SS Selah Chamberlain

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Selah Chamberlain.jpg
Selah Chamberlain in Cleveland, Ohio
 United States
NameSelah Chamberlain
  • Alva Bradley 1873–1883[1]
  • Bradley Transportation Company 1883–1886[1]
Port of registry United States, Cleveland, Ohio
BuilderQuayle & Martin[4]
LaunchedApril 1, 1873[2]
Maiden voyageMay 11, 1873[3]
In serviceMay 1, 1873[1]
Out of serviceOctober 13, 1886[1]
IdentificationU.S. Registry #115147[1]
FateSank in a collision
General characteristics
Class and typeLake freighter
Length212 ft (65 m)[1]
Beam34 ft (10 m)[1]
Height14.8 ft (4.5 m)[1]
Installed power2 x Scotch marine boiler
PropulsionNon-condensing engine
SELAH CHAMBERLAIN (bulk carrier) Shipwreck
SS Selah Chamberlain is located in Wisconsin
SS Selah Chamberlain
SS Selah Chamberlain is located in the United States
SS Selah Chamberlain
Location2 miles NE of Sheboygan Pt. in Lake Michigan
Nearest citySheboygan, Wisconsin
Coordinates43°46′12″N 87°39′24″W / 43.769933°N 87.656683°W / 43.769933; -87.656683Coordinates: 43°46′12″N 87°39′24″W / 43.769933°N 87.656683°W / 43.769933; -87.656683
Built1873 in Cleveland, Ohio
ArchitectQuayle & Martin
Architectural styleBulk freighter
MPSGreat Lakes Shipwreck Sites of Wisconsin MPS
NRHP reference No.100003288[5]
Added to NRHPJanuary 7, 2019

SS Selah Chamberlain was a wooden hulled Great Lakes freighter that sank in Lake Michigan in 1886, 6 miles (10 km) off the coast of Sheboygan, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, United States after being rammed by the steamer John Pridgeon Jr. with the loss of five lives.[4] On January 7, 2019, the wreck of Selah Chamberlain was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was given the reference number 100003288. She was the first shipwreck listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2019.[5]

Selah Chamberlain[edit]

Selah Chamberlain (May 4, 1812 – December 27, 1890) was a railroad developer involved in the iron industry and banking. He was born in Brattleboro, Vermont on May 4, 1812, to Selah and Abigail (née Burnett) Chamberlain. At the age of 21, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts where he obtained business training as an apprentice working in a grocery store. In 1835, Chamberlain formed his own company, and was contracted to build an extension to the Erie & Pennsylvania Canal.[6] His company was later contracted to help build the Wabash & Erie Canal. In the 1840s, he supervised improvements to the St. Lawrence River. In 1844, Chamberlain married Arabella Cochran, and had two children named James and William. In 1847 he went back to Vermont to build pieces of a new railroad. Chamberlain was largely responsible for the construction of the Rutland & Burlington Railroad, and the Lake Champlain Railroad. In 1849, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and founded the Chamberlain, Gorham, & Perkins bank, which would merge into the Merchants National Bank in 1880. Also in 1849, he was contracted to build the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad. In 1850, he was one of the co-founders of the Cleveland Iron Mining Company. Chamberlain died on December 27, 1890, and was buried in the Lake View Cemetery.[6]



Selah Chamberlain in Cleveland, Ohio circa 1875

Selah Chamberlain (Official number 115147) was built in 1873 by Quayle & Martin shipyard of Cleveland, Ohio. Her wooden hull was 212 feet (65 m) long, her beam was 34 feet (10 m) wide and her hull had a depth of 14.8 feet (4.5 m). She originally had a gross tonnage of 894.69 tons.[4][3] She was powered by a two-cylinder high pressure engine, the cylinders of which each had a 30 inch (76 cm) bore; the engine was fueled by two 7.3 by 7.95 feet (2.23 m × 2.42 m) tubular firebox boilers. Both the engine and the boilers were built by the Globe Iron Works Company of Cleveland, Ohio.[3] She also had three masts and at the start of her career, a single deck. In her early career she was also classified as a steam barge.[4][3] She was generally used to carry cargo such as iron ore, coal and grain between Duluth, Minnesota and Buffalo, New York. She often regularly towed a schooner barge. She was originally built for Alva Bradley of Cleveland, Ohio.[3]

Service history[edit]

On May 11, 1873 while Selah Chamberlain was on her maiden voyage bound from Cleveland, Ohio for Escanaba, Michigan where she would load a cargo of iron ore, she ran aground on Bois Blanc Island while trying to negotiate the Straits of Mackinac. Fortunately, Selah Chamberlain received no major damage and was able to resume her journey the next day.[7]

