The Steamer Vernon Lost Off Manitowoc.
Over Thirty People Find Watery Graves – None Saved.
Capt. Lewis Gebo, of Charlevoix, One of the Victims.
Sunday noon [30 Oct 1887] a telegram was received at Charlevoix that the steamer Vernon, of the Northern Michigan Line, bound up, had foundered off Manitowoc, and all on board lost.
Later in the day it was confirmed, and yesterday's papers give full particulars, as far as they are known, for not one was left to tell the story of the terrible battle for life.
The Vernon was lost on Saturday morning [29 Oct 1887], by foundering. Whether she spring a leak, disabled her machinery, or succumbed after a straight battle with the tempest, no one will ever know. That fully thirty, if not thirty-five souls went into eternity is unquestionably true.
She was laden with pig-iron from St. Ignace. Vessels bound for Chicago reported Sunday having passed much wreckage, and later the Vernon's pilot house, with the name attached, was plainly seen by a passing schooner. Another schooner arriving in Milwaukee reported passing three dead bodies Saturday afternoon about six miles southwest of Manitowoc. One body was that of a woman with long black hair. She had a life-preserver on. The other two bodies were those of men.
Then other vessels reported a larger number of bodies with life-preservers attached, and Sunday noon a steam barge reported passing a man yet alive and clinging to a raft. The Captain said: "When about six miles east-northeast of Manitowoc the cook, who had been keeping a lookout, called me on the deck with the information that a raft could be seen with a man on it. As I went on deck I could plainly see the man waving his hand to us. He was standing upright on the raft, which was about half a mile between us and the shore, and the seas were washing over it. It was apparently about twelve foot square, and looked as though it might be the top of a cabin. Poor fellow! he must have thought it cruel of us to pass by and leave him there to suffer. Ten minutes later we sighted another, also about half a mile inside of us. It was much smaller, apparently not more than four by eight feet and looked like a piece of bulwarks. On it was laying a man who, although still alive, probably did not discern us as he was too far gone. We could see him dip his head, as his frail little float was tossed about on the sea, as though he was about dead. We saw a yawl with three men and one woman in it a little further south. There may, however, have been more of them lying down in the boat. The three we saw being on the seats, one of the men was standing up holding his oar, with his coat swinging to attract our attention."
Three miles further south they sighted a piece of the top of a cabin in which lay a man wearing a buffalo overcoat. As they passed within ten rods of this piece and he made no move, they concluded he was dead, and there was too heavy a sea running for them to run any risks in securing a dead body. It was reported that the first mate wore a buffalo overcoat.
The Vernon not stopping here, no passengers were on board from this point. But Capt. Lewis Gebo, and old resident of Charlevoix, was a wheelsman. Captain Gebo leaves a widow and two grown up sons.
The Captain of the life-saving crew at Two Rivers, Wis., describes the storm as the worst ever seen by him on the lake, the waves rising to the height of thirty or forty feet. The first information received by him was from the Sunday morning's papers, although the wreck is supposed to have taken place within seven miles of Two Rivers. It is his impression that on one has survived the wreck. It was bitterly cold on the lake, he said, "and a person could not have stood the exposure over night. The spray dashing over the men clinging to the wreckage must have frozen as it fell and completely encased the unfortunates, if , indeed, they hung on long enough to permit such a thing. My impression is that they are all at the bottom of the lake."
The Vernon had been chartered from A. Booth, her owner, to take the place of the Champlain the remainder of the season. She was a fine steamer, two years old, and cost over $80,000, although was not adapted to carrying freight. She was officered as follows: Master, George Thorpe; first mate, Capt. John Sullivan; second mate, Capt. Larry Higgius, late master of the barge Leland; clerk, Fred Burke; steward, Martin Beau, a survivor of the Champlain; Porter, Henry Beau, also of the Champlain. We are informed by good authority that the steward's wife was also on board. Both their children were lost on the Champlain,
The passengers who are known to have been on board were Miss Kate Gallagher, of Mackinaw; Miss Sallie Durkin, a cousin of Miss Gallagher; C. Baumgras, of Chicago; E, B. Borland, traveling for H. Bosworth & Sons, Milwaukee, and Mrs. James Dunlevy, of Beaver Harbor.
Charlevoix Sentinel, Charlevoix, Nov. 2, 1887"
" The body of Capt. Louis Geboo, one of the victims of the Vernon disaster was recovered Friday [04 Nov 1887] off Two Rivers, Wis. His remains have been brought here and the funeral will occur this afternoon [09 Nov 1887].
Charlevoix Sentinel, Charlevoix, Nov. 9, 1887"
15 MICH. INF."
"Lot: 36; Division: GAR; Lot Owner: Gebeau, Lewis; Date Purchased: Nov. 8 1887"
Sources: Gravestone and Lot Card (located in filing cabinet in building at Brookside Cemetery). Transcript, 30 Sep 1978, Brookside Cemetery, Charlevoix.
BMK Note: In 1978 the location was near road on west side of building, facing west, SSE of Crouter stone. However, as of 02 Aug 1993, this stone was missing.
Elizabeth Cross Cross Whitney
Eliza Jane Thompson Gebeau
1827–1904 (m. 1860)