The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.
By Gerald F. Micketti
This is a short history of the Bradley Transportation Company, home ported at the Port of Calcite at Rogers City, Michigan. They were called “the Bradley Line “, “Bradley Boats “, and sometimes “the Greyhounds” because of the grey hulls of the ships. The vessels are still sailing but no longer under the Bradley name; they are now part of the Great Lakes Fleet of the U.S. Steel Corporation. This article is divided into three parts: the first includes the development and expansion of the fleet, 1912-1927; the second covers the second expansion period, and losses, 1950-1967; while the third and final section includes brief notes concerning a few of the vessels.
The beginnings of the Bradley Transportation Company go hand-in-hand with the Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company. They both started out about the same time. The development of the Calcite Quarry at Rogers City began in 1908. In an article in the Advance of January, 1908, it was noted that Mr. Henry H. Hindshaw, a mining engineer and geologist from New York City, looked over certain properties between Rogers City and Crawford’s Quarry.’ He commenced drilling for the Solvay Process Company of Syracuse, New York, and the samples of limestone were tested and found suitable for commercial purposes. The Solvay Process Company then took out an option on the land. Mr. Hindshaw went back to New York and interested the White Investing Company in the venture. W.F. White was the president of the firm and instrumental in organizing the Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company in 1910. The Limestone’ Company then purchased the land from the Solvay Process Company.
The next two years were spent in developing the facilities at the Calcite plant and production started in June 1912. Mr. Hindshaw was the general manager of the plant for a short time. He was replaced in October 1910, by Joseph R. Jenkins: Carl O. Bradley of Chicago replaced him in 1912.
Early in its life, the Limestone Company recognized the need for delivery of limestone. Prior to this, users had gathered their stone from nearby quarries. If this was not feasible then the stone had to be brought in by ship. Not all customers had a dock or unloading facilities to receive the stone. But a self-unloading type vessel could deliver the stone without the use of unloading facilities, or docks, for that matter. All that is required is a channel deep enough for a vessel to move in close to shore, swing out the boom, and unload the stone.
The operation of a self-unloader is quite simple. The stone in the cargo hoppers is dropped through the bottom of the hopper onto two large conveyor belts running the length of the hold. These belts carry the stone forward to a bucket-type elevator which lifts the stone up to another conveyor belt on the unloading boom. The boom is swung outboard to discharge the stone. Realizing this, the Limestone company decided to use self-unloading vessels to transport the stone to its customer
The Detroit Shipbuilding Company at Wyandotte, Michigan, built a steel steamer for the Calcite Transportation Company of Detroit. This vessel, the Calcite, was chartered for ten years and christened by Miss Elva A. Farr, daughter of President M. E. Farr of the shipbuilding firm. She was 416 feet long with a 54-foot beam and a 29-foot depth. The Calcite had a capacity of 7,000 tons. She was called “the largest self-unloading vessel in the world.”2 Her first load was taken on June 15, 1912, at Calcite. As a tryout for the unloading mechanism, the stone that was loaded was transferred from the hold to make a fill alongside the wharf. After the successful test, she was loaded with stone for Buffalo, New York.
The Calcite continued to operate for the next three years, when the Limestone Company decided that a second vessel was needed, and contracted with the American Ship Building Company, to build another self- unloading steamer at Lorain, Ohio, in 1915. The owner this time was the Limestone Transportation Company of Rogers City. The W.F. White, which included some improvements, was 550 feet long with a 60-foot beam and 32-foot depth. She was capable of carrying 10,000 tons of crushed stone. The steamer was named to honor the president of the Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company. Her maiden trip was a load of coal from Erie, Pennsylvania, to Menominee, Michigan, leaving Erie on September 2, 1915, under the command of W.J. McLean of Detroit.3
Two years later another vessel was built and launched at the Lorain shipyards. This ship, the Carl D. Bradley, was owned by the Bradley Transportation Company, Carl D. Bradley, President. There were more improvements made on her and she had the same dimensions as the W.F. White. The Bradley arrived at Calcite on June 12, 1917, with A.M. McLean, Captain, and Herman Lange, Chief Engineer, both of Detroit.4
A note in Screenings, Summer issue of 1957, states that in 1923 the Bradley Transportation Company was expanded. This company now included the Calcite Transportation Company, Limestone Transportation Company, and Bradley Transportation Company.5 The charter on the steamer Calcite mentioned earlier, expired and she was acquired by the Bradley line. Also, the steamers W.F. White and Carl D. Bradley were included in the fleet. Now there was one transportation company with three vessels.
Another ship was being built that same year. This was the B.H. Taylor. Her dimensions were the same as the White and the Bradley with a capacity of 10,500 tons of crushed stone. She was named for the treasurer of the Bradley Transportation Company, and Mrs. Taylor had the honor of christening the vessel at the Lorain shipyards with a “bottle of Limestone Plant water over her big bow.”6 The Taylor arrived at Calcite in October under the command of Capt. William McLean and her chief engineer was Harry B. Moore of Cleveland.
