Return to Ships of John Gregory
Chicago Tribune, February 22, 1881
O. B. GREEN’S NEW TUG.
At the yard of O. B. Green, the well-known contractor, John Gregory, the popular designer and master builder, is superintending the construction of a new tug for Mr. Green, of the following dimensions: Length of keel, seventy feet; length over all, eighty feet; breadth of beam, sixteen and one-half feet; depth of hold, nine feet. Mr. Gregory is introducing several improvements in this tug which are calculated to give her greater strength than most boats of her size possess. One of these improvements is the notching of the keelsons so as to let them down over the frames, thus forming the whole into one solid mass of timber from the bottom of the keel to the top of the keelson. This is only one of several innovations that may bear mention later on, when the tug is launched. The newcomer will carry an 18×18 engine, and a boiler seventeen feet long, with a shell six feet three inches in diameter. The design is to have her ready for launching by the 1st of April. The estimated cost of the tug, complete, is about $15,000.
Chicago Tribune, March 30, 1881
Capt. Edward Napier has resigned the command of the tug O.B. Green in order to superintend the completion of O.B. Green’s new tug now on the stocks of Mr. Gregory’s yard on the North Branch.
To-day the name and papers of the old tug O.B.Green are to be changed. She will thereafter be known as the Commodore. Mr. Green’s new tug is to bear the name O.B. Green. Hence the change, which was arranged by mutual consent.
Chicago Tribune, March 31, 1881
UNION LINE OF TUGS.
The list of tugs that will form the Union Line the present season is now about complete. As will be seen by the array of names appended, the combination is a formidable one:
Negotiations are pending for the purchase of another powerful to be added to the fleet. Should they be consumminated the fleet will c onsist of eighteen boats, all but four of which range from medium to the largest size harbor tugs.
O. B. Green II
The second O. B. Green was built for Oliver B. Green by shipbuilder John Gregory at the Miller Brothers shipyard. According to the 1874 Chicago Directory Mr. Green was operating a dry dock which meant he would need tugs to bring in broken ships to repair. In September, 1881 O. B. Green (US No. 155041) was launched.
A highly publicized six mile race took place on 17 June 1882 between two tugs – the John Gregory and the O. B. Green. According to the Milwaukee Journal, both tugs strained themselves and they ran so evenly that neither craft could claim a victory. Except John Gregory, who built both of them.
On 22 June 1882 the Sturgeon Bay Canal Company had nearly completed a telephone line from the canal to the mouth of the bay—a distance of about nine miles—so that the tug O. B. Green, in whichever part of the bay she happens to be, can be signaled without delay when a vessel is sighted that wants a tow through.
Chicago Tribune, September 2, 1900
IN the pilot house of the last brown-coated Dunham tug that piles up and down the Chicago River day after day rides a man who carries with him as passengers the spirits of his dead friends, and of other departed mariners whose mortal bodies he never knew. The tug is the O. B. Green, the man her Captain, Louis Groh. As he stands during long hours with one hand on the straight steel lever that guides tug and tow he converses with these old and new friends as freely as with members of the crew, and from them he obtains both information and advice about the river and the lake. For more than a quarter of a century he has been a master of tug boats on the river, and during that time has acted often on the advice of his spirit friends—advice so good that there are few men on this river or about the lakes with clearer records as careful navigators.
He is a short, thick set man, with steel-gray eyes and a pleasant face, browned and weatherbeaten by many years of exposure. Standing at the lever in the pilot-house of his tug recently he told of many a strange experiences with the spirits.
- To begin with I am a spiritualist from the ground up, and why wouldn’t be? I have seen many spirits as plain as I now see you, and so have my wife and my boy. Why, right here in this pilot-house I have seen them. It is many years since my uncle died. One night some one woke me up, telling me the tug was wanted. I saw a shadowy form in the door and ran to see who it was and there was no one to be seen. A few minutes later a call came from the office that I was ato go out after a tow. A little later, while I was at home, my uncle appeared to me and told me it was he who called me. He has done it since, coming in a few minutes before the tug is to be needed.
