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Today in history: ‘Roaring’ Dan Seavey, known as Michigan’s only pirate, steals a cargo ship

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On June 11, 1908 – 105 years ago today – Dan Seavey commandeered a Great Lakes cargo ship and sailed it to Chicago.

“Roaring” Dan Seavey is known as the only man to be arrested as a pirate on Lake Michigan.

Unlike the movies, Seavey didn’t steal the ship with guns and swords, according to Michigan Day By Day.


“Apparently, he drank the captain and the crew under the table,” said John Moga, curator of a pirate exhibit at the Door County Maritime Museum in Wisconsin.

“He certainly wasn’t in the great and grand tradition of Blackbeard — of the pirates of the Caribbean,” said historical author Frederick Stonehouse. “He was a low-life scum.”

Seavy pirated the 40-foot schooner Nellie Johnson in Grand Haven with a plan of selling the load of cedar posts in Chicago, but no one was buying from him. He then returned to his home in Frankfort.

As good as Seavey was at getting into trouble, he seemed to be just as good at getting out of it: When the owner of the Nellie Johnson didn’t show up in court, Seavey was released.


“Dan Seavey would steal anything that wasn’t nailed down,” said Stonehouse. “He had his little bucket, the Wanderer, and anything he could throw on its deck and get away with, he’d do it.”

According to Day By Day, Seavey “didn’t talk much about being a pirate, but everybody else did,” said Thomas Dale Vinette, 92, who knew Seavey from Escanaba in the 1920s.

“He was an odd guy working a little on the edge, making a buck wherever he could,” said Vinette.

Seavey died on Valentine’s Day in 1949 at age 84 in Peshtigo, Wisconsin.

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