Major Great Lakes Vessels

(Vessels measuring 1000 or more gross registered tons)

I have studied the history of Great Lakes vessels off and on for more than seventy years (my first grade-school-era notebook dates from the middle 1930s) and until now most of my records have been in pencil on home grown data sheets, in notebooks and on miscellaneous sheets and scraps of paper. This is an attempt to summarize my information in formal individual vessel histories. The sheets do not include vessels which have joined the fleet since the 1980s because detailed information on these vessels is easily available online from a variety of reliable sources.

The notes in my files are from many many sources, some not fully documented by me, and accordingly some are good and unfortunately some others not so good, and therefore undoubtedly contain errors. And for many of the vessels I don’t have as much information as I’d like but have presented what I have. I will correct errors as I find them or as they are sent to me. I therefore earnestly solicit corrections where they are in order, and suggested additions to the information I should be including to make the record of the individual vessel more complete. Please make use of any of this information, with or without attribution, but I would hope that in return you will feel morally obligated to notify me of any errors or omissions you find (by mail, phone or email below) so that future users will be getting the best information possible.

Why publish this now, in an unfinished state and knowing there are errors in the text? In the foreword to his 1967 study The Lakers of World War I Father Edward Dowling, the late dean of Great Lakes historians, said, “The author is convinced that the best way to learn more about ships is to write and publish what he already knows, be that complete or not. If what he has published is complete and correct, other competent ship historians will confirm his findings. If incomplete, they will invariably supply additional data.” He goes on to describe the development of his Lakers study. He published an early draft “and asked readers for more information. The response was prompt, generous and encouraging.” He did it again a few years later in another publication with the same request and got the same responses. The study as published in 1967 he felt was finally complete and correct. I am only humbly following the lead of Father Dowling.

Before accessing the individual sheets, please read the definitions I have used in recording the information.

Sterling P. Berry
29250 Heritage Parkway, Apt. 110, Warren MI 48092
(586) 578-9660 email address: spberry AT att.net


My deepest gratitude is due Connie Nassios of Burbank, California for designing and setting up this website.  Without her enthusiastic and committed efforts this project would still be long in the future.  In addition, it is my good fortune that she married my nephew Ken Berry and gave me my beautiful grandniece in their daughter Abbi.

17 thoughts on “Home

  1. I recently ran across a picture that I took in 1954 at the Soo Locks of the iron ore carrier “Fairmount Montreal.” What can you tell me about this ship or where I can access any data.

    • I think you are talking about the str. Fairmount, which had a home port of Montreal. We’re probably looking at a stern view because that view gives the name and home port of the vessel on the fantail.

      To find out more about this vessel, look up Metcalfe (her first name) on my website.

    • Just barely sent the earlier reply when I thought of another comment on your inquiry. Fairmount was most likely not an ore carrier although I guess she could carry a cargo of most anything. She was called a canaller because she was built to the maximum dimensions for a vessel trading between the Great Lakes and tidewater St. Lawrence River before the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959. Most of these vessels carried grain down from Lake Superior or from elevators in the eastern Lake Erie area if the material had been taken that far down in some other, probably larger, vessel. Lots of other cargoes going both ways but not often iron ore.

    • A fellow named Russ who responds to questions on the Information Search section of boatnerd.com apparently has a very large database of crew lists of Great Lakes vessels. It’s possible he could answer your question.

  2. I have been looking for information on a Great Lakes cargo ship from 1890 to 1914 with the first letters being Olym… This was my grandfather’s ship. It seems to be the Gilchrist co.’s Olympia. My grandfather was a first mate, but I don’t know if it was aboard or or another. I am unable to find a source for ships’ roles or logs as yet. Maritime museum does not. His name was Robert Thompson Mowatt and may have served on Canadian boats as well. Do you have any suggestions on where I could look for his ship assignments? Living in Cleveland I thought a source would have Gilchrist line information. So far, no

    • My suggestion is to post your request on the Information Source page of boatnerd.com. There is a fellow (don’t know anything about him) who apparently has a huge data base of seamen who answers this kind of question. It’s possible he could help you.

  3. My husband sailed on the Henry Rogers and I am looking for any items from that ship that I could possibly purchase…

    • Why don’t you try asking your question on boatnerd.com? Might be someone out there who is willing to provide something.

  4. My Father was chief engineer on the Ralph Misener. He died in 1980 at 43 due to injuries he sustained after an explosion and subsequent fire. Although it’s been 37 years I still miss him dearly and would love to talk to anyone who was aboard the ship when the accident happened. His name – Peter Allan.

    • I would suggest you pose your question in the Information Search part of boatnerd.com (instructions for how to do it on the site).They have lots of readers and someone out there might respond.

    • My suggestion is that you post your question on the Information Search section of boatnerd.com. That page has a large continuous daily following and it is the best place I can think of where you might find someone who can answer your question.

  5. Hello Mr. Berry
    I am looking for the ship specifications (length, beam, draft, engine, capacity, etc.) for the FONTANA belonging to the Boland-cornelius fleet that regularly picked up coal in Sodus Point (there is a well known picture of her in1955 loading) as well as any of her sisters that made port here. There were certain sounds that let us kids know that all was well with the world as I grew up: first the light house at Sodus point was sweeping, it’s fog horn was deep and regular, and the rumble of coal being loaded from the Penn. Rail Coal Trestle.

    Any help or direction you might be able to lend will be appreciated.

    Thank you

    • You can find much of what you want by looking at my page for R. W. England, which was the vessel’s original name. The page also references an article in the Historian if you have access to its series.

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