Fathoms Deep But Not Forgotten: Wisconsin’s Historic Shipwrecks

Part V: Milwaukee County 1900-1925


Brendon Baillod


This article is the fifth in a continuing series examining the historical maritime archeology sites in Wisconsin.  This installment will review the historical shipwrecks of Milwaukee County in its modern period.  By 1900, Milwaukee’s Lake trade had begun to change from grain to manufactured goods and fewer schooners were seen.  Most vessel traffic was in the form of large, modern lake steamers, which began to dominate the bulk freight trade.  Milwaukee’s waterfront started to look much like it does today, with the modern straight-cut into the harbor and many of the buildings seen today along the waterfront.  The period 1900 – 1925 saw a surge in abandonments and scuttlings as the old sail and small steam vessels of the 1800s were replaced by giant bulk freighters and gas powered boats.  Environmental laws did not prohibit the sinking of derelicts until well after WWII and many vessels were simply disposed of in the depths. The following list details all the historic total loss shipwrecks and hulls known in Milwaukee County from 1900 to 1925.  This list includes only registered commercial vessels.  Countless small, unregistered pleasure boats grace the bottom off Milwaukee but these are outside the scope of this article.


Schooner G. Ellen (10194) – Built 1854 at Detroit, MI by Daniel Meisel - 78.6 x 21.3 x 5.0 ft., 71.41 gt. BOM., rebuilt c. 1865 by Hicks - 92.6 x 21.9 x 6.4 ft., 85.88 gt. – The schooner G. Ellen was bound from Pine Lake, MI to Racine when she became waterlogged 20 miles off Milwaukee with a cargo of wood on September 15, 1901.  Her crew was taken off by the steamer Nyack and the schooner eventually drifted ashore on the Michigan coast near Grand Haven where she was abandoned.  She is often incorrectly stated to be a Milwaukee wreck. (Racine Daily Advocate – 9/20/1901)                              


Schooner Ella Ellinwood (8604) – Built 1869 at East Saginaw, Michigan by Dixon - 106.0 x 26.0 x 9.0 ft., 163.17 gt., 3 masts – The Ellinwood went aground north of Fox Point, 14 miles north of the Milwaukee harbor entrance on September 21, 1901 due to smoke from the city.  Her crew escaped in their yawl, which capsized nearly drowning them.  The schooner broke up on the 24th.  Her remains are likely still in the area but have never been identified. (1902 US Lifesaving Service Report)


Schooner A.B.C.F.M. (12978) – Built 1854 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin by George Barber as the J & A Stronach - 109.9 x 23.9 x 2.0 ft., 143 gt. – This schooner was renamed for the American Baptist Council Foreign Mission in October 1881, serving briefly as a floating bethel.  After a long career as a lumber carrier, she was abandoned in the KK River in July 1900.  She was towed out and scuttled off Milwaukee in the summer of 1902.  Her remains have yet to be found.  (MPL – Runge Index Card)                   

Schooner Dale (unregistered) – Built c.1890 at Milwaukee - 87 x 19 x c.5 ft. – Milwaukee shipwreck researcher Gary Arlov tentatively identified the remains of a small wooden schooner inside the breakwater off the South Shore Yacht Club as the schooner Dale, lost July 16, 1903.  The author would welcome additional historical information about the vessel and loss, as no matching vessel record or loss account can be located in official registers. (Jerry’s Shipwreck Charts)


Schooner Rough and Ready (110686) – Built 1885 at St. James, Michigan - 41.0 x 14.7 x 4.3 ft., 12.0 gt. – The little coastal schooner Rough and Ready was lost when she sank near Milwaukee on November 10, 1904.  Further research would be needed to determine the exact location. (Walter Hirthe Wrecklist)  


