Civil War-Era Ship Found in Lake Huron

Keystone State was last seen in 1861
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2013 11:31 AM CST

(Newser) – The Keystone State, which set sail in 1849 as one of the largest and most luxurious steamer ships of its time, sank during a November storm in 1861 with 33 people aboard. No one knew its fate for more than a week, until debris was spotted, and it's been lost since then—until now. A shipwreck hunter found it at the bottom of Lake Huron, 40 to 50 miles from where it was last seen and far from where David Trotter expected to find it. Some historians say the ship may have been secretly hauling Civil War supplies when it sank, the Detroit Free Press reports—and there are even rumors it may have been carrying gold, according to Michigan Live.

By 1857, after an economic downturn and the rise of the railroad, many ships like the Keystone State were considered too pricey to operate. By 1861, however, thanks to the Civil War, the Keystone State had been taken out of storage and refurbished. It picked up its cargo in Detroit—officially, farm implements, hardware, and grain, but "it was an emergency shipment," a historian explains; he adds that typically a ship wouldn't have made a trip like that so late in the year. Also suspect: The ship wasn't carrying any lifeboats (everyone aboard died in the wreck), which could indicate it left in a hurry. Trotter's team found her using side-scan sonar in July, and has since made 30 dives at the site—which turned up no gold or cargo. Some speculate that the crew dumped the cargo in a bid to save the ship. (Another ship was found this year in Lake Superior.)

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