Site Description

  • Steamer
  • 25 – 90ffw
  • 214ft Length
  • Rabbit Island, Lake Huron
  • 45° 16.069′  N 081° 42.543′ W

Chronological History

  • 1871 May 19 First enrolled Detroit, MI
  • 1871 towed barge BRUNETTE, Gibraltar, MI, ore trade
  • 1871-1901 Long term consort to BRUNETTE
  • 1879 Apr 19 2 decks; 215.4 x 33.4 x 21′; 1,216.75 gross tons
  • 1880 Lake Superior ore trade
  • 1881 May 11 Owned Thomas Axworthy, et al, Cleveland, OH
  • 1883 Apr 30 1,032.76 net tons
  • 1885 Summer Escanaba, MI & OH ore trade
  • 1886 Apr 14 Owned J. H. Palmer, et al, Cleveland
  • 1890 Jun 3 Burned, declared total loss, Lake Erie
  • 1890 Sep 8 Struck, sunk schooner-barge TREMBLE, Port Huron, MI, Detroit River
  • 1891 Mar 9 Rebuilt; 1 deck, 213.7 x 33.4 x 12.6′, 819.74 gross/700.33 net tons; reboilered, 12 x 12/12′, 120# scotch boiler
  • 1893 May 18 Broke steam chester, Lake Huron; towed to port Huron, MI by steamer FAYETTE BROWN
  • 1894 Nov 12 Stranded near Manitowoc, WI, Lake Michigan
  • 1895 Apr 11 Owned Henry Gordon, et al, Cleveland
  • 1897 Apr 26 Owned Frank Goodman, et al, Cleveland
  • 1898 May 20 Owned C. F. Palmer, et al, Cleveland
  • 1898 Aug 31 Owned Charles R. Jones, et al, Cleveland
  • 1899 Apr 12 Owned Lumber Transportation Co., Mentor, OH, et al
  • 1900 Apr 3 Owned John J. Boland, Buffalo, NY, et al
  • 1901 Nov 29 Wrecked Rabbit Island, Georgian Bay, Lake Huron
  • 1902 Jan 25 Documents surrendered, Buffalo

3D Model

Duluth News Tribune 
      December 2, 1901 #

      Early Friday morning the steamer W. L. WETMORE and consorts BRUNETTE and KING, all three loaded with lumber from Parry Sound for Tonawanda, ran ashore on Rabbit Island in Georgian Bay, two miles from Tobermory. Heavy wind and snowstorms prevailed at the time. Tugs were sent to the assistance of the vessels as soon as news of the mishap reached Tobermory. 

Marine Record 
      December 5, 1901  #

On Tuesday and reported the loss of the vessels near Tobermory, Georgian Bay, on Friday last, during a heavy gale and snow storm. No lives were lost but the vessels with their lumber cargoes are considered to be total losses. 

Duluth news-Tribune 
      December 12, 1901  #

      Buffalo, N. Y., Dec. 12. — Capt. Adam Hartman of Tonawanda, owner of the steamer W. L. WETMORE and barges BRUNETTE and KING, which were recently stranded in Georgian Bay near Tobermory, have been advised that the WETMORE and KING are total losses, the destruction of the KING being mainly due to fire. The destruction of the steamer was caused by a terrific storm that swept over the Georgian Bay on Tuesday. The deck load of the WETMORE and part of the deck load of the KING were removed upon lighters. The lumber in the holds of the vessels can be saved perhaps, but the work will cost considerable money. The tugs sent to the stranded fleet succeeded in floating the BRUNETTE, and she is to be placed in drydock at Collingwood for repairs. The WETMORE was valued at $20,000 and uninsured. She came out in 1871 and had a gross measurement of 819 tons. The G. C. KING was worth probably $5,000. She came out in 1870 and measured a gross of 487 tons. 

Marine Record 
      January 2, 1902  #

The disastrous trip of the WETMORE tow to Georgian Bay adds also to the generally high lumber losses of the season. With the WETMORE and the KING lost and from 25 to 55 percent of their cargoes with them, the entire loss is heavy. About 200,000 feet of lumber was 
burned with the KING. (part extracted) 

Port Huron Daily Tribune 
      September 16, 1996 #

Afterward, people marveled that all 27 sailors on the three wrecked lumber boats escaped alive. The steam barge W.L. WETMORE and the two consorts in tow, the JAMES C. KING and BRUNETTE, collided with the side of Rabbit Island near the tip of Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula during a blinding snowstorm on Nov. 29, 1901. 
Detroit sailors Albert Drager and John Halloran told in a Free Press story how the sailors survived the shipwreck. swam a dangerous half-mile stretch to the island, and then battled a snow storm and severe cold for 36 hours until help arrived. They said everybody made it because of teamwork. The stronger swimmers helped the others make it to shore. Once they were on land, everybody worked together to find shelter and keep each other warm. 
Sailor John Flannigan suffered a broken leg and was lifted off the deck of the BRUNETTE by rope to the only available lifeboat. Lifeboats on the WETMORE and KING were swept away by the storm. Drager and Halloran said the swim to the island was the worst part of their ordeal. They said they thought cheers from the others gave them the strength to continue swimming until their feet touched solid ground. After that, the survivors found what shelter they could and built a large bonfire to keep themselves warm. 
The three boats were hauling lumber on the first leg of a trip from Parry Sound to Buffalo when the storm caught them on Georgian Bay. They have driven aground after Capt. John O’Hagan steered the WETMORE toward shelter at Tobermory but lost his bearings. He said the storm made it impossible to see the lighthouse lamp at Tobermory. O’Hagan’s first indication that the ship was off course came unexpectedly at about 2 a.m. There was an ominous thump as the steamer’s wooden hull passed over a submerged rock. Before the engines could be stopped the WETMORE hit the rock and the ship’s propeller blades were stripped. After that, the boat drifted out of control until it hit the island. 
The barges, which were in tow behind the steamer, followed it to destruction. During the excitement. Flannigan got his leg caught in the tow line to the BRUNETTE. The line had to be cut to get the sailor free. This probably saved the BRUNETTE. The barge blew off to another area and was grounded in soft mud. It was later salvaged. 
The WETMORE and KING struck a rocky coast and broke up in the storm. The wrecks are still there here. Both are favorite haunts for sports divers visiting Ontario’s Fathom Five Provincial Park off Tobermory. 
The Fishing tug GLUCUS saw the bonfire the next day and rescued the stranded sailors. (Author James Donahue’s shipwreck columns appear each week in the Huron Daily Tribune)

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