Charles H. Bradley


The Bradley

The Burning Of The Bradley

By James Donahue

From the day it rolled down the ways at Wheeler’s Shipbuilding yard at Bay City, Michigan, the Charles H. Bradley was exactly what it still was on the day it burned . . . a lumber hooker.

The steamer served 41 faithful years in that capacity, its decks laden with the lumber cut from the great forests that once stood along the Great Lakes coastlines. Because it was only 201 feet in length, the Bradley was usually always accompanied by a barge-in-tow, also filled with lumber.

Lumber was big business along the lakes in those early years.

The Bradley met its end unexpectedly at the south entry to the Keweenaw Waterway on the morning of October 9, 1931. The vessel was partly loaded with pulpwood for Georgian Bay and had the usual consort, the 218-foot barge Grampian in tow as it headed into the channel.

On Fire

That morning the light beacon for the channel was not burning and there was fog. Consequently the Bradley, under the command of Captain Golomblaky, came in too close to the west bank and ran aground on the edge of the channel. It stopped abruptly and the barge slammed into the ship’s stern, damaging its electrical conduits plus the steam pipe to the fire pumps.

The shorted wiring immediately started a fire that broke out near the pilot house. Without a working fire pump the crew could only fight the blaze with water buckets. The bucket brigade was inadequate and the fire was quickly out of control. Golomblaky ordered the men to abandon ship and they were taken off onto the Grampian.

The load of pumpwood fueled the flames which consumed the Bradley’s upper works and left the wreck a burned-out hulk. It settled in about five feet of water and there remained a navigation hazard for many year until it was razed. Remains of the wreck can still be found by divers off the mouth of the Sturgeon River, at the west edge of the entrance to the ship canal.

Great And Lost Ships Of The World