As the 1878 season drew to a close, the Daniel Lyons had nearly completed another successful year. About 1:00 a.m., Thursday, October 17, she departed Chicago with 20,000 bushels of wheat consigned to J.B. Griffin & Company of Black Rock (now part of Buffalo). Captain Holland was in command, assisted by First Mate Owen Madden, Second Mate Daniel Gunn, Cook W.H. Barder, and four unnamed seamen. The trip north along Wisconsin’s shoreline was unremarkable in the light westerly wind and clear skies. About 3:00 a.m. Friday morning, under a bright, waxing moon, the Daniel Lyons passed Ahnapee (now Algoma), and the wind veered to the northwest. First Mate Madden was at the helm, and he swung the Daniel Lyons’ bow to the northeast to accommodate the shift in wind.
Madden spotted the red and green
of the schooner Kate Gillett about a mile north of the Lyons. The Kate Gillett was a 129-foot, two-masted schooner. She was heavily laden with fence posts from Cedar River, Mich., and bound for Chicago.
|| The Kate Gillett, the ship that sank the Daniel Lyons. She’s shown here sometime after 1882, when her rig was changed from two to three masts and her name was changed to Horace H. Badger. Note the lumber stacked high on her deck.
Photo: Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, Bowling Green State University
The Kate Gillett appeared to turn several times, but her intentions were unclear to the sailors on the Lyons, and the two vessels drew closer to each other. After several confusing minutes, it became clear that they were about to collide. Madden swung the helm of the Lyons in a desperate attempt to avoid the collision, but the Kate Gillett, traveling at nine knots, struck the Daniel Lyons’ starboard side between the main and
, pushing her
nearly halfway through the Lyon’s hull. The force of the collision threw the Daniel Lyons’ cook from his bunk. Much of the Kate Gillett’s broken head gear crashed onto the Daniel Lyons’ deck. Suffering damage to her starboard bow, the Kate Gillett quickly began leaking.