The following ships were listed in various sources, newspapers 
and publications as having a Milwaukee connection.
This list includes information collected by David D. Swayze, Lake Isabella, MI


Type at Loss: schooner, wood
Official No.: 18174
Built: 1854, Barber, Milwaukee, Wis.
Specs: 90x23x8, 149gt
Enrollment: Milwaukee
Owner: G. Barber
Date of Loss: October 30, 1887
Place of Loss: Pierport
Lake Lost: Michigan
Type/Cause: stranded
Lives Lost: none
Cargo: unknown


Type at Loss: brig, wood, 2-mast
Official No.: none
Built: 1849, Hubbell, Milwaukee
Size: 121x24x9 241t
Owner: Ludington, King & Norris
Date of Loss: 1856, Oct 20
Location of Loss: near Milwaukee
Lake Lost: Michigan

See Leigh Bio


Type at Loss: schooner-barge, wood, 3-mast
Official No.: 18173
Built: 1866, Ellsworth & Davidson, Milwaukee as a 3-mast schooner or bark
Specs: 199x34x14, 767g 729n
Enrollment: Milwaukee, also Buffalo, Chicago
Date of Loss: 1899, May 13
Place of Loss: off Grand Marais, MI
Lake Lost: Superior
Type/Cause: storm
Lives Lost: 7 of 8
Cargo: coal
Details: In tow of steamer A. FOLSOM, along with the Schooner MARY B. MITCHELL. foundered during a 55 mph gale off Grand Marais. Broke her townline sank off shore. 7 lives lost, captain the only survivor. Owned by Mitchell Transportation Co. of Bay City. Rebuilt, in 1887.

Detroit Free Press December 22. 1866
NEW VESSELS COMMISSIONED IN 1866, AND WHERE BUILT Bark Nelson, at Milwaukee, by Elsworth & Co. for Nelson & Co., 30,000 bushels.

See McCoy Bio


In a pamphlet 'Lake Michigan Disasters' by Herbert Pitz (1925 but reproduced by the Manitowoc Maritime Museum) I found an interesting aspect to the loss of the Steamer Niagara on September 24, 1856. A surviving child turned out to have connections to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. As it appears on pages 13-14 of the pamphlet. (sent in by a researcher/see contributors page

Lake Michigan, in all its history, has no story more grewsome or more romantic than that of the burning of the Niagara as a result of which over 150 people either were drowned or burned, 66 years ago.

The Niagara was one of the strongest built and the most powerful ships in the early fifties and afforded passage from the east to states in the Mississippi River Valley, then considered the western frontier of this country. When the Niagara left Collingwood, N.Y on its fatal voyage, bound for Chicago, about 100 cabin and nearly 200 steerage passengers were registered. The steamer stopped at Sheboygan and on the afternoon of September 24, 1866 left that port and was within a 14 hours' run of Chicago.

"About 4 p.m. just as the village of Port Washington came into view, the cry of "fire" was heard and a cloud of black smoke rolled up from the engine room, followed by a tongue of flame.

A wild panic followed. There was not a single life preserver on board. Men, raving like maniacs, grabbed axes and cut down cabin and stateroom doors. Gangplanks, chairs, washstands-anything that would sustain life-were thrown overboard.

"A rush for the lifeboats was made, but, because of the terrified crowd, some of the boats turned over and their occupants were thrown into the waters to perish. One boat, containing women and children, was safely lowered when a group of men jumped from the deck into it, upsetting it and sending all but four of the occupants to the bottom of the lake.

Men and women fought each other like wildcats in order to get a place in the lifeboats or to get a piece of furniture. Ropes were thrown over the sides of the ship and a large number of women slid down, clinging in bunches to them, until the flames ate through the ropes and the helpless women and children were drowned.

Ex-Congressman John B. Macy of Chicago, a portly gentleman, was a passenger on the death ship. Crazed by the awful sights, he had struggled in vain to get hold of a plank. Macy had always been considered a coolheaded and a brave man. He was unable to swim, however, and in the presence of death, he raved like a maniac.
"Oh, God!" he cried. "Someone save me. Ten thousand-a hundred thousand to the man who will save my life."

A small boat, containing women and children, had been lowered. One end was lower than the other when Macy jumped into it, his immense weight breaking the ropes and hurling the occupants to a watery death below. Macy went down and was not seen again.

Standing beside Macy as he offered the reward, was a boy hardly 2 years old, separated from his parents in the panic. A burly deck hand, oblivious to the appeals of the congressman, picked up the child and took him astern and, when the flames forced him overboard, dropped into the water with the child safe in his arms. A piece of gangplank floated nearby and this sustained him.

"Although a steamer came to the rescue of some of those who were in the water, the deck hand and his waif drifted away and were overlooked in the wreckage. The man paddled courageously for shore and during the night, drifted onto the beach at Port Washington, where the two were found next morning in an exhausted condition. The deck hand was assisted to Milwaukee, and to this day his name was not learned.

"For about 40 years the waif resided in the vicinity of Port Washington, without knowing who he was. When he was picked up on the beach, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Collins, a newly married couple, were present and agreed to care for the child. Around the little one's neck was a gold cross bearing the name, "Frank Willette." Advertisements were inserted in papers throughout the nation, but the child was not claimed.

