Historic Ship Dover Lost In Ecorse Blaze
By James Donahue
When a fire swept a number of Great Lakes vessels laid up for the winter at Ecorse, Michigan, the side-wheeler Dover
was among the boats that burned. The Dover was the final name given to the historic steamship Frank E. Kirby, a familiar sight
on the lakes for 42 years.
Launched at Wyandotte in 1890, the Kirby was a steel-hulled side-wheeler designed for passenger service. She bore the name of well-known Nineteenth Century naval architect Frank E. Kirby. Measuring 196 feet in
length, the steamer operated successfully for the Ashley & Dustin Steamer Line of Detroit, making regular trips between
Detroit and Sandusky, Ohio, with stops at Put-In-Bay, Middle Bass Island and Kelley’s Island.
Later in her career, the steamer came under the ownership of the Detroit-Kingville Line, was renamed Silver Spray,
and began runs from Detroit to other Lake Erie ports. The ship’s last owners, the Nicholson’s Erie-Dover Ferry
Line, a division of the Nicholson Transit Company, gave her a final name, Dover.
It was while operating under the name Dover that this vessel suffered two serious fires. The first occurred on February
2, 1929, while the ship was laid up alongside another company-owned steamer, the Erie. Both vessels were severely damaged
in the blaze, but both were rebuilt and returned to service.
A second and final fire destroyed the Dover while it was laid up with a number of other vessels at Ecorse, Michigan,
in 1932. This time the remains of the old Dover were scrapped. Her engine was removed to Greenfield Village in Dearborn. Because
of the demand for scrap iron during World War II, the engine also was scrapped in 1940.