The schooner Samuel P. Ely is historically significance for its associations with the local history of Two Harbors, Minn., and the Minnesota North Shore. In addition, the remains of the Ely has sufficient structural integrity to be representative of an important vessel type, the schooner-barge.
Two Harbors has suffered few vessel losses, and only one disaster right in the harbor. The Ely's loss was witnessed by large numbers of the local inhabitants because of the very visible location of the event and because of its protracted nature. It was an event with all the potential for large loss of life. It involved several local citizens in the role of heroes, and because it was so small a community, the stories have been told and retold for generations. The daring rescue stands out in particular because of the strong maritime focus of Two Harbors.
The Ely wreck is also historically significant because of its structural integrity. While two significant areas of the hull have suffered damage, the principal portion of the hull is intact. This part of the vessel preserves the major characteristics of the 200-foot schooners designed around 1870 for the new 16 foot channels at the St. Clair River between Lake Huron and Lake St. Clair. The St. Clair Flats Ship Canal was completed in 1871. It was 18 feet deep, 300 feet wide, and a mile and a half long. This canal provided adequate depth for a new class of large, efficient cargo carriers. These very large sailing craft represent an important step in the solution of Great Lakes bulk carriers, when sailing ship designs were pushed to their limits. Because larger sailing craft were found to be impractical, they were either used as tow barges or out fitted with boilers and engines to become the first steam bulk freighters. In the absence of shipyard drawings, the Ely provides technological information about sailing ship design and construction. Few other vessels in the Ely's class have been found with any structural integrity, and none in the vicinity of Minnesota's North Shore. As far as is known, there are no other representatives of the 200-foot schooners so well preserved as is the Samuel P. Ely at Two Harbors.
|--Samuel P. Ely--
|--Construction and Career-- |--Description of the Wreck Event--|
|--Post-Depositional Impacts-- |--Present Description-- |--Significance-- |--Photographs--|
|--Minnesota Lake Superior Shipwrecks-- |
|--Minnesota Historical Society Homepage--|