Thomas Hume


Strange Disappearance Of The Thomas Hume

When the schooner Thomas Hume went missing in a Lake Michigan gale on May 21, 1891, everybody assumed that the ship sank.

After a week passed and the usual trappings from such a disaster; floating timbers, life jackets, lifeboats and bodies, failed to turn up, people realized they had a mystery on their hands. The Hume had disappeared without a trace.

The Hume originally was named the H. C. Albrecht. That was the name of Capt. Harry C. Albrecht to built and sailed the boat in the early 1870s.

Even though he no longer owned the boat, newspaper accounts said the Hume was commanded by Albrecht's son, Capt. George C. Albrecht, when it sailed into oblivion. The Hume and the Rouse Simmons, remembered as the ill-fated Christmas tree ship, were operating in the lumber trade that year, hauling cargo from Muskegon to Chicago.

The two schooners sailed from Chicago without cargo, traveling together for a while toward Muskegon. When a gale developed, the Simmons turned back. The Hume and its crew of seven were never seen again.

At first, when no wreckage was found, the owners believed the Hume may have anchored under the lee of an island or bay, or possibly blown aground. A thorough search of the Lake Michigan coastline, however, failed to turn up either ship or wreckage. As the days passed into summer, the mystery grew. How could an empty wooden schooner sink without a trace? Observers who knew boats spent hours talking about the Hume. They came up with several theories.

One man suggested that the boat was pulled down by the head by the weight of her anchors. Yet if that happened, the wooden stern or at least the masts should still be partly afloat and projecting out of the water. And what happened to things that might have been lying on the deck that would float away? Where was the floating wreckage?

Another idea: The Hume collided with another ship, possibly a steamer, was cut in two and sank. But where was the wreckage? If another boat struck the Hume, the master would have reported the accident. The Hume hired the tugboat Sills was hired to search Lake Michigan for clues of such an event. Days of searching the shoreline revealed no trace.

A writer for the Chicago Journal said on June 8: "The complete disappearance of the schooner Thomas Hume is so peculiar that old vesselmen have not ceased talking about it yet. There was a wild and woolly suggestion along the river this morning that the Hume might have gone to some obscure port, been repainted and changed her name and been sailed to some other portion of the lake."

But the suggestion was rebuffed by another old sailor who noted that "vessels have countenances like human beings. There is something different in the build of each one. It would be impossible for the Hume to pass by here without my recognizing her."

Until sport divers confirm that the wreck of the Hume lies somewhere at the bottom of Lake Michigan, there will remain a doubt in some minds that the vessel ever sank.

Great And Lost Ships Of The World