Shipwreck off Ozaukee County gets historic designation

By Meg Jones - The Journal Sentinel

An 1850s shipwreck in Lake Michigan near Ozaukee County has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 81-foot schooner Northerner sank in 130 feet of water about five miles southeast of Port Washington in 1868. The Northerner is a rare example of a sailing vessel that was vital to the economy and transportation of the Great Lakes before the development of roads and rail networks.

There are only a few archaeological examples of small lakeshoring schooners discovered in Wisconsin waters. Information gleaned from visits to the Northerner has broadened knowledge for maritime historians and underwater archaeologists of lakeshoring vessel construction, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society, which administers the national register program in Wisconsin. The society recently learned of the Northerner's designation.

Lakeshoring schooners like the Northerner were an important link for small communities, connecting them economically and culturally with regional markets.

The Northerner was built in 1850 and worked on Lake Ontario carrying goods to ports in America and Canada. The last five years of its operation were on Lake Michigan during the lumber industry boom. It sustained hull damage while it was being loaded with wood at a pier in Amsterdam, Wis. and sank while being towed to Milwaukee for repairs.

Scuba divers venturing to the wreck can see an intact hull and deck and carved bowsprit as well as lumber stacked in the Northerner's hold.

The National Register of Historic Places is the official national list of historic properties and is maintained by the National Park Service.