April 28, 1914: Benjamin Noble shipwreck claims the lives of 19 sailors

On this day in 1914, the steamer Benjamin Noble disappeared on her way to Duluth, and nineteen men including Captain John Eisenhardt went down with her wreckage. That day brought a spring storm carried on winds of fifty miles an hour, and several other vessels struggled to make their way through the Duluth Ship Canal, which newspapers claim was “feared by vessel captains.” Some of those captains blamed the lack of signals at the entry to the canal, which already had three light stations, one on the North Pier and two along the South Pier. But in the early hours of that day the waves were so high that they washed over the South Breakwater Light, and some captains confused the north pier for the south pier—almost wrecking as well. But it was determined the Noble went down nearly twenty miles from the canal. The Noble, which was carrying 3,000 tons of railroad iron, had been spotted near Knife Island off the mouth of the Knife River about 18 miles north of Duluth by another vessel at 3:30 a.m., but never reached the Zenith City. On the afternoon of the 28th her wreckage began washing up on Minnesota Point at roughly 40th Street. Hatches and life buoys littered the beach, and the Noble’s lifeboat also washed up—empty. Captain Eisenhardt had written his sister just days before the wreck, telling her he was “not feeling too confident because the vessel had an unusually heavy cargo…and was due to travel through floe ice.” On May 3 12-year-old William Jacobs found a whiskey flask while walking along the bay side of Minnesota Point. In it was a note: “God! S.O.S. God help us! On board the ill-fated steamer; is doomed tonight. God S.O.S.! Goodby everybody.”

The Benjamin Noble. (Image: Great Lakes Vessel Index)

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