19 January 2016

Kuyper in the Windy City: Chicago lives up to its name

The best known work in English of Abraham Kuyper is, of course, the Stone Lectures delivered at Princeton Seminary in 1898. These took place during his lengthy American sojourn over the latter half of that year in which he also visited the city of Chicago. From the Auditorium Hotel he wrote to his family in the Netherlands a letter dated 11 November 1898:
The weather has been awful. Chicago is situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, a body of water as big as a sea, where yesterday, just outside the city, three steamships were shipwrecked.
Curiosity prompted me to search for accounts of these shipwrecks, and I have found a few possibilities. One candidate is the Lena M. Neilson, which sank on 10 November of that year, but on the other side of the lake north of New Buffalo, Michigan. It was carrying lumber and was headed for Benton Harbor, when it was lost in a storm.

One source tells us that 1898 was a bad year for shipping in the Great Lakes:
Heavy Marine Losses. - An unusually large number of losses occurred on the lakes during the season of 1898. The loss to the underwriters is estimated at $2,600,000, and the season is said to have been the most disastrous in the history of the lakes. The number of boats which passed out of existence was 58, with an aggregate tonnage of 29,194 tons. Total and partial losses amounted to 569, and the causes assigned were as follows: Ashore, 123; aground in protected channels, 126; fire, 40; collisions, 90; ice, 16; storm-beaten, 96; foundered, 8; miscellaneous causes, 116.

Severe Storms. - There were three severe storms late in the season. The first began October 25 and continued 36 hours. The second occurred November 9, and the third November 18.
One may assume that the second storm is the one Kuyper experienced during his time in America's fabled Windy City. Here is an account of the losses:
Loss of the Thol and Other Vessels. -- during a fierce gale November 10, the schooner S. Thol, laden with Christmas trees for Chicago went down off Glencoe with all on board, a crew of five men. During the same storm the schooner Iron Cliff sank off Chicago harbor. Her crew of seven men were with great difficulty rescued by the Chicago life-saving crew. The schooner Sophia J. Luff was waterlogged off Gross Point, and the schooner Lena M. Neilson went ashore at Lakeside, Mich. The schooner Fossett was stranded at Sand Beach, Lake Huron, and the schooner Minnehaha was broken up at Sheboygan.
It is safe to assume that the Thol and the Iron Cliff are two of the vessels to which Kuyper refers. The third could be one of the other four cited here, but no obvious candidate presents itself. However, two weeks earlier the L. R. Doty was lost in Lake Michigan in that first storm, though not near Chicago. Here is an account from the source referenced above:
Loss of the Doty. - The most disastrous event of the season, in loss of life, was the foundering of the steamer L.R. Doty, on Lake Michigan, with her entire crew of 17. The Doty left Chicago, Monday, October 24, with the Olive Jeanette in tow, both loaded with corn, for Midland, Georgian Bay. They encountered a furious gale the following day. The towline parted, and the manner of her loss remains unknown. Indications were that she drifted a considerable distance before she went down in midlake. Her wreckage was picked up 25 miles off Kenosha. The Jeanette was sighted on the 27th and towed to Chicago, in a crippled condition. The Doty was a stanch wooden propeller, built at West Bay City, in 1893. She was in command of Capt. Christopher Smith. The crew of the Jeanette could throw no light on the fate of the Doty. The vessels were struck by the northeast gale on Monday, when below Milwaukee. Tuesday afternoon the steamer parted from her consort.

Forecaster Cox, of the Chicago weather bureau, says the storm was not at all remarkable for the violence or the continuance of the wind, and yet it was remarkable for the damage it did on sea and land. He accounts for this by the fact that the storm center moved so rapidly across the lake, so that there was not only the gyratory force of the cyclone but a rectilinear motion to the northeast. It was this combination of forces, he says, which lashed Lake Michigan into fury and produced such devastating effects on the lake and on the shore. Chicago, he says, had a wind, August 16, that blew seventy-two miles an hour. Tuesday, October 25, the greatest velocity was forty-eight miles, and that only from 7:50 to 8:15 P. M.
The L. R. Doty
It is possible that Kuyper heard of this earlier loss during his visit, as it would still have been fresh in people's minds. In any event, the Windy City lived up to its name during Kuyper's famous visit in 1898.

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