As the nineteenth century came to an end, steam had all but replaced the sail to power boats on the Great Lakes. During the final days of sail, a number of steel-hull vessels were built specifically to replace the old wooden schooners, which by then were almost exclusively used as tow-barges behind a steam powered consort. One of those was the A. W. Thompson, constructed by West Bay City Ship Building Company in 1901. She was 300 feet long, 41.5 feet in breadth, and she drew a depth of 21 feet. Her hull was steel, and she tipped the scales at 2279 gross tons. Built like a schooner with three masts, she seldom hoisted a sail, except to help her concert while under tow.
The Thompson was built for the Calumet Transportation Company, part of the corporate complex of M. A. Hanna & Company, out of Cleveland. When the Thompson hit the water for the first time, Fred Hart became her master, a position he held for the next fifteen years, until his illness and death in 1916.
Two years later, in 1918, the A. W. Thompson was sold to Clinchfield Navigation Company of New York and she was taken to the coast. In 1920 her classification was changed from “barge” to “barge-motor vessel”, and she continued to ply the coastal trade. In 1925 she was sold again, this time to the Gulf and Barge Towing Company of New Orleans, who used her in trade on the Gulf of Mexico.
In November, 1925, while making her way from the Gulf to Wilmington, Delaware, the A. W. Thompson foundered in a storm and went down, taking two of her six-man crew with her.
Copyright © 2001-2003 . All rights reserved.