Shipwreck: Fayette Brown

by Skip Gillham

The broken remains of the American bulk carrier Fayette Brown rest along the south shore of Anticosti Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The hull was abandoned there as a total loss in 1965 after efforts to refloat the freighter failed. Ensuing storms have pounded the once sturdy hull to pieces.

The Fayette Brown was a product of the American Shipbuilding Company and it was launched at Lorain, Ohio, on March 19, 1910. The 524 foot long by 54 foot wide bulk carrier was designed for the Great Lakes ore trade and it initially sailed as the Charles L. Hutchinson in May 1910.

Ships of these dimensions were routinely built for Great Lakes service during the first decade of the 20th Century. They were steam powered and, at the time, too large for the Welland Canal and thus remained on the upper four Great Lakes.

Fayette Brown

Fayette Brown at Port Colborne departing the Great Lakes in 1964. (Paul Sherlock)

The 6,377 gross ton Charles L. Hutchinson could carry 10,000 tons deadweight or, when called to transport grain, about 356,000 bushels of the “prairie gold.”

Originally owned by Henry Wineman and the Raleigh Steamship Company, the vessel was sold to the Stewart Furnace Company in November 1916. They renamed the ship Fayette Brown in 1917 in honor of the late Cleveland based businessman who had been Chairman of the Board of the Stewart Iron Co. Mr. Brown passed away in 1910, the year this ship was built, and was remembered for his powerful influence on the company and on the shipping industry.

The Fayette Brown continued with Stewart until it became part of the Youngstown Steamship Co. in 1929 and then the Interlake Steamship Co., which was part of Pickands Mather & Co., in 1930.

Fayette Brown served in peacetime and during war. In 1952, with the Korean conflict still underway, this ship carried 33 cargoes for the year.

Fayette Brown

The remains of Fayette Brown off Anticosti Island in August 1997. (Hubert Hall)

These included ore – 20, coal – 11 and stone – 2 and totaled 301,957 tons for the season.

The ore came aboard at Superior and Ashland in Wisconsin, Escanaba and Marquette in Michigan and Duluth, Minnesota. The coal served as a back haul up the lakes and came aboard at Toledo, Sandusky and South Chicago to many of the ore loading ports. The two cargoes of stone went from Port Inland to Buffalo as the ship traveled 34, 994 miles for the year.

In 1959, the first year of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the old ore carriers of the upper lakes were becoming obsolete due to the changing patterns of shipping. Fayette Brown only had 16 trips that year carrying ore from Superior – 8 and Escanaba – 6 to South Chicago – 6, Toledo – 5, Indiana Harbor, Erie and Cleveland. The two loads of coal moved from Toledo to Duluth.

The ship arrived at the Great Lakes Engineering Works at River Rouge, MI on July 20, 1959, and was drydocked for the regular 5-year inspection. The ship passed and was then laid up for the rest of the year. Fayette Brown returned to service again in 1960 but tied up for good in July.

The vessel remained idle until sold for scrap to Marine Salvage in 1963 but they had hoped that the carrier could be resold to Canadian operators for the grain trade to the St. Lawrence. This did not happen and it was resold for scrapping overseas. Steam was raised one last time for the trip out of the Great Lakes.

Fayette Brown came down the Welland Canal on November 2, 1964, and was picked up by the deep sea tug Barentsz Zee at Quebec for the long tow to Bilbao, Spain. The pair encountered a late fall storm on the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Fayette Brown became unmanageable in the wind and waves. The decision was made to cut the hull loose and it drifted ashore near Southwest Point, Anticosti Island, on December 7, 1964.

Officials hoped to refloat the freighter but it was in only six feet of water and this project was abandoned in 1965. As a result, Fayette Brown was left to the mercy of the elements and, in time, they pounded the hull to pieces.

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