Public SteamshipVesselGreat LakesSide WheelWreckThing The Julia Palmer was built as a schooner at Carrick & Bidwell of Buffalo. She was launched in 1836. She drew between 240 and 300 tons.1 Some sources2 claim that the Palmer was the "first" sailing ship, or "first" fully-rigged sailing ship on the Great Lakes. Such claims rest upon a specific definition of "sailing ship" while also ignoring the fleets of Great Britain and the United States during the War of 1812 (and, of course, La Salle's Griffon).
In 1839, she was converted to a side-wheel steamer.3
In 1846, the Julia Palmer was hauled on ways over the rapids at the Sault becoming the second steamship on Lake Superior4, and the first to take the north shore route.5 During that season, the Julia Palmer was commanded by Capt. John J. Stanard and was the popular ship on the lake that season.6
The ship was abandoned during a November gale on Lake Superior in 1846 while on a trip from the Sault to Copper Harbor. The crew had used up all available fuel on board, including over 100 cords of wood, its furniture and woodwork, without making headway. The ship took on water which, when the steam gave out, had to be bailed manually. For over thirty-six hours the ship was adrift before grounding in a natural harbor of a Canadian island in the northeast part of the lake. Passengers and crew went ashore to chop wood and eventually re-fueled the Palmer sufficiently to complete the run to Copper Harbor.7
The Palmer was laid up for the winter of 1847 then towed in the spring to Waiska Bay to be used in a dock.8
1. ⇑ A. P. Swineford (History and Review (Marquette: The Mining Journal, 1876), p. 33) claims 240 while newspaper accounts from 1836 claim 300. Julia Palmer (Ship), 16 May 1836," Maritime History of the Great Lakes. ⇑
2. ⇑ Friend Palmer and the Detroit Free Press (See Swayze's Shipwreck File). ⇑
3. ⇑ Dave Swayze, "Great Lakes Shipwreck File" (Lake Isabella, MI: 2001). Note that Croil claims that the Palmer was converted to a propeller, but such a claim seems inconsistent with the other sources. ⇑
4. ⇑ F. Clever Bald, The Sault Canal Through 100 Years, Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1954), 15. ⇑
5. ⇑ James Croil, Steam Navigation and its Relation to the Commerce of Canada and the United States (Toronto: W. Briggs, 1898), 257. ⇑
6. ⇑ A. P. Swineford, History and Review (Marquette: The Mining Journal, 1876), p. 21 and p. 33. ⇑
7. ⇑ A. P. Swineford, History and Review (Marquette: The Mining Journal, 1876), p. 33. Note that Swayze gives the date of wreck as 1847, and that the place of the loss was west of Whitefish Point; Dave Swayze, "Great Lakes Shipwreck File" (Lake Isabella, MI: 2001). ⇑
Bald, F. Clever. The Sault Canal Through 100 Years, Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1954.
Croil, James. Steam Navigation and its Relation to the Commerce of Canada and the United States. Toronto: W. Briggs, 1898.
"Julia Palmer (Ship), 16 May 1836," Maritime History of the Great Lakes.
Mansfield, J. B. Great Lakes Maritime History: History of the Great Lakes. 2 vols. Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1899.
Julia Palmer mentioned in vol. I, chapter 17, vol. I, chapter 35, and vol. I, chapter 36. Additionally, there is further information in volume II.
Palmer, Friend. Early Days in Detroit: Papers Written by General Friend Palmer, of Detroit, Being his Personal Reminiscences of Important Events and Descriptions of the City for Over Eighty Years. Detroit: Hunt & June, 1906.
Swayze, Dave. "Great Lakes Shipwrecks." The Great Lakes Shipwreck File. Lake Isabella, MI: 2001.
Swineford, A. P. History and Review of the Copper, Iron, Silver, Slate and other Material Interests of the South Shore of Lake Superior. Marquette: The Mining Journal, 1876.
Many thanks to Eric W. Jackson for bringing my attention to this wonderful source.
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