William H. Donner
IMO N/A

Winter veiw, Jan. 25, 2007.
(Rod Burdick)


In November 1913, a tempest known as The Great Storm ravaged the lakes. One of the vessels lost with all hands was the three- year-old steamer CHARLES S. PRICE. In order to replace the ill-fated vessel’s carrying capacity, the Mahoning Steamship Company of Cleveland Ohio (M. A. Hanna & Company, manager) contracted with the Great Lakes Engineering Works of Ashtabula, Ohio, to build a replacement vessel.

That vessel was the WILLIAM H. DONNER (hull 134, official number 212354).

The DONNER measured 524 feet overall, 54 feet beam and 31 feet deep, and had 16 hatches, 12 feet across, with 24-foot centers. She was powered by a triple-expansion steam engine with cylinders 23.5, 38 and 63 inches in diameter with 42-inch piston stroke. Her two Scotch boilers were 14.5 feet in diameter and 11.5 feet long, with 180 pounds pressure allowed. The ship was rated at 9,000 tons.

On May 8, 1914, the Detroit Free Press printed the following: Ashtabula, Ohio, May 7. – The steamer William H. Donner was launched this afternoon (May 7) from the local plant of the Great Lakes Engineering Works. Miss Margery Russel of Detroit, daughter of John R. Russel, vice-president and treasurer of the Great Lakes Engineering Works, christened the new ship as it started from the ways and the launching was without mishap. The launching party, which arrived on the noon train from the west, comprised John R. Russel, Miss Margery Russel and C. B. King, Detroit; John T. Webster, of the Great Lakes Engineering Works; J. S. Ashley, W. P. Schaufele, of M. A. Hanna & Company, J. D. W. Snowden, of the Cambria Steel Company; H. N. Harriman, Mrs. T. P. Howell and sons, John and Allen, of Cleveland. Owing to the illness of the master who is said to have been assigned to her command, it is uncertain who will bring her out, but John Summervillen will be chief engineer. The launching event was not accompanied by the usual luncheon and the party returned to Cleveland on the afternoon train.

The new vessel was named after William Henry Donner (1864– 1953), an American industrialist and philanthropist who, at the time the ship was built, was president of the Cambria Steel Company. He earlier founded the National Tin Plate Company of Monessen, Pennsylvania, but sold that firm in order to launch Union Steel Company (later American Steel and Wire Company). He also served as chairman of the board of the Pennsylvania Steel Company and created the Buffalo-based Donner Steel Company. In 1932, Donner turned his attention fully to philanthropy, with a special interest in cancer research. He founded two foundations that are still in operation, the William H. Donner Foundation in the United States, and the Donner Canadian Foundation in Canada. William H. Donner died in Montreal in 1953.

The DONNER departed the shipyard July 7, 1914, bound for Toledo, Ohio, to load her first cargo of coal, destined for Superior, Wisconsin. In 1930, Mahoning contracted the Bethlehem Transportation Company of Cleveland to manage their vessels, an arrangement that lasted until 1949 when Bethlehem Transportation took over ownership while still managing the DONNER. Ownership changed again in 1956 to the Ore Navigation Company, Cleveland (a Bethlehem Steel subsidiary), with management changing to Boland & Cornelius, Buffalo, New York. The DONNER was then converted to a crane ship, with two 75-foot revolving, traveling cranes at American Ship Building, Lorain, Ohio, also in 1956 (6,423 GRT, 4995 NRT). On September 30, 1960, she was in a collision with the Canadian freighter JAMES B. EADS. The DONNER operated as a crane ship through the 1969 season, laying up at Toledo for the last time as an active steamer.

She was sold over the winter of 1969-70 to the Miller Compressing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for use as a floating dock. The DONNER was towed out of Toledo by the Roen tug JOHN PURVES, arriving at Milwaukee on April 25, 1970 and put to use storing scrap metal and using her cranes to transfer it into saltwater vessels. This lasted until 1992, when the DONNER was sold to K & K Warehousing, Menominee, Michigan, and towed out of Milwaukee on November 14 by the tug CARL WILLIAM SELVICK to Marinette Fuel & Dock for use as a storage and transfer dock, primarily unloading pig iron from salties. Her pilothouse was removed March 19, 2002.

The DONNER’s final retirement came in 2015, and in mid-December the 102-year-old vessel was moved to the K & K dock on the Menominee River on the Michigan side by the tug JIMMY L. to await scrapping.


Written by Roger LeLievre - From The Detroit Marine Historian, September 2016.



Ship Particulars
Length 678' 00" (206.66m)
Beam 70' 00" (21.34m)
Depth 37' 00" (11.28m)
Midsummer Draft 26' 11" (8.2m)
Unloading Boom Conveyor Length 250' (76.2m)
Capacity 21,500 tons
Engine Power 7,700 shp steam turbine

 


Early in her career.
(Peter Worden collection)

Upbound at Mission Pt.
(Peter Worden collection)

Under tow.
(Rich Weiss collection)

Downbound under the Blue Water Bridge.
(Peter Worden collection)

Downbound at Port Huron.
(Peter Worden collection)

Upbound at Mission Pt.
(Peter Worden collection)

Loaded in the St. Clair River.
(Peter Worden collection)

Unloaded on the St. Clair River.
(Peter Worden collection)

   

Turing in the harbor with a G-Tug.
(Peter Worden collection)

Wintering in Milwaukee along with the Irving S. Olds, A. H. Ferbert, Robert C. Stanley and William B. Schiller, 1972.
(Russ Plumb)

Donner the 3 USS Super's and barge Maitland #1 at Jones Island, Winter 1976.
(Lou Gerard Sr.)

In Milwaukee with the St. Lawrence tied up along side.
(Peter Worden collection)

Waiting for the nex load of pig iron, April 21, 2001.
(Scott Best)

View from the other side.
(Scott Best)

The pilothouse removed and sitting on the ground, March 20, 2002.
(Scott Best)

Winter veiw, Jan. 25, 2007.
(Rod Burdick)

The salty Elpida tied up and ready to be unloaded, Aug. 10, 2007.
(Dick Lund)

Unloading the Paterson, Jan. 1, 2008.
(Dick Lund)

Frozen in for the winter, March 1, 2009.
(Danny Hecko)

Melissa Desgagnes trying to depart and turn into the wind, April 15, 2009.
(Dick Lund)

Melissa Desgagnes trying to depart and turn into the wind, April 15, 2009.
(Dick Lund)

Getting help from the tug Jacquelyn Nicole.
(Dick Lund)

Aerial view while she sat in Marinette, Dec. 2014.
(Scott Best)

The MarBacan departing the Donner after unloading. This would be the last time the Donner was used for unloading. Nov. 21, 2015.
(Scott Best)

Tied up at the KK Dock in Menominee awaiting her fate, Sept. 24, 2017.
(Scott Best)

Close up of the stern.
(Scott Best)

   

 

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