The mood of the country at that time was toward expansion and the Bradley Line followed suit. An article in the Advance December 1924, stated that a contract with the American Ship Building Company to build another vessel was signed. 7 This vessel, the T. W. Robinson, was launched at Lorain shipyards on Saturday, April 25, 1925. Her dimensions were 586 feet long, 60- foot beam, 32 feet deep, and a capacity of 10,800 tons of crushed stone. She was named for the vice president of the Illinois Steel Company, a predecessor company to the United States Steel Corporation and one of the early customers for the Calcite limestone.8 The Robinson arrived in Calcite for her first load on the 12th of July.9
Up to this time the Bradley fleet had five vessels, but the biggest and best was yet to come. The steamer Carl D. Bradley was renamed the John G. Munson. An article in the November 1926, Calcite Screenings noted that the Michigan Limestone Company had accepted a contract to deliver one million tons of stone to the Universal Portland Cement Company’s new harbor at Buffington, Indiana, and a new steamer to transport this stone was built at the Lorain shipyards of the American Ship Building Company. The construction was similar to the Robinson but she would be the largest tonnage carrier on the Great Lakes, under the command of Capt. William J. McLean.10
The new Carl D. Bradley was launched on April 9, 1927, and christened by Mrs. Bradley who smashed a red, white and blue ribboned bottle of Calcite water over her bow? Her dimensions were 638 feet long, 65-foot beam, 33 feet deep and a capacity of 14,000 tons of crushed stone.
The arrival of the Carl D. Bradley at Calcite on July 28, was a festive occasion. Operations at the plant were suspended for several hours to give the employees a chance to witness the arrival of the vessel. Flags were flying that day. The Rogers City Community Band, Mrs. Bradley and her guests boarded the new tug, Rogers City, and steamed out to meet the Bradley and escort her into the loading slip. The village president, Rudolph Dueltgen, greeted the vessel and the party on board. Mr. Bradley expressed warm appreciation for the welcome and told about the vessel’s construction.12 Her first load was nearly 15,000 tons of stone to be delivered to Buffington, Indiana. After the construction of the Bradley, expansion of the company halted. The depression years and war years saw no new construction for the Bradley fleet which now had six vessels. Any additions would have to wait.
In the fall of 1950, Screenings noted that the Bradley Line would now have another vessel. A contract with the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, was signed and that company would build a self- unloading vessel to be ready for service in the 1952 season. The new vessel’s dimensions were 666 feet long, 72-foot beam, 36 feet deep and a capacity of 20,000 gross tons.13 During the 1930s and 1940s the Carl D. Bradley was one of the largest vessels on the Lakes. During, and after the war, ships that were as large or larger than the Bradley were built, and with the coming of this new vessel, the John G. Munson, the Bradley Line again had the largest ship on the Lakes. Mr. Munson was the president of the Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company after the death of Carl D. Bradley in 1928; in 1939 he became vice president in charge of raw materials for U. S. Steel, retiring in 1950.
The Munson was launched on November 28, 1951, At Manitowoc, Wisconsin; Mrs. Munson had the pleasure of christening the ship. The Munson arrived at Calcite on August 24, 1952, and an open house was held for the people of Rogers City and vicinity, with the Rogers City Band providing the music for the occasion.
Now, it might seem, there were two vessels with the same name. That was taken care of by renaming the older John G. Munson after another president of the Michigan Limestone Company and she became the Irvin L. Clymer. This took place on October 23, 1951, at Calcite.
The eighth ship was added to the Bradley fleet in October 1956. The Myron C. Taylor of the Pittsburgh Steamship Division was converted to a self-unloader at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, by the Christy Corporation, during the summer of 1956. She was built in 1929 by the Great Lakes Engineering Works at River Rouge, Michigan. Her dimensions are 604 feet long, 60- foot beam and 32 feet deep.
Still another vessel was added, and again the Pittsburgh Steamship Division provided the ship. This was the A.F. Harvey, renamed Cedarville. Her dimensions were the same as the Myron C. Taylor and she was built by the same company in 1927. She was later converted to a self-unloader by the DeFoe Shipbuilding Company at Bay City, Michigan, and her christening day was May 25, 1957, at Port Dolomite, Cedarville, Michigan.
Five days previously the B.H. Taylor was renamed the Rogers City. Again, these were gala occasions. Both plants, Calcite and Cedarville, held open house. At Rogers City, schools and stores were closed for the afternoon event.14
At the beginning of the 1958 season the Bradley fleet was comprised of nine vessels. The fleet had set safety records and was recognized for this by the National Safety Council. It had sailed three and a-half years, 1,303 days, without a lost time injury? Then tragedy struck!
