Titanic Tale ?- The Shame of Lorain’s Forgotten Maritime History

April 15, 2012 at 10:15 pm 5 comments

All week there have been programs and events “remembering ” The Titanic- it is a story that has touched the hearts and minds of people all over the world for 100 years.
Dan Brady has run the local coverage of 100 years ago on his blog

But as I relived the story this weekend , the thousands and thousands that flocked to exhibits I thought how neglected this little corner of the world and her maritime history. And yet there is another connection to Titanic and the people who archive her – She lies in Lake Superior near the resting place of the Edmund Fitzgerald – The John M Osborne


Source Photo Bob Emerson http://www.nordicdiver.com/

The fact that the State of Michigan deems the story of the shipwreck and the preservation of the wreck as important to the history of the Inland Seas and the archiver of the Titanic- Ken Marschall has also archived the Osborne but Lorain knew not the worth of her people to the maritime history………

The story of The John Osborne and those heroes of yesterday in 1884 can be found here:

Suddenly, the Alberta itself loomed out of the fog, all lit up, like a great big factory…”

Fannie Wilford’s terror can only be imagined as she stood with her husband, her children asleep below decks, a cruel ending to such a lovely day as the steel-clad Alberta towering above the little freighter bore down upon the hapless couple

“Tom! That boats going right through us!”

Very Quietly Captain Wilford answered


and almost as he spoke the Alberta struck the Osborn square in her side, slightly aft bursting through her steel hull into the engine room and filling the Osborne with escaping steam”

“Keep your nose in the Gap”

Capt Wilford shouted to the Alberta and the Alberta did.

Had she withdrawn the Osborn would have sank immediately, but at it was there were six or seven precious minutes for rescue. Captain Wilford lifted his wife up to the Alberta then ran along the deck through the steam and was lowered to by a rope to get to the cabin where his daughters had been.

Cora, his one daughter, in her night-clothes had wanted to go back and get dressed but a deckhand (Thomas Barnes) told her there wasn’t time and lifted her up into the rigging. The steward, Mr. Austin (the same man who just hours before has held Sunday school services) rescued Addie and rushed her through the scalding steam holding his arm across his face and keeping the little girls face close to him. He handed her up to the deck of the Alberta and went back through the steam for the mangled and scalded sailors below”(HFMC)

“ Steam rushed from the freighter’s crushed boilers, the air was filled with shouts of seaman and those screams from those who had been sprayed by scalding water.”(Lewis)

Meanwhile the Alberta who had a full line of passengers on board including woman and children.

“They were all awakened by the shock of the two vessels coming together and before they could be made to understand that they were not in any danger they had run out of their state rooms and swarmed on the decks. The shrieking of women and the cries of men made the boat seem a perfect pandemonium. Many women in their fright fainted away and the men too were stunned by the sense of their supposed danger to do anything for them.”(Daily reporter Fon Du Lac Wis. July 30th 1884)

In fact the first newspaper editor/owner ( Lorain Monitor) in this place known as Lorain lost his life in a maritime tragedy upon these inland seas.

Links to Part one, two and three can be found in this last post of the series

“About 3 o’clock Monday morning Mr. Munhall got up to let do down the window as it was blowing very cold. While he was doing this he heard loud cries for help from the direction oil lake and apparently 100 yards from the shore. He closed the window and ran down and opened the door and again heard loud cries for help seemingly from a dozen men. He then got a lantern, called me and we went to the shore, but when we got there we could neither see nor hear anything.”

The party then went on to Whites’ Place where there is a small stretch of beach. Here we found more wreckage such pieces of the hull from 10 feet long down to a mere sliver while standing on this beach a coat washed ashore and was eagerly examined The figure was a very small check and the color was gray. There was nothing whatever in the pockets by which the owner could be identified, and none of the party recognized it.

