I.A. Johnson (1867)
I.A. Johnson site plan
Bow of I.A. Johnson looking aft
By The Numbers
Lives Lost
Depth (ft)
Service History

The wooden two masted scow schooner I.A. Johnson was built in the year 1867 at Dover Bay, Ohio by master carpenter J.A. Johnson. Her offical number was 12090. In the beginning of her life the scow was owned by numerous owners and carried mostly lumber but also a variety of cargoes such as: ties, bailed hay, feed, corn and pork.

In 1880 it I.A. Johnson was purchased by the Freyberg Brothers Company and was used in the lumber trade. the scow would transport lumber from the Freyberg Operations on Washington Island and upper Door County to the Company's mill in Sheboygan. The vessel would then return to the Island with groceries for the store owned by the Freybergs.
Final Voyage

On September 23, 1890, the scow schooner I.A. Johnson collided with the schooner Lincoln Dall off the mouth of the Black River just south of Sheboygan in Lake Michigan. The I.A. Johnson than sank off of Centerville, Wisconsin approximately eight miles north of Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Attempts to recover the vessel were unsuccessful. On 22 September, 1890 I.A. Johnson left Sheboygan late in the evening carrying $600 worth of provisions and goods aimed for the Freyberg store at Washington Island. The scow was ten miles north of Sheboygan when it collided with the 3-masted schooner Lincoln Dall around 2:00 am on 23 Septemeber. The Lincoln Dall was heavily laden with lumber for the port of Chicago. Thoroughly damaged by the collision, the scow began to take on water at the bow. I.A. Johnson’s five member crew, consisting of Herman Freyberg, Henry Freyberg, Larens Freyberg, Halver Halverson, and Nils Starke, were rescued and taken on the Lincoln Dall. The Lincoln Dall had suffered damage to her head rigging.

Around 3:30 am the Sheboygan Lifesaving Station spotted the struggling schooner northeast of Sheboygan and commissioned the tug Sheboygan to take her in tow. The crew of the I.A. Johnson reported the sinking of the scow around 10:30am. After the initial reporting the Lincoln Dall was towed to Milwaukee for repairs. Captain Ed. McCall of the schooner claimed that he saw the scow before the collision but he had the right of way and assumed that the Johnson would change her course. Neither vessel altered their course leading to the collision.

The lifesaving crew launched the surfboat and was towed to the location of the wreck by the tug Sheboygan. After reaching the scow around 2:00pm only her stern was sticking above the water. A towline was secured between the Sheboygan and the I.A. Johnson and the tug began towing the scow to Sheboygan. The attempt did not last long and after 4 miles the vessel’s stern broke and the I.A. Johnson sank completely, resting in about 100 feet of water northwest of the Sheboygan Life-saving Station. The vessel and its cargo were considered a total loss at a total of $2,700 dollars. The vessel was not insured. During the attempted salvage of the vessel, the coast guard recovered 2 bags of flour. Other reports indicated the some of the ship’s cargo washed ashore near Pigeon River three miles north of Sheboygan. The enrollment documents for the I.A. Johnson were officially surrendered at the Port of Milwaukee on 10 August 1894.

I.A. Johnson shipwreck site was discovered and reported to the Wisconsin Historical society by Steve Radovan in 2015. Society Archaeologists and volunteers surveyed the site in 2018.

The I.A. Johnson lies broken along the sandy bottom in 93 feet of water. The scow's stempost and centerboard stand upright while the stern and sides of the vessel have fallen outward. A large portion of the bilge still covered by sand. Overall, the site exhibits excellent preservation with major hull sections intact, including the centerboard and centerboard trunk, with its cap intact, windlass, bow section, and complete port and starboard sides. Few pieces of deck structure remain extant, and the majority of the vessel’s floor remains covered by sand. A thick layer of quagga mussels coat the exposed surfaces of the vessel. The vessel’s integrity, along with the presence of the entire vessel and operational deck implements, offers a wealth of information for archaeologists and researchers.
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