Milwaukee Car Ferry Sinks, October 22, 1929

(Article Focus on People by Clarence Poel)

Sails 2 months, drowns

For some unknown reason the name of one of the local men who went down with the car ferry Milwaukee, 22 October 1929, was left off the list in recent years when accounts of the vesselís sinking were published.

This bothered Arthur Buitenwert, 14621 Indian Trail, and he called the Tribune about it. Art grew up in the same neighborhood as Stuart Fox who died at sea.

Not only were we able to fill in on the details of Stuartís death but also located a snapshot of him through the assistance of Arnold Kolberg, 17952 Robbins Rd., who found it in the effects of the Fox estate for which he served as an administrator.

Fox was assistant purser on the Milwaukee and had sailed on the ship since August of 1929 or just two months. It was his first experience as a sailor and he apparently enjoyed it.

Stuart was the only son of Philip Fox and the late Mrs. Philip Fox at the time of his death. His mother had died six years earlier and he also had a sister, Louise, who survived. The father was a veteran employe of The Challenge Machinery Co.

After graduating from the 8th grade at Central School, Stuart went to work as a construction worker and was a bricklayer at the time he was laid off in August of 1929. He had just purchased a car that summer and was not married.

The Tribune reports of his death told of his stunned father and the high regard friends held for Stuart.

His body was found at Holland where it washed ashore 12 November 1929. The lake storm victim was fully clothed and wearing a life preserver. A funeral service was held 15 November 1929 at the Van Zantwick Funeral Home here with the Rev. O. E. Meyers, pastor of St. Johnís Lutheran Church in charge. Stuart was a member of that church.

He was born in Grand Haven, 6 June 1908 and was buried in Lake Forest Cemetery in the family plot on the side of a hill facing the lake, just up from the main entrance. It is known now that the Milwaukee went down less than 10 miles from the Milwaukee harbor breakwater, apparently in trying to return to port after leaving at 2:30 p.m. that afternoon in the teeth of a tremendous, howling northeaster storm. A watch on the body of one victim had stopped at 9:45 p.m., seven hours after the ship had sailed from Milwaukee never to return. At the time it was reported there were 50 men aboard.

The other Grand Haven men on the shipís crew included: Capt. Robert McKay; William Vaxter, first mate; James Pett, third mate; Harry Owen, chief assistant engineer; K. martin, third engineer; O. E. Jackson, lookout; Thomas Lotta, chef; Stanley Scarasta, cook.

The Milwaukee was located in April, 1972 on the bottom of Lake Michigan in 122 feet of water, resting almost upright on a hard bed of clay. Four men, interested in historic shipwrecks, located the vessel by accident after hearing fishermen often had snagged their lines off Fox Point. Miles short of that search area they lowered sonic gear into the water and the big target showed up within 1 Ĺ miles, where nothing ever before had been reported.

The body of First Mate Vaxter was recovered in Milwaukee area the following summer. It was the only indication after the tragedy that the ship might have gone down closer to the Milwaukee port. Many here had put the sinking site closer to Racine, Wisconsin but had no proof.

Transcriber: ES
Created: 8 February 2007