Wisconsin's Maritime Trails: Historic Shipwreck: Steamer Erie L. Hackley

© Photographed August 18, 2014 and September 20, 2015
Erected by Wisconsin Historical Society, Sea Grant University of Wisconsin,
and Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Egg Harbor, Door County, Wisconsin
Google Map

Wisconsin's Maritime Trails
Historic Shipwreck
Steamer Eric L. Hackley

Type: Wooden steam screw
Built: 1882, J.P. Arnold Company, Muskegon, Mich.
Sank: October 3, 1903
Length: 78'  Beam: 17'
Cargoes: Passenger, freight
Propulsion: Progeller
Depth of Wreckage: 110"
Lives Lost: 11
On October 3, 1903, the Erie L. Hackley departed Menominee with nineteen people aboard, bound for Egg Harbor across the bay. About an hour later, a violent squall arose, whipping the waves to monstrous heights. Soon, great walls of water crashed onto the vessel, tearing the pilothouse and cabin from the hull. The waves swept the passengers and crew overboard, leaving a trail of people and debris floating in the seething waters as the Erie L. Hackley sank.

Several castaways managed to climb aboard the floating cabin. They remained there through the night, occasionally being swept into the raging seas. The following morning, they were spotted by the passenger steamer Sheboygan. The steamer's crew picked them up and found several others in the surrounding waters. They clothed and fed the survivors before transferring them to a passing fishing boat bound for Fish Creek.

Only eight of the nineteen people survived. Today, the Erie L. Hackley lives in 110 feet of water, two miles northeast of Green Island.
The marker is located adjacent to a parking lot at The Village of Egg Harbor Marina, on Dock Road, west of its intersection with Horseshoe Bay Road / County Highway G, Egg Harbor, Wisconsin 54209.

The shipwreck of Erie L. Hackley made headlines across the United States. See two articles below.

This marker is included in Wisconsin's Maritime Trails: Historical Markers series.

These are also at this location:

 The 78-foor Erie L. Hackley was launched on August 11, 1882,
the Muskegon, Mich. The Erie L. Hackley spent her early years
carrying passengers and freight around the Muskegon area.

 Erie L. Hackley
In 1898, she moved northward to carry mail and passengers
between Charlevoix and Beaver Island. To make her more
seaworthy on the open waters, the Erie L. Hackley was rebuilt
with high forward bulwarks and a raised pilothouse.

 After receiving additional passenger cabins on her upper deack, the
Erie L. Hackley sailed the Manitou Islands route for the 1902 season.

 The Erie L. Hackley was named after the
daughter of Charles H. Hackley, a Muskegon
area businessman, philanthropist, and half
owner of the vessel.

The marker is at the base of the flagpoles.

The Erie L. Hackley shipwreck, as reported in
 The Indianapolis Journal, Monday Morning, October 5, 1903
(NOTE: The content of the memorial and the newspaper article do not match!)

   MARINETTE, Wis., Oct 4. - During a squall last night on Lake Michigan the steamer Erie L. Hackley capsized and twelve persons were drowned. The Goodrich line steamer Sheboygan rescued the other seven persons on board the Hackley after they had drifted about on pieces of wreckage all night. Reports of the disaster reached here to-day.
   The Hackley was struck by the squall when seven miles off Green island. The upper work was blown away before the men could reach a haven. The boat then turned over and went down in deep water.
--The Drowned.--
GEORGE LECLAIRE, JR., Jackson Port, Wis.
JOSEPH VORIES, captain of the Hackley, Fish Creek
T. TRUCHLY, cook of the Hackley.
CARL KELKY, Fish Creek.
Sister of MISS VINCENT, Egg Harbor, Wis.
NELS NELSON, Sturgeon Bay.
--The Rescued.--
  Frank Blakefield, purser, Fish Creek; Orrin Rollin, engineer, Fish Creek; Milton Hansenl Blaine McSweeney, Fish Creek; R. Roggendorf, fireman; Martin Olesen and Ole Olesen.
  As the Hackley went to the bottom, those who would and could secure them seized on floating pieces of wreckage, while the women and three or four of the men, failing to find any object on which to cling, sank in the raging sea, so far as known.
  The waves were rolling high and several of those who at first saved themselves from immediate death lost strength and sank. It was several hours after the Hackley sank before the Sheboygan hove in hailing distance. The souts of the floating men attracted the attention of the sailors on the Sheboygan and every assistance was lent.
  The roughness of the lake made the work of rescue slow, but the officers of the Sheboygan feel sure that they took aboard every person afloat. Some of the persons who were rescued say that it is possible that one or more of the eleven persons missing may have escaped. This view is not given much credence by the sailors of the Sheboygan.
  The Sheboygan made into Fish Creek, when hope of rescuing other persons seemed improbable. The rescued persons were so exhausted from their struggle against drowning that they were unable for some time to tell anything about the wreck.
  The persons saved by the Sheboygan say that with the crashing away of the upper deck all persons aboard the Hackley ran on deck. Hasty preparations for a plunge into the water were begun, but before any plans could be carried out the boat listed, turned over and went down like a rock.
Search is still making for any person who may have escaped death and for the bodies of those who were drowned.
  The Erie L. Hackley was a fifty-four-ton screw steamer which was built at Muskegon, Mich., in 1882. The Hackley was owned in Fish Creek by Captain Vories and other residents of that village. The steamer made a trip every other day between Sturgeon bay and Washington Island, going up one day and back the next.
Purser's Description of Loss of the
Hackley--Captain's Heroism.
  STURGEON BAY, WIS., Oct. 4. -- Purser Blakefield, one of the survivors of the Hackley, who was on the steamer Sheboygan when it reached here, gave a description of the wreck. He said:
  "The squall struck us about 6 o'clock as we were just north of Green island. It came suddenly and with terrific fury. I was in the pilot house with the captain, who had just said that the elements looked threatening and that he would try to run to port. When the first fierce gust hit us the captain tried to throw the boat up into the wind but his efforts to do so were unavailing. Then I joined him at the wheel but our combined efforts were not sufficient to make her mind the helm.
  "Then, of a sudden, the listed and began to dill with water. Realizing that the passengers and crew were becoming panic stricken I left the captain in the pilot house and ran aft to let down the lifeboat. By the time I got aft the Hackley was filling so rapidly that it was apparent  it would be impossible to launch any boat. There came another fierce blast and the upper works went by the board. Then the steamer began to sink rapidly, and it was clear her settling on the bottom would be a question of only a few moments.
  "Eighteen of the nineteen people aboard were gathered on the deck, most of them in a state of frantic panic. The situation was made particularly heartrending by the women, who shouted hysterically, imploring the men to save them and accompanied their appeals for assistance with prayers. As the boat sank it was clear that there was only one hope of any one being saved and that was by clinging to the wreckage. I gave orders for the men to put the women on first. They did so, and behaved well, every man remaining on the sinking boat until the women had been placed on pieces of the cabin and other wreckage. It was then a wild scramble on the part of each man to get such pieces of planking as he could secure and cling to it.
  "Every man found something to float on except the captain, who remained in the pilot house to the last, doing his best to right the boat, and he finally went down with her."
The foregoing content is in the public domain.
(NOTE: transcribed exactly as printed)

 Excerpt from The St. Louis Republic, Monday, October 5, 1903:

With Egg Harbor to the right.

 The marker is located at Harbor View Park.

 The marker is located at The Village of Egg Harbor Marina.

 The marker is located at Harbor View Park in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin.

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