(Born Nov. 13, 1871 - Died Mar. 25, 1936)
Mary Edith Stram Perreault
Granddaughter of Captain Wallace Henry Van Dyke
Wallace Henry Van Dyke was born to Mary Elizabeth Hendrickson and Henry Warren Van Dyke on November 13, 1871 in Escanaba, Michigan. He was their only son.
Wallace grew up in the house his father built. This was at 236 Michigan Avenue. This house was completely surrounded by the thick Michigan woods. Wintergreen-berries and blueberries grew on the property and in the near-by woods. In front of the house was the Little Bay De Noc where the family sailing vessel was moored.
Wallace grew up with the friendly Indians living close by, as his father could speak their language. Often the Indians crossed the Bay with their pails of berries to sell to the residents of the town of Escanaba. An Indian named "Peg Leg Jim" was a good friend of Wallace's father. Often he and other Indians could be found sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor of the Van Dyke home in the mornings when Wallace's mother would come down to fix breakfast. These Indians felt so welcome in the Van Dyke home that they came for breakfast.
The Van Dyke family consisted of Wallace's sister named Hattie who was two years older and his younger sister named Flora. Flora was six years younger than Wallace. Wallace was the middle child.
Wallace's father taught him the ways of the Indians, how to shoot a gun and how to sail. They sailed around in front of their home in Little Bay De Noc. When Wallace was 15 he sailed as a deckhand for a summer on Lake Michigan.
Sailing was a part of Wallace; it was in his Dutch blood and it became his life's work. Wallace loved the sea and longed for it when he was confined on the land. The winters seemed so long, but there was school to keep him and his sisters busy until the early summer seas could call him once again.
As Wallace grew, so grew the little town of Escanaba; and by the time he was 9 years old (1880) the census showed Escanaba was a town of 3,026 people.
When Wallace graduated from the Escanaba High School at the age of 18 (1889) there were 11 students in his graduating class. This graduating class photo is on the preceeding page.
One of Wallace's school essay papers which is almost a hundred years old somehow survived the passing of time. It is the story of Abraham Lincoln and is located at the back of this write-up for all his descendants to read and enjoy. Wallace loved history and spent all his life recording its passing events in large scrapbooks. These large scrapbooks were made for his children, and his grandchildren, and all their descendants who follow, to help them learn and understand the great events of history. These scrapbooks grow more valuable as passing time abbreviates those events to make way for the new.
One interesting Van Dyke fact that is being passed over in the history books is that John Van Dyke (son of Sara Honeyman and Abraham Van Dyke) sat next to Abraham Lincoln in Congress. He changed the idea of General Fremont for President and Lincoln for Vice President to Abraham Lincoln for President, by giving a rousing speech. Abe Lincoln wrote a thank you to him that stated "Allow me to thank you for your kind notice of me in the Philadelphia Convention." and ended with "Present my best respects to Mrs. Van Dyke." John Van Dyke placed Abe Lincoln in history.
In 1889 after graduation from high school, Wallace made his first trip across Lake Michigan. This was on the Schooner "JANE ANDERSON" Captained by Jim Hewlett. It left the Big Bay De Noc with a load of potatoes. She was a trim two masted little schooner. How many crew members she carried as she crossed that mighty Lake Michigan is unknown.
In his life time Wallace owned many sailing ships. His first one was in 1890 and he named her for his little sister. It was named the "FLORA V". She was built in 1886 and weighed 9 gross tons. The "FLORA V" had two masts and was 39 feet long, 4 feet deep, with a 10 foot beam. Wallace sailed this ship alone in the summer of 1890. He carried fruit and produce from Lower Michigan to Escanaba. She held 250 bushels.
The photo on the opposite page is of another two masted Pleasure Yacht owned by Wallace in Escanaba, Michigan. Years later Wallace typed this note on the photo: "It was on board this Yacht that I first met Miss Emma Zillges, MY WIFE." The name of this boat in not known.
