By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 18, 2021 at 7:37 AM

Fans of Milwaukee – and Great Lakes – history who haven't signed up for the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society's mailing list are missing out.

The group – headquartered at Milwaukee Public Library, which I featured in this story a few years back – is very active in terms of collecting and archiving documents and photos and objects and also hosts numerous events each year.

The newsletter is an easy way to find a cool old photo in your inbox every week (sometimes more). And, because these folks are history buffs like the rest of us, there's always a story behind the photo and the WMHS folks share that story.

Here is today's story – written by Suzette Lopez – from the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society:

On this day May 18, 1894, the Milwaukee-built canal schooner LEM ELLSWORTH foundered on Lake Michigan taking her crew of seven with her.  

She was loaded with a cargo of stone blocks bound from Jacobsville, Michigan, to Chicago.  She passed the Straits on May 15 and is believed to have gone down in the gale of May 18.

The ELLSWORTH had been witnessed in distress about 15 miles from Chicago by two residents who telephoned Evanston to alert the life-savers.  They reported she was so low in the water that only the spars and deck line could be seen above the waves.  In the rigging, two black specks could be seen.  The boat suddenly careened and pitched bow first beneath the waves. About a week later, some of her wreckage was found near Kenosha but her crew was never found.

The gale of May 18 was thought to have claimed three others as they were still missing a week after the storm but they finally were able to limp into a port – the EMMA L. NEILSON from Milwaukee which was built in 1883 and sank in 1911, the G. ELLEN which was built in 1854 and broke up in a storm in 1901 and the JASON PARKER from Racine which was built 1859 and stranded on South Manitou in 1900.

The ELLSWORTH was a three masted, 138 foot canaller built by Wolf and Davidson in 1874.  She carried various cargoes including stone blocks, paving stone, coal, wheat and corn.

A canaller was a specific schooner built for trading through the Welland Canal, They measured 135-138 feet in keel length and had a straight stern.  These schooners took full advantage of the canal locks before they were lengthened in 1882.

Many canallers were built on the lakes but only six were built in Milwaukee.  Wolf and Davidson Shipyards built the PENOKEE in 1872, ITASCA, G. G. HOUGHTON, and TYPO all in 1873, and LEM ELLSWORTH in 1874.  The Milwaukee Ship Yard Co. built the MYOSOTIS in 1874.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.