Missing 162 Years off Little Sable Point: The Schooner Garden City

Lost Ship of the Month for October 2020
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Missing 162 Years off Little Sable Point: The Schooner Garden City
 
 
The wreck of the Garden City presents historians with some challenges. Numerous sources state that the Garden City went ashore at Little Sable Point in October of 1858 and was subsequently freed, but quickly sank in about 120 ft. of water while being towed to the shipyard for repairs. The problem with these accounts is that they identify the Garden City as a propeller driven steamer. Historians however, can say with certainty that there was no propeller named Garden City on the Lakes at the time. There had been a sidewheel steamer of the same name, but she was definitely lost in the Straits of Mackinac in May of 1854. Further inquiry however, reveals that a schooner named Garden City conveniently disappears from the historical record at just about the right time. The Ludington Daily News wreck list of 1882 also identifies the Garden City as a schooner. Taken together, these facts suggested strongly that the Garden City wrecked on Little Sable Point was not a propeller.
 
Further inquiry in the news microfilms reveals that a schooner Garden City wrecked on October 7, 1858:
 
"The schooner Garden City, bound for Chicago, went ashore on Thursday near Big Point Sauble. She had a cargo of coal and car wheels. What condition she is in we could not ascertain. A steam tug has gone to her relief from Chicago. – Milwaukee Sentinel, October 13, 1858"
 
The schooner Garden City had been built at Cleveland, Ohio by Roderick Calkins and was launched March 30, 1854 under Captain Isaac D. Stedman. She was built for N.C. Winslow of Cleveland and Samuel & Eleazer Pomeroy of Chicago for use in the grain trade between Chicago and Cleveland and measured 329.08 gt. BOM and 131.11 x 25.8 x 10.6 ft. She was a two masted schooner and sported an ornate scroll stem under her bowsprit.
 
"The GARDEN CITY, Capt. J.D. Steadman, is a fine fore and after, also reflecting great credit on Cleveland builders. She is strongly built and finely rigged, of 330 tons measurement, cost $12,000, and is calculated to carry a large cargo. Her owners are S.B. Pomeroy, Esq., of this city, and N.C. Winslow, of Cleveland -- Chicago Journal, Saturday. - Cleveland Morning Leader, Thursday, May 11, 1854"
 
On April 1, 1857 the Garden City was sold to parties at Oswego, New York for continued service in the grain trade with the midwestern ports. This is the last time the Garden City is mentioned in customs house records, as only a few months later schooner found herself ashore in an October gale at Big Sable Point. Salvors appear to have quickly lightered her off the shore, but were unaware of serious damage to her hull. While towing the Garden City to the shipyard for repairs, she dived for the bottom:
 
"The Garden City a Total Loss – We learn from the Chicago Democrat that the Garden City with 1800 barrels of salt and 66 tons of car wheels for Chicago, which went ashore Tuesday night on Little Point Sauble, is a total loss. On Sunday, the tug Salvor, Capt. Keaho, was sent to her assistance with three steam pumps and succeeded in floating her and started for Grand River. She had only been towed about ten miles on her way when she went to pieces and sank. Capt. K. succeeded at the imminent peril of his tug and the lives of himself and crew, in saving two of the steam pumps, but the third and most valuable one worth $8000, was carried down with the sinking craft and is a total loss as she lies in twenty fathoms of water. – Milwaukee Sentinel, October 20, 1858"
 
Salvage technology in 1858 would not have permitted the cost effective recovery of the Garden City and she is definitely still on the lake bottom. The depth of 120 ft. is probably fairly accurate, as the schooner’s masts broke the surface, allowing an accurate estimation.
 
"A large Lower Lake vessel went ashore near Point Sauble. An Insurance tug from Chicago came to get her off. The tug brought a steam pump, and pumped the vessel and floated her off, when she sunk with the steam pump aboard, leaving nothing but her top-mast to be seen. She was loaded with railroad iron, mostly wheels, but we did not learn her destination. She will prove a total loss. - Grand Rapids Enquirer, October 21, 1858"
 
An intact schooner of her age would certainly be a remarkable and historically valuable discovery. The area of her foundering has not yet been searched with modern side scan sonar and her potential for discovery is consequently quite high. Would be discoverers should be aware that this wreck is protected by Michigan law and unauthorized artifact recovery is illegal. The primary value of a relatively intact 19th century Great Lakes vessel is today, historical and recreational.
 
Given that the vessel's mast was breaking the surface and the depth was stated as 20 fathoms, I would guess that she lies in water between 120 and 150 feet deep. The main question is where on Little Sable Point she stranded. We know she was about ten miles south of her stranding point when she went down. If I were to search for this vessel, I would make three 8 mile long passes to the south of Little Sable Point. She is likely off Stony Lake or just south.
 
References: Mansfield’s History of the Great Lakes, Paul Ackerman’s Lake Michigan Dive Chart, Port of Cleveland Enrollment Certificate, Port of Oswego Enrollment Certificate, Detroit Free Press – 12/12/1856, Milwaukee Sentinel – October 13, 1858, October 20, 1858, Grand Rapids Enquirer – October 21, 1858
 


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