The Thew Run Down in Fog


By James Donahue


The crash was hardly felt by the crew of the steel steamer William Livingstone


The Livingstone's skipper, Capt. D. P. Craine, said he didn't bother to stop because he did not believe the smaller vessel involved, the 140-foot propeller W. P. Thew, was damaged.


"I didn't know the Thew was in need of help," Craine later told a board of inquiry at Detroit.


Captain Craine was strongly criticized after the Livingstone steamed off, leaving the small vessel in a sinking condition.


The two boats sideswiped because their wheelsmen were blinded by thick fog off Thunder Bay Island in Lake Huron early in the morning on June 22, 1909.


Witnesses said the boat crews were both aware of each other and had been exchanging signals only moments before the crash. They had blown twice on their horns, indicating that the helmsmen agreed to pass to starboard of each other.


Because of the fog, they miscalculated their position. The downbound Livingstone loomed out of the haze almost dead ahead and the crew of the Thew couldn’t turn fast enough to get out of the way. The smaller boat was struck a glancing blow on the starboard side, just forward of the engine room.


The blow was enough to open the Thew's wooden hull. Capt. William Duncan said the pumps could not keep up and it took only about 30 minutes for the boat to sink. The crew had enough time, however, to launch the life boat and save most of their personal belongings.


Chief engineer Timothy Barron was the only crew member to lose clothes. He remained at his post in the engine room until the fires were out. Captain Duncan ordered him to get into one of the life boats.


The steamer Mary C. Eiphicke stopped to pick up the 11 survivors later that morning.


The Thew was built at Vermilion, Ohio, in 1884 by Richard Thew, a successful industrialist who developed and patented a line of steam shovels, excavating and mining equipment.


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