Before Wallace ever met Miss Emma Zillges a ghastly tragedy struck him. One day while he was out rabbit hunting with his friend he was shot in the hand. The year this happened is unknown.
It was an accident. The gun his friend was carrying accidentally discharged and the bullet penetrated Wallaces' right hand. The doctor in Escanaba cleaned and treated the wound but it didn't seem to heal. Wallace kept telling his mother and the doctor that it did not feel right. The doctor insisted it was coming along just fine and implied that Wallace was just too impatient.
Later it became evident that gangrene had set in. Wallace had to have an operation. He had to have his hand amputated. Following this operation was another operation to amputate higher up as gangrene had spread more than the doctor had realized. Then there was another operation on the arm, then another operation, and another one, another one and another one. It took seven operations on Wallaces's right hand and arm. The last operation brought the cut up to the shoulder.
Wallace would not accept being made a cripple by the lost of his arm. He went on to live a normal life and do the things he loved to do. He answered the call of the sea and lived his life as a proud sea captain. He knew Lake Michigan as a sailing captain and as captain of the large steamships of the Pere Marquette line.
Captain Wallace Henry Van Dyke sailed on Lake Michigan in winter and in summer in ice and gale and on still starry nights. When he was not sailing he cut and pasted with his left hand and made scrapbooks of the history of all the ships on the Great Lakes. His albums are a priceless record of both sail and steam vessels.
On May 18,1894 Captain Wallace was sailing on his three masted schooner "LETTIE MAY". with a load of cargo which was cedar shingles. The hold of his ship was full of this cargo and the deck was piled high with the shingles. Captain Wallace was caught in a fierce northeaster which turned out to be the worst gale on Lake Michigan in years.
The weather suddenly turned very cold and the wind came up, causing the lake to turn into a sea boiling with rage. The waves came up and over the schooner's decks and rails and the cargo that had been loaded at Cedar River, Michigan and piled high on the deck was lost off Twin River Point. The cargo of shingles in the hold stayed intact. Captain Wallace made it to Milwaukee bay about three o'clock in the afternoon. He had used every bit of his knowledge and skill to allow the "LETTIE MAY" to run before the gale with double reefed foresail. By getting a piece of the mizzen sail, (this is the fore-and-aft sail set on the mizzenmast) on her he made it into Milwaukee Harbor. The tugs would not come out to get her, on account of the heavy seas that were running over the piers.
Other ships were also in trouble in the Milwaukee harbor. Captain Wallace could see the schooner "BIRT BARNS". She was driven onto the beach on Jones Island, but as she was without cargo she was driven high on the beach where the sea could not damage her.
Captain Wallace could also see the schooner "CUMMINGS". She had dragged anchor and foundered in 18 feet of water with her decks and rails under water. Her crew of six men and one woman took to the rigging where six of them froze to death and one after another they dropped out of the rigging into Lake Michigan. Captain Wallace could see them in the rigging, but was unable in any way to help them. One man was later rescued.
The "LETTIE MAY" was bought in Chicago, Illinois by Captain Wallace and his Father. Henry Warren Van Dyke. Her length was 68 feet 6 inches, with a beam of 16 feet 6 inches. She had a depth of 6 feet and was built in 1874 at Fort Howard, Wisconsin. A photo of her is on the preceding page.
Below is a picture of the "LETTIE MAY" encased in a bottle. This model was made to the exact measurements of the ship. When it was finished the rigging and sails were folded down and the ship was slipped into the bottle, then the lines that were attached to the rigging and sails were pulled and the rigging and sails were upright again. The lines were tied off with long needle nose pliers, and the cork was slipped into place; encasing forever the model of the "LETTIE MAY".
Captain Wallace Henry Van Dyke later bought his father's half interest out for $250.00 thus making him owner and master of the "LETTIE MAY".
Captain Wallace was always admired and respected. He had many friends and they all loved sailing, even his sisters and all their girlfriends loved to go out for sailboat rides on the Little Bay de Noc.
