Sunshine (1856)
Site Plan of the Scow Schooner Sunshine
An Archaeologist Records Sunshine's Port Side Hull and Deck Shelf, Looking Aft
Sunshine's Centerboard Trunk and Broken Centerboard, Looking Forward
Sunshine's Centerboard Trunk, Broken Centerboard and Centerboard Winch Chain, Looking Aft
A Diver Records Sunshine's Stern Ramp, looking Forward
One of Sunshine's Remaining Port Side Maiinmast Chainplates
Sunshine's Port Side Hull with Deck Shelf, and Tie-Rod, Looking Aft
Sunshine's Stern
Centerboard and Centerboard Trunk Looking Forward
A Diver Hovering Over Sunshine's Stern
By The Numbers
Lives Lost
Depth (ft)
Service History

The scow schooner Sunshine was built in 1856 at the yard of Captain Jerry Dupree in Detroit, Michigan and the vessel was first enrolled at the port of Detroit on 15 August, 1856. As originally built, Sunshine measured 94 feet 8 inches in length, 23 feet 7 inches in breadth, with a 5 feet 1 inch depth of hold. The vessel was a scow schooner, meaning that it was very boxy, built with a flat bottom and vertical sides. These vessels were built to carry a lot of cargo into as many harbors as possible. The flat bottom would allow scow-schooners to enter unimproved harbors. During its first season the vessel hauled barrel staves on Lake Erie between Detroit, Michigan and Buffalo, New York. On 29 September the Sunshine had ran into the scow Nebraska while attempting to enter the Harbor at Cleveland, Ohio to shelter from a gale raging on the lake which damaged it's stern. Captain Jerry Dupree sold the Sunshine in 1857 to Captain Noah Dibble and William Penfield and was used primarily to carry Gypsum between Detroit, Michigan and Sandusky, Ohio.

On 9 May 1860, Sunshine delivered a cargo of plaster from Sandusky to Cleveland where it was loaded with 135 tons of coal and departed on the same day. On 5 June 1861, after loading Gypsum at Sandusky, the Sunshine struck a bridge while leaving port. The crew initially did not think that the vessel sustained any damage and the Sunshine sailed on. The crew later noticed that the ship was filling with water and reported it to the then Captain Thomas Dyer and the Captain seemed to pay the report no mind. Shortly after, Dyer went into the cabin and locked the hatch. The crew attempted to break into the cabin, but the Sunshine sank in twelve feet of water and Captain Dyer drowned inside of his ship. Leaving a wife and several children behind in Sandusky, Ohio.

Much like the schooner Home, there is the possibility that the Sunshine operated as another link on the Underground Railroad an "Abolition Boat". There is circumstantial evidence since the scow operated out of the Port of Sandusky, Ohio an important terminus on the Underground Railroad. There was a conspiracy in all levels of Sandusky society involved in Sandusky's anti-slavery movement. Other Lake Boats engaged in being "Abolition Boats" are only known because they were caught. Vessels that were used in this way that were successful are unknown and lost to history because they were successful. It is known that several of the owners of the Sunshine were U.S. Citizens residing in Canada yet owned and/or operated a US flagged vessel, landing it for cargo purposes on both sides of the international border. Other individuals associated with the Sunshine were stalwart abolitionists, such as H.F. Merry, co -signer as Secretery of Moss' shipping line was a registered member of the Liberty Party. It is written that after 1836, there was barely a time that Merry did not employ one or more fugitives or had runaway slaves living with him. Many of the merchants that consigned shipments aboard the Sunshine were known abolitionists and Anti-Slavery sympathizers.

Sunshine was raised and sold to B.F. Smith in August 1861 with Captain V.V. Hinman in command. Plaster Bed, Ohio was the vessel's new homeport. The ship reportedly carried 125 tons of plaster per shipment from Sandusky to Cleveland. Plaster came from a newly discovered plaster bed and all cargos were sold through the merchant William Wellhouse. The Sunshine would be rebuilt at Plaster Bed over the winter lay-up. From the 1862 season through the 1865 season Sunshine would haul cargos like barrel staves, cattle, flour, hay, lumber, salt, and wheat on Lake Erie. On the evening of 21 September 1863, the schooner D.R. Martin had collided with the Sunshine in the Detroit River between Detroit and Malden, Canada West. The hull of the Sunshine was damaged and the ship was taken to Detroit for repairs. Later on 14 April 1864, Sunshine would strike Stony Island in the Detroit River and the Captain, William B. Large Jr. made his way into Detroit to seek the assistance of a tug. The ship was again towed to the shipyard in Detroit for repairs.

