Sylvanus J. Macy


Sylvanus J. Macy

Sinking Of The Sylvanus J. Macy

By James Donahue

The Erie gale came upon the freighter Sylvanus J. Macy and her consort, the schooner-barge Mabelle Wilson with great fury. The two boats were on their way from Buffalo, their holds laden with coal, bound for Kenosha, Wis., when the storm hit on the night of Nov. 23, 1902.

Captain J. E. Gothem, master of the Wilson, said the storm generated mountain high seas and furious winds from the southwest. They tossed the two hapless vessels about like corks. Gothem said they were off Port Burwell when the tow line parted and the Wilson was cast adrift. He later said he thought it possible that the line was cut by the crew of the Macy because the steamer was sinking.

Gothem said his crew raised sail and he succeeded in bringing the schooner eastward, before the wind, until he found safe anchorage at the lee of Bar Point. He said the schooner quickly outdistanced the Macy and after a while he could no longer see the steamer’s lights.

When the Macy failed to show up at Detroit, Gothem said he was sure the boat was sunk. His suspicions were confirmed on Nov. 27 when the steamers J. J. Albright and Seneca both reported passing through wreckage about 30 miles east of Long Point. The wreckage included cabin doors, life preservers, hatches and chairs. No bodies were found.

Lost with the Macy were Capt. M. W. Gothem and his unnamed son, who served as first mate. The Gothems were probably related to the skipper of the Wilson.

Also lost were Chief Engineer Walter F. Gregory and his assistant George Webb, and wheelman John Nugent.

The Macy’s oak hull was made extra deep at 21 feet to allow the 171-foot-long vessel to carry extra large cargoes of coal and grain. The boat was built at Marine City in 1881, so was a 21-year lake veteran when it sank.

Great And Lost Ships Of The World