Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ISLAND WATERFRONT - Then and Now - Part VI

It's sometimes easy to think romantically of the past, and this photo showing
passengers aboard the Wisconsin at their leisure, a few with sun (?) umbrellas
 may feed such an urge.  However, it is doubtful these passengers could have
found shelter if a rainstorm came on suddenly.  And, the chill of the lake was
theirs to deal with until they made land on either side of the passage, for there
was little protection to be had.
Not so much different than aboard the Karfi today, I am reminded!
(photo from Bell Collection, Wm. Jepson the likely
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

When I wrote in the last blog in this series about the Washington Island waterfront over the years, describing early ferry boat efforts, I mistakenly omitted the wooden ferry H. J. Davis that competed, for a very brief time it appears, with the Wisconsin.  I say only the vessel Wisconsin, because I'm not certain for how many years the Marion and Navarre operated as ferries.   One mention in The Door County Advocate, in July 1928, mentioned the Marion had delivered cedar posts to Sheboygan from Cedar River, and in the paragraph that followed, that the H. J. Davis delivered cement to Sturgeon Bay.  It would seem that in the height of the season, the transportation of freight was the main source of income and purpose for those two vessels.  I'm uncertain how the Navarre fared as a ferry once placed in service.

I was advised by none other than Eric Bonow to "hold the presses" (but the blog had already taken flight into the ethernet) and so I'll provide a correction, an addition, actually, here.  With the previous blog I had been using clippings provided me by Eric Greenfeldt, all of which came from The Door County News, one of two newspapers that flourished for a time in Door County.  When I reached the final clipping, I ended my blog.

We have Ann (Herschberger) Young and daughter Carolyn Foss
to thank for this great shot of the Wisconsin departing Gislason's
dock, sometime prior to 1928, the year when Capt. Jepson
began using the new Welcome.  This is from a Herschberger
photo album.

From Eric Bonow, then, I received the following pertinent excerpts on the H. J. Davis mentioned in columns of The Door County Advocate (DCA).  She was referred to in a 1915 report as "the little auxiliary schooner" carrying pulpwood, and in another mention in 1918 as "the gasoline hooker".  In 1920, she was credited as the "auxiliary schooner…bringing a cargo of potatoes…Walter Goodlet is master." By 1923, Mike Anderson was listed as captain of the Davis, and hay was the cargo loaded in Sturgeon Bay for Menominee, Michigan.

So it may be with some surprise that in August 31, 1928, it was announced the J. H. (sic) Davis was purchased by Art Weber from Mike Anderson for the purpose of serving Washington Island as a ferry boat.  The dimensions of the H. J. Davis were given:  20-ft. beam; 75 ft. length; capacity of five autos besides passengers and "considerable freight," and would, through alterations, be capable of carrying seven autos the following year.  Capt. James Sorenson, owner of the West Harbor Hotel, would be "handling the craft," while Milton Hansen, also of the Island, would act as shore captain.   A daily schedule was also announced.

We have no idea how many days the Davis operated to and from the Island, but in the DCA of Sept. 24, 1928 its stint as a ferry appears to have ended:  "The new ferry Davis, which operated a short while as a ferry boat carrying cars and passengers across the Door, has gone into general freighting
for the rest of the fall.  Since the resort season is practically over, the ferry Wisconsin will be able to handle all of the traffic during the rest of the season."

Another wonderful photo from the Herschberger album shows an early,
unidentifiable vessel under sail.   This gaff rig was apparently used for saving
on fuel, and as the means of salvation if the motor quit.  

Hard to say what vessel this is for certain, since these small freighters 
tended to look very much like one another from a distance.   
Does anyone venture a guess?  

The Davis appears to have returned to freighting and "special ops," more or less on a permanent basis.  In November of that year, the Davis retrieved a damaged Cherryland Airways airplane (the first plane in Sturgeon Bay) from Green Island, located six miles or so from Menominee, Michigan.   And in the fall of 1929, the Davis was reported to have taken a load of coal to Sister Bay.  Art Weber of the Weber Dredging Co. was listed as owner, and the newspaper reported that the H. J. Davis was up for sale, "a good carrier and a staunch craft for coastwise trade."

A photo Eric Bonow emailed (but which I don't have permission to reprint here) shows the Davis having similar lines as the vessel Marion, except for being in a very 'tired' looking condition.  My conjecture is that this vessel worked hard over the years as a small freighter, and that its life as a ferry boat amounted to a very brief period before it returned to its familiar role as freighter or small hooker.   Art Weber, listed as owner at least for a period of time, and who also owned a dredge company, was employed by C. H. Thordarson for excavation of the shoreline on the southwest shore of Rock Island late in 1925, where the foundation for Thordarson's Rock Island boathouse began.

In this photo Gordon Jepson appears in the window of the pilot house.
The passenger second from left below him is Gene Gislason, and
it is very likely Gene's brother alongside him.  Others have not been
identified.  Capt. William Jepson operated the North Shore 

beginning in 1933.(the photographer is unknown, but one copy 
is in the Herschberger family album, and it may be the original.)

One more mention came in my book Over and Back (1990) in which Gordy Jepson, son of William P. Jepson, recalled the name H. J. Davis:   "...a 70-75 foot boat, running from Teskies in Gills Rock to Nor Shellswick's on the Island."  Gordon also said in the 1990 interview that, "After Gills Rock replaced the farther port of Ellison Bay, most of the other boats which had made similar runs quit operating.  Dad landed at Gislason's dock, in Jensenville, near the present Shipyard Marina.  He sold the Wisconsin in the spring of '29 to Chris Andersen, who used her as a freighter once again to Green Bay.  Dad had built the Welcome for use as a ferry, and she could carry ten cars.  The Welcome was also built of wood, by Sturgeon Bay Shipbuilding and Dry Dock.  Dad pulled me out of school to become a deckhand.  Other deckhands working for Dad during these years were:  Ralph Wade, my brother-in-law;  Ray Andersen;  Walt Hansen;  and Ernie Lockhart."

Two photos of the Wisconsin moored at the Ida Bo dock (now Findlay's Holiday Inn) appear in Over and Back (pages 29 and 38) , and these could have been taken when the boat was employed as a freighter, possibly before or after the regular tourism season.  The Ida Bo dock, however, didn't have the width necessary for loading autos.

 -  Dick Purinton


Don said...

I'm enjoyed your historical look-back, Dick. Perhaps another small book?

Capt. Don

Richard Purinton said...

Thanks for the thought, but at this point I'll just go from one blog to another and see how many it takes before I either run out of material, time or energy… Even with much of the information somewhere "at hand" it takes me 3-4 hours to produce one of these, and by that time summer will be here, and my new knees will be itching to get afloat on some craft or other. The 75th Ferry Line Anniv. makes it a worthy excuse to while away my time at my computer, with material I might not have tackled had I been up to skiing, traveling, walking warm beaches, etc. Anyone who interested in this history might consider printing them out and punching them into a notebook. I probably won't do anything further with the material.
But, I appreciate the interest, and also the material readers have added to the posts to make them more complete and accurate. - DP