GLSHIPS-L ArchivesArchiver > GLSHIPS > 2005-11 > 1131169367
Subject: Great Storm of 1905: Capt. Thomas Honner on the Ira H. Owen
Date: 4 Nov 2005 22:42:47 -0700
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Surnames: HONNER (HONORE), CHAMBERLAIN, KEITH, LOUTIT, MULLIGAN, BARNETT
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This posting is in memory of my great great uncle Captain Thomas Honner (after whom my father was named), who went down 100 years ago 27 November on the Ira H. Owen in the Great Storm of 1905 on Lake Superior. Captain George Honner mentioned in the article is my great grandfather. (Thomas' widow Elizabeth changed the surname to Honore after his death).
Source: Grand Haven Daily Tribune, Grand Haven, Michigan; Saturday, 02 December 1905, Pp. 1 & 4.
WENT DOWN WITH HIS SHIP
Captain Thomas Honner of this City Lost on Steamer Ira H. Owen in Lake Superior
The entire city was shocked and saddened this morning by the terrible news that the steamer Ira H. Owen had been lost with all men on board on Lake Superior during the awful gale of Monday night and Tuesday. With the staunch steamer probably went down Captain Thomas Honner of this city, who was temporarily in command during the illness of Captain Mulligan, who was also aboard of the ill-fated ship.
Marine men here heard the first of the sad news this morning and although there was fear felt for the safety of the Owen, they refused to believe that the steamer was lost. Even when the news reached here that the steamer Jenks had sighted a steamer in distress Tuesday off Outer Island, Lake Superior, which answered the description of the Owen, the older mariners expressed the firm belief that a composite steamer could not founder but must be in shelter somewhere.
Many anxious inquiries were made by the captain's family and his friends here but no encouragement could be offered to them from the steamboat's headquarters in Duluth and Chicago. The office at Duluth stated that the Owen had left on Monday noon for the lower lakes. Monday night Lake Superior was visited by the most terrible northeast gale ever known and the newest and greatest of steamers were driven to destruction. The steamer Jenks making for Two Harbors in the storm sighted a double stack steamer, closely answering the description of the Owen off Outer Island on Tuesday morning. The double stack steamer was then in distress and seemed to be suffering from weather. No assistance could be rendered by the Jenks because of the weather. Even then there was hope in this city that if the distressed steamer was the Owen she had gained shelter of some of the islands.
The Detroit Free Press, this morning gave up all hope for the safety of the Owen and her crew of 19 men. According to the paper's story, the Owen was lost sighted by the steamer H. B. Nye about forty miles off Outer Island of the Apostle Group, while the storm was at its height on Tuesday the Owen was then blowing signals of distress and seemed to be making bad weather of it. But the Nye was barely keeping afloat in the terrible weather and could render no assistance nor respond to the signals. The snow set in heavily at that time and shut out all sight of the disabled steamer. When the lull came soon afterward the Nye was faithfully standing by but the Owen had disappeared from sight.
Captain M. K. Chamberlain of the steamer Sir William Siemens which arrived in Ashland Friday night reported that he had at ten o'clock, that morning passed through a mass wreckage, consisting of chairs, stanchions, the top of a cabin and other wreckage. In the midst of this were life preservers bearing the name of the Ira H. Owen. This destroyed almost the last plausible hope desperately held out by the owners and sorrow stricken anxious families of the unfortunate crew.
Capt. J. K. Keith of Chicago is the manager of the missing ship and when he heard of the Siemen's discovery he reluctantly stated he had given up all hope. William H. Loutit of this city called this morning by long distance telephone and he received the same hopeless information.
In speaking of the disaster Capt. Keith said, "I do not understand what could have happened to the Owen. She had 116,500 bu. of barley which was a light load for the ship. I spent three days in Duluth and before the Owen sailed every thing was in tip top shape. The hatch fastenings were all overhauled and made as strong as they could be made. I know no steamer ever went out in a more seaworthy condition. Why she should have met disaster will always remain a mystery I fear, for there is no hope that any of the crew are still alive."
