The largest vessel missing in the Manitou Passage is the enormous steel freighter W.H.Gilcher. She measures 301 feet in length and over 40 feet wide. The following articles from 1892 describe her loss.
Buffalo Enquirer -November 2, 1892
The Steamer W. H. GILCHER Thought to Have Gone Down With Her Crew of 10 Men.
A Similar Fate Befell Her Counterpart, the WESTERN RESERVE.
SHE IS SOME DAYS OVERDUE
Cleveland, Nov. 2.- Although nothing definite has been learned it is almost certain that the vessel that foundered north of North Manitou Island at the foot of Lake Michigan was the steel steamer W. H. GILCHER.
Speaking of the loss of the vessel Capt. John Barton, of the firm of Morro, Bartow & Gilchrist, owners of the boat, says: "I have heard nothing from the steamer GILCHER. She is several days overdue at Milwaukee. The last news I have of her is when she passed Mackinaw with several other vessels. I am greatly worried about her. She was loaded with coal. I am almost positive that she is lost. She went down at the foot of Lake Michigan."
The GILCHER is one of the largest steamers on the lakes and the largest one ever built in Cleveland. She was rated among the big carriers and has several big cargo records. She was built by the Cleveland Ship Building Company and is an exact duplicate of the steamer WESTERN RESERVE, which was lost with all on
board on Lake Superior in the latter part of August.
The GILCHER left Buffalo, Tuesday, October 18, for Milwaukee, coal laden. She was commanded by Capt. L. H. Weeks, a man of the highest standing in marine circles, reputed for fearlessness, skill and good judgment.
Up to noon today no trip sheet nor anything else could be discovered which would tend to show the names of the 17 members of her crew. There ware no passengers aboard. The crew of the GILCHER probably numbered from 8 to 12 men, and the total loss of life will prove almost as heavy as that of the WESTERN RESERVE horror.
Capt. Weeks lived at Vermilion. 0., and leaves a family. The first mate was Capt. Ed. Weeks of Loraine, 0. He leaves a wife and one son.
TWO MORE WRECKS
Chicago, Nov. 2. -- The great gale of last Friday and Saturday wrecked a large steamer and a schooner near South Manitou Island and it is almost certain that the crews of both boats were lost. The steamer foundered near the Island while the schooner was cast almost bottom side up far up on the beach. The schooner JOHN SWAW, in tow of the steamer JOHN F. EDDY, reached here this afternoon. The SHAW and EDDY had weathered the gale at anchor under the Manitous. "When off South Manitou on or way to Chicago," Capt. George Dennis of the SHAW said, "we passed through a large quantity of wreckage. Doors, stools, window sash and part of a steamers bridge with the bell still upon it were floating in the lake. The stanchions to the bridge, which was painted white, were of striped oak. The bridge was about five feet wide fore and aft, but I do not know how long it was. The doors had glass in the top panels, the glass of course was broken out. We could see nothing which would give any indication of what the name of the unfortunate craft was." Capt. Dennis also reported that a medium sized schooner, with her bilge and part of her bottom showing, was on the beach of the island. She had a cargo of hemlock lumber. The bottom had been newly calked.
THE GILCHER GIVEN UP FOR LOST.
Cleveland, Nov. 2. -- J. C. Gilchrist of Vermillion, managing owner of the steamer W. H. GILCHER, is here and is surrounded in his office by all the leading vessel owners, who have done little or no busine all the morning. Nearly all of them are owners of steam vessels, and this second disaster, which now seems certain, has created intense excitement. Nothing of a definite nature has been heard by the owners of the boat since she passed Mackinaw just previous to the storm of Friday. But Mr. Gilchrist, as well as all other owners here, agree that the fact that the GILCHER should have been in MilIwaukee by Sunday at the least is sufficient evidence that she has gone down, and a description of wreckage corresponding In a general way to the upper works of the GILCHER strengthens that belief. The only members of the crew known here are Captain L. H. Weeks , of Vermillion; First Mate, Edward Porter, of Loraine, O.; Chief Engineer, Sidney Jones, of Marine City; an oiler named Thompson, son of Daniel Thompson, who formerly lived in Vermillion, but whose home is in Chicago; a wheelsman named King, also of Vermillion. The crew numbered either 17 or 18, and were largely filled up in Buffalo two weeks ago, when several young men from Buffalo left the boat. Nearly all the Gilchrists' boats are manned by crews from Vermillion, but the recent chnage at Buffalo has left only those named from Vermillion. The boat had no passengers. All the officers named are men of families, and they have followed the lakes for many years.
As the GILCHER is loaded with 3,000 tons of coaI from Buffalo drawing only 15 feet, she was in good trim, and would have a side out of water about 9 feet. This leads to the conclusion on all sides that she must have been in collision or struck the treacherous reef, due south about four miles from South Fox Island, on which there is but 14 feet of water, with deep water all around it. President Henry D. Coffinberry, of the Cleveland Shipbuilding Association, which built the GILCHER, as well as the WESTERN RESERVE is, of course, very much disturbed over the result of the disaster, especially since the GILCHER was an exact duplicate of the WESTERN RESERVE, excepting that the latter had more power. He holds with others here that the accident must have been due to striking the reef referred to, or to collision, and still maintains that both boats were constructed after the best practice know to lake ship-building.
For years rumors have circulated about the whereabouts of the Gilcher. In 1893 an article said the Gilcher was discovered in shallow water near one of the Manitou Islands and the inhabitants were salvaging coal from her.
In 1934 Chicago hard-hat diver Frank Blair claimed he had found the missing steamer and was going to attempt to salvage the cargo of coal. He said a local commercial fisherman friend from Leland told him the location.