Lake Superior Shipwrecks
George Spencer
Statement of Significance

The wreck site of the George Spencer and Amboy is significant for its association with the iron-ore industry of the Great Lakes. The George Spencer embodies the bulk freight steamer. The Spencer was built and employed exclusively for the state's nationally important iron-ore trade, one of Minnesota's most enduring symbols of natural wealth and productivity. In addition, it associated with one of the most historic storms known to the Great Lakes, the Mataafa Storm of 1905.

The remains of the Spencer retains integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. The vessel remains are located where they wrecked in the storm of 1905. The setting on the shore of Lake Superior and the proximity of the two vessels strongly link the vessels to their historical significance. While the remains are not immediately recognizable as vessels of a particular type, enough of the vessels remain to document basic design elements and how vessels of their type were constructed. It is important to remember that no floating vessels of their type remain extant and few shipwrecks of their type have been located.

The use of steamers towing barges, or consorts, dates to the 1860s. Initially, wooden sailing ships were towed behind large wooden steamers. A distinctive type of wooden consort was built from the 1880s through 1903, when supplies of oak timbers were dwindling and too expensive. The construction of schooner-barges as a distinctive type along the New England coast also began in the 1880s. Most of the New England-built schooner-barges had similar characteristics. They were generally flush-decked, baldheaded schooners, with the wheelhouse and crew's quarters aft. Hatches ran continuously from aft of the foremast to just forward of the after house. In contrast to Great Lakes-built schooner-barges, New England-built vessels had their donkey engines, chain lockers, and windlass mounted foreward on the hull.

The earliest schooner-barges operated on the Great Lakes were also converted sailing ships. The "cutting down" of old sailing ships into barges was common practice in the coastal areas of the United States by the 1880s. By the 1880s, however, a distinctive wooden consort type was being constructed on the Lakes. With the advent of steel hulls in the late 19th century, steel schooner-barges began to be constructed alongside the steam freighters. The design, construction, and use of consorts, and schooner-barges in particular, in the transportation of bulk cargoes on the Great Lakes is poorly documented in the historical record.


|--George Spencer-- |--Historic Description--|
|--Construction and Career-- |--Description of the Wreck Event--|
|--Post-Depositional Impacts-- |--Present Description-- |--Significance-- |--Photographs--|
|--Minnesota Lake Superior Shipwrecks-- |
|--Minnesota Historical Society Homepage--|