History of Two Rivers   Site Meter  
Ship Building    
An unwritten chapter in Two Rivers history began in the early fifties of the last century - the shipbuilding industry. No present history gives an account of the several enterprises in shipbuilding that sprang up and flourished for a quarter of a century. For the dates and facts given in the following narration, I am indebted to two pioneer residents, J.E. Hamilton and Michael Smith, who lent the intelligence in several interviews with the author; in addition, many other facts were gleaned from the early files of the Manitowoc County Chronicle, which is now the Two Rivers Chronicle.

About the year 1852, an eastern ship carpenter named James Harbridge cam into port, liked the village, and decided to begin shipbuilding operations in a small way. He took in a partner named Mayer and the two started work with a crew of about tour men. The firm of Harbridge and Mayer proved successful in its enterprise and later C. Krause, an ancestor of the present Krause family of this city, cast his lot with the new concern. The shipyard was one the bank of the West Twin River on the site now occupied by the Pauly and Pauly Cheese Co. and just west of the Monroe street bridge.

Harbridge lived with his family in a little white house which was situated on the site now occupied by the Pawlitzke home at Adams and 20th Streets. He had a daughter, Alice, and a son, James. His foreman, Chance Wenn, was a tall Scandinavian who had a a fiery red beard and who was always full of corking good stories and yards of varying veracity.

The firm of Harbridge and Mayer at first specialized in small craft such as scows and canal boats, but later build several schooners. among these last were several vessels constructed for Fred and August Eggers, who owned a sawmill there at the time. One of the first schooners to glide down the ways into the West Twin Rivers as the William Aldridge, a two-master, Built under contact for Deacon H.H. Smith. Two more schooners, both two-masted vessels, were build after the William Aldridge; one was the Stella and the other the Laura.

The last days of Harbridge's enterprise are clouded in doubt, but the yard must have closed about 1862. Ralph G. Plum recalls that at least two other schooners were built, the Gertrude and the Joseph Vilas.

Harbridge moved away and was not heard from again.

On a stormy night in 1865, October, the two-masted schooner, Toledo, went aground on Twin River Point, north of Two Rivers. Her captain was Thomas Callaway, a brother-in-law of Mrs.. Agnes Weilip of Two Rivers, who, in an interview, told me this second chapter of Two Rivers' shipbuilding history. After the storm had subsided, the captain tried with might and main to drag his stranded ship off the sand and to float her, but she would not be budged. Seized with a wild and almost unthinkable plan, he had the schooner sawed into two sections, raised each one separately, and hauled wagons about seven miles down the beach to the point known as the Pines. All through the winter months the commander and his men worked at rebuilding the vessel. Not until the following June was she ready for launching. Then, beautiful and sturdy she stood on the the ways, three spars pointing heavenward where two had been before. The Herculean task of launching the enlarged vessel from the beach was finally accomplished after scores if distressing mishaps, and the ship again rode her element, now rechristened the Typo.

The climax in shipbuilidng at Two Rivers begain in 1872 when two Manitwooc shipbuilding contractors, Casper Hanson and H.C. Scove, started operations on the site beside the East Twin Rivers, just north of the United Fisheries Co. At that time, there were scarcely any buildings on the East side, but the spot was chosen for the shipyard because the river makes a harp bend there, providing a deep off-shore channel which permits the successful launching of large schooners. The yard of Hanson and Scove was rather extensive for its day and was provided with all the machinery and equipment needed to carry on the work with thoroughness and dispatch. At its height, the firm employed about 80 men and built several boats at the same time. Scows, canal boats, tugs and schooners were constructed both under contract and by the shipbuilders to be sold on the market after completion.

The first schooner built was the H.M. Scove, a three-masted schooner, whose proportions corresponded almost exactly with those of the John Schuette, which was the last schooner constructed at Two rivers. She was built for the market and was later sold to a shipping corporation and was a familiar figure on the Great Lakes.