During the night of 29 October 1865, the Sunshine was struck by a tug towing a string of several vessels while moored in the Detroit River. On 22 November 1865, the ship was driven against the pier while loading lumber at Lexington, Michigan on Lake Huron and sank. The tug Prindiville was dispatched from Detroit with a steam pump and succeeded in raising the Sunshine where it was brought to a Detroit shipyard for repairs. In 1867 the vessel was sold again and was used to carry lumber to Toledo and Sandusky from East Saginaw.

On 8 April 1868 the Sunshine was sold again to Captain Henry M. Haussauer of Milwaukee and David Donaldson of Cleveland. The Sunshine was enrolled and homeported in Milwaukee. The Sunshine was used to haul lumber between Manistee and Milwaukee and Chicago and would carry as much as 115,000 board feet of lumber per trip. On 6 April 1869 Donaldson filed a libel suit against the scow Sunshine and Henry M. Haussauer for sale of the ship likely before the case was heard on 17 July 1869 Donaldson sold his share of the ship to John Durbin of Milwaukee. Sunshine was recorded delivering three shipments of 2,200 ties each to Chicago from St. Joseph, Michigan and would bring lumber to Chicago and Milwaukee from Muskegon and Pere Marquette, Michigan.
Final Voyage

On 29 September 1869 the Sunshine was bound to Chicago, Illinois from White Lake, Michigan with a cargo of lumber where it encountered heavy seas from a southeast gale and started to take on eater. The captain then decided to make a run for shore and by the time the ship reached North Bay, the scow was sitting low in the water. The crew was then ordered to jettison the deck load of lumber in order to get the ship to sit higher in the water. After the Sunshine was beached on the north point of North Bay, Door County, Wisconsin. The crew left the ship sitting on the rock ledge, but the vessel was taking a pounding in the surf.

The propeller steamer Lady Franklin passed the stranded Sunshine the next day and reported "A heavy sea was constantly breaking over her, which increased in violence as the day advanced and must have shaken her up badly." A few days later the tug O.B. Green was dispatched from Baileys Harbor to aid the stricken schooner. It was the tug captain's opinion that the ship would be a total loss. The scow schooners outfit was removed and shipped back to Milwaukee on the schooner Yankee Trader and the wreck of the Sunshine was abandoned.

Months after the wreck of the Sunshine was stripped and left on the point, on 26 November and 9 December 1869 it was reported that the wrecked scow schooner was surprisingly gotten off by recent strong gales in the region. The ship was lifted by the high water and drifted into the vicinity of the harbor where it was secured inside of North Bay. After examination, it was found that the hull was badly broken and the bottom was loosened from the sides. Questions remained as to whether the ship was still beyond repair or if it was worth nothing more than recovering the lumber in its hold. As such, the tug Kitty Smoke was engaged in August 1870 to work the vessel, but was unsuccessful in raising it. With the question of recovery still looming, the owners never surrendered the vessel's enrollment as a total loss. Though the wreck was abandoned where it lay and eventually forgotten.

Although broken up, the wreck of the scow schooner Sunshine lies in shallow water at the bottom of North Bay, 1.1 miles southeast of the entrance. Due to being sunk in shallow water, the wreck is easily accessible. The wreck of the Sunshine was located by Door County Adventure Rafting in 2021 and investigated archaeologically in May 2022. Portions of the wreck are periodically covered and uncovered by shifting sand. Due to this, the wreck remains largely undisturbed. The vessel sits upright and broken with many hull components located underneath the sand.
Confirmed Location     Unconfirmed location
Attractions (1)
Frank O'Connor Buoy
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