Keeper’s Log, November 29

Remember the Herring King?

Remember brave Captain Goldish?

Well, about that…

Sand Island Light Station, November 29, 1917

SW gale & Cloudy warm. The Gasoline Boat Herring King took fire at 2:30 p. m. after leaving East Bay, her load was fresh & Salt fish & freight & mail. All was lost. also one man, Capt. J. Gordian drowned.

The next day’s newspaper tells us more:

Bayfield County Press, November 30, 1917

One life lost, mother and three small children made fatherless, a financial loss of about three thousand dollars sustained by the Boutin Fish Co., and a stirring rescue by the tug Goldish, of Duluth, in brief sums up the misfortune which fell upon the fishing craft Herring King near the shore of Sand Island Thursday afternoon.

The Herring King was in use as a freighter by the Boutin Co., making regular trips to the fishing stations at Sand Island and bringing the product of the lake to the packing plant here. It was manned by John Gordon of LaPointe, as captain, and Clarence Russell, also of LaPointe, as engineer.

Shortly after two o’clock they left the Moe station on Sand Island en route to the Shaw landing on the same island and were proceeding on their way about a quarter of a mile from shore when the boat became suddenly developed in flames… It appears the gasoline ran down the boat and burst into flame from the exhaust and before anything could be done to put it out the entire engine room was in flames.

This left the two men on the burning boat with no means of escape except by leaping into the icy waters of the lake, with a chance of reaching the lifeboat and shore about 9 to 1 against them.

Cutting to the chase, who by incredible luck was also at Sand Island at the bitter end of the navigation season?

Yep, Capt. S.L. Goldish, from a Lithuanian shtetl by way of Duluth:

The Goldish (boat) from Duluth, lying at the Shaw landing, answered the distress calls and came up near the burning craft. A great deal of credit is due to Capt. S. L. Goldish, Duluth, and his assistants, Charles Sjoquist, Two Harbors, engineer, and Eugene Michaud, Ashland, deckhand, for the part they played in rescuing Russell and in attempting to get Gordon.

Despite the intensity of heat and flames of the burning craft they ran the Goldish to within 30 feet of the boat and endangered their own lives by running the chance of their own boat catching fire, or from an explosion on the Herring King.

That’s not all, though; there’s still one more chapter to the Herring King story. After the flames died down, the resourceful islanders towed the burned-out hull to shore, then flipped it upside-down to serve as the roof of a cabin. Time passed and East Bay changed, but the Herring King Cabin stood for many years near the current NPS campsite, virtually forgotten as the forest closed over it. In the mid-1990s, crushed by a falling tree, the Herring King was lost again, this time for good.

The Herring King at Devils Island, c. 1910

The Herring King Cabin, 1977

The Herring King Cabin, 2003

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3 Responses to Keeper’s Log, November 29

  1. Ron & Kris says:

    amazing chain of events. loved these all-interconnected stories! these people were truly amazing and tough individuals. what a hard life but well lived!

  2. Ranger Bob says:

    Thanks, Kris– you are so right about the islanders. And to make my day even better, I just heard from someone who could confirm that from personal experience: a third-generation Sand Islander whose father was there the day this happened.

    • Ron & Kris says:

      wow.. that must’ve been an interesting conversation.. cool! (wish I were a fly on the wall!)
      I had always seen photos of the cabin with the boat roof.. and now can say.. “the rest of the story!” thanks again! (Didn’t know it was no longer standing tho.. bummer… gotta get on Sand some day and prowl!

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