‘Roaring’ Dan Seavey: Pirate of the Great Lakes

When we think of Lake Michigan seafaring, we tend to think of fishing, not piracy, but the man who came to be known as “the pirate of the Great Lakes” had links to Door County. 

Samantha Engel and Aaron Guylas will present the story of “Roaring” Dan Seavey as part of the Door County Maritime Museum’s Maritime Speaker Series on April 6, 7 pm, at the museum, 120 N. Madison Ave. in Sturgeon Bay.

Seavey bounced around the ports of Lake Michigan – including Jacksonport – during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and he later married the granddaughter of the Door County figure Allen Bradley, who was known as “the giant of Hedgehog Harbor.”

On June 11, 1908, Seavey stepped onto the docks of Grand Haven, Michigan, armed with two of the most dangerous weapons known to humanity: booze and bad intentions. With a full jug of liquor, Seavey easily befriended the crew of the Nellie Johnson, allowing them to incapacitate themselves and likely faking his own swigs from the jug. 

After the crew members had passed out, he moved them to the dock, and by daybreak of June 12, Seavey was sailing into maritime history as “the pirate of the Great Lakes.” That’s because under the law of the day, he had committed piracy – a crime punishable by hanging – by taking a stolen ship across state lines. 

The authorities chased down Seavey and took him back to Chicago in irons to face a grand jury trial, but strange things happened between his capture and the trial, as they often did in Chicago back in the day. 

Despite the best efforts of the government, not one witness showed up for the prosecution. There was also evidence that money had slid under the table, forcing the grand jury to fail to indict Seavey and to release him with charges dropped. “Roaring” Dan Seavey went free – and became infamous.

“Captain Dan Seavey: A Pirate Behaving Badly on the Great Lakes”
April 6, 7 pm
Door County Maritime Museum, ​​120 N. Madison Ave. in Sturgeon Bay
Samantha Engel and Aaron Guylas present this story of the pirate of the Great Lakes as part of the Door County Maritime Museum’s Maritime Speaker Series. Watch online at