EXPECTS TO FIND CHICORA1
Maybe you’ll believe all this when I locate the Chicora for you. Yes, sir, now you look startled, and well you may. But I’ll find it yet. I was visited one day by John Ericson. Didn’t know him at first, for I hadn’t seen him since he was killed in 1896. Knew him in a minute, though.
‘I’m a-goin’ to find the Chicora for you,’ he said.
‘How’ll I know?’ I asked.
‘Well, I’m coming back to see you again and locate it on paper. But f you pass over the spot before that I’ll strike you with a chill and throw you to the floor of the pilot-house so that you’ll know it’s the place.’
We talked a bit longer and then he said Captain Johnny Ferguson wanted to talk to me, and so he went away. That was at a trumpet séance, and I expect to go to another soon and hear from him again.
As all river men know, John Ericson was fireman in the tug T. T. Morford when the boiler of that vessel exploded in 1896. At that time the Captain of the tug was blown clear over a bridge and dropped, still living, in the river. The engineer, Charles Dick, was blown to the deck of the Ionia and killed; the fireman, Ericson, was killed and blown into the river, and John Ferguson, standing as Captain Groh stood at the steering gear of the O. B. Green, was killed by a fragment of the burst boiler which fell on the tug’s pilot-house.
The steamer Chicora left Milwaukee in January, 1895, for St. Joseph, since when nothing has been heard or seen of it, save battered fragments of its upper works. Ed Stines was in command of it and had about twenty-four men under him.
Captain Groh said:
- That isn’t the first we have seen of Ericson since he died, either, though the other time it was my niece that saw him, and not I. We couldn’t find his body, unti he came to her and told her he was in air-line ship and would come to the top if a steamer’s wheel churned up the water. I backed the Chemung into the slip and sure enough its wheel brought Ericson’s body to the top.
HARD TO HEAR SPIRITS.
If John Ericson doesn’t find the Chicora for me there are others who will. Ed Stines is trying to talk to me. I am a little hard of hearing and most of the spirits talk in whispers, so I have to hear through mediums sometimes. Ed and six of his crew frequently call upon a North Side medium, and they keep asking for me, and I intend to go up soon and learn the whole story of the Chicora’s last voyage. I know it is niot between here and St. Joe, for I have crossed three times since I saw John, and he has not stricken me with a chill.
From John Ferguson I have heard little, though he often calls upon me to pass a greeting. How do all these men appear? Why, just as they did in life. Often I’d scarcely know they were spirits if I did not know they had died. Just the other day I was coming up the river, and as I passed the Goodrich wharf there was old Captain Gilman standing there as natural as life, directing affairs. Dave Cochran was there, too. Now Gilman had been dead since last winter and Dave has been superintendent in his place, yet there was the old man, as real as ever. When I see a man with my eyes and hear him with my ears, why should I doubt he is there? I stood here in the pilot-house door and watched Gilman until we were through the Rush street bridge.
TABLE RAISES IN AIR.
It isn’t only here on the tug I see these things, but at home as well. Sometimes when we are sitting at table or are near it it will suddenly lift two or three feet in air and move around. Often this happens during a conversation, and then we know the spirits want to say something. We ask them what it is and it in letters of fire right in the air so that we all, even the boy, can read it. Last winter my aunt died near Detroit. One night as we were talking about it a spirit called our attention and told us that my aunt had left us some money sewed in the bottom of an old rocking chair. I went to Detroit and found the chair, but some one else had cut it open and got the bag of gold.
These spirits at home are our guiding spirits. Every one has one if he would recognize it. They are with us daily and are always willing to do anything for us. Why, my wife puts them to frequent use. When she mislays anything and cannot find it she asks the spirits. They write in words of fire just where it us, and sure enough we find it. We put them to daily use thus in countless ways.
