took Higgie’s word and, May 1, sent the vessel on her voyage. The following day she sprung a leak, partly filled with water, and had to put back to port. The cargo was damaged to the extent of $3,800, which Ayer says he paid, together with $2,000 more for tow-bills, elevating, and other expenses. The cargo was removed and the vessel overhauled, when it was discovered that several several timbers and a portion of her frame-work were rotten. Ayer now claims that the vessel is not worth over $9,000, and that after deducting the loss and damage already sustained he does not owe Higgie anything. He further alleges he is losing $100 a day while the schooner is lying idle, and asks for an injunction to prevent the collection or negotiation of the notes until the difficulty can be settled. A temporary injunction was issued by Judge Moran. The Tribune has previously reviewed the facts leading to this action and Friday morning gave its readers the result of the underwriters’ survey, which proved conclusively proved that the story about a rat gnawing a hole through the Higgie’s centre-board box was a ridiculous myth. Capt. Higgie is at present on his farm in Kansas. Mr. Ayer is a prominent South Water street cedar merchant. The vessel was formerly called the Higgie and Jones, her name being changed to the Higgie at the commencement of last season. She was built at Sheboygan in 1872. She registers 419 tons and rates A2. Her insurance valuation is $17,000.
Chicago Tribune, November 17, 1885
A dispatch from Capt. Thomas Ledden, master of the schr Higgie, to Edward Ayer, owner of that vessel, states that the Higgie is ashore and full of water in Georgian Bay. The Higgie left Chicago for Collingwood ① about ten days ago with a cargo of grain. After discharging her cargo she started for Alpena to load lumber for Chicago. Shortly after leaving Collingwood a fierce gale of wind and blinding snow-storm were encountered. It is supposed that Capt. Ledden lost his bearings as the Higgie brought up on a rock near Tobermory Harbor ②, which is at the entrance of Georgian Bay from Lake Huron. After striking the rock the vessel began to leak badly, and it was discovered that her forefoot had been sprung and her keel split as far as could be seen. By trimming the booms to leeward and running an anchor out astern the crew succeeded in heaving the vessel off the rock. She was then headed for Owen Sound, but when abreast of Cabot Head ③ she was making water so freely that it was found necessary to run her on the beach in order to save the lives of the crew. She was accordingly headed toward shore and allowed to settle on sandy bottom. Saturday afternoon two tugs came along and were employed by Capt. Ledden to tow the Higgie to Owen Sound ④, where repairs could be made. The vessel was released and a second start made for that port, but it was soon found that it would be impossible to keep her afloat and she was run into Lion Head Harbor ⑤, where she now lies full of water. Capt. Ledden concluded his dispatch with a request that a tug and steam-pump be sent at once. As the vessel is within the sacred precincts of her Majesty’s Dominion an American wrecking outfit could be not be sent, consequently Capt. Rounds left here for Detroit, where a tug will be obtained from the International Wrecking Company. The Higgie is insured for $15,000, of which $7,500 is in the Ætna, and the the remainder in the Detroit Fire & Marine and Commercial of Cleveland. Mr. Ayer, the owner, is at present in Arizona.
The Inter Ocean, November 18, 1885
Further advices from Captain Ledden, of the schooner Higgie, which is ashore in Lion’s Head Bay, Lake Huron, state that the vessel is in good shape and can be released without much expense or trouble if steam pumps are sent to her. At the present time she is full of water and is practically safe from being totally wrecked. Captain Rounds, who has gone to supervise the work of releasing her, will make all arrangements for tugs and pumps and working appliances at Toronto, and it is probable that the Higgie will be afloat again before the end of the present week.
Chicago Tribune, May 3, 1890
Difficult to Change a Boat’s Name.
