A. B. Ward

Return to Ships of John Gregory

A. B. Ward US No. 381 (388)
Built At
Chicago, IL

John Gregory built the tug A. B. Ward (US No. 388/381) at the Miller Brothers’ Shipyard in Chicago on 30 April 1866. Her gross weight was thirty tons and her Official No. was corrected from 388 to 381 on 12 December 1894. Her owners were Justine Bowman and John A. Crawford both of Chicago. Her original master was Frank S. Butler.

On 20 August 1881 at 6 o’clock in the morning, while astern of the barge Adams on its way out, and on the river between Clark and LaSalle streets, the boiler of the A. B. Ward exploded. Five men were aboard the craft at this time and they were Captain Frank S. Butler, Engineer Ole Wilson (better known as Ole Oleson), William McDonald, deckhand, Mike McDonald, fireman, and cook, Fred Whittacker. Two tugs were in charge of the Adams. The forward one had just passed through the Clark street bridge on the north side of the bridge pier and the barge was just entering the channel, when the explosion occurred. At this moment, the A. B. Ward was a length ahead of the barge and a length of its tow-line west of Clark street.

The concussion was so great that the immense boiler of the tug was fired like a bullet into a boat house under the north end of the bridge. The captain, Mr. Butler, was blown through the air in the same direction, and fell mangled on the deck of the barge Adams, with spokes of the wheel in his hand. Mr. Butler has been the captain of the A . B. Ward since she was launched back in 1866. Nearly the whole of the tug’s deck was blown off. The tug S. V. Taylor was about 200 feet astern of the wrecked vessel and within a minute was at its side. Mike McDonald, the fireman, and Fred Whittaker, the cook, were found clinging to the wreck and taken off. A yawl boat astern of the barge Adams that contained a sailor had been split in twain and the occupant, a Greek, was also taken from the water by the S. V. Taylor.

Within three minutes of the rescue of these survivors, the wreck of the Ward sank where it exploded. The Adams was towed to State Street bridge and docked and captain Butler was taken ashore. A cursory examination of his injuries showed them to be fatal. The back of his skull is fractured, and from the moment he struck upon the deck of the Adams he did not utter a word. His senseless body was tenderly carried ashore, placed in a wagon and hastily driven to his home. The injuries to the other survivors, were not apparently serious, although for a time, so covered were they, with scalds and coal dust that it was not possible to make an examination. Mike McDonald had his wrist torn, and was somewhat bruised and scalded, but was able after having been washed and his wound dressed, to walk away without assistance. Fred Whittaker, cook, was scalded slightly on different parts of his person, he was also able to take care of himself. The bodies of Oleson and William McDonald have never been recovered and are supposed to be entangled in the vessel’s wreck. All the killed had children.

The A. B. Ward was the property of John Crawford and F. S. Butler, the injured captain. She was valued by the owners at $6.000, and was not insured.

Captain Butler was still alive at midnight, and his physicians believe there was a chance of his recovery. Four days later he was resting much better and there was reason to believe that he will fully recover from this terrible shock.

The A. B. Ward has since been rebuilt.

Enrollment was surrendered in Chicago on 27 March 1911 – Machinery taken out and hull converted to a house boat without power.

Abandoned in 1911.

13 Apr 1866
Justine Bowman, John A. Crawford
Frank S. Butler
23 May 1871
Justin Bowman, John A. Crawford, Frank S. Butler
Frank S. Butler
16 May 1878
Justin Bowman, John A. Crawford, Frank S. Butler, William Riley Selleck
Frank S. Butler
14 Nov 1878
Mary B. Bowman, Frank S. Butler, William Riley Selleck
Frank S. Butler
19 Apr 1882
Frank S. Butler, William Riley Selleck
Frank S. Butler
19 Apr 1884
Kate Crawford
James Smith
9 May 1888
Kate Crawford
E. B. Learned
28 Apr 1893
O. S. Richardson
Nathan Sullivan
10 Apr 1899
John T. Connery
John T. Hodell
13 Jun 1904
A. W. Horton
George B. Kelly


The A. B. Ward at the 12th Street Bridge, 1900