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The Groh

November 22, 1895

The old steam-barge MICHAEL GROH, under the command of Captain Michael Groh, was downbound from Marquette with a cargo of 325,000 board feet of lumber when she ran into high winds and heavy seas off Grand Island. The GROH ran for shelter, but before she could gain the lee of the island, a wave unshipped her rudder and she was blown helplessly before the storm.

Rolling in the trough, she shipped seas over her sides until the engine room crew were working knee-deep in water. They kept the stern up and the engine running in a vain attempt to reach shelter. At 7:25 Friday morning, the steamer was blown into the Pictured Rocks where she grounded on a rock reef just offshore, near the site where the ELMA had wrecked just two months earlier. Quickly she stove in her hull and sank up to her decks. The dozen crew took to the boats and escaped to safety ashore.


Rapid work by Captain John H. Gillett of Marquette, using, the tug GILLETT and Captain Martin Daniels with his schooner the CRISS GROVER, managed to save 140,000 feet of the lumber cargo. However, the GROH was in a bad position and it was apparent that the next storm would destroy her. Still there was hope that the vessel could be pulled free and the powerful Inman tug W.B. CASTLE was telegraphed for.

Before she arrived, the feared storm arrived on November 30 and pounded the GROH to pieces, a loss of $9,000. The following summer, the Whitney Brothers of Duluth salvaged the engine, boiler and running gear, which they put into a new tug they were building. The original lumber cargo, consigned to the Cleveland Sawmill and Lumber Company, was valued at $8,900.

The MICHAEL GROH was built in Cleveland by Quayle and Martin in 1867 with dimensions of 120.4 feet in length, 23.8 feet in beam, 8.6 feet in depth and 174.15 gross tons. During the winter of 1881-82, she was rebuilt in Muskegon, adding 20 feet to her length, two to her beam and increasing the gross tonnage to 289. The steamer ran in the lumber trade for nearly three decades, with occasional work as a wrecking tug.

At least two pieces of the GROH’s hull can be seen in the shallow waters north of Sand Point. One section, a triangular piece about 15 feet long and 14 feet wide, comprises the sternmost part of her lower hull, including her engine mounting beds. This piece lies about 10 feet under water less than a quarter mile off shore. A second larger piece about a quarter mile away measures 104 feet long and about 24 feet wide. The massive keelsons and frames make up most of the steamer’s bottom.

This report is from the book Dangerous Coast: Pictured Rocks Shipwrecks by Fred Stonehouse and Daniel Fountain, Avery Color Studios, Marquette Michigan, 1997.

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