One day on his two masted Pleasure Yacht, Captain Wallace met Miss Emma Zillges. She was a delightful young girl who worked in the Escanaba Post Office. Emma's parents had emmigrated from Prussia. Her father, Henry Zillges, came to the United States of America at the age of 14. He married her mother in Chicago, Illinois in 1863. Emma's mother Minna Cook, also emmigrated from Prussia. Her parents changed their name when they came as they were from an aristocratic family and wanted no record of their leaving. The Zillges' had six children, the first five were born in Chicago. Emma was their fifth child and she was almost seven months old when the Chicago fire broke out. Emma was born March 21.1871. After the fire the family moved to Rantoul, Wisconsin. At the time of the fire the family had: 8 yr. old Bertha. 7 yr. old Clara, 4 yr. old Minna, 2 yr. old William and 6 1/2 month old Emma. Oscar, their last child, was born in Wisconsin.
Wallace and Emma spent much time together sailing on his little yacht and on February 10, 1897 they were married at the home of Emma's sister, Mrs. Bertha Meuer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their marriage license is on the preceding page.
Captain Wallace and Emma Van Dyke became parents of a baby girl they named Florence on November 28, 1897. She was born in Chicago, Illinois. Below is a photo taken on the "LETTIE MAY" of this proud family. You can see little Florence's diapers hanging on the rigging. Captain Wallace is standing so that it will not be noticed that his right arm is missing.
Captain Wallace used the "LETTIE MAY" to transport potatoes from Escanaba to Chicago where they were sold in the produce market. The economic times were bad and Wallace and Emma were very poor. At times they could not sell the potatoes, and just had to give them away.
Emma's sister Bertha and her husband, Mike Meuer, were now living in Chicago, so it was nice for Wallace and Emma to have some relative living close by. Bertha and Mike never knew how poor this Van Dyke family was, as Wallace and Emma were too proud to let anyone know what a hard time they were having. Once they stopped by close to dinner time and when The Meuer's asked the Van Dykes to join them for dinner, they answered that they had already eaten, but maybe little Florence would like a little something. That way they saw to it that little Florence had a good meal that day.
In 1889 Captain Wallace sold the schooner "LETTIE MAY". It is not known to whom he sold it, but on October 4, 1906 it is wrecked at the Skilligaller Light on Lake Michigan.
Captain Wallace then began working for the Kitzinger line which owned the black boats #5. #7 and #8. He was made Captain of the "JOHN D. DEWAR" which ran from Pentwater, Michigan to Ludington, Michigan. She carried anything that was in season. This was before 1902 and Captain Wallace and family moved to Pentwater. It was on December 21, 1902 that their second child was born. She was named Ethel Helen. Their third child and their only son was born on September 6, 1904. He was named Henry Wallace. The fourth and last child was born on August 9, 1906 in Pentwater and was named Edith Emma.
It was not long before Captain Wallace was again the owner and master of a sailing vessel. He owned the "JESSIE WINTERS" around 1904 and sailed her from Pentwater, Michigan.
On February 19, 1908 Captain Wallace bought from his father the schooner "STARLlGHT" for $2,000.00. She now lies on the bottom of Pentwater Lake at the dock of Bill's Boat Livery. After Captain Wallace moved to Ludington she sunk lower with each passing year. Captain Wallace would come with his family back to Pentwater time after time to try and raise her. Emma would pack a picnic lunch and the children would play at the water's edge as Captain Wallace worked on the schooner, but it was to no avail. Finally, it was evident she was there to stay. Captain Wallace did not try to dispose of her and she is still there. The "STARLIGHT" is listed as #185 on the Frederickson Treasure Chart. It is possible to look down on her through the clear water. The top most point of the "STARLIGHT" is low enough to allow motor boats to tie up over her. She appears to be the last sailing vessel that Captain Wallace Henry Van Dyke owned.
It was about 1915 when the Van Dyke family moved from the town of Pentwater to the town of Ludington, Michigan which was about 14 miles up the coast of Lake Michigan. This change was necessary as Ludington was made the home port of the Pere Marquette carferry line.
