Wednesday, April 8, 2015

ISLAND WATERFRONT - Then and Now - Anderson Freighting - Part XIV

Ervin Anderson, shown aboard the
Lawrie Transportation Co. passenger / freight vessel
Lois Pearl, home ported in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
(possibly 1929)

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Over the years, freighting supported a number of Island families.  This post is about Captain John Anderson (called Jack by his close friends), his sons and their vessels.

The Andersons were very much involved in freighting through several generations, starting in the early1920s, owning and operating a number of vessels:   Agnes H.;  Diana;  American Girl; and Griffin.  Each was used for hauling a variety of commodities.  Like many Island families who made a living working on the water, whether freighting or fishing, tragedy and near-tragedy visited the Andersons several times, in several different ways.

On Sep. 26, 1930, the 25-year old Ervin Anderson, son of Capt. John Anderson, Washington Island, operated the Lawrie Transit Company's new, welded, steel-hulled North Shore from St. Joseph, Michigan, heading for Milwaukee.  (The photo at top shows Ervin posing in the door of the wheel house of the Lois Pearl, another of the Lawrie Company's boats, in an earlier time.)  Joining Ervin on that trip across the lake was Harriet, his new bride of several weeks, engineer Joseph Tekus from Cudahy, deckhand Arthur Peters from Milwaukee, and two unidentified passengers.  Before leaving the Michigan harbor, they loaded of 3,000 baskets of grapes aboard the North Shore.

According to an account by Lois Lawrie Rehberg, a daughter of William Lawrie who owned and operated the Lawrie Transit Co. of Milwaukee, and who was a young girl at the time, "A sudden Lake Michigan gale struck when the boat was about thirty miles out of St. Joseph."  The North Shore and the six on board were lost in the storm.  Approximately two weeks later, the body of Arthur Peters was recovered, wearing a life jacket.  None of the others were found.

As we noted in the last blog post, within a year William Lawrie built a new, wooden-hulled North Shore as a replacement, and this North Shore would be the same vessel in five years that would find its way to the Island ownership of William Jepson, where it joined the Welcome for auto/passenger and freight service.  (In the way of making further connections, William Jepson's sister, Annie, was the wife of Capt. Jack Anderson.)

With permission from Jim Anderson, grandson of Jack Anderson, we publish a letter written July 8, 1929 on Lawrie Transit Company stationery by oldest Anderson boy, Ervin, in which he addresses his younger brother, Cecil (whom he fondly calls "Duke").   Ervin's letter reveals an eagerness to return home and work in the family's freight business after a year or two spent sailing in Milwaukee, if his services should be required on the Diana.   Beatrice is the cook, and she's a sister to Ervin and Cecil.

According to Advocate entries, Lawrie's South Shore put in at Washington Island fairly regularly for off-season freight, and she also was hauled for work one time at the Island's shipyard, connections through which Ervin quite possibly came to his employment at the Milwaukee boat company.

Dear Brother,

Just a few lines to find out how things are going on "The Diana."  How did she pass Inspection?  And is Freighting any good?  Do you think it would be better if I came home?  I'm sending you a bill I want you to mail to Dormer Fish. Co.  That is if they haven't already mailed the check.  If they sent it, mail it to me as I sure need it.  Write and let me know if you think I should come home so I can give Bill [Lawrie] a couple weeks' notice.

I seen Tom Williamson the other day and he said he seen you in Green Bay and he also said the Boat looked good but the cook looked better - be sure to tell Beatrice that.  

Well Duke Sir got to take her in to the dock now write we all need the News   tell Ma to write.  You may not be able to read this but the boat shakes so darn much I can't do better.  From Ervin
  (my regards to Alvin)

PS  Do we get half the oil or does Christ [Andersen] get most of it yet?  -  EA

Jack Anderson, as far as records show, began hauling freight with the hooker Agnes H. in the early 1920s.  Agnes H. (42 x 13.4 x 5.8, with a 40 h.p. gas engine) was built in 1914 by Rasmus Hanson in Jackson Harbor and was named for his daughter, Agnes.  The 1920s were an active period for freighting, with frequent news reports of loads taken by various vessels and their owners, both to and from Washington Island, with an occasional load for a non-island destination.

A sample report:  the Oct. 2, 1925 Door County Advocate reported that,  "Capt. Al Shellswick, Diana, has gone south in quest of freight.   Capt. Wm Jepson, Wisconsin, has gone in to the fruit trade.  Capt. John Anderson, Agnes H., is making irregular trips."

In the fall of 1926, Agnes H. lost power and went ashore on the rocky beach near Bowyer Bluff.   The Advocate reported, "The Agnes H. went on the beach Oct. 30 and is laid up for repairs. It's difficult for "hookers" to handle freight."  

[The term "hooker" was described by Jim Anderson in the following way:   "…the type of freighter which mainly carried their cargo in "the hold" of the boat and was lifted out by means of a boom, winch and hooks - so came the name hooker."]

Jack and his son, Ervin, were aboard the Agnes H.,  but no one was harmed and the vessel slid from the rocks with the aid of timbers placed under the keel and two vessels straining on tow lines.  It's rudder in one of the photos appears bent at an angle.  But the hull, all things considered, was only slightly worse for the experience.  The following series of photos of the incident shows the efforts made to remove the Agnes H. from shore, observed by many bystanders.

