On 3 April 1894, WILLIAM H. BARNUM (wooden propeller freighter, 219 foot, 937 gross tons, built in 1873, at Detroit, Michigan) was carrying corn on her first trip of the season. She was reportedly in poor condition and was insured only for this voyage. Her hull was cut by floating ice and she sank in the Straits of Mackinac about two miles east of present Mackinac Bridge. The tug CRUSADER got her crew off before she sank.
William H. Barnum
Depth: 50′ to 75′
Dimensions: 219′ x 35′ x 21′
Cargo: Corn, from Chicago for Port Huron
Cause of Sinking: Ice damage
Built: 1873, Detroit Michigan by J.M. Jones
Date Lost: April 3, 1894
Propulsion: Steam, single cylinder, 2 boilers
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Location: N45° 44.708′ W084° 37.866′
Built in 1873 in Detroit MI, the wood steamer William H. Barnum, plied the Great Lakes for more than 20 years before reaching her demise. She was under the command of the 29 year old Capt. William Smith, on his first voyage as master of the Barnum when she sank. The Barnum left Chicago harbor on April Fools Day 1894 loaded with corn for Port Huron. The Barnum left Chicago harbor along with 18 others ships, including the steamer Minneapolis, which sank the day before the Barnum. The heavy weather and grinding ice in the Straits proved to be to much for the Barnum and she started taking on water. The tug Crusader came to her rescue and tried to move her into shallow water, but her efforts were also halted by the ice. The Crusader took the crew of the Barnum and they watched her vanish beneath the ice and waves on the morning of April 3, 1894. No lives were lost.
The William Barnum now lies upright and with a mostly intact hull in 74′ of water, facing due east, 5.5 miles southeast of the bridge in Lake Huron. The decks have fallen except for the bow area, where there are still penetration opportunities. The boilers and engine are also available for inspection. The stern is jumbled as a result of her rudder being removed with the use of dynamite in 1969. Her propeller is still visible through the wreckage. The rudder can be seen in St. Ignace between the Ace Hardware and the city marina.