As you well know, October and November can be rough weather on Lake Michigan. By December, most "lakers" have been put up for the winter season. Can you imagine what it was like to be aboard the vessel mentioned in this story?
October 17, 1872 Kenosha Telegraph
LOSS OF THE PROPELLER LAC LA BELLE OF THE ENGLEMANN LINE
Monday afternoon, the startling announcement was made that the steamer Lac La Belle, of the Englemann Line, had floundered and gone down twenty miles off Racine. About the first news received was that a boat had arrived at Kenosha, containing a number of persons from the ill-fated ship. The Lac La Belle left her dock at Milwaukee on Sunday evening, between the hours of nine and ten-about the usual time of leaving-and although the wind through the day had been brisk, no fears were felt as to her ability to make the trip as quickly and safely as usual. She was lightly freighted, and as near as can be ascertained, had on board in passengers and crew, fifty-three persons. What brought about the calamity is at present a mystery. Within the past week vessel inspectors were examining her, and expressed their admiration for her condition and equipment. The most that seems to be known is, that she sprung a leak, and despite the most gallant and persistent efforts of the part of those in charge of her, went to the bottom. The vessel was valued at $65,000, and insured for $40,000.
The boat that was reported to have come ashore at this place, proved to be that in which the Captain and three men left the vessel. This boat was the last to surrender the Lac La Belle, and face the merciless waves that rolled over the unfortunate voyagers. Mr. Geo. Barber, of this city, saw the boat when it was out in the lake, and built a fire on the beach. After a long struggle in the water they came ashore only in time to save their lives, for if he had been exposed much longer they would certainly have perished. They were removed to the Becker farm-house, their clothing changed, and every effort being used to make them comfortable, they went to bed and slept soundly till the next morning. On Tuesday they left for Milwaukee where they met their fellow sailors and passengers.
THE SECOND ENGINEER'S STORY
The second engineer of the Lac La Belle, who was in one of the boats which arrived at Milwaukee, gives the following account of the disaster: They left Milwaukee at 9 o'clock Monday night. About midnight the steamer sprung a leak, and made water rapidly. There were about twenty-five passengers on board, including seven ladies and three children. The crew worked hard all night to prevent the vessel from sinking, and threw considerable cargo overboard, but all to o purpose. Finding the steamer about to sink, they prepared to take to the life-boats, of which there were five. Into one of these five, five of the ladies were put, with a good crew to manage it. The men were, however, tired, having worked all night with nothing to eat, and suffering with cold. When the last boat left the steamer, five men were left on her. When she went down I saw four of them in the water, and one clinging to a piece of timber. I think they must have been lost, as we could give them no assistance without danger of swamping our boat. Two of the five boats drifted south toward Kenosha.
Ed. C. Werner