Agnes H. on the beach with salvage efforts, observed
by a crowd on shore, 1926.  John and oldest son Ervin
Anderson were on board at the time.
(all of the above photos including Ervin Anderson on
the Lois Pearl are courtesy of Jim Anderson)

A few years later, March 30, 1928, the DCA reported:

 Capt. Chris Andersen made the first spring trip to Sturgeon Bay on the hooker Diana, leaving Friday A.M. and returning Sunday A. M.  He carried about 4 tons of fish.  John Anderson arrived with another boat Saturday. The new boat will replace the Agnes H., which was wrecked at Whitefish Bay late last fall.  The new boat, South Shore, of Milwaukee will tow a new fish boat from Sturgeon Bay Boat Works to Two Rivers where a crude oil Kahlenberg diesel will be installed.

Cecil Anderson was about ten years of age when the
Agnes H. foundered near Sturgeon Bay.  He and his father were rescued by members of the U. S. Coast Guard from the Sturgeon Bay Canal Station.  The vessel broke up in the following days.  Cecil, now seasoned with experience, continued in what would become a long and successful career in freighting.

Two vessels in an early photo (year unknown).  The Arrow, Abe Jessen's boat, is moored at left,
and the Andersons'  
Diana is at the Cornell dock, with the tip of Detroit Island in background.  (Jim Anderson photo)

The Anderson's operation of the Lawrie Company boat South Shore was temporary.   The loss of the Agnes H. soon led to purchase of the Diana from Alfred Shellswick, who had used it for freighting since approximately 1919.  It was launched at Burger Boat in Manitowoc in 1906, and originally it was a yacht, measuring 60.5 x 12.4 x 6 ft.   Diana's name frequently appeared among the small freighters listed in the shipping news published by the Advocate, hauling fish and assorted freight from the Island.  For a time, Shellswick leased Diana to Chris Andersen, but with it's somewhat limited carrying capacity, Chris Andersen was in the market for a larger vessel, and he found it in the Wisconsin when Bill Jepson (who had operated the Wisconsin in freighting and ferrying for years, ever since he built it at the Sturgeon Bay Shipbuilding and Dry Dock) brought out the brand-new Welcome in 1929.

The following DCA news item recorded the changes in vessel ownership that year:

March 29, 1929 - Chris Andersen and two twin boys, Ray and Roy, bought the motorboat freighter Wisconsin from Wm. Jepson who had it built several years ago and used it as a freighter in several places, but ferried autos and passenger across the Door for the last three years.   Chris had been renting Alfred Shellswick's Diana, originally a twin screwed yacht which Al had converted to a single screwed "hooker".  Chris carried Island fish to Green Bay and returned with whatever back freight he could get.  Many times the Diana was too small for the freight volume.  Sometimes as high as 100 fifty-five gallon barrels of gas needed to be brought to the Island and this weighed over 50 tons, but the Diana's capacity was 40 tons so Chris could not handle all of it.

The Diana served the Andersons well from approximately 1929 until the spring of 1947.   Photos of the Diana show that it continued as a hard-working freighter, already into its third decade of service when Capt. Anderson bought her.  By the time WWII came to a close, with some 40 years under her bottom, this vessel's serviceable life was used up, and Jack and Cecil purchased the American Girl.

Scrap iron loaded on Diana's deck was a frequent commodity.  Here, in 1942, 
at least some of the bits and parts appear to be from old ships.  (Jim Anderson photo)

The Islander, Washington Island's newspaper of the day, the editor reported the new vessel in it's February 11, 1947 issue:

American Girl coming here - The American Girl is the name of the 65 foot steel freighter, recently purchased by Jack Anderson and Sons for the freight run between Washington Island and Green Bay.  The transaction will be completed in ten days, but the boat will not be brought here until weather permits.  
The American Girl come from Sheboygan(sic), Michigan, where it had been used for hauling fish from Canada before the war.  Mr. Anderson plans to make a tow-barge out of his present boat, the Diana.

Side profile of American Girl as originally built.  Slight changes
were made over the years, but the vessel's name stayed the same.
The American Girl was a substantial addition to Island freighting, coming along at a time when nearly all of the older, wooden hulled vessels were nearing the end.

By 1949, Chris Andersen's Wisconsin would be finished.  None of the other familiar names from the past continued to sail - at least not locally.  Instead of serving out its final couple of years as a barge, as the news article indicated, Diana's usefulness may have been relegated to that of a "floating warehouse."

By the early 1950s, she, too, was no longer useful or fit for sailing.  Moored to the Chamber's dock and leaking, the Andersons pumped her out and towed the hull away. (With the assistance of crew members from the nearby Plum Island station, Jim Anderson noted)  Then, she was intentionally sunk off the south shore of Detroit Island.   A series of photos shows the Diana, with Coast Guard's pump on the pier, ready to depart alongside the American Girl.  A list to the hull is visible in the second photo as she is towed, and in the third photo she is adrift.  A series of several forceful bumps from the American Girl's bow finally caused her to sink, which brought tears to the eyes of its owner, Capt. Anderson.

Diana in preparation to be scuttled off Detroit Island's shore.  A young Walt Jorgenson
(wearing cap) can be seen in the bow.  The Coast Guard's gasoline pump used to float
the hull is on the pier, with the American Girl tied alongside.
(series of photos courtesy of Jim Anderson)
The story of the Anderson freighting business will continue in the next post.

Thanks to Jim Anderson for the many great photos and information.

-  Dick Purinton

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