“Red Iron Ore”


A sailor tells of a trip he took on the E.C. Roberts. They set out from Escanaba with a load of ore, and at last wind up in Cleveland. Life aboard an ore boat was not pleasant, but the sailor is proud of the good time the ship made


I have made several attempts to locate the _E. C. Roberts_, with partial success -- the Great Lakes has ships by that name, but I have yet to identify one which was an ore carrier. There was an _E. C. Roberts_ sailing Lake Michigan in 1871; she lost her jib boom in a collision near Chicago that April. An _E. C. Roberts_ also grounded in the lakes in 1865.

Possibly the same as the preceding, and surely the best candidate, is an _E. C. Roberts_ mentioned on page 18 of Julius F. Wolff, Jr., _Lake Superior Shipwrecks_, (Lake Superior Port Cities Inc., Duluth, 1990). She was carrying ore in 1872 when she stopped at Marquette, Michigan. A major storm blew up, and because she was unloading coal, there was no way to get her moving quickly. She (and one other ship) had to be scuttled on September 18.

If we look for vessels named the _Roberts_ but with variations in the initials, there was a boat the _E. K. Roberts_ which sailed the Great Lakes in the late nineteenth century. According to Wes Oleszewski's _Ghost Ships, Gales & Forgotten Tales: True Adventures on the Great Lakes_ (Avery Color Studios, 1995), p, 100, she was active at the time of the gale of November 10-11, 1883. I do find it noteworthy that a ship named the _Escanaba_ was active at this time, hauling other ships around Mackinac. I would bet a great deal that it's the same _Escanaba_ even if it isn't the same _Roberts_.

Google searches reveal the _E. K. Roberts_ as a steamer launched commissioned in 1883; renamed _City of Windsor_ in 1890 and _Michipicoten_ in 1910, she burned in 1927; she was originally a fish tug but later carried passengers. .- RBW

Cross references


  • Stanley Baby, "The 'E. C. Roberts'" (on GreatLakes1)
  • Art Thieme, "Red Iron Ore" (on Thieme02) (on Thieme06)


  1. Laws D9, "Red Iron Ore"
  2. Rickaby 45, "Red Iron Ore" (1 text)
  3. Dean, pp. 12-14, "Red Iron Ore" (1 text)
  4. Sandburg, pp. 176-178, "Red Iron Ore" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 477-479, "Red Iron Ore" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Lomax-FSNA 63, "Red Iron Ore" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Darling-NAS, pp. 183-184, "Red Iron Ore" (1 text)
  8. Silber-FSWB, p. 95, "Red Iron Ore" (1 text)
  9. DT 612, REDIRON*
  10. Roud #2233
  11. BI, LD09


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1922 (Dean)
Keywords: ship travel
Found in: US(MW) Canada(Ont)