October 10, 1885: Guido Pfister wrecks near South Pier of Duluth Ship Canal

On this day in Duluth in 1885, the schooner Guido Pfister smashed aground along the South Pier of the Duluth Ship Canal. According to shipwreck historian Julius F. Wolff, “the incoming 198-foot, 694-ton schooner approached the piers at a good clip, her skipper expecting a waiting tug to take her through the canal. But the tug crewman missed the Pfister’s line, and the Pfister couldn’t check, crashing ashore outside the canal, right alongside the south pier.” Wollf also wrote that, “As she smashed aground, tearing out her bottom, her whole crew jumped safely to the pier,” but a Duluth News Tribune report on October 13 conflicts with that information. Instead, it reported that “It appears that it was impossible to get the crew ashore…and that the men, together with the woman cook, were obliged to remain on board until Sunday morning under distressing circumstances. Shortly after daylight they were all landed by means of a rope, which had been made fast to the lighthouse pier.” Her cargo of coal spilled onto the shore, where residents of Minnesota Point “gleefully helped themselves” to what coal wasn’t salvaged by Captain Alexander McDougall’s centrifugal pump. The wreck remained in place until 1896, when it was removed—with the help of some dynamite—for the widening of the Duluth Ship Canal and its new concrete piers.

The wreck of the Guido Pfister adjacent to the south pier of the Duluth Ship Canal. (Image: Lake Superior Maritime Collection)