E. U. Demmer


Edward U. Demmer

The E. U. Demmer Lost In 1923 Collision In Lake Huron


By James Donahue


The steamer Edward U. Demmer joined the fleet of ghost ships on Thunder Bay following a collision one foggy morning in 1923.


The remains of the steel propeller lie about 40 miles off shore. It settled there on the morning of May 20 after tangling with the steamer Saturn.


The Demmer's pilot, Capt. Joseph E. Burke of St. Clair, and 26 other sailors narrowly escaped the sinking vessel in lifeboats. They were picked up by the passing steamers R. L. Agassiz and James B. Eads.


The Demmer, owned by the Milwaukee Western Fuel Co., was upbound for Milwaukee with 7,000 tons of coal. The Saturn, a downbound ore carrier commanded by Capt. Z. H. Utley of Marine City, steamed out of the dense fog shrouded waters and rammed the ill-fated steamer broadside near the starboard bow.


Demmer crew members said the Saturn backed away and then disappeared in the fog. The Saturn’s bow was crushed and the boat was leaking, but the boat's pumps managed to keep it afloat. The Saturn stopped at Port Huron to have part of its load removed before going on to a Detroit dry dock.


Utley denied any responsibility. A statement he made to a U. S. marine inspection officer was never made public.


Demmer crew members said their boat sank so fast they barely had time to get the life boats off the davits. Three of the men were sleeping below deck and escaped in only their underwear.


The captain of the Agassiz said he searched for lifeboats for three hours in the fog. He said he could hear the cries of the sailors but could not find them.


A lone shipmate, deckhand Niels Kruger of Buffalo, was found by the steamer Eads in a lifeboat half filled with water. Kruger said he thought the rest of the crew went down with the ship.


The Demmer was launched as the J. K. Dimmick and later bore the name Admiral before taking its final name.


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