Built in 1906 by the American Ship Building Co. in Lorian, OH, the 525 foot HENRY B. SMITH was a steel steamer valued at $338,000. She was considered to be one of the best steamers on the Great Lakes.
She was captained by James “Dancing Jimmy” Owen. He got his nickname from his habit of spending time in local dance halls. Captain Owen was a master marine with 30 years of experience in both steam and sail. he had skippered the SMITH since her launch in 1906.
Storm of 1913
The worst storm to ever hit the Great Lakes happened in November 5th – 11th of 1913. This storm was a result of two weather systems colliding over all of the Great Lakes.
During the storm, the SMITH had arrived in Marquette on November 6, 1913 to load up with 9,500 tons of iron ore. The storm conditions were causing gale force winds and snow up to two feet in some areas around the Lakes.
After loading up, the SMITH thought they were in the clear and left the dock. Unfortunately, twenty minutes after leaving the dock, gale force winds had over 35 foot waves crashing over her deck, drentching the deckhands struggling to secure the hatches. Instead of turning to the starboard on the usual course, the Captain hauled to the port side, possibly heading for shelter behind the Keweenaw Point to the north.
With the darkness and thick white squalls, the SMITH was lost from view and never seen again.