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

Lost Ship of the Month for October 2020

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


Want to post a comment?

Join now for free to comment on this article.
Already have an account? Login to comment.

Related Posts

The Kate Winslow was one of “Davidson’s Goliaths,” a large wooden ship built at East Saginaw, Michigan by the innovative giant wooden ship builder James Davidson who was to become noteworthy for continuing to use wood for large vessels...  more »

The Lost Ship of the Month for December is the legendary British gunboat HMS Speedy, lost with all hands in 1804 on Lake Ontario. The Speedy is one of the earliest lost ships still missing on the Great Lakes and played a significant role in Canadian...  more »

At one time the Great Lakes were the only major “freeway” in the midwest. Thousands of vessels once brought settlers, freight and merchandise through this vast inland waterway. It is consequently, not surprising that accidents were very...  more »

The Western Reserve was a 301 ft., 2392 gt. steel freight steamer launched in 1890 at Cleveland, OH by Globe Shipbuilding. She was the first major steel freighter built for use on the Lakes. When she came out, her builders thought that her construction...  more »

Literally hundreds of handcrafted white oak artifacts bearing the inscription “Sunnyside, foundered N. Fox Island, 1883” grace the dens of maritime enthusiasts around the Lakes. Lamps, tables, clocks, letter openers and pen sets were...  more »

The wreck of the month for January is the lost steamer Thomas H. Smith, missing since November 11, 1893 when she was sunk by collision in a heavy fog of Racine, Wisconsin. The Smith was bound light from Chicago to Menomonee, Michigan, carry a crew of 12...  more »

The Lost Ship of the Month for February is the legendary flying dutchman of Lake Superior, the Bannockburn. This ship has achieved legendary status for having “sailed through a crack in the Lake” and “disappearing without a trace.”...  more »

The Mystery of Captain McLean, the Mormons and the Medicine Man by Brendon Baillod [This article originally appeared in Inland Seas, the journal of the Great Lakes Historical Society] Captain Murdick McLean was one of Lake Superior’s best-known...  more »

Submit your own


Ask a Question

Shipwrecks of Lake Ontario - A Journey of Discovery Book

The National Museum of the Great Lakes is excited to announce the release of a new book titled Shipwrecks of Lake Ontario: A Journey of Discovery. This book contains stories of long lost shipwrecks and the journeys of the underwater explorers who found them, written by Jim Kennard with paintings by Roland Stevens and underwater imagery by Roger Pawlowski.

Buy Now!

Legend of the Lake - New Discovery Edition Book

The recent discovery of the wreck of the British warship Ontario, “the Holy Grail” of Great Lakes shipwrecks, solves several mysteries that have puzzled historians since the ship sank more than two centuries ago. Now, for the first time, the whole tragic story of the Ontario can finally be told.

Buy Now!