Solving the 100-year mystery of the lost Great Lakes Lumber Company fleet

Photo By Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society

WHITEFISH POINT, Mich. – The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS) along with Marine Sonic Technology, has discovered two vessels that sank in Lake Superior in 1914.

On Nov. 18 of that year, the Steamship C.F. Curtis was towing the schooner barges Selden E. Marvin and Annie M. Peterson from Baraga, Michigan, to Tonawanda, New York, on Lake Superior, all with a load of lumber. The three ships soon found themselves battling through howling winds, snow squalls and punishing waves. The Curtis, Marvin, and Peterson were never seen again. Not one person from the trio of vessels survived; 28 lives were lost that day.

C.F. Curtis underwater highlights.mp4 from The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum on Vimeo.

In 2021, GLSHS located 9 lost vessels including the C.F. Curtis. According to a statement from the society, this discovery was a huge highlight for the team that summer. The ship that went missing over 100 years ago, was only a piece of the puzzle though. What about the Marvin and the Peterson? One year later in the summer of 2022, after a lot of work and a hint of luck, the crew in the Shipwreck Society’s research vessel, David Boyd, came across another shipwreck within a few miles of the Curtis. After putting the organization’s ROV on the wreck it soon became apparent that the Marvin had been located.

 Finding the Curtis and the Marvin are significant historic discoveries in American history as they were all part of the Hines Lumber industry, one of the biggest lumber companies of that era. In one horrific storm, the company lost almost one-quarter of its fleet.

When the GLSHS first saw the name Selden E. Marvin is an event that can never be reproduced. "The raw emotion and joy of a new find is intense, and we had cameras rolling capturing our excitement!

“It was a career highlight to have witnessed the discovery of the Marvin,” said GLSHS board member and maritime historian, Ric Mixter. “As it not only solved a chapter in the nation’s darkest day in lumber history, but also showcased a team of historians who have dedicated their lives towards making sure these stories aren’t forgotten.”

“The combined losses of the C.F. Curtis, Selden E. Marvin and Annie M. Peterson have comprised one of the more tragic stories of shipwreck on the Great Lakes and certainly became one of the Lake Superior’s enduring mysteries. 

“To locate the Curtis and Marvin in a space of two years has been amazing … now we just have to find the Peterson,” said Bruce Lynn, executive director of the GLSHS. 

Darryl Ertel, director of marine operations for the GLSHS., added, “It’s one of our goals to find the Peterson. It would be great to know where all 3 wrecks are lying on the bottom of Superior, and finally be able to tell the stories of the Curtis, Marvin and Peterson.”


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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).