Trinidad (1867)
Histroic Photo of the schooner Trinidad wintering at Sarnia, Ontario, 1873
Diver Zach Whitrock descends on the Trinidad
Photo of the Wheel of the Trinidad located on the bottom to the starboard side of the stern next to the wreck
The Trinidad's Intact Deck House
Sonar Image of the Trinidad
Still Image of the 3d Photogrammetry Model of the Trinidad. Can be viewed here
Trinidads Bow
Stern of the Trinidad
Capstan on the Deck of the Trinidad
View inside the Aft Cabin of the Trinidad. Note the dishes.
By The Numbers
Lives Lost
Depth (ft)
Service History

Trinidad was built in 1867 at a makeshift wilderness shipyard at Grand Island, New York. The Oswego-based owners John Keller and Aaron Merriam most likely chose the site due to its proximity to still standing white oak necessary for the ship's contruction. Keller and Merriam had sought out a relatively unknown shipwright named William Keefe to build them a canal schooner for the grain trade. Trinidad was outfitted with wire rigging which was still uncommon on the Great Lakes at the time.Trinidad was launched 14 September 1867 and arrived in Buffalo on 3 October. The vessel recieved much high praise in the press at the time being described as "a truly fine specimen of marine architecture", "handsomely" and "staunchly" built.

Trinidad's first voyage was carrying a cargo of pig iron from Oswego to Chicago on 28 October 1867. The vessel would make regular trips between Milwaukee, Chicago, and Oswego. Trinidad would carry cargoes like coal or iron west across the lakes and return with midwest grain. The ship's first mishap occured in November 1871, while transiting the St Clair Flats, Trinidad collided with the schooner Hoboken. Damage was slight, but on the return trip the vessel sustained significant damage during a gale on Lake Huron, ending the Trinidad's shipping season early. Later in 1873, Trinidad was bound from Chicago to Kingston with a cargo of wheat when a scow struck the vessel amidships doing significant damage to the railing and bulwarks ending the shipping season early while the vessel was laid up for repairs.

Trinidad's other notable mishap occured in August of 1877 where the vessel sprung a leak while loading a cargo of salt at Oswego and immedately went to drydock for repairs spending the winter of 1877-78 being repaired. Although reported as recieving new decks and being caulked from stem to stern, the vessel experienced a significant drop in value in hull rating. Vessels qualified for the grain trade had to carry an A hull rating, once it dropped to B vessels were then forced into the less lucrative coal or lumber trades. In the 1879 season, Trinidad's owners, the Finn brothers did not have the ship inspected or rated as it likely would have recieved a lower rating, preventing the vessel from carrying most grain cargos. Regardless, in 1879 Trinidad switched to operating in the lumber trade between Suamico and Chicago.

Later in November 1879, Trinidad lost its jibboom after colliding with a freight house in Chicago. Later in December Captain George Richards was called in to take the Trinidad from Milwaukee to Oswego when Captain Beggs, refused to take the vessel due to the lateness of the season. Captain Richards had taken Trinidad out from Milwaukee but was beaten back by a nor'wester. The vessel was then stripped and laid up in Milwaukee. Many criticized Captain Beggs decision to not go, but a crewmember reported that 's riggin was so old that it was not dependable in a storm and during a trip from Chicago to Milwaukee, the vessel took on six inches of water in half an hour while running before a fair wind.

In 1880, the Finn Brothers arranged for Trinidad to take an coal cargo to the mining operations on Silver Islet along Lake Superior's Canadian north shore. They also hired a new captain, John J. Higgins who had served as first mate aboard another Wisconsin Shipwreck, the Grace Channon when it foundered off Milwaukee in 1877. Trinidad made the voyage to Silver Islet but after making it over the reef, the vessel was found to be leaking so badly that the pumps could not keep it afloat and Trinidad was allowed to sink alongside the dock in thirteen feet of water. The vessel was pumped out, unloaded and towed to Windsor, Ontario by the Canadian tug Prince Alfred. It was later reported that Trinidad had a ten foot long hole in the bottom. After which, the vessel was towed again to Port Huron for repairs and the vessel was quickly back to work taking on a cargo of iron in Marquette. Trinidad spent the remainder of the 1880 season hauling cargos of iron ore on Lake Superior.

Towards the end of the 1880 season, a block had fallen from aloft nearly hitting Captain Higgins and putting a dent in the deck, it had scraped his leg. Despite this, Trinidad's owners arranged to the ship to deliver a cargo of coal from Oswego to Milwaukee. The ship made it halfway to Port Huron where it was stripped and laid up for the winter due to the lateness of the season and Trinidad's condition. After which, the owner, Captain Finn put the vessel up for sale for use in the lumber trade, he was able to find buyers in Oconto based lumber dealers Devillo Holt and Uri Balcom. Captain Finn sold them the Trinidad for $10,000 in 1881 even though the vessel was insured for $8,000 the year prior.
Final Voyage

The final voyage of the Trinidad began 5 May 1881, the plan was to sail the vessel to finally deliver its pervious season's cargo of coal and then sail up to Oconto to begin its new career in the lumber trade. The vessel set out from Port Huron in heavy spring ice in the company of the schooner Moonlight The vessel than required a tow from the tug Mocking Bird along with the schooners Barbarian and Corsican to pass through the ice. By the evening of 10 May, Trinidad made it to the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal, the schooner encountered moderate waves after leaving the canal and headed south along the shore of Lake Michigan toward Milwaukee. As water leaking in was a common occurrence aboard the Trinidad, there was little concern when the mate informed the captain that there was rising water in the hold. The crew set to the pumps, but the water continued to rise. Trinidad was outfitted with extra pumps, and the ship continued on course feeling no immediate danger. In the early morning, 11 May 1881, Trinidad suddenly lurched forward and began to sink quickly. Captain Higgins and the crew barely had time enough to reach and launch their small yawl boat from the stern.

Trinidad settled so fast that the ship's mascot, a large Newfoundland dog asleep inside of the cabin by the stove was unable to escape and went down with the ship. All of the crew made it off and they rushed so fast that many men did not have coats or rain gear. Captain Higgins ordered the crew to row for the lights of Ahnapee (now Algoma). They battled waves for eight hours making shore at 2pm The citizenry of Ahnapee revived the frozen food and dry clothes before they caught the schooner J.B. Merrill which took them to Chicago. Upon reaching Chicago, Captain Higgins told his story to marine reporters and did not blame the owners, he speculated that the schooner's hull may have been cut by ice while in the Straits of Mackinac. The insurance records indicate that Trinidad did not receive any of the regular maintenance that a wooden ship requires and the vessel was essentially sailed into the bottom of the lake.

Trinidad's documents were surrendered in Chicago on 18 May 1881. The wreck of the Trinidad was relocated in deep water by maritime historians and shipwreck hunters Brendon Baillod and Robert Jaeck in July 2023. Trinidad is in remarkable shape, all hull components are present within the wreck site and the wreck sits complete on the bottom. The fact that the deck house is still intact and two out of the three cargo hatches on the deck remain closed attests that Trinidad's sinking was slow. On other wooden schooner wrecks air trapped inside the wreck as its sinking builds up and typically explodes out of deck houses and hatches.
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