Schooner John V. Jones (75766) – Built 1875 at Manitowoc, Wisconsin by G.S. Rand - 125.2 x 27.0 x 8.6 ft., 236.02 gt., 3 masts.  Bound Traverse Bay to Milwaukee with lumber, the old J.V. Jones became waterlogged and capsized on October 20, 1905 about midlake.  The Pere Marquette 18 took her crew off, but two had died of exposure. The hull was recovered by the revenue cutter Tuscarora and towed to Milwaukee where it was scuttled at an unknown location. (Milwaukee Sentinel – 10/26/1905)            


Wooden Steamer Appomattox (107236) – Built 1896 at West Bay City, Michigan by James Davidson - 319.8 x 42.0 x 23.0 ft., 2643.0 gt. – The steamer Appomattox was the largest wooden steamer ever built on the Lakes.  She was lost November 2, 1905 when she went aground with a coal cargo just off present-day Atwater Beach due to smoke from the city.  Her machinery was salvaged but her massive hullbed is now a popular dive site.  (Milwaukee Sentinel – 11/5/2005)    


Wooden Steamer Hiram R. Bond (95966) – Built 1888 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Milwaukee Ship Yard Co. - 113.0 x 26.0 x 7.7 ft., 230.53 gt.  The Hiram R. Bond was built as a steamer but later cut down to an unrigged scow and used as a sandsucker.  She was returning to port in dense fog with a load of sand on May 29, 1905 when she was hit by the Pere Marquette 20 just outside the harbor piers and sent to the bottom.  Accounts state she was dynamited and the site dredged, but a site located by Jerry Guyer is tentatively attributed to her. (Walter Hirthe Wrecklist, Buffalo Evening News)       


Schooner Cape Horn (4345) – Built 1857 at Huron, Ohio by William Barker - 121.4 x 25.4 x 9.7 ft., 267 gt. – The Cape Horn was a 2 masted schooner that had a long career before being abandoned at Milwaukee.  She was loaded with rocks, towed out by a fire tug and scuttled 100ft. off Iron St. on September 16, 1910.  This places her right off the South Shore Yacht Club.  Her remains have never been identified and may have been removed (Walter Hirthe Wrecklist)      


Schooner Kate Howard (14169) – Built 1867 at Holland, MI by Waring – 97.3x21.9x6.4 ft., 96 gt., 2 masts – The schooner Kate Howard capsized 13 miles north of Milwaukee with a lumber cargo.  She was recovered and towed to Milwaukee where her lumber was removed.  She was then towed to Bay View, beached and abandoned (see photo).  Her remains may still lie in the area, but have not been identified. (1912 US Lifesaving Service Annual Report)


Fish Tug Dan Costello (6854) – Built 1874 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Nathan Brooks - 48.0 x 12.8 x 6.3 ft., 22 gt.         , later 27.92 gt. - The Dan Costello was a large steam fish tug that ran out of the Jones Island Fisheries.  She was scuttled and abandoned near Jones Island on November 8, 1913.  The exact location is unknown. (Herman Runge Card File)                       


Schooner Black Hawk (2140) – Launched May 14, 1861 at East Saginaw, Michigan by Thos. A. Estes - 98.6 x 24.4 x 8.3 ft., 178 gt., rebuilt 1891 to 122 x 24 x 8.1 ft. – After a long career, the Black Hawk lay for many years in the KK River bone yard until October 13, 1913 when she was towed out and burned as a spectacle for the Perry Centennial Celebration.  Her remains have never been identified. (Vessels Built on the Saginaw)               


Steamer Reliable (110435) – Built 1880 at Detroit, Michigan by Thomas Davis - 91 x 23 x 6 ft., 97 gt., built as a schooner barge, converted to a sand sucker c. 1890. Size also given as 87.0 x 21.9 x 5.6 ft., 69 gt.  Captain Wm Krumer and his two young sons almost died when the sand-sucker Reliable capsized and exploded 2.5 miles south of the harbor entrance on August 16, 1913.  They were taken off by a passing steamer, but the Reliable was reduced to kindling.  Her remains may be one of the debris fields located by Jerry Guyer. (WMHS Soundings – vol. 41 no. 4)     


