Third Wreck Finished The Schooner Acontias
By James Donahue
When the 137-foot-long schooner Acontias wrecked on Presque Isle in Lake Huron on October 28, 1887,
the incident brought an end to the 31-year-old vessel’s disastrous years on the Great Lakes.
The schooner was loaded with lumber and was one of three lumber barges in tow behind the steam barge
Elfin-Mere, on a trip from Cheboygan to Detroit when the tow line parted in a snow storm. The Acontias and the two other barges,
the Lottie Mason and Moss, drifted on the rocks.
All three crews went to the rigging and were rescued by the Middle Island life savers before the Acontias
broke up and went to pieces in the heavy seas. The Elfin-Mere made it safely to shelter in Presque Isle harbor.
The Acontias was built at Oswego, New York in 1856. It sank and was declared a total loss in November,
1864, after hitting a rock near the mouth of the Detroit River, on Lake Erie. The schooner was laden with wheat at the time.
The rock was a known obstruction and a small lightship had been anchored over it until that same fall, when the vessel was
damaged in a storm and moved into port.
The Acontias fortunately sank in shallow water. It was salvaged, towed to Detroit, where the vessel
was rebuilt and put back into service.
The second serious accident occurred in November 1872 when the Acontias, under command of a Captain
Gotham, left Oswego, New York with a load of pig iron, bound for Detroit. As the vessel was making its way into Lake Erie
a sudden wind storm carried away the ship’s jibboom and the captain turned back to port for repair. The schooner was
under tow as it was entering the harbor, the tow line slipped, and the Acontias drifted in the river current back out into
the open lake. The wind drove the ship into the pier where the pounding was damaging the hull and threatening to sink the
schooner before a tug reached the scene.
A crew member jumped from the deck to the pier and successfully tied the vessel down until the tug
arrived. After being pulled into the harbor the Acontias sank. But it was pumped out a few days later and rebuilt