After renting for two years Captain Wallace and Emma bought the house at 308 North Harrison Street. This house was directly across the street (from the one they were renting) and was their home for the rest of their days. Captain Wallace sailed out of Ludington on the Pere Marquette Lines to either Milwaukee, Manitowoc or Kewaunee. These ships carried railroad cars across Lake Michigan.
Captain Wallace Henry Van Dyke started sailing way back when "Seamen were Sailors" made the adjustment to modern steamships with very little trouble. Captain Van Dyke, who was a one-armed man, was counted as one of the most efficient sailors on the lakes. He never allowed his handicap to be a hinder to him.
Captain Wallace Henry Van Dyke was captain of the Pere Marquette carferry steamer number 15, and for ten years he served as master of the 17. The last command he held was as master of the Pere Marquette #22. His various scrapbooks that he made include letters of praise and thank you for the different times in which he was able to assist disabled vessels on the lake. Twice he saved the commercial fishermen of the Smith Brothers chain of restaurants. In their letter to him they offer to give him a "good mess of fish" if he would stop by their restaurant and they even offered to mail a check for whatever expenses incurred.
On January 15, 1926 stormy Lake Michigan caused the Pere Marquette #18 to be run aground on a reef seven miles South of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. She was half full of cargo and railroad cars. To help save this Pere Marquette carferry and cargo and to keep the salvage boats from getting her, Captain Van Dyke engineered it so that when the two carferries were stern to stern a railroad car would be released from the #18 and run into the hole of the Pere Marquette #17. The ships rolled with the waves and every so often at the slope of the wave another railroad car would be released and roll aboard the #17. It took six hours for this feat to be achieved, and with the 14 loaded railroad cars removed, the #18 was light enough to float successfully off the reef. Not only had Captain Van Dyke saved the cargo but he had saved the Pere Marquette steamship #18 as well. He recieved a letter of accommodation from the company for this brilliant strategy.
Photos of this event are on the opposite page.
The Pere Marquette carferries traveled back and forth across Lake Michigan regardless of weather. Riding the ferries in the fall, winter and spring gales was no job for the faint heart or weakling. The ships are strongly built but their open sterns present an ever present gap for waves to sweep in and flood the car decks. There are four railroad tracks running fore and aft inside the ship. The railroad cars are backed into the vessel by a switch engine and to prevent the cars from swaying on their tracks in a high sea, huge jacks weighing 150 to 200 pounds are used. The jacks are braced against cleats on the deck and are turned up tight against the railroad cars, but constant tightening in heavy sea is required.
Captain Van Dyke's notebook states the Pere Marquette #22 was launched 1924 and in the year 1931 she crossed the Lake Michigan 1018 times, carrying freight cars and passengers. She covered 75,850 miles in that year and was in service 353 days.
The call whistle of the Pere Marquette #22 was - 2 long and 2 short.
The call whistle of the Pere Marquette #17 was - A long and 2 short.
The call whistle of the Pere Marquette #15 was - A long a short, a long.
The carferry would come into port at Ludington, Michigan and sometimes would be reloaded and ready to sail within four hours. Captain Van Dyke didn't have much time at home. He was given just two and a half days off a month as it was a seven day a week job being captain of this million dollar ship. He was responsible for her, and even on those days off he would pace back and forth on the long front porch of his 308 Harrison Street home watching the sky fearful that harm might come to his ship.
Captain Wallace Henry Van Dyke never let the fact that he had only one arm restrict doing his job. One time on the ship a mate did not show the proper respect to Captain Van Dyke and he picked him up by the shirt with his one hand and tossed him against the side of the cabin. That sailor was sure to put the word "Sir" to his "Yes" as he scurried off.
One time a panhandler sat soliciting pencils on the corner of Michell street in Milwaukee. This panhandler had also lost an arm. Captain Van Dyke dressed in his uniform with the brass buttons shinning and his captain's hat on, turned and looked for a long moment at this person begging for pity. He said "If I could make it, you could have made it". Captain Van Dyke always felt that the making of a man was over coming obstacles.
