City of the Straits

Vessel Type:			Wooden Schooner Barge
Dimensions:			154 x 29.2 x 11.5 ft.
Tonnage:			392 gt
Description:			None
Build Info: 			built 1866 at Detroit by J. Jones
Official Number: 		#4393
Date of Loss:			August 25, 1896
Place of Loss:			Ontonagon
Accident Type:			Burned, Scuttled
Depth:				5 - 10 ft.


The City of the Straits met her end in one of the most disastrous fires in Keweenaw history. She was an old schooner that had been rebuilt as a towbarge for use in the lumber industry. The City of the Straits was taking on a load of cured pine at the Mercer Dock next to the Island Mill of the Diamond Match Company when the whole area suddenly went up in flames. The ensuing blaze made national news and destroyed most of the town of Ontonagon. The crew tried to scuttle the ship to prevent her destruction, but she settled too slowly and the flames destroyed her upper works. The crew managed to escape unharmed, but the City of the Straits proved too old and too badly burned for salvage. She was left on the bottom of the Ontonagon River where she has remained for over 100 years now. She was owned by the Penoyer Brothers of Port Huron, Michigan and had undergone major repairs in 1882.

The City of the Straits now lies in 5 - 10 feet of water just off the old Wilson Brothers fish house. When the river is low, she is a hazard to navigation and deep hulled vessels can scrape their bottoms on her. Ice has completely removed her superstructure, but her keel, ribs and some hull remains for inspection, and the river covers and uncovers different parts of the wreck from time to time. The river is reportedly very silty at this location, and visibility is usually less than a few feet. Divers should also be aware of the riverís current which can be strong at times. Because of the poor diving conditions the City of the Straits is one of the most seldom visited sites in the Keweenaw. She is largely unexplored and would benefit from an archeological investigation.

References: Keweenaw Shipwrecks by Frederick Stonehouse, Julius F. Wolff, Jrís Lake Superior Shipwrecks, Dave Swayze Wrecklist, Milwaukee Public Library - Herman Runge Collection, Ontonagon in Days of Yore by Bruce Johanson


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