Argo on beach- Holland 1905

The wreck of the nearly new steamer Argo is one of the best–remembered shipwrecks of the Holland, Michigan area, even though the ship ultimately was pulled off the bar, repaired and sailed for another 35 years.

Built of steel, the Argo was 173 feet in length and 32 feet wide. Had she been constructed of wood, this probably would have been her last voyage. She was built in 1901 by the Craig Shipbuilding Company of Toledo, Ohio, as a passenger and package-freight steamship.

Argo in ice - 1905The Argo operated between Chicago and Holland and built a reputation, while under the Graham and Morton flag, of not varying more than 10 minutes from her schedule during her runs across Lake Michigan in any kind of weather. In 1903, she was one of three G&M ships to operate the cross-lake route, along with the Puritan and the Soo City.

On the morning of Friday, November 24, 1905, a severe southwest storm developed with 65 mile-per-hour winds. While attempting to enter the Holland harbor near dawn, the Argo slipped into the trough of the waves, hit bottom on the notorious sand bars and opened a seam. She sank in relatively shallow water.

In its November 30, 1905 edition, the Holland City News reported: “The Graham & Morton steel steamer Argo, Captain John Steward in command, with 23 passengers aboard, carrying a crew of 32 men, and well laden with freight, was driven ashore north of the north pier at Holland harbor Friday morning during a terrific southwest gale. The passengers and some of the crew were taken ashore in the breeches buoy by the life-saving crew.”

Argo-breeches buoy

This dramatic and thrilling rescue by the U.S. Life Saving Service from Holland was witnessed by hundreds of Holland citizens who gathered at the lake shore to watch the spectacle. There was no loss of life.

On December 28, a full month after the wrecking, the Holland City News reported: “The persistent battering of the waves has raised such a fortification of sand around the Argo that the men of the Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company decided last week that it was useless to continue the attempt to release her.

“So far the Argo has been a considerable bill of expense, but steamers in worse predicaments have been saved and work on the Argo will not be stopped until a much heavier strain is put on the pocketbook.”

The Argo reportedly began to break up after several of these salvage attempts failed. Finally, on January 27, 1906, she was re-floated by the Reid Wrecking Company. It was reported that her hull was “not damaged to any great extent.”

The Reid Company received $10,000 for releasing the steamer from the bar. On February 15, 1905, she was reported under repair in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.Argo in Ice-Holland 1905

The Argo was renamed Racine in 1910. In 1917, she was sold to a French concern and later renamed Rene. One report says she was scrapped in 1931, while another says she last was recorded out of Brest, France, in 1938.

Text from “For Those in Peril: Shipwrecks of Ottawa County, Michigan” by Craig Rich,.