Schooner Van Straubenzie
Lost In Collision
By James Donahue
The schooner with the
strange name, Sir C. T. Van Straubenzie, was destroyed in the fall of 1909 when involved in collision with the steamer City of Erie off Lake Erie’s
It was an ugly night
crash. The steamer struck the schooner broadside about amidships, causing the Van Straubenzie to sink so fast only two members
of the crew survived. They were William T. Garner and Thomas Hollis, who both got on deck and jumped into the rigging as the
vessel settled under their feet.
Captain Corson, his mate,
James McCallum and the cook, Madeline Connolly, perished in the accident.
A court of inquiry determined
that the schooner was running at night with its forward green running light extinguished, thus causing the pilot of the steamer
to fail to determine that the vessel was on a collision course and in the path of the steamship.
The City of Erie was steaming east from Cleveland to Buffalo
while the Van Straubenzie was sailing in ballast from Port Colborne, Ontario,
to Cleveland for a cargo of coal.
During the hearing, the
pilot of the steamer, Edward S. Picked, testified that he and other crew members saw only a red light ahead of them. When
the light was spotted directly ahead of the steamship, the order was given to stop and reverse engines, but by then it was
too late to avoid the collision. He said they could not see the green light that marked the forward part of the schooner.
Garner, the only member
of the Van Straubenzie’s crew to testify, said that during his escape from the sinking vessel, he crawled over the forward
lamp and noticed that it was still burning. The board of inquiry disregarded Garner’s testimony and accepted Picked’s
The Van Straubenzie settled
upright in 200 feet of water, about eight miles off the point, making it a great visit for sport divers equipped for deep-water
exploration. Divers say the ship is in excellent condition with its foremast still standing, its windlass in place and two
anchors still on their chains. One anchor lies on the port deck and the other is in the mud off the port bow. The ship’s
wheel is still intact and a broken yawl boat leans against the port rail.
When launched in 1875
the Van Straubenzie was originally rigged as a barquentine, although her rigging was changed to that of a schooner for convenience.
The vessel could be handled with a smaller crew. The ship measured 128 feet in length, and sported three masts, making it
among the larger schooners working on the lakes.
During her years on the
lakes, the Van Straubenzie stranded on Lake Superior and was declared a total loss in November,
1883. But salvagers recovered the hull the following year and it was rebuilt and put back into service.