Dan Seavey: Great Lakes Pirate


Probably the most famous Great Lakes pirate, who sailed mostly on Lake Michigan, was Dan Seavey.

Seavey was born in Maine in 1865 and began working on ships when he was thirteen. Later, as a deputy marshal of Indian affairs, he busted Native American bootleggers and smugglers. He moved to Milwaukee in the 1890’s, got married and opened a saloon. By 1904, he attempted to make a living at various other jobs. That same year, becoming discouraged, Seavey finally turned to piracy by bootlegging, pimping, poaching, and smuggling.

Seavey’s most successful modus operandi was to put up fake port lights. Ships would see the fake lights, crash on the rocks, and then be pillaged by Seavey’s band of pirates of the ship’s cargo. In 1908 he stole the ship “Nellie Johnson”, intending to sell it in Chicago. This was the crime that finally got him captured by the United States Revenue Cutter Services; Seavey was clasped in irons and arrested. He became the only man formally charged with piracy on the Great Lakes, as “mutiny and sedation on the high seas”.

Seavey was eventually set free, and lived a basically “piracy-free” life until he passed away in February, 1949 at the age of 84.

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