The Northerner was a two-masted schooner measuring 81 feet in length (24.7 meters). On November 29, 1868, she went down in Lake Michigan, five miles southeast of Port Washington, Wisconsin, United States. The ship’s hull is submerged in 130 feet (40 meters) of water.
The depth of Northerner is somewhat debatable. According to some sources, the Northerner is under 130 feet (40 meters) of water, while others claim it is 135 feet (41 meters). The foremast has fallen but is still attached to the wreck. The mast in the middle of the ship is no longer on or near the wreck. The ship is mostly intact, though the pilothouse was ripped off when it sank.
John Oades built the Northerner in Clayton, New York, in 1850. Henry T. Bacon, a New York merchant, was her original owner, and Russell Disbrow was her co-owner and operator. Northerner primarily operated on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River at the time. She was damaged in a storm on Lake Ontario in 1859 and rebuilt at Wells Island, New York. The ship was sold to Chicago, Illinois, interests in 1863. Northerner was then involved in lumber shipping on Lake Michigan.
Prior to the development of road and rail networks, the Northerner was a rare example of a vessel type that was critical to the Great Lakes’ economic and transportation infrastructure. Lakeshoring schooners like the Northerner served as an important economic and cultural link for hinterland communities.
The Northerner suffered hull damage while loading at a pier in Amsterdam, Wisconsin, in 1868, and was subsequently lost while being towed by the Cayauga to Milwaukee for repairs. There were no fatalities.
This shipwreck is protected by both state (Michigan) and federal laws (USA). Divers visiting this shipwreck must not remove any artifacts or structures. Anyone apprehended and convicted of removing “artifacts/structures” faces confiscation of their boats, cars, and equipment, as well as up to two years in prison and stiff fines. Anyone with information about illegal artifact removal should contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at 800-292-7800.