Ottawa (1874)
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By The Numbers
Lives Lost
Depth (ft)
Service History

The Ottawa was allegedly the first wire rigged schooner on the Great Lakes, rather than hemp rope. She spent her life carrying lumber on both shores of Lake Michigan. The Ottawa had survived a fire in 1884 when the crew drilled holes in the hull below the water line to send her to the bottom to put out the fire. Meanwhile, much of the pine lumber cargo was saved by throwing it overboard. Three days later, the Ottawa was pumped out and raised. She was then repaired and put back into service.
Final Voyage

"Between 6 and 7 am on Thursday, April 13, 1911, a storm coming up out of the southeast caught the two masted schooner Ottawa unawares. She was just off Algoma, headed for Chicago with a full load of lumber from Manistique, Michigan. The ever increasing wind and seas, with a heavy fog, caused the captain to bring the ship about and head back to the shelter of Sturgeon Bay Canal. After coming about, the captain, thinking he was well off the land, steered too close in and the Ottawa, with the wind against her, fetched up on the rocky reef off Stony Point, six miles north of Algoma. The crew remained on board the vessel for several hours, hoping that she would soon float free or that the wind shift or die down. The high winds continued and the crew, afraid that the ship would start to break up, decided to try to make the beach which could now be seen through the lifting fog. While they were lowering a small gasoline powered yawl the seas caught it and drove it against the side of the Ottawa with such force that a hole was stove in the bow of the yawl. The men patched the hole with a quilt and a piece of board. As soon as this was done they placed their belongings in the small craft and started for the beach about three quarters of a mile away. They had covered about half the distance when the patch gave way and the yawl sank, leaving the five men helpless in the water. They tried to swim the rest of the way in but one by one they sank beneath the icy waters of Lake Michigan. On the shore spectators watched with horrified eyes but were unable to go to their assistance. The life-saving crew at the canal station was notified shortly afterward and immediately went to the scene of the disaster. They were able to find three of the bodies that afternoon and recovered the other two the next day."

The wreck of the Ottawa sets in only twenty feet of water. Ice and the waves have pounded the remains, little is left but the bilge and some decking.
© 2019 - Wisconsin Sea Grant, Wisconsin Historical Society