Sorrow swept through the Van Dyke family with the passing of their first child, Florence. She died Friday, February 2, 1934 at 9:00AM at 308 N. Harrison Street. She had not married and had been content to be a school teacher. It is said she died of cancer.
The remaining two Van Dyke daughters married in Ludington, Michigan. Ethel married John Winslow Stram on September 3, 1927 and Edith married Freeman Ross Stearns on July 23, 1932. Captain Van Dyke's only son Henry married Marjorie Gale Davies on July 23, 1930 at Annapolis, Maryland.
Captain Wallace and Emma had many close and admiring friends. They started calling Wallace by the name of "Andy", as the newspaper cartoon "Andy Gump" reminded them so of him. His children and son-in-laws and daughter-in-law even his wife Emma began to refer to him as "Andy". His grandchildren and great grandchildren to this day refer to Captain Wallace Henry Van Dyke as Captain "Andy". I, his granddaughter, Mary Edith Stram Perreault knew him by this name. I was eight years old when he died.
Captain Van Dyke sent Christmas cards reflecting his love of the sea. Below is one of those cards.
The year 1935 was a good year for Captain W.H. Van Dyke. He received a safety award and saw two more grandchildren added to his Van Dyke family
His daughter, Ethel Van Dyke Stram had presented him some years earlier with his first grandchild - Mary Edith Stram. Now, in January of this year his second grandchild arrived - Laura Lee Stearns, daughter of Edith Van Dyke Stearns. Then, in December of 1935, just three months before Captain Wallace Henry Van Dyke's death, his first grandson was born. This baby was named for Captain Van Dyke and was born to his son "Henry" who was living in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
Captain Wallace Henry Van Dyke died on March 25, 1936. He died aboard ship with the sea he loved all around him. He died in his cabin on board the Pere Marquette #22 of a heart attack.
When the #22 was 20 minutes out of Ludington the bridge called to him in his cabin. They tried twice to call, as the rule of the sea is that the captain must bring the ship into port. The bridge sent someone in the early morning darkness to check on Captain Van Dyke and found him dead in his cabin. The Pere Marquette #22 then wired ahead to the Pere Marquette office in Ludington and that office phoned his wife Emma and also phoned the home of his daughter Ethel and her husband John W. Stram.
John W. Stram got hold of the family doctor and close friend, Dr. Scott, and they met the #22 and climbed up the jacobs ladder before the ship was made secure to the dock. They found Captain Van Dyke laying on the floor of his cabin and picked him up and laid him in his bunk. Dr. Scott is quoted as saying "I don't care what the law says, Captain Van Dyke is too important a man to be found laying on the floor".
He died at 65 years of age.
Typed and pasted in the scrapbook by Captain Van Dyke was this - "SAY ONLY THAT I LOVED OLD SHIPS, WRITE NOTHING MORE UPON THE STONE ABOVE MY ANCHORAGE AND THEY WHO READ WILL KNOW I LOVED THE ROAR OF THE BREAKERS IN BY-GONE SAILING DAYS."'
His wife Emma Zillges Van Dyke lived for 24 years after his death. She resided in their large home for many years, finally selling it. She then lived out the remainder of her life with her children. She out lived her youngest daughter, Edith Emma Van Dyke Stearns.
Emma had to have her leg amputated at the age of 78 as gangrene had set in due to a blister she had on her heel. She lived for 11 more years getting around in her wheelchair or on her artificial leg. She died March 10, 1960 after several strokes. She was 89 years old.
Captain Wallace Henry Van Dyke and Emma Zillges Van Dyke are buried in the Lakeview Cemetery in Ludington, Michigan.
Mary Edith Stram Perreault
Granddaughter of Captain Wallace Henry Van Dyke
(Used with permission)
Thanks to Mary Edith Stram Perreault and Andy Perreault!