James Fisk and Jay Gould were corporate raiders that are best known for perpetrating “Black Friday” by cornering the gold market, and also for their strong ties to corrupt politician Boss Tweed. They seized control of the Erie Railroad from Cornelius Vanderbilt. While they were in control of the railroad, they had two propellers commissioned, named after themselves, that would carry passengers and freight on the Great Lakes. This was in addition to a pair of sidewheel passenger ferries that operated in New York harbor, also named for themselves. Each ferry had a portrait of its namesake in the grand salon, and Fisk and Gould would only ride on the ferry that wasn’t named after them, to avoid being recognized by the masses. 

The Great Lakes propeller JAMES FISK, JR. was converted to a lumber-hooker in 1901. It burned to the waterline and sunk in the St. Clair Flats in 1906. Witnesses at Harsens Island said that the burning ship made a “splendid spectacle”, as it steamed past them on fire.

Coincidentally, in 1901, the FISK was sunk in Lake St. Clair by collision, while towing the barge H.C. SPRAGUE. Both vessels were recovered from this mishap. The SPRAGUE was later re-named NELLIE LYON, and today both vessels are permanent fixtures in the Flats, due to fires.

Its sister ship, the JAY GOULD, is sunk in Lake Erie.

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