State Of Michigan

State of Michigan

N 43° 23.336′, W 86° 27.851′, off Whitehall, Michigan in 65’ of water

The State Of Michigan was built by Burger & Burger of Manitowoc in 1873 for the Goodrich Steamship Line, and originally bore the name Depere. She measured 165.0’ in length, with a beam of 29.0’, and drafted 10.0’ of water. Her home port was Detroit, Michigan.

After serving in the Goodrich line until speedier and larger boats became a necessity, the Depere was sold to Stephen B. Grummond in 1892 for $20,000. It was then that her name underwent a change. At that time, Captain Grummond also had her rebuilt and substituted a powerful engine from a dismantled tug for the two small engines which she originally carried.

She was profitably employed for some years between Detroit, Mackinaw City and intermediate ports and afterward ran for a short time between Detroit and Cleveland in opposition to the old established line. The failure of this move caused her to be laid up and made available for purchase. It was then that she passed into the hands of the Barry line of Chicago for a sum of $19,000. She was valued at $30,000 and was insured for $20,000.

During her life on the lakes, the steamer was stranded twice – once while under the Goodrich flag near Manitowoc, where she spent an entire winter on the beach, and later while in the Grummond line on the Charities in Saginaw Bay. It was there she nearly was abandoned as a total loss. She even outlived the gale of 1880, in which the Alpena met her fate.

On October 15, 1901, the Barry Line Steamer State Of Michigan sank at three o’clock in the morning about four miles northwest of White Lake harbor. The crew escaped in the boats, with the assistance of the U. S. Life-Saving Service crew at White Lake. She had left Muskegon the previous night bound for Manistee with a cargo of salt destined for Chicago. When off White Lake, the piston rod of the engine broke, and according to the captain’s report, broke a hole through the bottom of the boat through which the water poured with such force and quantity that the engine hands were driven out of the room.

The alarm was spread quickly and men were sent ashore for assistance. The accident occurred at 11 pm. The life saving crew and a tug went to her assistance and an attempt was made to tow the rapidly filling boat into port, but the water came in so fast that before she could be towed a mile inland she was abandoned to her fate and soon went down.

State of Michigan (as the DePere)

State of Michigan (as the DePere)

6 1/2 years later, in the summer of 1908, the Staud-Canalon Salvage Company went to work to salvage and raise the sunken steamer. By mid-autumn the salvagers reported the wreck covered with hundreds of tons of white sand, and unable to be raised.

The State Of Michigan lies off Whitehall, Michigan in 65’ of water right where news reports placed her. She lies perpendicular to the shore line, with her bow pointed straight to the beach. She is usually buoyed by local divers.

Her engine is upright and intact, and her engine cylinder is the highest point of the wreck, rising 20’ off the bottom. The large boiler is still in place, making for excellent exploration opportunities. The hull has been severely damaged by salvage operations, ice, and time in general. The timbers of the hull bottom are still visible, with the bow being the most intact part of the wreck, besides the machinery.

Zebra mussels and shifting sand do their best to obscure certain parts of the wreck, especially near the stern, regularly cover and uncover. The State of Michigan makes a great beginner dive.

 Images courtesy of Father Dowling Collection, UD Mercy

The following underwater photos were taken by Valerie van Heest in 2009: