Wreck of the Ellinwood

Schooner Ellinwood White Lake Michigan

weathervane ellinwoodThe Great Lakes have claimed hundreds of vessels large and small. Some became famous like the Edmund Fitzgerald taken by Lake Superior. Others became enduring mysteries like the fabled Griffin lost on her maiden voyage of exploration in August 1679. Some were no more than a skiff that went missing. Some became ghost ships of legend and lore. The Schooner Ella Ellinwood was a working vessel, a three masted schooner built in 1869 in Saginaw, Michigan. She was kept busy transporting lumber products and saw service transporting lumber from White Lake to Chicago, and other destinations, after the Chicago fire.  Her destruction by Lake Michigan would have been just another shipwreck except for the odd incident that occurred a year later.

There were no omens or portents that the run to Wisconsin on that fateful day would be the final voyage of the Ellinwood. The schooner had a history of success with only an occasional mishap. Documented mishaps include a lost jib in a collision with a tug at Chicago, October 14, 1873; and the time she ran aground at White Lake in October 1874.  There was no hint of a jinx or an unlucky cloud hanging over the ship and it was all pretty routine, just 85 miles or so from White Lake to Milwaukee. On September 29, 1901 Captain Thomas Flagstad took her out with a 150 ton cargo of bark, bound for Milwaukee. The schooner was within sight Wisconsin when a combination of smoke and stormy mist hid the shoreline from view. She ran aground on rocks near Fox Point a few miles north of Milwaukee. In the early morning hours the Captain and crew abandoned ship and made for safety. Though their yawl was overturned in the heavy waves, all hands made it to shore.

Lake Michigan continued to storm through the night. It wasn’t until the next morning that the men could attempt to run lines out and try to get her afloat. It was to no avail. The was continued to punish the proud vessel until her hull was pounded to pieces. The schooner and her entire cargo were a complete loss. Though there was nothing of the Ellinwood left to salvage, no lives had been lost. The matter would have disappeared into the past and been forgotten except for a strange twist of fate. The following year a ships nameplate “ELLINWOOD” washed up on the shore of White Lake, where the disastrous voyage had begun. Somehow the nameplate had drifted across Lake Michigan and made it into its' home port of White Lake. That nameplate is on display at City Hall in Montague, Michigan.

The Montague City Hall is on the north edge of downtown. They operate a small museum in the basement. That is where the nameplate is displayed along with a complete history of the Ellinwood. When you first arrive in town you will see a gigantic weathervane. It is the largest weathervane in the world. The ship atop the main pole depicts the schooner Ella Ellinwood.

Last Document of Enrollment Surrendered: Grand haven: 12/19/1901: "Vessel Lost".

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The monthly newsletter is published on the 1st of each month and is delivered by email, www.travelinmichigan.com .

 

The monthly newsletter is published on the 1st of each month and is delivered by email, www.travelinmichigan.com .

 

The monthly newsletter is published on the 1st of each month and is delivered by email, www.travelinmichigan.com .

 

The monthly newsletter is published on the 1st of each month and is delivered by email, www.travelinmichigan.com .