Heroic Rescues

Port Washington fishermen and their tugs have painted some glorious pictures with their heroic rescues of Lake Michigan storm victims. Prominent in this group of local rescuers was Capt. Delos Smith.

OF THE MANY RESCUES made by Capt. Smith this one made with a horse in 1895 is the most interesting.

The Ozaukee Press
Port Washington's 125th Anniversary special edition
July 28th, 1960

July 28th, 1960: Port Washington's 125th Anniversary special edition Ozaukee Press: The steamer Toledo
The steamer Toledo (above)

Frank, The Horse

It was a September night and a gale was blowing. The schooner Mary Ludwig foundered on a sand bar north of Port Washington. Capt. Smith, who with his family lived on the beach just north of Port Washington, witnessed the wreck.

THE CREW of the breaking ship was attempting to lower a boat to come to shore. Knowing that this would mean almost certain disaster Capt. Smith and some of his fishing crew waved oars with cloth attached and shouted to stop the crew of the Mary Ludwig. All of this was to no avail. The boat was launched and immediately capsized. The two men tried to hang on to the overturned boat. With scarcely a word the watching fishermen launched their own open pound boat and bent their backs over the oars trying to reach the shipwrecked pair.

The waves were too high for even the tough pound boat and its tough crew. The high breakers repeatedly lifted the fishing boat high in the air and deposited it on the beach. There seemed to be no hope for the rescue of the pair when Capt. Smith came up with an idea.

THERE WAS AN OLD plow horse named Frank which the fishermen used to pull their boat up the beach after each day’s fishing. Frank was a true fisherman’s horse. He loved the water. Capt. Smith got Frank and put the lightest man on him. The horse and its rider swam through the waves to the capsized life boat. Before it reached the boat one man had dropped off and drowned. The other clung to the keel and when Frank arrived he hung on to the horse’s tail. Frank swam to shore. The rescued man was taken to the Smith home where Mrs. Smith had coffee, rum and blankets ready.

The Atlanta

On the spot where the steamer Niagara burned 40 years before with a loss of 250 lives, the Goodrich steamer Atlanta burned to the water’s edge. The tug Tessler of Port Washington saved 63 lives. Only one man was lost. This is another rescue which Capt. Delos Smith figured in.

Fire was discovered in the hold and panic broke out. One of the few persons to remain calm was the captain. He headed the ves­sel toward Port Washington and tried to run for shore. When it was evident that he could not make it he ordered the lifeboats lowered. Three were lowered but the remaining life boats were already on fire.

THE PANIC GREW until someone spotted a small boat heading for the burning ship. The tug Tessler, captained by Delos SmIth was lifting its nets nearby when it saw the smoke. The Tessler picked up everyone from the boat except a deck-hand who fell over­board and drowned. There was one thrilling rescue when Charles Klien, a member of the Tessler crew, crawled deep into the burning ship to save a terrified Negro cook.

The Tessler was horribly over­loaded and the slightest sea could have meant disaster. Fortunately, Lake Michigan had one of its rare calm spells and the Tessler made Port Washington without mishap.

The Senator

Capt. Earl Godersky was piloting the tug named after the man who 23 years earlier made the daring rescue of 63 people from the burning Atlanta when he saved 15 people from the sinking Senator.

IT WAS MIDDAY November 1, 1929. The Senator was plowing its way from Milwaukee to Detroit with a full load of automobiles, 20 miles off Port Washington.

There was dense fog and a cold rain was dripping. Sounds carried well in the fog and the air was filled, the clanging of bells, the whistling of sirens, and the blowing of horns. The Senator was in one of Lake Michigan’s crowded shipping lanes.

THE CAPTAIN and the wheelsman were both on the bridge when they saw the looming hull of the ore carrier Marquette. The Senator was hit directly amidships so hard that it almost rolled completely over. There was no time to lower life boats or don life belts. The Senator filled quickly.

The Marquette, not so badly damaged, stayed afloat and in the area but did not make any effort to pick up survivors. The Marquette did blow its whistle constantly. The tug Delos Smith was lifting gill nets two miles away and Captain Earl Godersky heard the strident whistles and im­mediately left his nets and headed toward the scene.

AT THE SCENE of the collision, survivors were hanging on to pieces of debris or floating in life belts or just treading in the cold water. When the Delos Smith arrived it cruised among the survivors, picking every one up When the tug was through it had picked up 15 people and was so heavily loaded that it could only make a few knots an hour but it made its home port without any trouble.

The Marquette picked up three survivors and limped to Milwaukee. Ten persons died in the crash of the Senator and the Marquette in the fog 20 miles off Port Washington.

As long as ships ply the rugged waters of Lake Michigan there will be disasters, tragedies and rescues. Port Washington will share in some of these. It is the fate of all maritime towns.

Editor's note:
Oliver H. Smith and Evelyn C. Smith were recorded speaking to the Ozaukee County Historical Society (Wisconsin). The main topic of the night was the steamer Atlanta fire that occurred March 18th, 1906 and the Senator and Marquette collision in a dense fog October 30th, 1929. Go here to hear their first hand recollections of these events.

Also, the picture of the steamer Toledo that was associated with the article seems out of place. None of the stories have anything to do with the Toledo.
Bonus! This special edition of the The Ozaukee Press also had an advertisement placed by Smith Bros:
July 28th, 1960: Port Washington's 125th Anniversary special edition Ozaukee Press: Advertisement placed by Smith Bros.