On 29 June 1902, GEORGE DUNBAR (wooden propeller freighter, 134 foot, 238 gross tons, built in 1867, at Allegan, Michigan) was loaded with coal when she was damaged by a sudden squall on Lake Erie near Kelley’s Island and sank. Seven of the crew elected to stay aboard while the skipper, his wife and daughter made for shore in the lifeboat. Those three were saved but the seven perished on a makeshift raft
Location: 8 miles NE of Kelleys Island
Coordinates: LORAN: 43729.6 57076.4
GPS: 41 40.631 82 33.893
Lies: bow southeast Depth: 45 feet
Type: propeller Cargo: Coal
Official #: 10890
Power: steam engine
Owner(s) Saginaw Bay Transportation Company
Built: 1867 in Allegan, Michigan by A. McMillan
Dimensions: 133.5’ x 25.3’ x 9.1’ Tonnage: 238 gross 190 net
Date of Loss: Sunday, June 29, 1902
Cause of Loss: sprung a leak in storm
The Dunbar lies in the mud at a depth of 45 feet. The most remarkable features of the wreck are her windlass and donkey boiler. Her stack lies approximately forty feet off her stern on the port side. The name board of the Dunbarwashed up on Kelleys Island and is now on display at the Great Lakes Historical Society Museum, Vermilion, Ohio. The Historical Society also displays side scan images of this site in their Lake Erie Shipwreck Research Center.
SEVEN SAILORS FIND WATERY GRAVES
Steamer GEORGE DUNBAR Founders Off Kelley’s Island
Captain John Little, His Wife and Daughter Are the Only Ones Rescued.
Terrible Struggle of the Rescued to Reach The Shore.
Myron Tuttle, Cleveland
Engineer, Johnson, Buffalo
Wheelaman, Eck, Sheboygan
Fireman, Charles Washie
Three unknown sailors
In all probibility, the above named persons, seven in all, were drowned about 6 o’clock Sunday morning when the steamer, GEORGE DUNBAR foundered about ten miles off the northeast shore of Kelleys Island. It was reported that they had succeeded in reaching Put-In-Bay on a life raft, but reports early Monday morning had indicated they had not been heard from.
The captain, John Little, and his wife and daughter, succeeded in reaching Kelleys Island in a yawl after a terrible battle with the waves. When some distance off the shore their little craft capsized. They had on life preservers and managed to keep afloat. They were almost exhausted, but at a late hour last night were reported out of danger.
Dilligent search Sunday afternoon by a number of vessels failed to reveal the slightest trace of the seven missing men, and there is little doubt but what they all met watery graves. The steamer DESMOND and the launches, QUEEN and BEATRICE, the latter owned by John A. Heinmelein, were out and made a search for the sailors, but nothing to indicate that they reached the shore in safety was found.
The DUNBAR was of that class of vessels known as propellors. She was owned by her Captain, John Little, and hails from Port Huron, Michigan, Captain Little’s home. She left Cleveland about 6 o’clock Saturday night with a load of coal and was bound for Alpena, Michigan. She encountered terrible seas all the way, and soon began to leak. When off Kelleys Island, she was settling, and about 6 o’clock in the morning was at the mercy of the waves. She was sinking fast and the captain and the crew held a consultation. It was decided by the brave sailors that the first chance for life would be given to Captain Little, his wife and daughter. The men got down the only yawl from the davits, and soon had her ready for launching. Awaiting the opportune moment, the little boat with the three abord, started out on her perilous journey for the shore. The seas were terrible, every one threatening to engulf the little craft. Time and time again it seemed the little craft would not live another moment, but she was a well built boat and rode the seas well until a point near the beach was reached. Then an unusually large, roller was enouuntered and the captain, his wife and daughter were thrown out and the little boat turned completely over. They all had on life preservers and by these managed to keep afloat and stayed together. They were seen by the residents on the island and rescued.