On Saturday, April 18, 1874, the second schooner, another three-master, was launched. She was christened the Bertie Calkins and was built for the firm of Rothschilds and Godman of Chicago, under the supervision of Captain Godman, who remained in Two Rivers through the winter of 1873-74 and endeared himself to the villagers. Editor W.F. Nash, in the Manitowoc County Chronicle for the Wednesday following, said:

"The launch on Saturday afternoon of the large three-masted schooner now nearly completed by Messrs. Hanson and Scove at this place for Messrs. Rothschilds and Godman of Chicago, was a beautiful one. The last block was removed at about four o'clock in the afternoon when the order to cut the rope was given and the mammoth craft immediately started down the ways very evenly, and with a rush and a road, plunged into the water. The launch was witnessed by about 500 delighted people, men, women and children. The new craft is named the Bertie Calkins. She has a carrying capacity of 20,000 bushels of wheat, or about 250 M lumber, and will be ready to leave port some time during the present week, taking on a cargo of lumber of Messrs. Cooper and Jones of Chicago, after which she will go into commission for her owners."

On her second voyage, the Bertie Calkins collided with the schooner, R.P. Mason of Chicago on Tuesday, May 12, 1874. Both were badly damaged and put into Manistee for repairs.

On June 7, 1874, the three-masted schooner Granger slid into the water. Her owner was John Bertschy, Esq., a prominent man at Sheboygan. The Granger had a capacity of 26,000 bushels of wheat, or 510 tons. Her keel was 156 feet long, her deck 160 feet, the width of her beams 29 feet, the depth of her hold 12 feet. The schooner left port on June 19, fully rigged, and loaded with a cargo for Sheboygan, sailing under the command of Captain Griffith.

The sister ship of the Granger was christened the J.O. Thayer and was launched on Saturday, August 22, 1874. She, too, was built for John Bertschy, Esq. The new schooner sailed out of port under the command of Capt. D.E Swinerton, "a polished gentleman and a thorough sailor." How proud Two Rivers was of her flourishing industry is evidenced by this excerpt from an article describing the launch:

"While congratulating our neighbors at Sheboygan, we will remind them that Hanson and Scove are willing to build as good vessels as ever carried sails to keep pace with their growing commerce. Next!"

One of the smaller craft built was a steam fishing tug constructed for the Gagnon Brothers, who fished out of Two Rivers. The contract for the boat was let on May 20, 1874, and on Thursday, July 22, the new craft was launched. She was christened the Mary A. Gagnon and was towed to Manitowoc to receive her engine, rudder and other equipment at the Richards Iron Works.

Probably the best-known schooner on the Great Lakes was the John Schuette, a three-masted vessel built at Two Rivers by Hanson and Scove. The keel was laid on December 1, 1847, and proved to be the beginning of the end for the industry at Two Rivers. She was 142 feet over all, had a 135-foot keel, a beam of 26 feet 2 inches, and a hold depth of 10 feet 8 inches. Her captain was Peter Larson. On May 1, 1875, the John Schuette was launched and was christened after "State Senator Schuette from Manitowoc County, whose course in the legislature last winter met with their (Hanson and Scove) hearty approval."

Most of the schooner's six transoceanic voyages ere to England, but she sailed the Great Lakes most of the time. She met her fate in Lake St. Claire in 1908 when she collided with another vessel. Today, the State Historical Museum at Madison, there is displayed a large model of the John Schuette, donated by George Schuette of Manitowoc.

After the John Schuette had been launched, Hanson and Scove stared work on a contract to lay six cribs for the new harbor which was being built at Two Rivers. Engaged in the harbor work, they neglected the shipbuilding, although a few scows were built in 1875 and also the largest floating steam pile driver than at work on the Great Lakes. Ralph Plumb mentions one other schooner built there, evidently before the John Schuette. This was the Mike Corry, a schooner of 380 tons.

Mr. Scove's wife died in 1874 and Mr. Hanson sent his wife and family to Manitowoc to live during that winter. When the harbor contract was finished, the shipyard was not reopened. Instead, Hanson and Scove moved back to Manitowoc and there continued their shipbuilding operations. Thus ended a proud and brilliant page of two Rivers history.