Often my wife feels worried about me and wants to know just where I am and what I am doing. She calls upon her guiding spirit and asks the question. The spirit goes out and sees me and tells her, all in the twinkling of an eye. Sometimes even she wants to send a a message to me and has no way to do so. She merely calls a spirit, asks to have me told, and knows it is done. The spirit appears to me here and writes the message for me. Sometimes I can see just the hand, tracing the burning letters. I am used to these things and they do not seem at all strange to me, though they might to another.
While telling these tales of strange visitations Captain Groh was engaged in guiding his tug and its heavy tow through the narrow bridge draws of the South Branch. There was an earnestness, a conviction in his voice and manner that left no doubt as to his absolute sincerity. The listener was moved to cast an apprehensive look over each shoulder and turn quickly around lest one of the visiting spirits should be peeking over his shoulder.
DEAD ALWAYS NEAR HIM.
Captain Groh continued:
- There is really little popularity about spirits and spiritualism. Ss a matter of fact, the dead are all about us and are ready and willing to render us any possible service. My niece, who lives at my house, sometimes sees whole dozens of them in the room about her. These spirits she consults on every personal matter. Why, the largest dry goods merchant on State street is a spiritualist, and always consults his spirit guide before undertaking any enterprise. Like many well-known society women he has a cabinet in his own home at which he holds private seances. Queen Victoria is a spiritualist, and has a regular medium always in attendance, through whom she consults the dead Prince Consort whenever anything of moment is in foot.
George Washington was a spiritualist. His writings show it. So was Abraham Lincoln, and so has been every other great man. The Bible is full of stories of spiritualist. So it is not strange to me that I am able to see these things.
- Can a ship have a spirit, too, Captain?
What do you mean?
- Well, when the Maine was blown up it was said by New England fishermen that the specter of the destroyed vessel manned by a spirit crew was often seen cruising up and down the coast from ‘Quoddy Head to Boone Island light. It used to come along in a fog, and when it was abreast of a vessel the breeze would die out. A chill would come over the water and the vessel passed would seem to shiver as its sails hung idle. The specter crew stood at the guns and the fog horn was moaning. From the masthead flew the signal. ‘We cannot rest until avenged.’ The schooner Ethel Merriam came into Booth Bay harbor white all over, though it had gone out black, and Captain John Newman could not be induced to take it out for weeks because he said he had seen the ghost of the Maine.
SPIRITS OF SHIPS.
Then here on our own coast the lost Chicora has often been descried on a storm wind driving down the sea, with white ice all about it even in midsummer, and with the ice-clad form of Captain Stines upon the bridge. Years ago the Thomas Hume sailed out of port one evening, and since then not a vestige of it has been found. Annually, however, on the date of its disappearance a specter schooner glides from under the ice of the northeast breakwater and moves off down the lake, regardless of wind. Once a tug Captain followed it to where it was going, but when it was off Grosse Point and about ten miles from shore suddenly the masts and sails tottered and fell and the hull lurched and disappeared beneath the glassy sea, while a terrible wail from the crew came across the water. Do you really believe that these are really ghosts of the ships, Captain?
Captain Groh looked with dreamy eyes out through the window of the pilot-house. He seemed hardly to see the the bridge through which he was skillfully guiding his craft. He shifted the steering bar almost mechanically, now to port, now to starboard, now to steady. He seemed in communion with his “guiding spirit” at the moment. His visitor looked expectantly at the open air, thinking to see an answer there in “letters of fire” written by a spirit hand. If such there was none but the Captain saw it. He spoke at last, without shifting his gaze.
- I should say rather spirit ships than spirits of ships. There’s a vast difference. A vessel is not like a person. You think of it as alive, and yet it is not. When it perishes it perishes entirely. But if the spirits of mariners desired to do so, I see no reason why they should not build or call into being a spirit ship exactly like it. It would be as real to them as the original was to us. On such a ship they could cruise at will. I cannot believe the Maine’s crew would be unable to rest until avenged, but I think it provable that they might have taken that means of urging people on to war against the Spaniards who had destroyed them. So with Stines. He may be showing how he and his crew went to their death. I have often heard of these ships, and yet, strange as it may seem, I have never seen them myself.