In 1874 she had a second deck added, increasing her cargo carrying capacity, and increasing her gross tonnage to 1207.01 tons and her net tonnage to 963.98 tons.[4][3]

In May, 1881 Selah Chamberlain received repairs at the Globe Dry Docks at Cleveland, Ohio. In 1883 she was transferred to the Bradley Transportation Company.[1][3]

On November 15, 1883 Selah Chamberlain lost her main mast, and got her rigging entangled in her propeller on Lake Superior. In 1884 she was chartered to carry wheat from Duluth, Minnesota to Buffalo, New York for three runs.[1][3]

In October, 1884 while towing the schooner barge John Martin, Selah Chamberlain encountered a gale and was driven against the Canadian Pacific Railway coal docks in Port Arthur, Ontario, causing approximately $1,500 worth of damage to them.[1][3][7] The Duluth News Tribune published the following article about the event:

Early Sunday morning the (steam) barge Chamberlain towing the schooner John Martin, arrived light to take out wheat. The wind was strong from the northeast, and as usual under such circumstances, a powerful current was running out of the canal. The barge entered all right, but the current caught the schooner and through her upon the bulkhead of the South pier. To prevent serious damage to the vessel, the tow line was cast off, and she swung around the pier and down towards to the beach on the South side. Both anchors were dropped, but the distance was so short and her momentum so great that they dragged and she went high on the beach, after breaking down some of the trestle work leading to the lighthouse at the end of the pier. The tugs in the harbor were powerless to render any assistance until the sea went down. Yesterday the tugs Mollie Spencer, Nellie Cotton, and Brower, and the barges Chamberlain and E.B. Hale were busy in an effort to dredge and pull her off. It was not until the middle of the afternoon that they succeeded, and the Martin reached her dock. She is not damaged. In making for the Northern Pacific dock when she entered the harbor Sunday morning, the barge Chamberlain ran clear through the middle of the wagon bridge between that dock and the Northwest Coal docks. The bridge was impassible yesterday, but the barge was not injured.[7]

In 1885 Selah Chamberlain received new upper decks and was re-caulked. She spent the entire year hauling iron ore and grain with the schooner barge John Martin and several other schooner barges.[7]

Final voyage[edit]

On October 13, 1886, Selah Chamberlain and her schooner barge, Fayette Brown were bound from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Escanaba, Michigan to load up a cargo of iron ore which they would then transport to Cleveland, Ohio. As they were sailing north, they encountered a dense fog.[8] At approximately 8:30 p.m., and about 7 miles (11 km) off shore, Selah Chamberlain's crew heard another vessel's whistle directly ahead.[9] Captain A. Greenly immediately signaled her whistle once, and then steered her to port. However, the collision was unavoidable and Selah Chamberlain was struck in her port bow by the slightly larger, and newer John Pridgeon Jr.[9][7] After the collision, the crew of Selah Chamberlain cut Fayette Brown loose, so if Selah Chamberlain sank, she wouldn't sink Fayette Brown as well. Selah Chamberlain sank approximately 15 minutes after the collision. Over the next few years, a number of unsuccessful operations to raise Selah Chamberlain were carried out.[9]

Selah Chamberlain today[edit]

The remains of Selah Chamberlain lie 2 miles (3.2 km) north east of Sheboygan Point in 90 feet (27 m) of water.[10][11] Her wreck is broken into three pieces. A lot of her lower hull remains on the site, and her fan tail stern is split, exposing her two boilers and her engine. Her wooden floors are reinforced with steel I-beams. Her tandem engine, and its decorated cast iron frame rise 25 feet (8 m) from the bottom of the lake.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Chamberlain, Selah". Great Lakes Vessel Histories of Sterling Berry. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  2. ^ "Selah Chamberlain (Propeller), U115147, 1 Apr 1873". Maritime History of the Great Lakes. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "CHAMBERLAIN, SELAH (1873, Bulk Freighter)". Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Service History". Wisconsin Shipwrecks. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Weekly list 20190201 (aggregate list)". National Park Service. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Chamberlain, Selah". Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e "2018 Field Report" (PDF). Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  8. ^ "Wisconsin's Historic Shipwrecks" (PDF). Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c "Final Voyage". Wisconsin Shipwrecks. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  10. ^ "On this day in 1886, the steamer Selah Chamberlain sank off Sheboygan after colliding with another vessel, the John Pridgeon Jr". Wisconsin Historical Society-Facebook. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  11. ^ "SS Selah Chamberlin (+1886)". Wrecksite. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  12. ^ "Today". Wisconsin Shipwrecks. Retrieved January 3, 2019.