Originally named the William B. Dickerson, the Merle M. McCurdy was built at the Great Lakes Engineering Works in Esorse, Michigan on the Detroit River across from Essex County, Ontario near the town of Amherstburg. Over 600’ in length and a part of the “Morgan Class” of ships within the fleet of the Pittsburgh Steamship Company, the McCurdy was capable of hauling 12,000 tons of iron ore. The Morgan class of ships was the backbone of shipping on the Great Lakes for decades.
The decline of the steel industry in Northeast Ohio and Western, PA combined with improvements in shipping technology, coal powered ships like the McCurdy ended. By 1985, the McCurdy was laid up and sold for scrap in Ashtabula County, the County of Merle’s birth. In 1988, suit was filed in Federal Court by the U.S. Attorney who alleged that the salvage team violated the Environmental Protection Act by failing to properly dispose of the asbestos on the ship as it was being dismantled in Ashtabula Harbor. The Merle M. McCurdy was later transported across Lake Erie to Canada, where the scrapping job was finished in Port Colborne, Ontario in 1988.
Hagan, J. (1988, May 14). U.S. Sues Firm Over Ore Boat Asbestos Job. The Plain Dealer, p. 26.
Miller, A. (1999). Tin Stackers : the History of the Pittsburgh Steamship Company. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press.
Courtesy of Bob Vance. Permission to use granted by the author.