TAKES SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHS.
A thing I have seen, though, and which proves that there really are spirits about us, is spirit photographs. Some time ago when my wife was out in Iowa she took a number of photographs. When she came home and developed and printed these we found the spirits. In one picture she thought she noticed a face. She examined it closely and found not only that face but no less than thirty others, none of which had been apparent to her when she made the picture. Almost in the centre was her sister smiling at her—her sister who had been dead for years. Since then she has made many others, and on every one of them a spirit is apparent, and some are full of them.
More than that, I have seen oil paintings made by spirits. Nearly all communication I have with them is at my own home, but there are times when I attend meetings at the homes of other spiritualists. At one such meeting there were many oil paintings at the homes of other spiritualists. At one such meeting there were many oil paintings made. To get these you have only to furnish a subject to be painted. The canvas you put on a frame and lock in a box. You may walk around the room, talk, or do what you will while the picture is being made. After a while you hear three taps from the box, and when you come to open it there is the paining all complete. Sometimes the spirit leaves it half done with a message telling you when to come again.
Sometimes I attend ‘trumpet’ seances. At such a meeting there is a big trumpet which floats about unsupported through the air and is used by by the spirits to make their voices loud enough to be heard. Many spirits await their turn to direct the trumpet towards friends and speak through it. It was at such a meeting that John Ericson told me about the Chicora
MAKE QIUICK JOURNEYS.
At another seance we called upon a spirit to go to my home near Detroit and learn Detroit and learn certain things. He went and was back with the information in no time. Another spirit was sent to Sweden on a similar errand, and in almost twenty-three minutes brought the answer back. And that spirit, speaking through Max Hoffman, a man who had never been to Sweden, told all about Swedish customs and described in detail certain villages from which there were people present. The spirit who went to my home told me all about my people and what each one was doing.
When I see and hear such things, what am I to believe? That my senses deceive me? Or that what the Bible tells about and what many wise people believe is true and that the spirits really are there, ready to aid and advise us?
My wife is out at Clinton, Ia., now at a spiritualist conference, and I promise you there will be strange things done there both through mediums and through those who are not.
Captain Groh and his strange beliefs are well known on the river. The O. B. Green is itself one of the best known boats on the stream and was noted for years as the possessor of the only siren whistle in port—a whistle so noisy and notorious that other sirens, as they were installed, received the generic title of “O. B. Greens.” Whenever the tug moves along the river other Captains point Groh out as the “ghost master.” They lean from their pilot-house doors and watch curiously to see if any shadowy forms can be detected lingering about his boat. All their side remarks, however, cannot influence him to renounce his faith. Has he not the evidence of his senses? An d with that he is satisfied and is always ready to argue for his spirit friends.
1881, Sep 23 Enrolled Chicago, IL.
1888-1905 Owned Dunham Towing Company, Chicago.
1907-1908 Owned Great Lakes Towing Company, Cleveland, OH.
1908 Owned Dunham Towing Company, Chicago.
1909 Owned Great Lakes Towing Company, Cleveland.
O. B. Green II
The O. B. Green was still listed in April, 1914 edition of the Ship Masters’ Association of the Great Lakes Directory. Her owner was the Great Lakes Towing Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. Final enrollment surrendered at Chicago on 26 June 1911.
In 1911 dismantled & abandoned, engine to Indiana (US No. 208915).
O. B. Green II
1 The Chicora was built for the Graham & Morton Transportation Co. of Benton Harbor and was lost during a storm on January 21, 1895, while delivering a shipment of late winter flour from Milwaukee to St. Joseph. Twenty-three crew members and a single passenger perished. The remains of the Chicora has been considered the Holy Grail of lost shipwrecks in Southwest Michigan. The boat was finally found on May 21, 2001 about 15 miles offshore using side-scan sonar equipment.