There are countless privateers, lumber thieves and rum-runners who might have fit the definition of “pirate” but, Captain Dan Seavey (1867–1949) holds the distinction of being the only man known to have been formerly charged with piracy on the Great Lakes.
Seavey was born in Portland, Maine, in 1867. He left home at age 13 and became a sailor, and served for a short time in the United States Navy. He moved near Marinette, Wisconsin in the late 1880s, where he married and had two daughters. The family later moved to Milwaukee, where Seavey fished, farmed and owned a local saloon. In 1898, he left his family in Milwaukee to participate in the Klondike Gold Rush. He was unsuccessful and returned to the Great Lakes region around 1900. In poverty, Seavey moved to Escanaba, Michigan and acquired a schooner, which he named the Wanderer and began his career as a pirate.
Guilty of everything from poaching to operating a floating brothel, Dan Seavey was a scallywag’s scallywag. A new exhibit chronicling the life and times of Great Lakes pirate “Roaring Dan” Seavey is now open at the Door County Maritime Museum’s northern branch in Gills Rock.
This new, small exhibit explores the many misadventures of “Roaring Dan” including the hijacking of the schooner Nellie Johnson in June of 1908 which led to his pursuit and ultimate capture by the United States Revenue Cutter Tuscarora.
The Gills Rock Museum branch is located at 12724 W. Wisconsin Bay Road in Door County’s most historic fishing village. The facilities are open from 10 am – 5 pm daily, now through October 21. Admission is $5 for adults; $2 for youth ages 5-17. Children 4 and under are admitted at no charge.