The Appomattox was built in 1896 by Captain James Davidson of West Bay City, Michigan. Capt Davidson had designed ships that were innovative with the use of steel cross bracings, keel plates and arches that made the 319 foot oak hull a seaworthy vessel.
The ship worked for the Davidson Steamship Company from Aug 1896 until Sep 1899. Her captain during part of this time was Capt Davidson's son-in-law, G A Tomlinson.
The Boston Coal Dock and Warf Company out of New Jersey purchased the Appomattox in 1899. She was managed by Pickands, Mathers and Company, hauling iron ore on the eastward voyages in Lake Superior and returning west with loads of coal. The Appomattox could hold 3000 pounds of iron ore. She usually towed a wooden schooner barge, the 324-foot Santiago, also built by Davidson. Together, the pair could haul 8000 pounds of iron ore.
Two ships connected by a single line could not always sail safely. In Aug 1905, the Santiago veered off course while sailing on the St Clair River, between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. The Santiago smashed into the schooner barge Fontana and the Fontana sank immediately. One member of the Fontana's crew died in the accident.
On 2 Nov 1905, while towing the Santiago, travelling south along Lake Michigan's western shore, encountered a dense bank of industrial smoke and fog, which obscured the range lights on the north side of Milwaukee. Going too close to the shore, the Santiago and the Appomattox ran aground on the rocky bottom near North Point. Another ship, the Iowa also went aground. US Lifesaving Service Station crews responded quickly and were able to free both the Santiago and the Iowa, but the Appomattox had run aground the hardest and the bottom was damaged. The weather worsened and the pounding waves further damaged the ship. On 14 Nov 1905 rescue crews abandoned her. Two years later, her machinery was recovered by the Reid Wrecking Company
Today the Appomattox lies well preserved on the floor of Lake Michigan where she sank over a century ago.
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