Three Brothers (ship)

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The Three Brothers was a small wooden Great Lakes lumber freighter built in 1888 by the Milwaukee Shipyard Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the Chicago-based John Spry Lumber Company. Originally she was christened as the May Durr and bearing the official number 91998. The vessel was rated at 582 gross tons, 444 net tons, and measured 162 feet in length, had a 31.4 feet beam and a draught of 11.8 feet. She could carry 530,000 feet on lumber.[citation needed]

The machinery was Steeple Compound steam engine built by the Frontier Engine Works of Buffalo, New York in 1888. The engine was rated at 280 horsepowers at 96 revolutions per minute. The fire box boiler was manufactured by R. Davis of Milwaukee and rated at 100 psi.[citation needed]

In 1892 the May Durr was renamed to John Spry. Between 1905 and 1910 the vessel was sold to the Willian H. White & Co. of Boyne City, Michigan, where she was renamed as Three Brothers after the White brothers William, James and Thomas of Charlevoix, Michigan. The vessel was then pressed in coarse lumber service between Lake Charlevoix and Tonawanda, New York.[citation needed]

On September 27, 1911 the Three Brothers was carrying a load of hardwood worth of $4,200 from Boyne City to Chicago. After leaving Boyne City the vessel was sailing in heavy weather, and the hull began to leak more than usual. Water soon overwhelmed the pumps, quickly rising more than eight feet above the keel. The water also flooded the hold and coal bunkers, forcing the firemen to use kerosene instead of coal to maintain the steam pressure.[citation needed]

In order to save the vessel captain Sam Christopher elected to drive the vessel ashore on South Manitou Island, where she landed just 200 yards east from the lifesaving station. When the vessel hit the shore the bow split open and her pilot house was knocked loose. The bow was approximately in 15 feet of water, with her stern in 50 feet of water. The captain and all 13 members of crew were rescued by the life saving station staff.[citation needed]

After the weather subsided, the tender Favourite made an unsuccessful attempt to loosen the Three Brothers, and the vessel was declared to be beyond salvage value. By 1912 the vessel had completely submerged under water.[citation needed]


  • Herman G. Runge Collection, Milwaukee Public Library Marine Column, Milwaukee Sentinel, September - October, 1911
  • Chicago Inter-Ocean, September - October, 1911
  • Ports of Milwaukee & Chicago, Vessel Enrollment Master Index Wreck Report of the South Manitou US Lifesaving Station Michigan History Magazine, Nov/Dec 1996

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