Meantime the poor sailors were huddled on the lee side of the vessel watching the perilous course of the captain’s boat. When she capsized they decided to risk their chances and make for the shore. It was sure death to remain on the Dunbar, and there was only a ghost of a show to fight their way on life rafts to land. They put out, one after another and were soon lost from one another’s view. The last seen of any one of them was the apparent lifeless body still clinging in a death grip to a board. There was absolutely no chance for the men and they were almost with out a doubt now at the bottom of the lake.
This is the third disaster thus far this year. The schooners GRACE GRIBBLE and BARKALOW foundered in April and three lives were lost in each case.
The part of the lake in the vicinity of the islands is particularly dangerous to navigators. The life saving station at Marblehead is stationed at a particularly dangerous place and time
and time again, as is shown by the reports of the life saving department, vessels have been warned to keep off the shore.
In this instance, however, the life savers at Marblehead knew nothing of the sinking of the DUNBAR until about 3 o’clock Sunday afternoon — too late to aid in rescuing the crew.
Communication with Put-In-Bay was very difficult, but so far as is known, nothing has been heard of the seven sailors.
Monday, June 30, 1902
(Follow-up story, The Rescue of the Little Family) in the July 1, 1902 issue of the Register) (Story of the finding of 2 bodies in the July 2, 1902 issue of the Register)
. . . . .
Sandusky, June 29. — Six of the crew of the steamer GEORGE DUNBAR are thought to have been drowned in the foundering of the vessel early this morning in a terrible gale. The steamer was en route from Cleveland to Alpena with coal when she sprung a leak and sank at 4 a.m.
She was built in 1867, measured 135 x 25 and was owned by Capt. Little. She formerly ran in the lumber trade between Green Bay and Chicago. The vessel went down in deep water and there will probably be no attempt to raise her.
Chicago Inter Ocean
June 30, 1903
WRECK OF THE DUNBAR
Has Been Located By Assistant Engineer, William T. Blunt.
It Is A Question Whether the Vessel Is In U. S. Or Canadian Waters
The wreck of the steamer George Dunbar which sank on the morning of June 29, has been located by United States Assistant Engineer, William T. Blunt, on the steamer VISITOR by direction of Major Dan. C. Kingnian, corps of engineers, U. S. A. The location by the owners was so far from correct that a search in that vicinity failed to discover the vessel. The first reliable information which reached the authorities came from Captain 5. 0. Iobinson of the C & T steamer, STATE OF NEW YORK and the description given by him was found to be closely correct.
The vessel lies on an even keel, heading ESE in 44 feet of water. E by ½ S, 5½ miles from Middle Island lighthouse, and exactly east from the Middle Island passage. It is almost exactly on the range of Nun bouy on the north east corner of Kelleys Island Reef and the extreme north east point of Kelleys Island. It is N ¼ W from Huron lighthouse and N E by N ¾ N from the red gas buoy at the entrance to Sandusky Harbor, direcly on the course to North East Shoal lightship. It is but 2 miles northerly from the sailing course between Cleveland and Middle Island passage. It is, therefore a menace to navigation in thick weather to vessels passing between Sandusky and South East Shoal Light-ship or between Cleveland and Middle Island passage.
It may be plotted on the chart 4,300 feet north of parallel 41 degrees, 40 minutes, and 4,000 feet east of meridian 82 degrees, 35 minutes.
On July 18, the foremast was still standing with an association flag attached and the wreckage of the pilot house was floating, still attached to the wreck.
A floating buoy carrying a large red flag was placed about 300 feet south of the wreck, should the spar be carried away. The location of the vessel is so close to the international boundry that it is not certain whether it is in the United States or Canadian waters.
Monday, July 21, 1902
The wreck of the steamer GEORGE DUNBAR which constituted an obstruction at the northeast end of Kelley’s island, Lake Erie, has been blown up.
Port Huron Daily Times
Monday, October 20, 1902
Steam screw GEORGE DUNBAR. U. S. No. 6496. Of 220.99 toms gross; 138.58 tons net. Built Allegan, Mich., 1866. Home port, Chicago, Ill. 133.5 x 25.2 x 9.1.
Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1885