Lottie Cooper



Remains Of Schooner Lottie Cooper Featured In Museum


By James Donahue


The schooner Lottie Cooper was one of a vast fleet of working oak hulled sailing vessels on the Great Lakes during the 19th Century. Her demise in a storm just off the Sheboygan, Wisconsin harbor in April, 1896, might have passed quietly into the dusty pages of history had divers not found and recovered her remains during construction of a new marina there in 1990.


After a portion of the ship was raised in one piece, it was carefully preserved and placed on public display at the city’s marina site. Area marine archaeologists went to work digging up all of the information they could find about this particular ship. It is because of their work that we can tell her story today.


The Cooper was built at the Rand & Burger Shipyard at Manitowoc, Wisconsin, in 1876, and launched there on March 30 of that year. She was named after the daughter of George Cooper, one of the original owners.


She was a small vessel at only 131 feet in length, but sported three masts and measured 250 gross tons.


Recovered Structure


The Cooper, with Capt. Fred Lorenz at the helm, made her final voyage across Lake Michigan from Sheboygan to Pine Lake, Michigan, where she took on 230,000 feet of elm lumber for the Mattoon Manufacturing Co.


On the return trip the vessel encountered heavy weather and develop a leak. Lorenz said she was leaking so badly that water covered the forecastle and cabin floors and the ship was nearly waterlogged by the time it reached Sheboygan at around 11 p.m. By then a full gale was blowing and the captain said the ship was so deep in the water that it would not carry canvas to enter the harbor on its own.


He said he ordered torches lit and dropped anchor just outside the harbor, hoping that a tug would steam out and tow the schooner into safe harbor. But no tug appeared.


Later that night the storm increased to a gale from the southeast. Lorenz and the four other members of his crew, Mate William Huhme and hands Charles Esbach, August Pegelow, Barney Haynes and Edward Ellison spent a terrible night enduring the cold wind, sea and water. Every wave washed over the deck. By morning the Cooper was flying her colors, indicating she was in distress. The forecastle was washed away, and shortly after sunup, the bulwarks got swept away. The vessel was breaking up.


By now the Sheboygan Life Saving crew was preparing a boat and the local tug Sheboygan was getting up steam, but they were too late.


Lorenz said the Cooper capsized, throwing everyone in the cold sea with stacks of dangerous deck logs. Everyone was clinging to the logs, taking a battering as the lumber slammed against them in the heavy seas, by the time the tug Sheboygan arrived to pull them out of the water.


Ellison drowned in the mishap, however. They said he apparently lost his grip, or got too cold to hang on any longer, and disappeared in the seas before help arrived.


The Cooper floated upside down for a while before sinking.


During its years on the lakes, the Cooper apparently remained a lumber carrier. There is at least one previous mishap recorded. In August, 1884, she was blown ashore near Port Sanilac, Michigan, while sailing on Lake Huron, from Port Sanilac to Drummond’s Island for a load of cedar. The wrecking tug Winslow pulled the vessel free.




Great And Lost Ships Of The World