"When 15 years of age, young Willette left the Collins family and went to Manitowoc, where he obtained an education and changed his name to Frank Willis. After 40 years had passed, Willis decided to make another effort to locate relatives. To his surprise, within a few weeks he heard from two relatives-an aunt residing in Nebraska and a cousin in Manitowoc. From them he learned that his real name was Frank Willette and that his parents and brother and sister perished with the burning of the Niagara.

"The fire at the time was believed to have been incendiary in its origin. On the previous trip, just after the ship had left Collingwood, the steward found the following note on his table in his room: "Look out. Save yourself. The boat will be burned tonight. Everything is in readiness'."

Other names : none
Official no. : none
Build info : 1845, Bidwell & Banta, Buffalo, NY
Specs : 230x34x14, 1,009 t. om
Place of loss : 1.5 miles off Port Washington, WI in 55 ft of water
Lake : Michigan
Type of loss : fire
Loss of life : about 70 of around 140. Sources vary widely as to the
number of lives lost.
Carrying : general freight and passengers
Detail : She caught fire well offshore while bound Collingwood, Ont. for Chicago. The skipper turned her and ran her for shore, but the speed just fanned the flames and she burned through and sank a few miles short. The steamers TRAVELER and ILLINOIS and a number of schooners including MARBLE and MARY GROVER helped to rescue the survivors. It was later determined that some flammable material in her freight was the cause of the fire. The loss caused an uproar in the Cleveland papers about the shipping of contraband flammable goods.

Owned by the Collingwood line of the New York and Erie RR. Out of Erie, Pa., in 1855


Official No: none
Type of Ship: sidewheel steamer, wood, passenger & package
Place of Loss: in harbor at Milwaukee
Type/Cause: fire
Cargo: ?
More details: She had gone on the beach in a gale in October of the previous year and had recently been refloated after a long salvage effort. While being towed into the harbor for her repairs, she was torn loose by a storm and ran aground again.
Date Built: 1843
Builder: B. F. Goodsell
Where Built: Detroit
Size: 183x27x14, 642 t.

Milwaukee Sentinel, 15 Jan, 1850
Ster Nile, wrecked at Milwaukee; may be got off 12,000

1850 On September 6, steamer NILE, lying in the river opposite Sweet's warehouse, was burnt to the water's edge, with the adjacent warehouse. Loss $8,000: no insurance. (Source History of Milwaukee County 1881)

Detroit Post and Tribune, 7 Apr, 1884
MILWAUKEE (actually MILWAUKIE) had an even more checkered career. Records show her as a 285.85 t. ship, old measure, launched in 1836 at Grand Island, NY, but she is registered as a 401 t. steamer late in 1838. Her engine was reportedly removed and placed in the steamer NILE about 1842, with the hull going in ordinary. In 1847 she was re-engined, but records list her as "abandoned" on 1849.


Official No: 136131
Type of Ship: propeller, wood, passenger & package freight
Place of Loss: 2 mi off Milwaukee [8 mi off St. Francis, WI]
Type/Cause: storm
Cargo: ?
More details: 126 ft long when built, 26 ft. added before 1895.
Date Built: 1890
Builder: Burger & Burger
Where Built: Manitowoc, WI
Size: 152x25x18, 522g 470n


Specs: 20t
Enrollment: Milwaukee
Date of Loss:
Place of Loss:
Lake Lost:
Lives Lost:


Specs: 220t
Enrollment: Milwaukee
Owner: J. Reinerson
Date of Loss:
Place of Loss:
Lake Lost:
Lives Lost:


Official No: 3226
Type of Ship: propeller, wood, package freight "fruit boat"
Place of Loss: somewhere off Milwaukee
Type/Cause: storm
Cargo: 10,000 bskts fruit
More details: Last seen north of Racine, WI. Abandoned as passenger vessel in 1929, but put back in service in as fruit boat in 1930. Rebuilt from passenger/package boat to an excursion ferry steamer after a fire in 1918.
Date Built: 1890
Builder: R. Rogers
Where Built: Saugatuck, MI
Size: 108x22x6, 227g 150n


Type at Loss: schooner, wood, 2-mast
Official No.: 18105
Built: 1854, J. M. Jones, Milwaukee
Specs: 110x27x10, 162 gt
Enrollment: Milwaukee, also Chicago
Owner: Norris & Thorsen
Date of Loss: 1870, Nov 19
Place of Loss: at Muskegon, Mich
Lake Lost: Michigan
Type/Cause: storm
Lives Lost: none
Cargo: lumber
Details: Inbound from Chicago, she went ashore and broke up. Within a few days she had been stripped and abandoned. Out of Chicago Sunk at Sheboygan, Wisconsin in October, 1869. Large repairs/rebuilt in 1859


Type at loss: bark, wood, 3-mast
Official No.: 18103
Built: 1848, S. Farmin & Merrill, Milwaukee
Specs: 140x25x10, 297n 310g
Enrollment: Chicago, also Detroit, Milwaukee
Owner: Merrill, Farmin & Sweet
Date of Loss: 1869, Sep 21
Place of Loss: off Whitefish Point
Lake Lost: Superior
Type/Cause: (storm)
Lives Lost: none
Cargo: iron ore
Details: Downbound, she sprung a leak and sunk. Homeport: Chicago Rebuilt and enlarged at Milwaukee in 1863