The loss of the Owen strikes home to the people of Grand Haven because Captain Thomas Honner of this city was in command of the illfated ship and as is the sailor's lot he probably went down with her. Captain Honner was making this last trip only, on the Owen and it is understood that he was in temporary command of the craft because of Captain Mulligan's illness. The captain had only recently finished a successful season as commander of the Hackley line steamer City of the Straits and after spending a short time with his family here he had gone to his berth on the Owen. This was his first trip.
The Owen was owned by Keith & Co. of Chicago operated under the title of the National Steamship Co. She was built at Cleveland in 1887 and considered especially staunch and seaworthy. She was insured for $100,000. The Owen was a composite steamer of 1753 gross tons. She was 262 feet long and 39 feet beam, drawing 19 feet of water.
True to Captain Keith's conclusion there seems to be no chance for a mite of hope. The steamer was in open sea when last sighted and even if the crew could have left the ship in the boats there would be little chance for them in the terrible freezing weather which prevailed at the time. Everything seems to indicate that the ship foundered in the unequal fight against the sea. If she had struck some of the islands there might be a bare chance of the crew being able to save themselves. But even the most optimistic hardly clutch at that straw and every marine man in the city and every person who knew Captain Honner is sorrow stricken and stunned by the terrible news of his probable fate.
The sympathy of the whole city is extended to his wife, whose anxious hours of the past few days have been misery to her, only such misery as can be experienced by the wife of a sailor. Hearts go out to his three little children, Thomas, Doris, and little Bennie, who were the balm and value of the captain's life ashore. It was of the wife and little family and the cozy home waiting impatiently to receive him when the voyage was ended that Captain Honner probably thought when the final summons came to him in the gale and storm and fury of Lake Superior which he had met and vanquished many times before. His wife and babies are fortunate that they may carry through the rest of their saddened lives, that they held and loved such a man as Captain Honner, among the bravest of the brave the truest of the true.
Captain Thomas Honner, navigator, superb captain, and courageous sailor, was one of the most widely known marine men on the great lakes, but in this his hometown he was known at his best. A true type of the best school of great lakes captains, he was always calm and courageous in time of danger, but he never forced his steamer into it needlessly. There was not an atom of rashness in his whole makeup. His judgment was true and unfailing and his splendid powers were always displayed to the advantage of the steamer he commanded. He was about 55 years of age and Grand Haven people first knew Captain Honner when he took command of the D. G. & M. Railway steamer Wisconsin many years ago. Then he began to make the friends he has held through life. While he was in command, the Wisconsin was safe. He weathered gales of terrible falls and the ice of dangerous winters. In fact he became one of the most proficient men in the Lake Michigan service. No matter what the weather if his boat !
was out in it he brought her carefully and surely out of danger when others failed and went down to destruction. Among his crews there was the greatest confidence in him that pays a captain that greatest tribute that one sailor can pay to another, and it was with regret akin to sorrow that the owners and sailors parted with him when he left the steamers bridge to enter the U. S. steamboat inspection service about eight years ago. Last winter he left the service and in the spring he took command of the City of the Straits, which he sailed all last season, carefully, wisely, and well in his old accustomed manner.
Then he went to his fate, a sailor's fate on the Owen. As terrible as it is; as cruel and pathetic as it strikes home, it is the tragic story retold, and all who have known him in life know well that he met it without a quiver, without a sign of weakening and with bravery of the brave sailor he was.
Captain Honner was rich in the regard and esteem of his townsmen and his fellow mariners. His character was staunch and lasting and sons, whose fathers loved him, bear that same deep regard for him. What more can a man wish for in life? What better memory can he leave behind him?
The steamer Fleetwood, Capt. Geo. Honner and First Mate Ford Barnett, is reported safe at Marquette.