Wooden Steamer Volunteer (161592) – Built 1888 at Trenton, Michigan by John Craig & Son - 270.8 x 41.6 x 20.4 ft., 1944.76 gt., later 2316 gt. – The big wooden steamer Volunteer was part of a large fleet of aged wooden steamers laid up at Milwaukee after 1910.  Most were scrapped, but the Volunteer burned and was scuttled about a mile south of the present day South Shore Yacht Club on August 16, 1914.  Her substantial remains are now a popular dive target inside the south breakwall. (MPL – Vessel File)    


Tug Welderine No. 2 (90004) - Built 1869 at Tonawanda, New York by F.N. Jones - 72.0 x 16.0 x 8.0 ft., 53.47 gt., built as Mollie Spencer, renamed in 1913 – This large tug was abandoned at Milwaukee in 1911.   On November 12, 1914, she was towed out into the Lake and intentionally burned and sunk.  Her remains have yet to be identified. (Herman Runge Card File)      


Tug Mae Martel (92678) – Built 1895 at Saugatuck, MI by Brittain - 71.2 x 14.5 x 6.4 ft., 38.0 gt. – The big wooden tug Mae Martel was laid up at Milwaukee on June 15, 1915 and scuttled after a long career in the lumber industry.  The exact location is unknown.  (Runge Card File)


Tug Sioux (95759) – Built 1883 at Green Bay, Wisconsin by P.F. Thrall at Johnson Yard      - 71.6 x 16.5 x 8.6 ft., 52 gt., built as the Henry Marshall, renamed Jesse Spaulding in 1884, renamed Sioux 1900 – The Sioux was a wooden harbor work tug that had outlived her usefulness.  In the summer of 1918 she was stripped and towed to a point behind the north breakwall near the old city garbage disposal plant and scuttled next to the remains of the tug Golden.  The site has never been located and may have been cleared by subsequent harbor work. (Herman Runge Wrecklist)


Tug Golden (86194) – Buit 1892 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Wolf & Davidson - 63.9 x 17.6 x 8.0 ft., 44.0 gt.  The wooden tug Golden was a harbor work tug that was abandoned for old age.  In the summer of 1918 she was stripped and towed to a point behind the north breakwall near the old city garbage disposal plant and scuttled next to the remains of the tug Sioux.  The site has never been located and may have been cleared by subsequent harbor work. (Herman Runge Wrecklist)


Schooner George W. Westcott (10335) – Built 1863 at Sacketts Harbor, NY by S. Reed Jr. - 81.66 x 24 x 9.16; 111.69 gt., rebuilt 1876 at Milwaukee, 111.5 x 24.66 x 7.66, 122.87 gt. – The old schooner George W. Westcott was intentionally beached and stripped just north of Bay View in 1918.  Her remains are likely to have been removed. (Herman Runge Card File)


Tug S.S. Coe (23450) – Launched May 16, 1868 at Buffalo, New York by George H. Notter - 66.3 x 15.0 x 6.8 ft., 31.45 gt. – The old wooden tug S.S. Coe was abandoned at Milwaukee in 1917.  In the summer of 1919, she was towed out off Milwaukee and scuttled in deep water.  Her remains have yet to be identified. (Herman Runge Wrecklist)


Tug Starke (116269) – Built 1889 at Sheboygan, Wisconsin by Rieboldt & Wolter - 65.3 x 19.1 x 7.7 ft., 49.24 gt. – The wooden steam tug Starke had a long career at Milwaukee before being laid up some time after 1910.  On November 12, 1919, she was sunk in Milwaukee Harbor in front of the Chase Bag Company. (Herman Runge Card File)


