2006-06-15 / News

John Ivers Served as Captain of State's First Car Ferry, Ariel

By Margaret Quinn LeCount

Captain John Ivers, a Civil War veteran, piloted the Ariel, the state's first ferry on the Straits of Mackinac. (Photographs courtesy of Margaret Quinn LeCount) Captain John Ivers, a Civil War veteran, piloted the Ariel, the state's first ferry on the Straits of Mackinac. (Photographs courtesy of Margaret Quinn LeCount) On July 31, 1923, Captain John Ivers linked the Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula, first by boat and then by family.

Captain Ivers piloted the Ariel, the first state ferry, to the Straits of Mackinac. The little Ariel was a wooden passenger boat as well as a car ferry, and it had been operating out of Detroit as a river boat. In order for the Ariel to break through the ice of the Straits, it had its hull sheathed in iron, and it did carry 20 vehicles per trip.

Captain John Ivers was called upon by the Michigan State Ferry System in 1923 to bring the Ariel to the Upper Peninsula. The captain was a Civil War veteran and later became known as the oldest and best-known vessel master of the Great Lakes.

In 1924, the Ariel was sold to Port Huron and Sarnia Ferry Company. It was later dismantled in the 1940s.

While the captain was staying in St. Ignace, he roomed at Mrs. Dolan's home on Prospect Street. During this time, his daughter, Maida, visited, met, and later married Ward Quinn, who was a local businessman and son of a pioneer family. Mr. Quinn became mayor of St. Ignace in the 1930s.

The Ariel was introduced to the Mackinac Transportation Company in 1923. It was the first of six ferries operated by the state on the Straits of Mackinac. The Ariel was introduced to the Mackinac Transportation Company in 1923. It was the first of six ferries operated by the state on the Straits of Mackinac. The marriage took place in the Catholic Cathedral in Detroit, therefore making this the second link between the peninsulas. In the years to come, the couple gave Captain Ivers three granddaughters, Margaret Quinn LeCount, Mary Jane Quinn St. Louis, and Joie Quinn Lennon.

Captain Ivers passed away at his home in Detroit in April 1928, but not before he brought forth the Maritime Widows pension fund, making sure that widows of seagoing husbands were taken care of.

He also left his legacy of family pride in the many descendants that have come on both peninsulas as well as throughout the country.

The Ariel was followed by five state ferries, and then the era was over. The Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957, beginning another chapter in history.

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