Merchant (1862)
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By The Numbers
Lives Lost
Depth (ft)
Service History

The iron hulled steamer Merchant was built in 1862 in Buffalo, New York by David Bell. Her official registry number was 16332. The vessel was valued at $110,000 and rated A1 in 1874 by the Board Of Lake Underwriters. The Merchant was the first iron ship built on the Great Lakes. She was also the first cargo ship that used coal as a source of fuel. She had an auxiliary sail.

August,1868: The Merchant went ashore at Malden, Ontario and sank, but she was raised, repaired and put back into service.

1872-1873: Lengthened and rebuilt, passenger cabins were removed.

Last Document Of Enrollment Surrendered: 6/30/1879: Vessel Lost.
Final Voyage

"The iron propeller Merchant, of the Anchor Line,... ran upon the outer end of Racine Reef about 11 o'clock Wednesday night, while on her way to this port from Chicago to finish out her cargo, and sunk within fifteen minutes." "... the propeller's bottom being so badly broken that nothing short of pontoons can be of any service in getting her afloat... It is the general opinion, however, that the Merchant is beyond recovery, as a heavy northeast swell was running when she struck, which threw her around broadside upon the reef...The corn in her hold is all wet, but the flour is not thought to have suffered damage, as her decks are still above water. It will be lightned today." Milwaukee Sentinel 10/08/1875.

"The wrecking tug Rescue...abandoned the attempt to release (the Merchant)... the propeller is twisted considerably, and shows signs of damage about the decks, which are crowded up amidships." Milwaukee Sentinel 10/16/1875.

"Capt. Ribinson, accompanied by half a dozen wreckers, visited the propeller Merchant on Monday, and found her broken in two, and that her mast had gone down through the wreck. Capt. R. now pronounces her a total loss, and has rescinded all orders for the trusses ordered from the American Bridge Works of Chicago..." Milwaukee Sentinel 11/03/1875.

"Messrs. Church and Hill, the divers at work on the wreck of the steamer Merchant, lost on Racine Reef in 1875, report that they have recovered the cylinder with all attachments; also apiece on her iron (illegible word), fifteen or twenty feet. The wreck is scattered in all directions at the bottom of the lake." Detroit Tribune, August 3, 1877.

"THE PROPELLER MERCHANT.-The most important parts of the engine of the Merchant have been recovered, viz.: the cylinder, engine frame, bedplate, pillow blocks, crank, eccentrics, shaft, brasses, keys, nuts, etc. The boiler can also be recovered, as well as every part of the iron hull that remains on the reef. It is only a question of time and money. If the iron can be made merchantable it will be got up, and if not it will remain where it is. The lifting is gone with screws and a steam hoisting apparatus. It took only three working days to recover the engine." Detroit Tribune August 6, 1877.

"Today the wreck of the Merchant lies in 25 feet of water on Racine reef, broken up over a large area. The engine was salvaged sometime after the loss of the ship, but still there is a lot of wreckage to be seen at this site." Explore Great Lakes Shipwrecks, Kimm Stabelfeldt.
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