1868 - Hippocampus - 1868
1868 New Staunch & Seaworthy Steamer

Researched by Deanna Branson West

Thus was the ads for the new steamer built to carry passengers and freight, sailing between the twin cities here and Chicago, Illinois. Captain: John Morrison.
Agents: Boughton & Morrison - St. Joseph - A. Burridge & N. Robbins - Benton Harbor and D. Chapman - Chicago, Illinois. Co-owners of this vessel built in 1866 were Capt. John Morrison and Capt. Curtis Boughton, St. Joseph pioneers. Built by skilled shipbuilders, she was 122 feet long with a beam of 21 feet. Over the cargo deck was a cabin deck for the comfort of passengers.

Terrible Disaster - The Propeller Hippocampus - Foundered at 2:45 a.m. on Monday: September 8, 1868 - Great Loss of Life

On the evening of the disaster, there was a large quantity of fruit waiting to be shipped and sitting in the A. Burridge warehouse. The ship had been running daily trips between between Benton Harbor to Chicago. She was a brand new ship and thought to be one of the best on the great lakes. Captain John Morrison had run a heavy schedule day and night for over two weeks and was nearing exhaustion. He retired his post for the day to get rest and turned the ship over to experienced hands. One of these men was Captain H. M. Brown an experienced but retired seaman.

One theory : It is thought that the freight coming on board was not properly balanced and too much stowed on the upper decks for the ballast contained in her hold. Continuing with this theory, it is thought that the load shifted in heavy sea, laying her on her side and taking on water. It is not clear as to who was in charge for loading. But she was heavy this trip with eight thousand packages (mostly peaches); with another 500 more left at the warehouse that she could not accommodate.

Another theory is she struck something in the water near the junction of the St. Joseph and Paw Paw rivers as she swung west, and that blow caused a leak to worsen and became too much for the bilge pumps to handle. In agreement is the fact that she sunk between 3 to 5 minutes allowing for no time to launch life boats or dump its load to keep her afloat. Those below deck, including engine room crew and firemen were trapped.

On Tuesday morning, September 9th, a dispatch came from Chicago stating the Hippocampus had not arrived. Ships were immediately dispatched from St. Joseph, one being: L.M.T. Co's boat "The St. Joseph"

On their return trip from Chicago several ships; The Steamer Comet, Propellers Benton and Dunbar passed through much of the floating wreck. The Dunbar brought back a portion of the Pilot house from the ill fated ship. It was feared at this point that all souls had been lost. Later newspaper accounts stated that the wreckage was found about 28 miles from St. Joseph. There were 41 passengers and crew members aboard. Fifteen were saved.

Great News - A tug arrived from Saugatuck with 15 of the crew and passengers who were saved. Following list appeared St. Joseph Herald, Sep 19, 1868 and subsequent issues. Variations of spelling may be noted here:

Passengers Saved City
Edward N. Hatch St.Joseph
H. Bailey St. Joseph
James Trumble Pipestone
George A. Fuller Pipestone
Joseph Riford Benton Harbor
Joseph Cooley Chicago
Crew Saved City
Capt. Hiram M. Brown St. Joseph
Clerk, John P. Bloom St. Joseph
Wheelsman, Charles Morrison St. Joseph
Cyrus Ritenhouse St. Joseph
Charles Russell Benton Harbor
A. Howard Bainbridge
E N Cooper Pipestone
Thomas Johnson (colored) Chicago
Marshall Robinson (colored) Chicago
Lost City
Alvin Burridge Benton Harbor
W. S. Waterhouse Benton Harbor
Al G. Palmer Benton Harbor
Wm Vaughn Benton Harbor
J. A. Marple Benton Harbor
Uriah. Higbee or M. Higbee Benton Harbor
J. K. Burridge Benton Harbor
John Schrim Chicago
A P Whitney Chicago
R. M. Burke Pipestone
Crew Missing City
Robert Richardson, Mate St. Joseph
R. T. Eustice, 1st Eng'r Chicago
Wm. Brown, 2nd Eng'r Chicago
B M Moore, Chicago
________, Cook Chicago
W B Brant Bainbridge
Arthur Wooden Bainbridge
Eli Vanethroy Bainbridge
Murray Spirk Bainbridge
D. James Bainbridge
Frank Mathews Pipestone
Charles Williams (colored) Chicago
__ David (colored) Chicago
H. Manuel (colored) Benton Harbor
George B. VanHorn (colored) Benton Harbor
Joseph Wright Chicago

At half past One o'clock on October 18th, 1868 several of the twin city's Clergy held a memorial service in the village church for families of the men that did not make it home from the sea.

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