Historic Tug Ella G. Stone
By James Donahue
From the day it was launched at Algonac in 1881 until the day it was destroyed by a forest fire near Duluth in 1918,
the wooden hulled tug Ella G. Stone played an important role in the history and development of the Lake Superior region.
She was launched as the E. L. Mason, but the name was changed in 1883 to Ella G. Stone, the name the tug carried for
the remainder of its years on the lakes. The Stone was used in towing and other tug services at Two Harbors, Minnesota. There
is was put to work bringing stone, concrete and other building materials for construction of the ore docks that made that
harbor a major shipping port in the nation’s steel industry.
In 1883 the construction locomotive known as 3-Spot was purchased at the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia,
and brought by rail to Duluth. The engine was to be used in the construction of a new rail line from Agate Bay to Tower Minnesota.
There were no rails or roads from Duluth to Two Harbors so the engine was placed on a barge and the Ella G. Stone was assigned
to tow it the rest of the trip.
It was late in July when the Ella G. Stone, mastered by Capt. C. O. Flynn, steamed out of Duluth harbor with the heavily
laden barge in tow and began the slow northward journey along the Lake Superior coast to Two Harbors.
A storm blew up out of the northeast when the two vessels were off Knife River, about half way to their destination.
The storm quickly grew into a gale and for awhile it looked as if the barge and its heavy cargo would be lost. Flynn told
his crew to stand by to cut the tow lines. Fortunately the storm quickly abated and the 3-Spot was delivered to Agate Bay.
From there the 3-Spot was put to work helping build the original railroad line from Agate Bay to Tower, Minnesota.
The engine was later moved to Knife River where it served the Duluth & Northern Minnesota Railroad for the Alger Smith
In 1896 the Stone was replaced by the larger, steel hulled tug Ella G. The old tug was sold in 1898 to the Northern
Dredge and Dock Company of Duluth where it joined a fleet of tugs and barges operating from Grassy Point.
The Ella G. Stone burned while moored at Grassy Point when a fire swept the area in 1918. The fire also destroyed the
tugs Mentor and John Jeffery Jr. plus six scows and a steam dredge, the Duluth.