Stephen F. Gale

Ship Name: Stephen F. Gale 
Also Known As: S.F. Gale 
Type of Ship: Schooner, Wood, 2 masts 
Ship Size: 123' x 24' x 10' 
Ship Owner: Captain Andrew Hillson 
Gross Tonnage: 266 
Net Tonnage: 225 
Typical Cargo: Stone 
Year Built: 1847 - Chicago, Illinois, by James Averill 
Official Wreck Number: 22343 
Wreck Location: 41 44.451 N 81 52.919 W 
Type of Ship at Loss: Schooner, Wood- also reported as bark or brig 
Cargo on Ship at Loss: Mixed merchandise and stone 
Captain of Ship at Loss:  

Chris Kohl, author of "The Great Lakes Diving Guide," contends, "An old stove sits in the open (the cabin floated to Fairport) below-deck area near the stern, the forward mast lies atop the port bow area, the railings are lined with deadeyes, a pump rests on the deck near the stern, a winch sits midship, chain and windlass repose on the bow, and the forward hatch contains a ladder. This is a great Cleveland-area shipwreck!"

The following observations were provided by Jack Papes, Cleveland, Ohio, wreck diver and MAST member:

Shipwreck Stephen F. Gale: 122'-6", 2 masted schooner built in 1847 at Chicago, Illinois. Foundered in a storm November 28, 1876. All hands were lost. The vessel currently lies upright, silted to the deck, on a mud bottom at a depth of 70 feet, approximately 18 miles north of Cleveland. The bow is split open, spread flat on the bottom. The windlass, anchor chain, and hawse pipe can be viewed here. Moving aft of the windlass, the capstan resembles a tree stump, uprooted lying on its side on the deck. The forward hold contains a cylindrical shaped object, what appears to be a spool of chain (unconfirmed). A fife rack with belaying pins still in place is located in this vicinity. The decking remains in place underneath scattered piles of large stone cargo. A deck winch, tow post, and mast hole exist aft of the forward hold, followed by a second hold and the pump. The cabin area, less cabin structure, holds a stove. The stern is collapsed. The rudder remains exposed and upright. Both port and starboard rails are intact with the deadeyes still in place. Additional details and photos are available at


Tuesday, November 28, 1876. Kohl states "She foundered with a cargo of stone, all hands and a cat." 


From the Cleveland Herald, December 5, 1876:

Since last Thursday rumors have been in circulation around the docks that a vessel was sunk about sixteen miles off this port in a northerly direction. It was first reported by the scow-schooner Charles Crawford, which arrived here on that day from Sand Beach, on Lake Huron. The captain stated that about eight o'clock that morning he passed the spars of a sunken vessel, giving the distance away as above stated. Since then various rumors have been afloat regarding the craft, what one it was, where she was bound, etc. As several Cleveland vessels, and among them the S.F. Gale, were overdue at this and other ports on Lake Erie, they were connected with the lost craft, and, in turn, each was reported as being the unfortunate one. Within the past few days, however it has been definitely settled in the minds of many that the Gale was the doomed one. Yesterday, a dispatch was received at this office, from Fairport, which states that: "The books of the S.F. Gale came ashore last Thursday night at the headlands west of Fairport, at the same point where other parts of a wreck were washed ashore the day previous." There can be no doubt but every person on the vessel was lost. The Gale cleared from this port November 13th for Port Stanley, with a load of coal. From there, she went to Kelleys Island and took on board a load of lime and stone for Erie. She was rated as a fair vessel, and Captain Hillson, her commander and owner, was a man respected by all who knew him. On Sunday there was a report that a vessel was sunk off Fairport. But it was probably occasioned by the fact that a portion of the wreck of the Gale washed ashore there, and as no name was attached by which the identity could be made known, it was supposed to be some other craft.


1. Kohl, C. 2001. The Great Lakes Diving Guide. Seawolf Communications, Inc., P.O. Box 66, West Chicago, IL, 60186.

2. Great Lakes Historical Society/Peachman Lake Erie Shipwreck Research Center Files

3. Historical Collection of the Great Lakes Great Lakes Vessel Online Index University Libraries/Bowling Green State University

4. The Cleveland Herald. December 5, 1876.

5. Swayze, D. 1999-2000. The Great Lakes Shipwreck File: Total Losses of Great Lakes Ships 1679-2000.

6. Jack Papes, personal communication and photo collections.


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