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Photo Title : J. Emory Owen

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J. Emory Owen


Propeller: J. Emory Owen

The late 1800s were years of tremendous change in shipping on the Great Lakes. A company like the Owens Transportation Company, with several schooners in its line, realized that unless it began conversion to steam, it would not be in business long. So it was that John Owen, owner of the company, had the wooden propeller, J. Emory Owen built by the Detroit Dry Dock Company. That same company had built two big schooners owned by Owen – the Wells, Burt and Michigan – a decade earlier. By 1888, the year the J. Emory Owen was built, John Owen was also a member of the board at Detroit Dry Dock.

The J. Emory Owen was 256.33 feet in length, 38.42 feet in breadth, and she drew 19.66 feet in the water. Her gross tonnage was 1739.53. Immediately upon acquisition, John Owen and his fleet superintendent, Captain Fred Hart, put the new propeller to work towing their schooners, Michigan and Elizabeth A. Nicholson.

Towing schooners behind steamers was a dangerous business, and many lost their lives in the process. Indeed, in 1895 the Owen, with Michigan and Nicholson in tow, ran aground in Lake Michigan in a November gale. While the Owen and the Michigan were recovered, the Nicholson was a total loss.

When Owen Transportation went out of business after John Owen’s death, the J. Emory Owen was sold. In 1903, under her new ownership, she sank in Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal. Abandoned as a loss, she was raised and repaired by another owner and given the name F. A. Meyer. Four years later on December 18, 1909, she was cut in two by ice in Lake Erie, and though the crew was saved, she sank to the bottom of the lake with her load of lumber bound from Boyne City to Buffalo.


Donated by: Donald H. Gordon

Photo Courtesy of:
The Great Lakes Historical Collection
Bowling Green State University


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