Shipwrecks of Lake Erie


The great lakes have seen many ships meet their end, but none so much as Lake Erie.

As the shallowest of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie is prone to sudden waves and wildly shifting sandbars. The steamer Atlantic succumbed to these conditions when, in 1852, a late night collision brought 68 of its weary immigrant passengers to watery graves. The 1916 Black Friday Storm sank four ships — including the "unsinkable" James B. Colgate — in the course of its 20-hour tantrum over the lake. In 1954, a difficult fishing season sent the Richard R into troubled waters in the hopes of catching a few more fish. One of the lake’s sudden storms drowned the boat and three man crew. At just 50 miles wide and 200 miles long, Lake Erie has claimed more ships per square mile than any other body of freshwater. Author David Frew dives deep to discover the mysteries of some of Lake Erie’s most notorious wrecks.


Well-illustrated with maps, historic and contemporary photographs, and various advertisements and news announcements, Frew’s engaging study ends with a reasoned, historically grounded discussion of the question, ‘Is Lake Erie’s Shipwreck Era Over?’

OHS Bulletin

About the Author

David Frew

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
David Frew photo

David Frew

Dr. David Frew is a native of the Lake Erie area and the author of numerous books on the local and maritime history of the region. He is a visiting professor at Mercyhurst College, and a former executive director of area historical societies. Frew is an avid racing and cruising sailor.