SS Robert Wallace

The Robert Wallace was a steam barge that sank on November 17, 1902, on Lake Superior near the town of Palmers, St. Louis County, Minnesota, United States, when her stern pipe burst, allowing water to leak into her hull.[2] Her wreck was found in 2006, and on October 14, 2009, the wreck of the Wallace was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[3]

The Robert Wallace underway
 United States
Name: Robert Wallace
  • David Wallace 1882–1899
  • James Corrigan 1899–1900
  • Wickliffe Transit Company 1900–1902
Port of registry:  United States
Builder: William H. Radcliffe
Launched: April 13, 1882
Completed: 1882
In service: April 26, 1882
Out of service: November 17, 1902
Identification: U.S. Registry #110518
Fate: Sprang a leak and sank on Lake Superior with no loss of life
General characteristics
Class and type: Bulk Freighter
Length: 220 feet (67 m)
Beam: 36 feet (11 m)
Height: 19.6 feet (6.0 m)
Installed power: 1 × Scotch marine boiler
Propulsion: 550 horsepower compound steam engine
Robert Wallace (bulk carrier) shipwreck site
Location7 miles (11 km) south of Knife River, Minnesota
Coordinates46°50′50″N 91°43′44″W
MPSMinnesota's Lake Superior Shipwrecks MPS
NRHP reference #09000828[1]
Added to NRHPOctober 14, 2009


The Robert Wallace (Official number 110518) was built in 1882 by William H. Radcliffe of Cleveland, Ohio, for David Wallace of Lorain, Ohio. Her homeport was Lorain. She had a length of 220 feet (67 m), a beam of 36 feet (11 m), and she had a 19.6-foot (6.0 m) depth.[2] She was powered by a small 550 horsepower compound steam engine and fueled by a single coal-fired Scotch marine boiler. She had a gross tonnage of 1189.56 tons and a net tonnage of 905.38 tons.[4][2] She was launched at 2:30P.M. on April 13, 1882.[5] She usually carried bulk cargoes such as iron ore, coal and grain.

On August 2, 1883, the Wallace was towing the schooner barge J.M. Hill when she and the Hill were struck by lightning in the Milwaukee harbor. Both the Wallace and the Hill had their foremasts heavily damaged.[6]

On November 18, 1886, the Wallace was towing her schooner barge David Wallace (which was named after Robert Wallace's brother) when she stranded near Marquette, Michigan. The Robert Wallace eventually caught fire and burned down. This incident almost ended her career but she was pulled off and repaired.[7][8]

On November 12, 1891, the Wallace ran aground because of low water in the Sheboygan Harbor. She was loaded with a cargo of coal at the time of the incident. She was also towing the David Wallace which was carrying 1,500 tons of coal and also ran aground.[9]

On October 22, 1896, the boilers of the Wallace started to leak and they needed to be repaired so that she could continue her journey. She was repaired in Harbor Beach, Michigan.[10]


On November 17, 1902, the Wallace departed the ore docks in Superior, Wisconsin laden with a cargo of iron ore.[7] She was also towing the schooner barge Ashland, which was also full of iron ore. About four hours after their departure the Wallace's stern pipe burst which caused a leak and started sinking her.[7] Her crew was transferred to the Ashland which then sailed to Two Harbors, Minnesota, and was towed to safety by the steel hulled tug Edna G. Even though the Wallace was loaded with iron she sank quite slowly. Hours after her crew abandoned her, the Wallace continued to float on the surface of Lake Superior with her lights still on. Even when she sank her pilothouse broke off and continued to float on the surface.[7]


The remains of the Wallace remained undiscovered until 2006 when an unidentified diver discovered the wreck near the shipping lanes.[11] The diver reported the location of her wreck to diver Jay Hanson, who conducted a dive with wreck hunter Ken Merryman in 2006; in 2007 Hanson and Merryman captured video footage of the wreck. Later, Merryman and diver Bob Olson identified her wreck after seeing her name, still painted in white lettering on her stern.[3]

The Robert Wallace today

The wreck of the Wallace rests relatively intact in 240 feet (73 m) of water about seven miles (11 km) south of Knife River, Minnesota. Close by are the wrecks of several ships including the wreck of the iron hulled steamer Onoko, the steel hulled package freighter Benjamin Noble, and the wooden hulled rafting tug Niagara, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[12] The wreck of the Wallace is the most intact known wooden hulled bulk freighter in Minnesota. Her hull is separated about 35 to 40 feet (11 to 12 m) at the stem, which makes exploring her wreck easier. Her hull separated at the stem either when she hit the bottom or when the iron ore crashed into her bow, breaking it in two. Numerous artifacts lie outside the wreck; it is illegal to remove any artifacts because she is protected by the state of Minnesota.[12]

The wreck was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 for its state-level significance in the themes of commerce, engineering, historical archaeology, and maritime history.[13] It was nominated for its significant research potential on the formative design and shipboard life of the first lake freighters.[14]


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. "Wallace, Robert (wooden)". Great Lakes Vessel Histories of Sterling Berry. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  3. Daniel, Stephen B. (2008). Shipwrecks Along Lake Superior's North Shore: A Diver's Guide. Minnesota Historical Society. pp. 61–62. ISBN 9780873516181.
  4. "Wallace, Robert". Bowling Green State University. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  5. "Robert Wallace (Propeller), U110518, 14 Apr 1882". 6 March 2018.
  6. "Robert Wallace (Propeller), U110518, lightning, 30 Jul 1883". Maritime History of the Great Lakes. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  7. "History of the Robert Wallace". Superior Trips. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  8. "Robert Wallace (Propeller), U110518, aground, 1 Nov 1886". Maritime History of the Great Lakes. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  9. "Robert Wallace (Propeller), U110518, aground (low water), 12 Nov 1891". Maritime History of the Great Lakes. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  10. "Robert Wallace (Propeller), U110518, boiler leaking, 22 Oct 1896". Maritime History of the Great Lakes. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  11. "Shipwreck Robert Wallace National Register of Historic Places Nomination". Great Lakes Shipwreck Preservation Society. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  12. "The Robert Wallace shipwreck site". Superior Trips. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  13. "Robert Wallace (bulk carrier) (shipwreck)". Minnesota National Register Properties Database. Minnesota Historical Society. 2009. Retrieved 2018-12-01.
  14. Meverden, Keith; Tamara Thomsen (2009-05-20). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Robert Wallace". National Park Service. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.