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Shipwreck of the George D. Sandford
Manistee Life-Boat Station, Manistee, Michigan
by Suzanne Hurley
From the 1883 Annual Report of the United States Life-Saving Service

Edited by the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum
*Minor editorial privileges were taken to clarify the text and writing style of the period.

The next wreck of the year at which life was lost within the scope of the service took place on the 4th of October, 1882, and was that of the steamer George D. Sandford, of Grand Haven, Michigan, bound without. cargo from Frankfort, Michigan, to Manistee, Michigan, and having on board a crew of five, and eight passengers. At about half-past 9 o clock at night, the weather being calm, and the sea running smooth under a dense fog, the light at Manistee, which is built on the south pier, about two hundred feet from the end of it, appeared through the thick atmosphere apparently at a long distance, and the steamer was headed directly for it. The light, owing to a deception of the fog, still seemed a long way off, when suddenly the men on the lookout forward saw the pier loom up, like a wall, close aboard, and shouted to the captain to back the vessel. The bell was at once rung to stop and back her strong, and the engineer promptly reversed the engines and pulled the throttle valve wide open, thus putting on all steam for the receding movement.. A few powerful backward revolutions were made by the engine, and the steamer s speed was slackened to four miles an hour, but the effort was-too late, and presently she struck the pier head, bow on, with a tremendous concussion, which burst the steam-pipe a little above the starboard door of the engine-room and threw the boiler about seven inches forward. The shock instantly stopped the engines, and the steamer fell away and drifted slowly from the pier.

Amidst the confusion and uproar which follows such disasters a voice was heard three times from the sea, calling, --George,-- and those on board, peering through the thick fog, had a momentary sight of a man struggling in the sleek water, but at such a distance that help was impossible. It was at first supposed that the captain was overboard, but it proved to be the engineer, a colored man named Albert Hicks. Probably the unfortunate man, after reversing the engines, had gone to the door of the engine-room to look out, and been thrown over the side by the shock when the steamer struck the pier. The engine-room, it will be understood, was flush with the deck, and the door only a short distance from the rail over which, under the circumstances, his precipitation would therefore be easy. The name he was heard calling from the water was thought to be that of one of the deck-hands, George Rosco.

Immediately upon the collision the steamer s whistle had been vigorously sounded by the captain for assistance, and a tug promptly came out and towed her inside, making her fast to the north pier. About the same time, or fifteen minutes after the steamer had struck, the keeper and crew of the Manistee Life-Boat Station, half a mile distant, arrived upon the scene in the surf-boat, having been roused by the station patrolman, who was on duty on the north pier, and had heard the crash of the collision and the hissing of escaping steam beyond the south pier when the accident occurred. Upon learning the loss of the engineer, the keeper took the captain of the vessel into the surf-boat with him and entered upon a search for the missing man, rowing about in the fog for over an hour, but finding no trace of him. At one time, the surf-boat crew were quite lost in the fog, and had to be guided only by sound in making their way. The next day they dragged the mouth of the river a long time for the body of the engineer, and finally, about 10 o clock in the forenoon, recovered it, quite uninjured, and turned it over to the coroner. It is evident that this fatality, was beyond retrieval.

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