Ships 2

Soo City

Ships 3

Soo City

Strange Disappearance of the Soo City

By James Donahue

After a successful twenty-year career on the Great Lakes, the ornate passenger steamer Soo City met her end in a cloak of mystery on the North Atlantic. Nineteen sailors died when the ship disappeared sometimes between November 14 and December 4, 1908, while steaming from Quebec down the Atlantic coast. The first that anyone knew something happened was when wreckage began washing ashore December 4 near North Sidney, Nova Scotia.

The Soo City had been a popular excursion liner on the lakes before the owners, the Indiana Transportation Company, sold it to Felix Jackson of Velasco, Texas. Jackson planned to put the boat in service along the Texas coast on the Gulf of Mexico.

Capt. F. V. Dority of Milwaukee was in command when the Soo City made her final voyage through the Great Lakes. She left Michigan City, Indiana on November 1 and reached Ogdensburg, New York, on November 11. There Dority turned over command to Capt. John G. Dillon of Brooklyn, who was assigned to take the ship down the St. Lawrence River and then south along the Atlantic coast to Velasco.

The other crew members remained aboard for the trip. They included second mate Angus McIntyre of Chicago; first mate Charles L. Warwick, Michigan City; second engineer N. J. Duncan, Chicago; purser James Anderson, Montague, Michigan; oilers Frank Kelly, Alpena, and George Brown, Chicago; firemen Frank Schwimm, Michigan City, and Samuel Olebsky, Chicago; coal passer E. L. Weaver, Dowagiac, Michigan; and cooks Max Sanders and Charles Warner, both of Chicago.

After taking on coal at Quebec, the vessel steamed down the St. Lawrence River and was never seen again. The Soo City was first thought to have foundered in a violent winter storm that swept the Great Lakes and moved east to the North Atlantic on December 1 and 2. Several vessels on the lakes, including the steamer Tampa, were sunk or driven ashore and other lives were lost. But when life belts began drifting ashore with the names of both the S. S. Stanley and Soo City, people started to theorize a collision at sea.

The mystery deepened after the Stanley, a Canadian icebreaker, was found safe at Charlotte Town, Prince Edward Island. Nobody could explain how the life belts got mixed up with those of the stricken Soo City.

No bodies came ashore. Sailors also wondered why the Soo City was still in the North Atlantic on December 1, because it steamed from Quebec on September 14. They said it was expected to reach its destination at Texas in about ten days.

The only way it could have happened, they reasoned, was if the boat somehow became disabled and remained adrift for several days until the storm sank it. The mystery has never been solved. There were no survivors and no wreckage was ever found.