It was preserved by Henry Snyder who now in his possession. One-half of a life preserver also washed ashore but there was nothing about it to indicate where it came from. We then proceeded to bathing house in West Cleveland where found the canvas curtains belonging the yacht spread out on the beach and learned that E. A. Lawler and Con, Ritter had been found

Links to the underwater photos of the John M Osborne can be found in Captain Wilford Posts. Fanny Gilmore Wilford was also the young lady of the Civil War Letters .https://thatwoman.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/civil-war-letters-fannie-gilmore-lorain/
The home they share still stands at 416 Washington Avenue and is currently for sale .


Entry filed under: Charleston Village, city of lorain, commentary, history, men of substance. Tags: , , , .

Angels came down- Kevin Costner- alone on a battlefield Lorain Dude- a tuff mudder- NOT- Lorain has “fun”draisers and e books

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Renee Dore  |  April 16, 2012 at 2:49 am

    With the anniversary of the Titanic I did too remember that the artisit who did so many renderings of the Titanic did also some of the Osborne. Must have been very special for him to include it in his collections of famous shipwrecks. Thanks Loraine for posting this once again. The Wilford/ Bartenfeld house on Washington Ave. was marked that it could possibly qualify for National Historic Registry designation when the house inventory project for Charleston Village was done in the 1990’s. And the story of the Wilford shipwreck connection hadn’t even surfaced then. Imagine if the inventory researcher would have knew that when she did her report!! It was something we discovered almost by accident to put the connection of the shipwreck story together with that home. Some of Lorain’s older homes with pertinent history are like buried treasure just waiting for their stories to be told and connections made and recognized. We have homes that belonged to the Porter family still standing in Charleston Village. There are many shipcaptains/ shipbuilders homes still ribboned thruout there also. There isn’t even a booklet to chronicle them. Ironcially also for sale is a home across from the V on West Erie-it was the home of a very important architect back at the turn of last century. Around the time the Titanic sank-this man was designing schools, Carnegie libraries, churches for this city-but nobdoy would know that now. The house is a mess at this point-how sad. Also- there is another home currently for sale on 2nd st just off Washington that was built in 1872. It was the 1st parsonage for the village church that was on north Washington. That was where Captain Wilford and his family entered as soon as they returned here from their shipwreck nightmare. The house was later moved to it’s present location in the dip on 2nd st. It has great architecture and valuable heritage. Excuse me for writing so much-it’s important for these facts to be shared. Renee

  • 2. Renee Dore  |  April 16, 2012 at 3:57 am

    I think they mentioned artist Ken Marschall a few times tonight on some of shows on the Titanic. We took a copy of one of his paintings and displayed it when giving the Captain Wilford talks. Renee

  • 3. Loraine Ritchey  |  April 16, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Lack of foresight and what could be important….. I get angry at the waste of history and assets in this community and it isn’t MY history- just a few souls such as BRHS are fighting an uphill battle to preserve …. I see money being put into ” eggs and light shows” to market a downtrown BUT my heavens there is a wealth of wonder in Lorain’s past that is still staring us in the face ( albeit for just a little longer) a ‘niche” of Lorain’s maritime past that is totally unexplored and negated…… with very little effort and some money her inland sea could do more than attract vistors to a festival or two in the summer .Don’t get me started……….

  • 4. Renee Dore  |  April 16, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    While not knowing the details of the new proposed project dealing with the land bank for housing here in Lorain, perhaps if any of the homes are located in the older neighborhoods of the City-including the Charleston Village area, perhaps a look into the houses history might want to be a consideration. There are many scattered throughout this region that have pertinent history-either in architecture design or family history connection to Lorain’s progress. Other cities relish these things and use them for a benefit for the community-it woudl be great if Lorain did the same. Renee Dore

  • […] history- it is fading fast. I wrote a few weeks ago about Lorain’s forgotten maritime history https://thatwoman.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/titanic-tale-the-shame-of-lorains-forgotten-maritime-histo… how Lorain is missing out on a whole segment of a “tourist […]

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