On November 18, 1958, the Carl D. Bradley broke in two and sank in Lake Michigan. Thirty-three men were lost on that stormy night; there were only two survivors. She was returning home after delivering a load of limestone to Gary, Indiana, the same area where her first cargo of stone was delivered in 1927. Several books have been written which cover this sinking.
In 1960 a second vessel left the Bradley Line, but not through tragedy. The Calcite, the first Bradley self-unloader, was scrapped at the end of the 1960 season. For 48 years she had sailed under the flag of the Bradley Transportation Line. A brief program was held at Calcite where members of the clergy praised the ship’s part in the economy of the town and blest her final voyage to Conneaut, Ohio. She had carried 4,605 cargoes for a total of 24,794,340 tons of limestone and 6,526,170 tons of coal. As a final tribute to her when she passed down the Detroit River, the Bradley house flag was raised on the halyard at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum at Belle Isle?
A final note on the Calcite; her pilothouse was spared destruction, and was returned to the Port of Calcite, serving there at the harbor as both a tourist attraction and a memorial to the first vessel of the Bradley Line.
Even though the steamer Calcite was gone, the name was continued and is still in use today. The William C. Clyde, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steamship Division, was converted to a self-unloader at Manitowoc, Wisconsin, by the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company during the Winter of 1960-61. She was renamed Calcite II, at Calcite, in August of 196 1. Her dimensions are the same as the Myron C. Taylor and the Cedarville. She was built in 1929 by the American Ship Building Company.
At this time there were again eight vessels in the Bradley Fleet, but tragedy was to strike again. On May 7, 1965, the Cedarville, while navigating through the fog on Lake Huron near the Mackinac Bridge, collided with the Norwegian freighter Topdalsfjord and sank. Ten of her crew were lost. Again, like the Bradley, the story is told in detail in several books.
Two years later the steamer George A. Sloan, again from the Pittsburgh Steamship Division, was added to the Bradley Line. She was converted at the Shipyards at Superior, Wisconsin. Originally launched in. 1943 as the Hill Annex, she is 620 feet long, 60-foot beam, 35-foot depth and has a capacity of 17,000 tons.
The year 1967 saw the end of the Bradley fleet under that name. In the summer, U.S. Steel consolidated the Pittsburgh Steamship Division and Bradley Transportation Line into one fleet-the Great Lakes Fleet. The Bradley Transportation Company which was formed in 1923 and became part of U.S. Steel in 1928, no longer exists. The black and gray stacks with the M-L on them have been repainted with the U.S. Steel colors, black and silver.
We will add here just a few brief notes to close. Both the Myron C. Taylor and the Calcite II have been reclassified as motor vessels because of the changes in their engines.
The W.H. White left the Lakes in 1963 to transport coal on the Chesapeake Bay to the Fairless, Pennsylvania plant. She returned to the Lakes in 1965. In 1976 she was sold to Westdale Shipping Ltd., of Canada, and now operates under the name Erindale.
The Irvin L. Clymer is still laid up at Calcite where she has been since 1974 after failing to pass her inspections.17
The John G. Munson, the only vessel of the Bradley Line to sail in the winter, was lengthened in 1976 by adding 102 feet to her center. This increased her capacity to 28,000 tons. The work was done at the Fraser Shipyard at Superior, Wisconsin.
- Presque Isle County Advance, 28, 1909, hereafter cited as Advance. The Calcite Plant is on the site of Crawford’s Quarry.
- Advance, June 27,
- , July 29, 1915, p. 1, and Sept. 9, 1915,p. 1.
- , Mar. 29, 1917, p. 1, and June 14, 1917, p. 1.
- MLD Screenings,, Summer 1957, p. 25, Originally published as Calcite Screenings, by Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company for their employees, beginning in 1926. Name changed in 1957 to MLD Screenings and in 1958 to ML Screenings. Discontinued publication in 1963. Hereafter cited as
- Advance, 6, 1923, p. 1.
- , Dec. 4, 1924, p. 1.
- , Aug. 3, 1962, sec. 3, p. 2.
- , July 16, 1925, p. 1.
- Screenings, 1926, 6. p.
- , May 1927, p. 6.
- , Aug. 1927.
- . Fall 1950, p. 10.
- , Summer 1957p, . 25.
- , Winter 1958-59,p. 8.
- , Jan.-Mar. 1961, p. 14
- Lake Log Chips, June 13, 1974, 4.
About the Author: The author, Gerald F. Micketti, was born and raised in Rogers City, Michigan. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University, and a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He admits that his special interests are the Great Lakes in general, and Northern Lower Michigan in particular. Mr. Micketti is a member of the Great Lakes Historical Society.