A painting of the tugboat Champion towing eight schooners from Lake Huron to Lake Erie hangs proudly at the Community Marine City Pride and Heritage Museum.
Museum President Gary Beals said two information sources have differing dates on the picture, but its safe to say it was about 1880 when the artist captured the steady procession of the vessels under blue skies and a good wind.
Recently, they received another artifact that reflects the prosperous shipbuilding days when Marine City workers toiled in shipyards: A scale model of the tugboat Champion. The model was donated by Diane Sharrow in memory of her father Edward Sharrow.
The Champion was built in 1868 in Detroit and lost by fire on Sept. 15, 1903 at Put-in-Bay, Ohio, said Beals. The schooners being towed by her, in order, are: The Wells Burt, built in 1873 in Detroit; The Michigan, built in 1874 in Detroit; Elizabeth A. Nicholson, built in 1873 in Port Huron: James P. Joy, with the date and place built unknown; Frances Palms, built in 1868 in Marine City; Sweetheart, built 1867 in Detroit; Sunnyside, built in 1863 in an unknown location, and Emma L. Coyne, built in 1863 in Detroit.
What makes this tow important to this area is that the tow has two ships built in this area, Elizabeth A. Nicholson built 1870 in Port Huron and Frances Palms built 1868 in Marine City,said Beals. Also, the painting was done by Seth Arca Whipple of New Baltimore.The painting shows the vessels off Windmill Point on the Detroit River.Sharrow donated the painting in honor of her late father, Ed Sharrow.
Actually, I was born and raised in Algonac and now live in Illinois,she said,but once a muskrat always a muskrat.
Her father and mother, Pat, are well known in the local area. They owned Sharrows Service in Algonac-Clay Township for 50 years. Both have passed away since, said Sharrow. Her father died not too long after winning the model of the tugboat Champion in a fundraising raffle for the Algonac-Clay Museum.
He thought she was great,said Sharrow. He used to tell my boys stories about Chris-Craft and how his dad worked there during WWII on landing boats and such. My two sons thought it was a great model and asked if they could bring her home to Illinois.
Around the holidays, she was reminiscing with her family and someone brought up an article in The Chicago Tribune about the Eastland disaster. Sharrow said she thought the Eastland had originally been built in Marine City. That led to comments on Algonac and Marine Citys shipbuilding days in the mid-1800s to early 1900s. Sharrow remembered that her father’s great-grandfather had drowned in the shipwreck of the George Nestor on Lake Superior in 1909.
Those family and nautical stories led to our decision that the Champion really belonged somewhere where more people could enjoy her and near where she was built and worked,she said. We figured that the Algonac-Clay Museum had raffled her so perhaps the Pride and Heritage Museum in Marine City could offer her a fitting home. Both local museums are such an asset to the Downriver Area.
She wasn’t aware that the expressive painting of the tugboat Champion in service had already made its home in the museum.
I am glad the Museum wanted her for their collection,she said,and I am so glad that local history, including maritime history, is being preserved.
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