History: The first Ludington carferries.

May 2, 2019
PM&F No. 1

History: The first Ludington carferries.

MC History Spotlight is a weekly history column brought to you by Ludington Woods Living and Memory Care. Each week this column features a story from our county’s past.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Editor’s Note: In MC History Spotlight’s previous post, we talked about how the railroad came to Mason County. The railroad and the carferries in Ludington are symbiotic. Today, we will explore the origin of carferry service on Lake Michigan and specifically Ludington. 

The Flint & Pere Marquette railroad, from Saginaw to Ludington, was completed in Ludington on Dec. 1, 1874, ending at Pere Marquette Lake. A short time later, on May 31, 1875, cross-lake steamship service between Ludington and Sheboygan, Wis. began with a leased steamer, the sidewheeler SS John Sherman. John W. Steward was its first captain. 

At Sheboygan, the line interchanged freight with the Sheboygan and Fond du Lac Railway. The SS John Sherman and the Sheboygan terminal were quickly outgrown and the line was moved to Milwaukee in 1876. The Goodrich Transportation Company provided service under contract to the railroad from 1876 to 1883. Ships assigned to the route by Goodrich included the De Pere, Corona, Oconto, Alpena and, the City of Ludington. The F&PM terminated its contract with Goodrich on April 1, 1883. 

grain elevator was built in 1877 on the Ludington waterfront by a group of investors associated with the railroad. In 1879 a freight warehouse was built just south of the grain elevator.

In 1882, the F&PM started its own steamship service. The 145-foot long wooden steamers F&PM No. 1 and F&PM No. 2 were built. The ships were also schooner-rigged as a precaution against mechanical failure. A year later, the ships were lengthened by 36-feet each, allowing also for accommodations for 25 passengers.

The F&PM No. 3, a 203-foot steamers, was added in 1887 and the F&PM No. 4 was added in 1888. 

Up until 1892, goods were unloaded from freight cars and placed on the boats, then reloaded into cars at the other shore. On Nov. 27, the Ann Arbor No. 1 sailed from Kewaunee, Wis. to Elberta, Mich. (Frankfort), with 22 freight cars. The Ann Arbor No. 1 had rails embedded on its deck, allowing cars to be loaded directly onto the boat and transported across Lake Michigan. 

The F&PM’s first steel carferry, the Pere Marquette, was launched in 1895, providing service between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wis. The $300,000 ship was 350-feet long and capable of traveling up to 14 mph. It could carry 30 freight cars and 25 passengers. It arrived in Ludington on Jan. 12, 1897 and sailed to Milwaukee for public inspection on Feb. 13, 1897. It remained in service until 1930 and was scrapped in 1935.

On Jan. 1, 1900, the F&PM became part of the Pere Marquette Railway Co., merging with the Chicago & West Michigan and the Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Western railroads.

Ludington Woods Assisted Living and Memory Care, 502 N. Sherman St., Ludington, MI 49431; 231-845-6100; www.ludingtonwoods.com.

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