Due to a shortage of steel during the war, the United States Shipping Board (USSB) contracted for about 700 steam-powered cargo ships to have hulls made from wood. Shipyards on the Sabine River in Texas took on some of these contracts. So the big news in Orange, Texas in May, 1918 was the launching of the City of Bonham, which was the first of 12 very large wooden cargo ships ordered by the USSB. The Bonham was built according to A.M. Daughtery’s plans and was exactly like his ships War Marvel and War Mystery, both of which had been built in Orange for the British Cunard Line. With a displacement of 4,700 tons, they were the largest wooden cargo ships that would ever be built, although by war’s end wooden ships as big as 7,300 tons had been ordered.
All of these ships became surplus after the war. The USSB attempted to sell 462 wooden vessels at rock bottom prices with few takers. Today the remains of around 100 of these are located in the Mallows Bay National Marine Sanctuary on the Potomac River in Maryland. At the Sabine River shipyards all of the incomplete hulls were towed down river to the coastal marsh and burned to the water line. Some still remain in the mud.