Friday, December 22, 2006

Louis Winje Drowning in 1893

Early in the process of researching the Winje Family, I discovered that Eric and Bertina Winje (my great great grandmother and her second husband) lost their eldest son when he drowned in Lake Superior harbor. Curious, I began to uncover what happened. I recently ran across an article published in the Duluth Evening Herald on August 21, 1893, that gives more detail than I had previously found. Reading it for the first time brought tears to my eyes. I have invested so much time discovering the experiences of the members of this family that I feel a connection to each of them.

While reading the article below, imagine how you would feel if you were Judge Winje--suddenly responsible for the death of your precious eldest son, just at the point when he was about to make his way in the world and fulfill his potential. How would/could you face your family after such a tragedy? Could you continue your job as a public servant? Only a couple of days after the accident, which happened on Sunday, August 20, 1893, Winje was required to hold municipal court and preside over cases brought against the city's drunks and vagrants. His son's body had not yet been found. Citizens in nineteenth century America believed that duty came first... no matter what.

(Note: although the newspaper indicates the victim is "Lewis" Winje, I spell his name "Louis" Winje in my family history writings.)

Went to the Bottom
The Steamer Lucille Ran Into and Sank the Steam Launch Ellida
Last Evening
Lewis Winje Jumped Overboard and Although a Good Swimmer
Was Not Seen Afterward
Judge Winje Remained on the Launch and Was Saved
--The Lucille Not to Blame
A most unfortunate and distressing accident occurred on the bay last evening at 8:45 o'clock which resulted in the drowning of Lewis Winje, age 19 years, son of Judge Winje, of the municipal court. The judge and Lewis were up the St. Louis river during the day on the steam lauch Ellida. They had a party with them but unloaded the others at West Duluth and were returning alone. The launch had passed through the opening in the dyke in the Rice's point channel and was a short distance beyond when the steamer Lucille struck her amidships breaking in her side, bursting her feed pipe and filling everything with steam.

Judge Winje remained in the boat but Lewis jumped at the first crash. As quickly as possible the judge was taken aboard but nothing could be seen of the young man. He was an excellent swimmer too, but owing to the chilliness wore heavy clothes and these probably dragged him down. The launch sank in about five minutes.

Capt. D. J. Clow of the Lucille says that he was running along in the channel when suddenly he saw a small boat within 100 feet of him. It carried no lights, contrary to the government rules, or he would have seen it further off. He immediately stopped his engine and as the launch seemed to be taking the Rice's point side threw his wheel over to the other side. Just then the Ellida swerved right across the Lucille's bow and almost before Capt. Clow could think his boat crashed into the little one. He immediately jumped down on to the launch but could not see anything because of the escaping steam. A minute or two later he felt the boat sinking and jumped back to his own. By that time Judge Winje was aboard and he learned of the boy jumping over. A boat was lowered at once but not a trace of him could be found.

Both Judge Winje and Capt. Clow were at the office of Inspector Clark and Monahan this morning and made verbal reports and this afternoon written reports will be drawn. Judge Winje attaches no blame to the Lucille.

Lewis, was a young man of good promise, an excellent scholar, and the loss is very keenly felt by his parents. His body had not been recovered up to early this afternoon.

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