It is not easy to change the name of a boat, as Ed. E. Ayer of the schooner Higgie, has found out. He has petitioned the Treasury Department to change tht schooner’s name to the George Sturges, in honor of the President of the Northwestern National Bank. Boats from fifteen to twenty years of age require repairs to 75 per cent of their value, and good reasons are also required for a change. Mr. Ayer states he has expended $13,000 in rebuilding the boat and that Frank Higgie, whose name she now bears, is personally objectionable to him.
Inspector Moore yesterday inspected the boat to pass upon the extent of her repairs. The change will probably be made.
Chicago Tribune, May 12, 1890
The Treasury Department refused permission to Ed E. Ayer to change the name of the schooner Higgie to George Sturges.
Thunder Bay River, Alpena, Michigan
The 4,748 ton passenger steamer William E. Reis (US No. 81688), ran into the George Sturges on 25 May 1906.
Boston Globe, October 10, 1908
The shipwrecked crew of the three masted schooner George Sturges of Chicago, reached Boston this morning, bringing a thrilling tale of rescue at sea by the Danish steamship General Consul Pallisen, which landed them at cape Ray. The names of the men are Axel Lundemo, Peter Oklund and O Ericksen of Norway, John Andersen of Sweden, Jack Martin of Hull, Eng; A. Nobal of Copenhagen, Joseph West of London, Eng., and B. Humphrey of Sheboygan, Wis. Capt. William F. Spurr, the commander of the ill-fated craft did not accompany the crew, as he went to to his home in Annapolis, N.S.
The men were brought here by the steamer Boston, which arrived at Long wharf at 10 a.m. from Yarmouth. They were absolutely penniless, although all have nearly a onth’s wages due them.
No Means of Escape.
According to the story told by the crew their escape from death in the wreck of the vessel was due entirely to the courageous work of the officers and men of the Danish steamship. With their only boat smashed to kindling wood, teh men were without means of escaping from the wreck, and were in despair when the Pallisen came along and effected their rescue.
For 36 years the George Sturges had sailed the waters of the great lakes, and it was supposed she would end her days there. But when she was purchased by W. K. Linscott of Mobile, Ala., he decided to take her south and use her in the gulf trade. The trip to the coast proved disastrous, for the old craft was battered to pieces before she had progressed many miles in salt water.
Once before, 18 years ago, the Sturges narrowly escaped shipwreck. She was driven ashore on the rocks in Georgian bay, and it was feared she would prove a total loss. She was floated, however, and rebuilt and continued to carry grain, lumber and other merchandise on the great lakes. She has been twice renamed, her first name being Higgie and Jones and her second Higgie.
Crew of the Wrecked Schooner.
Standing—Alex Lundemo, Joseph West, Peter Oklund, John Anderson, O. Ericksen.
Kneeling—Jack Martin, A. Nobal, B. Humphrey.
Struck by a Hurricane.
The Sturges came through the different locks from the lakes and reached the St. Lawrence without mishap. Cook Humphrey, who has been on the vessel 16 years, was the only one of the original crew which was in her when she met disaster. At Quebec most of the other men joined her.
The new owner obtained a charter for the schooner and she loaded a cargo of 2,750,000 laths at Campbellton, N. B. for New York.
Humphrey said that the Sturges left Campbellton Sept. 25, and for the first few days the weather was fair, the vessel making good progress. Oct. 2 a northeaster burst upon her, then she began to labor and strain. The gale increased to a hurricane, kicking up a fearful sea in which the craft wallowed until her seams opened and she began to leak like a sieve. The gale whipped around to the northwest and the wind blew with increased fury.
Clung All Night to Hulk.
The men were working pumps incessantly, but their efforts were unavailing, and she settled deeper and deeper in the water. Then the captain ordered the deck load put overboard to ease her, and at midnight Friday the crew began to throw out the laths. The craft was on her beam ends part of the time and the men had difficulty in preventing the seas from carrying them over the side.
The Sturges at that time was lurching into the seas, which threatened at any moment to tear her to pieces. It was then apparent to the old sailors on board that their craft would never weather the tempest, but in the blackness of the night with the terrible sea running u=it would have been suicidal to abandon her. So they clung to the hulk, praying that she would hang together until morning.
