Monday, July 18, 2011


Detroit Harbor, Washington Island - 

While rummaging through old books on a basement shelf this winter, Mary Jo and I leafed through pages on the chance something of interest might fall out.  While many of the books were perhaps summer page-turners of the era, 30, 50 or more years ago, they were not classics and they would be donated to an organization that could resell them.  But in one book was a hand written list of vessels that loaded in Rowleys Bay that captured our interest.

Rowleys Bay is located on the Lake Michigan side of the Door Peninsula, about eight miles south of the Door Passage where in present times there is a large resort, boat launch ramps, and a small marina.  The Mink River estuary begins several miles to the west, almost in Ellison Bay, and it widens into Rowleys Bay, over a mile in width where it meets the lake.

Without a signature or initials giving authorship to the list, we believed the hand writing was Carl Richter's (which resembled Arni's handwriting to a great degree).  Carl (b. 1871 - d. 1963) sailed as a young man on the schooner Madonna from Detroit Harbor, so he may have been familiar with many of the vessel names.   But this list was comprehensive, too detailed it seemed, to have been solely from his memory.

How or why Carl Richter might have created such a list for a port not located on Washington Island is unknown, except for his general interest in things nautical and his familiarity with the many vessel names.  This list is extensive, around 80 vessels in all, and included are the names of "steam barges" and  characteristic loads.  This detail makes me think that Carl had access to a port ledger or other documents and may have copied it for his personal record.

What also surprised us was how long the list of vessel names was for a northern Door County port, where not even a town exists today.  But Rowleys Bay was a busy place, especially active in the shipment of timber products.

In Leonard Peterson's book Rowleys Bay (1991), he reprinted an entry from the Door County Advocate of 1871 that indicated the volume of activity:

  " At Rowleys Bay they are busy shipping the material got out last winter, namely 16,000 telegraph poles, 60,000 cedar posts, 6,000 ties and 15,000 cords of wood." 

An account by Robert Noble following his ordeal in Death's Door waters in late December of 1863, as told to the Door County Advocate editor later in his life, indicated that his difficulties occurred during the time he was employed at Rowleys Bay "...helping to get wood out."  On his return from Washington  Island, Noble survived the icy waters but froze, and later lost, most of his fingers and his lower legs.

Robert Noble

Carl G. Richter

Following is the list recreated as best the handwriting can be interpreted, complete with misspellings:

    Boats Loaded At Rowleys Bay
Speed Rover           Mary Cowles                  ...and on the reverse side 
Jessie Martin          La Petit                              Norman - 169 cords wood
Caroline                 C. Harrison                       Spartan
Bert Barnes            Mary Packard                    C. Grover - 102 cords wood
I.A. Johnson           Horace Taber                     Nancy Dell
Petrel                     Lillie Ammiot                      O.R. Johnson - 136 cords bark
R.H. Becker           Arrow                                  Potomac  -   3900 Ties  1900 Posts
Dawn                    Vermont                               Coaster
Linerla                   Sophia Fournica                 Wm. Jones  - 115 cords wood
Ruby                      J.A. Stephens                       Forrest
Fearless                 Jos. Hull                              Jennie Bell  -  80 cords wood
Mary Collins         Mary Cook                           Myrtle
Challenge             Frances Minor                      Aurena
Boaz                     J. Green                                J.V. Taylor 
J.A. Travis            Otter       
Black Hawl           Potomac                           ... and the note that
S.J. Hawley           Little Georgia                        "some boats made many trips."
Belle of Racine      Charlotte Raab 
Ellen                      A.B.C.F.M.
Guido                    A.P. Nichols
Annie Dahl            Conquest
Margaret Dahl      Bill Brown
O.M. Nelson          Orkney Lass
Emma Nelson        Mocking Bird
Melitta                    Annie Tormine
Josephine Dresden    Rob Roy
Lucy Graham         Ivor Lawson
Idea                       J.O. Moss
Cuyahoga              Nellie Church
Tempest                 Hunting Boy
E.M. Porch
T.Y. Avery             Steam Barges
Mary B. Hale       G.T. Burroughs
4. Brothers           Hattie Perue
2. Brothers           Addie Wade
Smith Side            Mary Miller
Cynthia Garden    Imperial
                             City of Baltimore

-  Dick Purinton

No comments: