The steam barge S.C. Baldwin
was built in Detroit, Michigan by the Campbell, Owen & Company for the Escanaba & Lake Michigan Transportation Co. in 1871 to carry iron ore from Escanaba, Michigan to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois. Her official registry number was 23957 and she had an insurance rating of A1 with a value of $40,000. Measuring 160 feet in length, 30 feet in beam, and with an 11.6 foot depth of hold, S.C. Baldwin
had a gross tonnage of 418 tons and only one deck. The steamer was outfit with an engine built by the Dry Dock Engine Works, and featured a cylinder with a 26 inch bore and a stroke measuring 32 inches, and featuring a “double crank”. Named for an officer of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, S.C. Baldwin
operated in this capacity until 1873. In March 1873, S.C. Baldwin
underwent major repairs in Chicago, including receiving a second deck to increase its carrying capacity. Following re-measurement, the vessel was given a rating of 634 gross tons. With the addition of a second deck in 1873, S.C. Baldwin
is reputed to be the first double decked steamer on the Great Lakes. The vessel operated in this configuration, hauling iron ore and towing consort barges laden with ore, until 1879, when it was purchased by the Inter Ocean Transportation Company of Milwaukee for $22,000, to haul iron ore and other freight from Escanaba to Milwaukee and Chicago.
continued to carry cargoes of iron ore from Escanaba for the Inter Ocean Transportation Company and the North Chicago Rolling Mill Company for the next three seasons. In April 1882 the vessel was sold to David Whitney Jr. of Detroit. At the time of its enrollment in 1882, S.C. Baldwin
still retained two decks. Near the end of April of that year, however, the vessel’s upper deck was removed in order to outfit the vessel for use in the lumber trade. With the removal of the upper deck, S.C. Baldwin
's gross tonnage was reevaluated and its gross tonnage was lowered to 412.5 tons. Following additional repairs in August 1882, the vessel’s gross tonnage was lowered once again to 356 gross tons. Additional changes were made to the vessel in 1884 following engine failure during a storm near Port Colborne. The vessel’s original engine was replaced with a 450 horsepower steeple compound engine.
The vessel continued to serve as a steamer in the lumber and coal trades with little incident, towing barges in consort regularly up and down Lake Michigan, until 1903 when S.C. Baldwin
ran into ice and sank in Green Bay, 10 miles north of the entrance to the Fox River, near Long Tail Point. The vessel had been heading from Green Bay to Buffalo, New York with a cargo of lumber when it struck an ice pack and sank. Reports of the vessel’s depth varied, but it was said that its bow was still breaking the surface of the water, and a salvage attempt was planned. The tugs Wright
went to raise the vessel a few days after the sinking, but only succeeded in moving the vessel 25 feet and causing its deck cargo of lumber to fall of the vessel, taking the upper cabin structure with it. Following this attempt, the S.C. Baldwin
was left underwater until the ice hardened enough for commencing recovery operations in February. By the beginning of April 1904, S.C. Baldwin
was raised and bought by Adolph Green of the Green Stone Company. Other than damage to the vessel’s keel and rudder, the vessel remained in good condition. In July, the Green Stone Company began converting S.C. Baldwin
into a stone barge, with its machinery being removed over the winter of 1904. By June of 1905, the vessel began operating as a stone barge for the Green Stone Company, hauling limestone from Sturgeon Bay to Milwaukee and ports up and down Lake Michigan’s coast. S.C. Baldwin
operated in this capacity, hauling stone for the Green Stone Company and the Leathem and Smith Stone Company until August 27, 1908.
On August 26, 1908, while in tow of the tug Torrent
, S.C Baldwin
and the scow #37 were headed southbound from Sturgeon Bay with cargoes of stone. As the vessels were passing Kewaunee, a storm began to blow and S.C Baldwin
began to take on water around midnight. Around 3am, the vessel capsized, dumping its cargo of stone, and remained unnoticed by the crew aboard Torrent
until sunrise. As the vessel overturned, two of the three men aboard jumped clear of the vessel, but one crew member, Tildman, remained clinging to the overturned vessel. Once the crewmen aboard Torrent
realized the situation, they cut the lines to the vessel, which had been holding it up, and S.C Baldwin
righted and quickly went to the bottom. Tildman was picked up by Torrent
and the tug began to search for the two missing crewmen who had jumped from S.C Baldwin
. Having no luck, Torrent
steamed to Manitowoc to alert the lifesaving station there. Torrent
and other vessels returned to the wreck site to retrieve scow #37 and continue to search for the missing men. It was not until 3pm on August 28, nearly 13 hours after S.C Baldwin
sank, that Captain George Heim was located. He had managed to don a life-jacket and cling to bits of wreckage until he was spotted six miles off of Kewaunee by crew members aboard the Goodrich steamer Caroline
. The other crew member, Jacob Witgen was not located until his body washed ashore north of Kewanee a few days later. In mid-September 1908, a diver from the Great Lakes Company offered to dive to S.C Baldwin
and recover everything of value, including the boiler, bilge pump, anchors, and cables.
In the mid-1970’s, sport fisherman located the wreck site of the S.C. Baldwin
and reported it’s location to area divers. Since that time, the site has been a popular dive site as it lies in only 75 feet of water.
Today, the vessel sits upright on the bottom with its stem post rising 30 feet off the bottom. The wooden hull and ship lines remain as in her original 1871 appearance. Everything from the waterline down, including deck features involved in the bulk cargo handling, such as the cargo hatches are can be found on the site. Sections of the vessel's hull, including the stern, stern deck, and transom, remain intact.
In the summer of 2015, maritime archaeologists and volunteers from the Wisconsin Historical Society completed a full Phase-II archaeological survey of the S.C. Baldwin
, producing a detailed site plan, and site description of the site which is kept at the Wisconsin State Historical Society's Maritime Preservation Office.