The schooner lurched into the hollow of one giant wave and buried her bow in a sea that those on board feared would capsize her. Her jibboom was carried away and the slackened stays caused the foretopmast and foreyard, with which the vessel was rigged, to crash to the deck. Two of the crew barely escaped being struck by the falling spars. They jumoped just in time to save themselves.
Boat Smashed, Escape Cut Off.
This was followed by a train of mishaps that caused everyone on board to believe they were doomed to certain death. The only boat, which hung to the stern davits, was struck by a sea which literally smashed it to small bits. This left the despairing men on the sodden hulk without means of escape, and their condition became desperate. Then the steering gear was torn away, and, the battered wreck became the plaything of the elements. She went over on her beam ends and rolled in the mountainous seas. The waves washed away the wreckage and then carried it back, smashing against the sides of the schooner and punching holes in the planking.
Dawn of the 3d found the men battling for their lives with the pumps. They were about 25 miles from shore, with not a succoring sail in sight. Straining their eyes to catch a glimpse of some craft the crew made out the smoke of a steamer. Work at the pumps was immediately abandoned and every man watched the speck on the horizon. Steadily it came toward them. The masts and funnel of the freighter were first made out, then the hull. A distress signal was hoisted to the main-mast and in addition to this some of the crew took off their oilskins and waved them frantically. It was a period of suspense for the shipwrecked group. Would their signals be seen?
Band of Heroic Rescuers.
The steamship was headed in their direction, and came steadily on. It proved to be the Gen. Consul Pallisen, in command of Capt. Christiansen, bound from Chatham, N. B. for Brow Head. She had gone through the same storm which wrought such havoc to the Sturges, and was delayed somewhat in consequence.
The officers of the Pallisen1 saw that heroic measures were necessary if the lives of the men on the schooner were to be saved. The seas were running in miniature mountains, but in spite of this a volunteer crew from the Danish vessel was quickly on the way in one of the lifeboats.
The work of rescue proved very difficult. The schooner was entirely surrounded by wreckage, making it impossible to get the lifeboat alongside. After several futile attempts to penetrate the mass of flotsam the crew of the schooner ripped off the wheel box and making a line fast to it dropped it into the sea. It drifted down to the life-savers and it was quickly secured by the men from the steamship. They attached a life buoy to the line, and by this means every member of the crew was drawn through the seething waves to the lifeboat in safety.
Landed in Boston Penniless.
Then the boat returned to the steamship and the shipwrecked sailors were taken on board. They were kindly cared for, and the next day the Pallisen stopped off cape Ray and a lifeboat put the men ashore there last Sunday, Monday the destitute men went by train to Fort Aux Basque, and from there to Sydney. Then they proceeded to Halifax and reported the circumstances of the loss of their vessel to U. S. Consul Gen Wilbur. He sent them to Yarmouth, where the consul provided them with new clothing. Until reaching that town the men wore tattered garments in which they left the wreck.
All the men are without money and will have to ship on other vessels is the only means of obtaining a living. Humphrey, the only American in the party, is anxious to return to his home in Sheboygan. He appealed to U. S. Shipping Commissioner Grant, and an effort will be made to get him transported back to the west.
The Sturges was abandoned off the Magdalen islands, and for a week she has been drifting about the entrance to the St. Lawrence, a serious menace to vessels bound to and from Montreal. Unless torn to pieces by the action of the waves or cast ashore, she is likely to drift about indefinitely, another waif of the ocean. She was built in 1872, registered 117 tons, was 173 feet long, 31 feet beam and 11 feet depth of hold.
Those of the crew landed here were unable to state the value of the vessel, but from her age and condition a conservative estimate would be about $4,000.
1The General Consul Pallisen was a steel screw steamer, built in 1905 by Clyde Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd., Port Glasgow. It was 294 feet in length.