1899 : SS Tashmoo Launched, One of the Most Beloved Pleasure Boats of the Early Twentieth Century

December 31, 2021 all-day

Postcard image of SS Tashmoo

The 306-foot paddle-wheeler steamship SS Tashmoo was launched Dec. 31, 1899, and was one of the most beloved pleasure boats to cruise the Great Lakes.

She was built for the White Star Steamship Co. of Detroit and regularly took Detroit area residents on a two-hour cruise to St. Clair Flats, about 20 miles north of Detroit near Harsens Island The flats was home of Tashmoo Park, featuring a dance pavilion, amusement rides, bathhouse and swimming beach. (The park closed in 1951.)

One of the more humorous stories from the Tashmoo’s time on the Detroit River came when she ran away from home. The night of Dec. 8, 1927, saw a nasty winter storm with winds of 60 m.p.h. When White Star employees arrived for work the next day, they found that the steamer had vanished. Turns out, the gale had snapped the 14 heavy cables securing the steamer at the dock. The vessel had run away from home. It turns out she had drifted upstream, where she collided with the Douglas MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle.

The Tashmoo was chartered for an evening cruise by a Hamtramck social group June 18, 1936, and was on her way home when she struck a submerged rock near Sugar Island, off Grosse Ile. The crew were able to proceed to Amherstburg, Ontario, and dock before the ship sank in 18 feed of water. All the passengers were safely off the boat before she sank, though legend has it that the band was so good that people did not want to leave.

Initially, it was reported that the Tashmoo’s wounds were minor and could be patched up. Unfortunately, the damage proved to be far worse than originally feared. When a salvage crew came and tried to lift the Tashmoo from the riverbed, it “broke the steamer’s back,” likely a combination of the hull damage, the weight of the amount of water aboard the vessel and improper bracing and salvage strategy. The Tashmoo was dead.

“The Doomed Steamer SS Tashmoo Photo Gallery”, Detroit News, July 13, 2014.

SS Tashmoo wikipdia entry

Dan Austin, Tashmoo, HistoricDetroit.org

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