H.L. Whitman (1855)
H.L. Whitman’s keel, keelson and frame with a portion of the ship’s mainmast step. Photo by Christa Waller
An archaeologist records the H.L. Whitman. Photo by Christa Waller
An archaeologist records the H.L. Whitman. Photo by Christa Waller
H.L. Whitman’s keel with remnants of her ceiling planking. Photo by Christa Waller
Site Plan
By The Numbers
Lives Lost
Depth (ft)
Service History

June 23, 1856: The two-masted wooden schooner H.L. Whitman was built by Salmon Ruggles and launched at his shipyard into the Milan Canal on the Huron River, eight miles from the shores of Lake Erie. The vessel was named after banker Henry L. Whitman from Cleveland, Ohio.
Over her career, she carried produce, salt, grains, general merchandise and lumber on all of the Great Lakes.

November, 1858: While at anchor off Port Huron, Michigan the Whitman was struck by the schooner Miami Belle.

June, 1859: During a squall the mainmast was carried away and some railing damaged. Towed to Detroit by the tug Rederic for repairs.

July, 1860: Reassessed for insurance. She was valued at $8,000 and her rating was reduced to A2.

April, 1861: Stranded at the foot of Grassy Island on the Detroit River.

October, 1861; Collided with the scow schooner Lime Rock.

April, 1862: She had a hard grounding on Fighting Island in the Detroit River. Pulled off by the tug Oswego.

April, 1865: Re-measured. 117.10' length, 25.10' beam, 10.23' depth of hold, 208.43 tons. She was assigned her official number of 11187.

Last Document Of Enrollment Surrendered: Cleveland: 1/14/1870: "Lost".
Final Voyage

"On the night of October 11, 1869 while bound from Oconto, Wisconsin to Chicago with a cargo of lumber, H.L Whitman’s owner/captain E. Finn navigated too closely to Racine’s North Point (now known as Wind Point) and struck the reef. Her deck load was thrown overboard in an attempt to lighten the vessel, but the ship filled with water and sank. A steam pump was requested to be sent up from Chicago the next day but it was delayed in arrival. A south wind for the next three days created heavy seas that pounded the vessel on the reef. On 14 October, the tug Mosher arrived from Chicago towing the schooner John S. Wallace as a lighter. After only one day of work on the stranded vessel, Captain Brewster of the tug Mosher reported that the H.L. Whitman was too far gone, and would be left to go to pieces. He salvaged her sails and returned to Chicago." Great Lakes Sailing Canallers and Other Underwater Archaeological Investigations from the 2016 Field Season

The wreckage of the H.L. Whitman lies perpendicular to shore in about ten feet of water on a rocky, silty bottom. Much of the wreck was salvaged in 1869 such as machinery, rigging and hull components and over time many pieces of wreckage washed up on the shoreline. Today, all that remains is the ship’s keel, keelson, sister keelsons, part of some frames, along with some of the outer planking and ceiling planking of her bilge section.
Confirmed Location     Unconfirmed location
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