Old book sheds new light on Great Lakes shipping history

By Sharon Hill


An archivist who was digging through old documents in the basement of a Harrow chuch says she has unearthed a 19th century ledger that provides a rare glimpse into Great Lakes shipping history.

"It was as I went through the book and went closer to the back ... I realized this was something unbelievable and exceptional," Debra Majer said Wednesday.

The Catholic diocese of London archivist was holding a treasure trove: a ledger dating to the 1800s with hundreds of names of ships' captains and vessels with the dates they sailed and their fates.

She held 255 pages detailing brigs, tugs and steamships that sailed the Great Lakes.

She knew she'd found something unique when she saw a list of steamboats and propellers lost since 1857.

At the bottom was a legend identifying how the ship was lost, whether it was foundered, run ashore, burnt, sunk by collision, exploded, sunk by ice, capsized or dismantled.

One vessel is recorded as the Phoenix, 1846 with a dot to indicate it was burnt.


Great Lakes shipping history Debra Majer Catholic diocese of London Phoenix