THE MARQUIS- TOUGH ROCKS
Author's note: I first saw this wreck when I was flying for the Michigan DNR on lakeshore surveys of fishermen. The job was my first one in my aviation career and consisted of me flying a Cessna 152 at 1,000 feet and along the shoreline as the guy sitting next to me sat there with a clicker and counted people fishing below. In other words- I had nothing to do other than look down at the lake. When I spotted this wreck, I shouted "Just a minute!" to the counter-guy and banked sharply to go back and get a good look. "Wow! it's a shipwreck!" I exclaimed as we circled, oops... I was unaware that the guy siting next to me had never been in a 60 degree bank and a two-G turn before... he was white as a sheet.
Library of Congress collection
The Canadian Lock at Sault Saint Marie
With the vessel traffic on the Great Lakes booming and the need for Canadian vessels to transit between the lower lakes and Lake Superior, the government of Canada decided that they needed their own locks at the Soo. Of course the 1870 CHICORA "incident" helped the project more than anything as the British frigate, loaded with arms and troops bound for Hudson Bay, was denied passage through the American Soo locks for political reasons. When construction began in 1888 huge quantities of cut stone were needed. Those were cut in the southern part of Ontario and shipped by vessel up to the Canadian Soo. That activity turned into a cash boon for many a small vessel owner or operator. Captain Crawford of the three masted Canadian schooner MARQUIS was one such person who picked up some handy cash by hauling the cut stones for the locks. Although it took days to carefully load the cut blocks of stone at the Amherstburg, Ontario dock and the time needed to unload the stone at the Soo would take far longer, this load would likely cap off the 148 foot long schooner's 1892 sailing season. The value attached to the stone cargo was $8,000 and a good chunk of that would go into the the schooner's till as well as the captain's wallet.
While sailing up Lake Huron on the night of November 11th the MARQUIS encountered a classic late autumn gale with high winds and heavy snow. Although the storm as a true gagger, the boat was holding her own helped in great part by the stable and heavy cargo in her hold. Built in 1872, her hull was in good shape and she was doing well against the high seas. Unfortunately, Captain Crawford found that his boat had strayed from her course as her wooden keel suddenly felt the bite of the boulder-garnished bottom of Michigan's thumb. Immediately he knew that there was no way for him to get his boat off of the rocks and so he ordered he sea cocks opens had the schooner scuttled to prevent her from pounding herself to pieces on the bottom. It was a correct, but futile move as the waves quickly began to dismantle the schooner. She rests there today, just south of Hardwood Point in shallow water along with her entire cargo of cut stone.
The lifesavers at the Sand Beach Station (now called Harbor Beach) were alerted to the wreck at four o'clock in the morning on November 12th and launched their lifeboat. The enlisted the aid of a steam tug to tow them the "four miles west, northwest of the station" to the wreck site. Three of the schooner's crew had gone ashore by way of the vessel's yawlboat, and it is likely that they were the ones who called for the lifesavers. The surf, however, was too high for them to return to the stranded wind-grabber and so the lifesavers used their lifeboat to shuttle the remaining four crewmen to the tugboat and then returned to the station. Meanwhile, as the days and weeks passed, Lake Huron simply chewed away at the MARQUIS until there was little left other than her bottom and lots of cut stone. The lost schooner's load was hardly missed and the Canadian locks opened in 1895.