Ships 2

Ralph Budd

Ships 3

Wrecked Ralph Budd

Ralph Budd’s Strange Impact On The Keweenaw

By James Donahue

The 381-foot steamer Ralph Budd is well remembered by the older residents of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. When it grounded in a gale near Eagle Harbor on May 15, 1929, tons of cargo comprised of grain, flour, shingles and refrigerated items that included butter, cream, eggs and meat, washed ashore.

The Budd was remembered as “the butter wreck” because the locals, already reeling under the prelude to what was soon to be known as the Great Depression, came in droves to scavenge the cargo, especially the food, as it washed ashore. Ted Harvey wrote that he remembered his father bringing home about 40 pounds of butter and bacon salvaged with friends who went to the scene in a rowboat.

There were no roads leading to the wreck site to the local scavengers had to walk for miles to reach the wreck, but for them the rewards were worth the hike. Many people were out of work and those that were employed were earning less than they needed to cover the cost of running the household

Harvey said the food was wrapped in wax paper and “just as hard as a brick from being in that cold water.” He wrote that they shared much of it with relatives and other neighbors. For everyone it was “manna from heaven” added to their larder.

There is a strange story that Cat Harbor also got its name because of the wreck of the Ralph Budd. It was said that the sailors liked to keep cats on the boats to control the rodents. There were several cats living on the steamer and they all moved ashore, thrived and multiplied. Thus there was an abundance of domestic cats living in the wild in the area after this. The entire Keweenaw Peninsula still has what may be more than a normal number of cats. Nearly every household has at least one pet cat.

The Budd, Captain Dugland McLoud of Buffalo at the helm, left Duluth on the night of May 14, encountered a violent spring storm off Keweenaw Point, and was driven aground at about 10:30 p.m. the following night on Saltese Point. All 31 crew members were safely removed by the Eagle Harbor Coast Guard the next day.

The ship, bearing the name of the president of the Great Northern Railway, was refloated by famed ship salvager Tom Reid of Sarnia, Ontario. It was rebuilt as a bulk freighter and remained active on the lakes under the name L. A. McCorquodale until it was scrapped in 1963.

The Ralph Budd was launched at Ecorse as a steel automobile carrier named Superior in 1904. It was renamed the Ralph Budd in 1926 after being sold to the Great Lakes Transit Co. of Buffalo.