August 28, 1826: The wreck of the steamer Zillah

On this day on Lake Superior in 1926, the wooden steamer Zillah sunk off Michigan’s Whitefish Point. The 200-foot, 750-ton vessel had been built in West Bay, Michigan, in 1890 by F. W. Wheeler & Co. and originally christened Edward Smith. In 1900 she was renamed Zillah. On her last day she encountered a storm while carrying a load of limestone and began to take on water. Luckily for Captain O. M. Blodgett and his crew, the 580-foot steel hulled William Schiller was nearby and pulled along adjacent to the foundering vessel. The Whitefish Point Coast Guard Station launched a lifeboat, which transferred the Zillah’s crew to the William Schiller. The Zillah then capsized and sank in about 250 feet of water. The wreck of the Zillah was discovered in 1975 and has become a fairly popular dive site. The Coast Guard station stood from 1923 to 1951. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point contains a replica of the lifeboat used during the rescue of the Zillah’s crew. The Coast Guard Lifesavers’ motto was “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.”

The Zillah. (Image: Great Lakes Vessel Index)

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