Big Boom Tug Van Raalte – Ashland

Tug Ashland Photo James and Marge Miller family

Tug Ashland
Photo: James and Marge Miller family

Towing Tug Van RaalteAka Ashland

Bayfield County Press

November 26, 1898 

Rebuilding the Van Raalte; the big Leihy tug will have new Planking, Boiler and Upper Works read the headlines on this date.

During the fall Charles Leihy went to Chicago and brought up the tugboat Van Raalte, [1]  which he purchased there. Unfortunately, the addition of this craft to our local fleet was not chronicled by the Press at this time. The boat has been hauled out of the water and will be rebuilt during the winter, the work having been already begun. When she goes into commission next spring she will be practically a new boat, although her former shape will be very nearly reserved.

Her present dimensions are 93 feet overall and 23 feet beam. When rebuilt she will be 5 feet longer and have 3 feet less beam. Her carrying capacity is rated at 103 tons. The engine is of the high-pressure type, 22″ x 24″ in size, rated at 250 hp, and drives a 7 foot, 3 1/2 inch wheel. A new boiler, 7 1/2 feet in diameter and 12 feet in length, will be put in to furnish steam, of which it will carry 140 pounds to the square inch. The boiler will have two furnaces.

It is the intention to put on new outside planking, from the water line up and reline her completely. The hold will have two bulkheads put in, thus providing it into three watertight compartments. The boiler will be placed amidships, giving space on deck abaft the smokestack for an 8 x 8 kitchen and an 8 x 12 dining room. She will carry 100 tons of coal below decks, which shows to a steamboat man her value as a towing tug. When ready for business she will be the largest and strongest tug on this bay, and will make certain the acquisition of which Captain Leihy and the people of Bayfield may well be proud.

On April 29, 1899 the Press reports to the Van Raalte which was being rebuilt by local Bayfielder Charlie Leihy. “The Van Raalte will be ready to go into the water inside a week or 10 days and by 20 May will be ready for sailing. A Press representative called on Captain Leihy Thursday afternoon and was informed by him that the new boiler, which will be here the first of the month from Oswego, New York, will be the best constructed boiler on any boat at this end of the lake. One of the many valuable features of the new boiler is the heating apparatus. It has two furnaces with the heating capacity of three. The dimensions of the tug are 101 feet in length overall and 21’6″ beam. She will be a model tug when completed and will be the largest and strongest on the bay. Captain Leihy has purchased 160 booms, chained with double inch chains. They are considered to be the best booms on the bay. The booms were last used by the tug Howard.  E. Jacobson, of Big Rapids, Michigan, has been engaged as engineer and is now at work fitting up the machinery. The crew will consist of six men all told.  

[1] Originally named the Van Raalte, the newly named Ashland was purchased in the summer 1898, by Charles R. Leihy of Bayfield, Wisconsin. He retained her until 1900. The steamer ended her long string of owners in 1901, when she was purchased by the Ashland, Wisconsin-based, Shroeder Lumber Company for use in the western Lake Superior lumber-rafting business. Shroeder renamed her Ashland in 1903, after the Wisconsin port city, which would also become her final resting place. As the Ashland, she served as a raft tug pulling large log rafts, called booms, around the lakes to port city lumber mills.

This history brief was written by Robert J. Nelson. Generously sharing our local history through his research and writing.