Schooner Rosa Belle (21302) – Buit 1863 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Leonard H. Boole - 100.1 x 26.3 x 7.1 ft., 132 gt., 2 masts, later 115 gt., owned by House of David sect. – On October 30, 1921, the schooner Rosa Belle was bound from High Island to Benton Harbor, MI when she capsized in a gale about midlake off Milwaukee.  When she was discovered by the passing steamer Ann Arbor #4, all her crew of 11 had vanished.  Her hull as towed to Racine, stripped and beached north of the Racine Lighthouse.  She is often incorrectly stated as a Milwaukee area wreck. (Racine Journal – 10/20/1921)       


Steamer John D. Dewar (76571) – Built 1885 at Ludington, Michigan by A. Betters - 72.0 x 15.5 x 7.0 ft., 52.0 gt. – On September 19, 1921, the little passenger steamer John D. Dewar was being towed from Chicago to Sturgeon Bay for a rebuild by the steamer Silver Spray when she sprang a leak and sank behind the Milwaukee breakwall.  She was abandoned in place with her engines and boilers being salvaged.  Her upper works were burned in 1923.  Her location has not been found. (Herman Runge Wrecklist)       


Steamer Norlond (136131) – Built 1890 at Manitowoc, Wisconsin by Burger - 126.5 x 25.0 x 9.5 ft., 407.56 gt. as the Eugene C. Hart, remaned Norlond 1919. – On November 13, 1922, the passenger steamer Norlond was bound for Milwaukee in a storm when she sprang a serious leak.  She ran for shore, but foundered just over a mile out.  Her 19 crew and passengers escaped.  Her wreck was found in 1958 by John Steele, his first wreck discovery. (MPL – Runge Vessel File)


Steamer M.F.D. No. 23 (130711) – Built 1896 at Sturgeon Bay by Rieboldt & Wolter as the August F. Janssen, renamed in 1903 - 100.5 x 24.7 x 10.2 ft., 133 gt. – The MFD #23 had a long career protecting the Milwaukee waterfront from fire before outlasting her usefulness in 1922.  On July 27, 1923, she was towed out and scuttled directly off the straight cut.  Her likely remains were located by Jerry Guyer in January 2005 and were the subject of an archeological survey. (Runge Card File)


Barge Transfer (80268) – Built 1872 at Gibraltar, Michigan by Linn & Craig as sch. bge. William McGregor - 200.0 x 33.9 x 13.7 ft., 732 gt., rebuilt as barge Transfer at Milwaukee, 1910. - The big barge Transfer had been owned by the Milwaukee Western Fuel Co, who abandoned her in 1910.  After many years, she was towed out into the lake and intentionally sunk on December 6, 1923.  Her unloading machinery was removed prior to her scuttling and placed in the EMBA.  Her possible remains are believed to have been located by Jerry Guyer. (Runge Card File) 


Gas Fish Tug Mayflower (213449) – Built 1915 at Detroit Harbor, Wisconsin by John Ellefson - 33.5 x 9.4 x 3.9 ft., 12 gt. – Three lives were lost when the fish tug Mayflower burned about 8 mi. off Milwaukee on June 11, 1924.  2 burned bodies were found on raft about 8 miles east of Port Washington, but the vessel had gone to the bottom. (Herman Runge Wrecklist)


Steamer Lightship No. 57 (none) - Built 1891 at Toledo, OH by Craig Shipbuilding Co. - 90 x 20 x 8 ft., 130 gt. – This venerable Great Lakes lightship was owned by the District 12 US Lighthouse Board and had served as the Grays Reef Lightship for many years.  She was abandoned in Milwaukee Harbor in 1924 after being sold to the South Shore Yacht Club as a clubhouse vessel.  Her remains are now buried. (SHSW Shipwreck Database)           


Sand Sucker Ellen (136358) – Built 1893 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Milwaukee Dry Dock Co. as a scow - 121.0 x 30.6 x 8.0 ft., 350 gt.- The sand sucker Ellen was abandoned at the foot of Lyon St. in the east branch of the Milwaukee River in 1924 due to age and condition.  Her remains were removed and scrapped in the summer of 1931 by Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. (WMHS - Soundings)



Copyright © 2009 Brendon Baillod and Great Lakes Shipwreck Research