By Dan Benson
The Sheboygan Press
SHEBOYGAN (AP) — The remains of the Great Lakes schooner Lottie Cooper have been on display along Sheboygan’s lakefront for nearly 20 years.
While its story is told on plaques, in newspapers and elsewhere, there has been precious little known about the six-member crew that manned the ship the night it went down in a storm.
Cliff Larsen, the great-grandson of one of the crew members, Barney Haynes, wants to solve that problem.
Larsen, 64, is a Sheboygan native now living in Chapel Hill, N.C., and is paying for a sheet-of-paper-sized metal plaque to be installed at the Lottie Cooper site.
“They deserve to be remembered,” Larsen said. “I just thought there should be something honoring the crew.”
The Lottie Cooper was a three-masted Great Lakes lumber schooner that was lost in a gale just off Sheboygan the night of April 9, 1894, as it was anchored just outside the harbor entrance.
Waves from the storm that night capsized the ship and swept the crew into the freezing water. One crew member, Edward Olson, a native of Oslo, Norway, tried to make it ashore on floating planks but drowned in the process.
The rest of the crew, clinging to the ship’s rigging, were eventually saved by rescuers aboard a harbor tug. Olson’s body was recovered two months later near the mouth of the Black River, south of Sheboygan.
Those rescued, beside Haynes, were Capt. Fred Lorenz, First Mate William Huhme, and seamen Charles Esbach and August Pegelow. According to news accounts at the time, all were Sheboygan residents except Huhme, who lived in Charlevoix, Mich. Lorenz also was one of the ship’s owners.
The Lottie Cooper, which was built in Manitowoc in 1876, was a total loss. The cargo of 230,000 board feet of elm lumber was partly recovered.
For decades, the ship rested in about 15 feet of water near where the Harbor Centre Marina boat launch is now.
Larsen never met his great-grandfather, who died a few years before Larsen was born in 1947, but he has learned a great deal about him.
“He was Irish and the ship’s cook. I heard a lot of stories about him, and the Lottie Cooper was one of the biggest,” he said. “My mother, LaVern, was his granddaughter. He busted his leg when he went overboard and he never went back to sea. He worked as a carpenter, I think, the rest of his life.”
Rogene Roth, of Sheboygan, also is interested in Barney Haynes, being that her husband, Tom, 83, is Barney’s grandson by his daughter, Allegra.
As the family genealogist, she’s found other details about Haynes, who is buried in Wildwood Cemetery.
“His real name was Albert Montgomery, not Barney, and he was born in Omro,” she said. “His father emigrated from Ireland.”
Larsen said he remembers the site of the Lottie Cooper’s demise being a family monument even as a child.
“We periodically would drive by where it was sunk,” remembered Larsen, who moved with his family from Sheboygan to Madison when he was 6 or 7 years old.
Divers discovered the wreckage in 1990 while conducting an archeological survey of the area in preparation for construction of the Harbor Centre Marina.
The ship was salvaged in September 1992. Its remains are on display in Deland Park on Broughton Drive. The 89-foot-long section is believed to be the longest section of a Great Lakes schooner on display anywhere.
Deputy Public Works Director Dave Biebel said the metal plaque has been ordered and will be installed next spring. Larsen said he hopes to be there when it is.