Steamer Leelanau explosion, August 1908

Steamer Leelanau explosion, August 1908

Steamer Leelanau explosion, August 1908On August 15th or 16th, 1908, the passenger steamer Leelanau that serviced North & South Lake Leelanau exploded. It merited a brief article in the New York Times that you can see right here (also see this account from the Aug 17 Eaton Free Press with a different take). You can click the pic for a larger view and read the transcription via GenDisasters below:

AUGUST 17, 1908 – Mrs. Isabel La Bonte (New York City) of this city was killed and a score of passengers were injured to-day by the explosion of the boiler of the passenger steamer Leelanau, bound from Leland to Fouch, on Carp Lake, in the Northern Michigan resort district. Among the passengers were a number of visitors from other States, but the list of casualties contains only the names of Michigan people.

The little steamer was plowing down the narrow lake with a steam pressure of eighty pounds, trying to make up the time that had been lost on the earlier stages of the trip. As she was passing Bingh (Bingham) the engineer discovered a loose bolt in the engine, and shut off the steam to remedy the defect.

It was while he was working at the loose bolt that the explosion occurred, tearing off the top of the engine and demolishing the pilot house and the forward upper works of the steamer, but leaving Engineer Edward Hardy unscathed by the havoc that swept before him.

John Hartung, who was at the wheel, was probably fatally injured. Many were thrown into the water and clung to wreckage until rescued by farmers living along the shore, although some were able to swim to shore.



2 replies
  1. Donna MacAlpine
    Donna MacAlpine says:

    Looking for information on “steamer Leelanaw” which which took prospectors north for the Klondike in 1898. Could this possibly be the same one? Where and when was this steamer built?

  2. Andrew McFarlane
    Andrew McFarlane says:

    I don’t see that there’s any way it could be. The Leelanau was too small for ocean going and the Leelanaw ended up getting sunk in 1915. Here’s what I found:

    Gordon Newell, Maritime Events of 1915:

    The steamship Leelanaw, brought to the Pacific Coast during gold rush days by the Alaska Exploration Co., and later well known in the bulk cargo trade, was torpedoed and sunk off the north coast of Scotland July 25, while carrying flax from Russia for Great Britain. The Wm. P. Frye and Leelanaw were the first American vessels to be sunk by German war craft. The Leelanaw, under the name Earnwell had been the pioneer vessel of the Earn Line Steamship Co. plying between Philadelphia and the West Indies before entering the Alaska trade in 1899.

    Return of the Leelanaw Almost Bare from the San Francisco Call, Volume 84, Number 68, 7 August 1898.

    Alaska Exploration Company’s steamer Leelanaw arrived from St. Michael yesterday with nine passengers. Very few people came down the river while she was north and very few went up. The Brixham, Progreso, Rufus E. Wood and a number of other vessels had their passengers still aboard when the Leelanaw sailed and the prospects were very poor for any of the ‘ gold hunters getting to Dawson this season. Hundreds of men were stranded in and about St. Michael. According to their contracts with outside companies they should have been carried to Dawson, but owing to the. fact that nearly all the river steamers that started from San Francisco, Portland and Puget Sound for the Yukon have been wrecked there is no means of fulfilling the agreement.

    A few of the gold hunters have gone up the river on the steamers of the Alaska Commercial Company, NorLh American Trading and Transportation Company and Alaska Exploration Company, but the great majority are hoping against hope that something will turn up by which they may reach Dawson without a further expenditure of money. Among those who came back on the Leelanaw are Mrs. and Mrs. Qulsenberry. The former went to Dawson last fall and his wife went north on the Leelanaw and met him at St. Michael.

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