Shipwreck: HOWARD M. HANNA JR.

Skip Gillham, Vineland, Ontario, Canada

This is an anniversary year for the former Great Lakes bulk carrier HOWARD M. HANNA JR. The 100th anniversary of its launching comes on April 28 and, on June 3, it will be 25 years since the vessel arrived at the scrapyard. Considering the adventures, it is amazing that this ship survived 75 years.

HOWARD M. HANNA JR. was a product of the Cleveland Shipbuilding Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The 500 ft long by 54 ft wide freighter was ordered by the Richardson Transportation Company and the 5,905 gross ton steamer was soon hauling iron ore, coal and grain. It had a carrying capacity of 9,200 tons deadweight or 323,000 bushels of grain.

Ninety-five years ago this fall the worst storm in Great Lakes history packed hurricane force winds, mountainous waves, rain and then blinding snow, as a massive low pressure area pummeled the Great Lakes region from November 8 to November 11, 1913. In its wake, there were about a dozen ships on the bottom with no survivors, while others were beat-up and aground.

The coal-laden HOWARD M. HANNA JR., enroute from Lorain, Ohio, to Fort William, Ontario, passed Port Huron, Michigan, and entered Lake Huron in the early hours of November 9. Those on board had no idea of what was ahead. While even bigger ships were overwhelmed and disappeared beneath the waves, the HOWARD M. HANNA JR. was caught in the trough, rolled menacingly, and came ashore near Port Austin, Michigan.

The vessel sustained smashed windows and other topside damage. The hull cracked at the 17th hatch, the ship was flooded aft and the stack toppled. Fortunately all 25 sailors on board survived the terrifying ordeal and were saved. Winter was coming and efforts to refloat the battered hull did not succeed until the following year. During the cold weather season most of the cargo of coal disappeared, a pail at a time, to heat local homes.

In 1914 HOWARD M. HANNA JR. was taken to Collingwood and then on to Midland for reconstruction. It did not resume service until 1915 when the ship joined the Great Lakes Transit Company as GLENSHEE. Another grounding in the St. Mary’s River on October 13, 1916, was not as serious but the ship needed to be lightered before floating free on October 15.

The vessel joined Canada Steamship Lines in 1926 and was renamed MARQUETTE on October 1. It carried some ore between Marquette, Michigan, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, before tying up for the winter at Huron, Ohio. When the vessel sailed the following spring, CSL had renamed it GODERICH and it continued to work in the iron ore trade.

Sixty-five years ago, on June 5, 1943, GODERICH was in a collision with the American freighter FRANK ARMSTRONG in the St. Mary’s River. The latter was one of sixteen Maritime Class ore carriers authorized by the United States Maritime Commission in World War Two and was on its maiden voyage. Both ships received significant damage.

Another collision on July 25, 1945, involved the W.W. HOLLOWAY in Lake Superior and also required a stop for repairs.

At the end of the 1962 season, GODERICH was tied up at Quebec City, Quebec, pending a sale for scrapping in Europe. The Algoma Central and Hudson Bay Railway Company stepped up with an offer that was accepted and the ship resumed trading on their account as AGAWA, 45 years ago, in April 1963.

AGAWA operated through the 1967 season and laid up at Goderich with a load of grain. The local storage elevators were inadequate for seasonal demands and AGAWA was sold to the Goderich Elevator Company in 1968 for use as a storage barge.

Renamed LIONEL PARSONS, the ship worked another 15 years in this capacity until, at the age of 75, it was no longer needed. The tug W.J. IVAN PURVIS powered the last trip up the lakes, through the Soo Lock and on to Thunder Bay, Ontario, arriving June 3, 1983. There the survivor of the Great Storm, several collisions, groundings and a near sale for overseas scrapping, was soon dismantled.

Howard M. Hanna Jr.

Figure 1. HOWARD M. HANNA JR. at Midland, (Vern Sweeting Collection)


Figure 2. GODERICH sailing for Canada Steamship Lines (Emory A. Massman)