Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Shipwrecks in Wisconsin

shipwrecks in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Historical Society
Dictionary of Wisconsin History.

 

In 1856, the packet Toledo, at dock in Port Washington's harbor, was dashed to pieces in a sudden storm. Only two of the 80 persons on board escaped. Other famous lake tragedies include the steamer Sea Bird, which left Milwaukee on the morning of April 9, 1868, and burned to the water's edge a few miles out of port with about 70 lost; the side-wheeler, Alpena which floundered in a terrific gale, October 16, 1880, and disappeared with every soul on board; Vernon, October 29, 1887, 35 lost; Chicora, January 21, 1893, 27 lost; car ferry Pere Marquette No. 18, September 9, 1910, 33 lost; and the steamer Superior-ME, August 20, 1920, with 35 lost. A gigantic storm on Lakes Huron, Superior and Ontario, November 9-11, 1913, saw 17 vessels sunk or run aground (244 lives lost). A series of storms in September and October, 1929, sank four sizeable vessels within 52 days with 104 fatalities. For a complete list of shipwrecks in Wisconsin waters and details on the ships involved, visit our Great Lakes Shipwreck's Web site at: http://www.wisconsinshipwrecks.org/explore_map.cfm

Here's a list of the best-known shipwrecks, each with a citation to a newspaper story describing it:

Alpena:
Floundered in storm on Lake Michigan, Oct. 16, 1880, with all on board lost, Sheboygan Daily Press, Oct. 15, 1932; Manitowoc Herald-News, Oct. 18, 1923.

Appomatox:
Wreck of the Appomatox in 1905, in Milwaukee Journal, April 28, 1919.

Christopher Columbus:
Wrecked in 1917, in Milwaukee Journal, Apr. 13, 1917.

Elmira:
Wrecked in Dec., 1871, in Milwaukee Journal, (Green Sheet), Oct. 7-14, 1929.

Kate Kelly:
Wreck, in Racine Journal Times, Dec. 20, 1951.

Lady Elgin:
Wrecked off Winnetka, Ill., Sept. 8, 1860. Most of 300 lost were Milwaukeeans, in Frank Leslies Illustrated, Vol. 10 (Sept. 22, 1860); Milwaukee Sentinel, Sept. 9, 1860; Sheboygan Daily Press, Sept. 8, 1943; Milwaukee Journal, May 9, 1952.

Lusern:
Sunk in storm, 1886, in Superior Telegram, Oct. 15, 1913.

Manistee:
Wrecked, with all aboard lost, Nov., 1883, in Barfield Progress, Dec., 1926; Ashland Daily Press, March 7, 1935 and Jan. (or June) 2, 1935.

Milwaukee: Grand Trunk Carferry:
Wrecked Oct. 214, 1929, in Milwaukee Sentinel, Oct. 25, 1929.

Niagara:
Burned off Port Washington, Sept. 214, 1856, in Milwaukee Sentinel, Aug. 30, 1935; Milwaukee Journal, Oct. 1, 1931, Oct. 25, 1931, May 28, 1926.

Phoenix:
Burned off Sheboygan, Nov. 21, 1847, in Wisconsin Magazine of History, March, 1924 (article by Wm. Van Eyck); Sheboygan Press, Aug. 25, 1916; Sheboygan Press-Telegram, Nov. 20, 1922; Wisconsin State Journal, April 6, 1924; Sheboygan Daily Press, Dec. 30, 1936.

Rouse Simmons: ("Christmas Tree Ship"):
In Kewaunee Enterprise, Dec. 22, 1949.

Sea Bird:
Burned to the water's edge a few hours out of Milwaukee, April. 9, 1868, in Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, April 10, 1868; Historical Messenger (Milwaukee Co. Hist. Soc., 1950), Series 6, #3.

Senator:
Sunk Oct. 31, 1929, in Lake Michigan in collision with Marquette, in Milwaukee Sentinel, Dec. 14, 1929; Milwaukee Journal, Dec. 144 1929; Port Washington Herald, Dec. 18, 1929.

Toledo:
Wrecked in Port Washington harbor, Oct. 22, 1856, in Milwaukee Sentinel, Aug. 30, 1935; Milwaukee Journal, May 28, 1926, Oct. 1, 1931, Oct. 25, 1931.

Vernon:
Wrecked on Lake Michigan, Oct. 29, 1887, in Frank Leslie Illustrated, Vol. 65 (Nov. 12, 1887).

Woodruff :
Loss of bark, Woodruff, Nov. 1, 1878, in Sheboygan Press, Nov. 5, 1941.

WHS Library reference file

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