Ships 2

Henry B. Smith

Ships 3

Henry B. Smith

Henry B. Smith Lost In 1913 Storm

By James Donahue

The 525-foot ore carrier Henry B. Smith was one of the 12 Great Lakes ships lost in what has gone down in history as The Great Storm of 1913. This vessel foundered with all hands in Lake Superior, off Marquette, Michigan, after loading a full cargo of iron ore.

The Smith, Captain James Owen at the helm, arrived at Marquette on November 6 to load ore. The storm that swept the lakes packed hurricane force winds, raised 50-foot waves, dumped up to 24 inches of snow, downed trees, utility lines and destroyed buildings while it raged from November 7 to November 11. Numerous other vessels were driven aground and an estimated 250 lives were lost.

This was to have been the final trip of the season for the Smith. The crew fought the storm for two days getting the vessel loaded with ore. The freezing rain and snow kept freezing the hopper cars, requiring the men to chip away the ice just to get the work completed.

The Smith, which had been plagued that year by problems that brought several delays in shipments, was again behind schedule. Captain Owen was under pressure to get underway as soon as the storm broke. Unfortunately, he, like several other lake captains, was fooled when an unexpected lull in the gale occurred on the afternoon of November 9. It was the eye of the storm, but lake sailors were unfamiliar with hurricanes. The Smith dropped her mooring lines and put to sea.

Observers on other vessels in the harbor said Owen was in such a hurry to get the Smith underway crew members were still busy getting the ship’s 32 hatches closed and sealed even as the steamer was pulling away. The storm returned shortly after the Smith entered Lake Superior, and the crew was still busy trying to get those hatches closed.

People on shore watched as the Smith turned away from its expected easterly course for Sault Ste. Marie, and turned west, apparently trying to find shelter behind Keweenaw Point. After the sun set, the Smith was never seen again.

Two days later it was obvious that the Smith was lost. Debris from the wreck began washing ashore from Chocolay Bay to Laughing Fish Point. The body of H. R. Haskin, the second cook, was recovered west of Whitefish Point a few days later. The skeletal remains of third engineer John Gallagher was found on Parisian Island the following year.

Sports divers found the Smith in 2013, nearly a century after it foundered. The ship lies in 535 feet of water about 30 miles north of Marquette. The divers say this wreck, unlike most of the other wrecks found from this storm, sits upright. Strangely, the cargo of ore is lying on the lake floor under the wreck.

It is theorized that the steamer tipped in the storm, spilled its cargo through the open hatches, before it sank.

The Smith was seven years old, having been launched in 1906 in Lorain, Ohio.