SS Eastland

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As USS Wilmette :

  • Four 4 in guns
  • Two 3 in guns
  • Two 1-pdrs guns

The S.S. Eastland was a passenger ship based in Chicago and used for tours. On 24 July 1915 the ship rolled over while tied to a dock in the Chicago River.[1] A total of 844 passengers and crew were killed in what was to become the largest loss of life disaster from a single shipwreck on the Great Lakes.[1][2]

Following the disaster, the Eastland was salvaged and sold to the United States Navy. After restorations and modifications the Eastland was designated as a gunboat and renamed the USS Wilmette. She was used primarily as a training vessel on the Great Lakes and was scrapped following World War II.



The ship was commissioned in 1902 by the Michigan Steamship Company and built by the Jenks Ship Building Company. In April 1903, the ship was named by Mrs. David Reid of South Haven, Michigan. She received a prize of $10 and a one-season pass on the ship. The ship was christened in May, immediately before its inaugural voyage.

Ship history

Early problems

The ship soon proved to have design flaws making it susceptible to listing. In effect, it was too top-heavy—its center of gravity was too high, especially when passengers congregated en masse on the upper decks. In July 1903, a case of overcrowding caused the Eastland to list and water to flow up one of its gangplanks. The situation was quickly rectified, but was only the first of many incidents. Later in the month, the stern of the ship was damaged when it backed into the tugboat George W. Gardner. August 1906 saw another incident of listing, that resulted in the filing of complaints against the Chicago-South Haven Line, which had purchased the ship earlier that year.

Mutiny on the Eastland

On 14 August 1903, while on a cruise from Chicago to South Haven, some of the ship's firemen refused to stoke the fire for the ships boiler. They claimed that they had not received their potatoes for a meal.[3] When they refused to return to the fire hole, Captain John Pereue ordered the six men arrested at gun point. Firemen George Lippen and Benjamin Myers, who weren't a part of the group of six, stoked the fires until the ship reached harbor. Upon the ship's arrival in South Haven, the six men, Glenn Watson, Mike Davern, Frank La Plarte, Edward Fleming, Mike Smith, and William Madden, were taken to the town jail. Shortly after the mutiny Captain Pereue was replaced.[3]

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