Jim McNutt, owner of Marine Geographic, has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking possession of any artifacts salvaged from a vessel - believed to be a steamboat paddle wheeler - submerged at the First Creek tailwaters in Fort Loudoun Lake.
The vessel is believed to date from the 1800s or early 1900s.
McNutt filed a complaint with the court, contending, "This is a maritime claim based on the law of find and salvage whereby plaintiffs seek declaratory relief and a determination of their legal right to retain possession of certain artifacts found and salvaged on these unknown vessel (vessels) and a determination of their legal right to continue their salvage of these vessels."
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on Nov. 19. The vessel was "used in everyday commerce on the Holston River," now Fort Loudoun Lake.
The lawsuit states that in February 1976, Marine Geographic began diving in the river and found various artifacts on the unknown vessel or vessels.
"Plaintiffs now request permission of this court to carry out salvage, archeology and the building of educational public displays and exhibits along Volunteer Landing Riverfront for the East Tennessee Historical Society with donations from the plaintiffs for public education," the lawsuit states.
"Plaintiffs shall abide by all local, state and federal laws in their archeological salvage of unknown vessels and receive due reward for their efforts as in laws of salvage."
The lawsuit asks that Marine Geographic "be appointed substitute custodians of all artifacts which have been found and salvaged and all artifacts which may be found and salvaged in the future and that title to all artifacts found and salvaged be vested in the plaintiffs."