Appomattox (Shipwreck)

Off Atwater Beach, Shorewood, Wisconsin

Largest wooden steam freighter on the Great Lakes that ran aground in 1905



Photo taken by Unknown Photographer ca. 1900



Off Atwater Beach in Whiteflsh Bay lay the remains of the largest wooden-hulled, steam-powered bulk freighter ever built on the Great Lakes. Resting in approximately 15 to 20 feet of water, and flattened by nearly a century of wind, waves, and ice, the Appomattox's steel-strapped wooden hull is well preserved. Built in 1896 by the well-known West Bay City, Michigan shipbuilder James Davidson, the 319-foot long Appomattox carried industrial commodities, predominately iron ore and coal, back and forth across the Great Lakes between 1896 and 1905. The Appomattox embodies an era when the drive to expand industrial output and to maximize profits led to constant innovations in shipbuilding. In the Appomattox, we can see the unfettered power of the Industrial age as well as echoes of the Midwest's passing forest frontier. The Appomattox meets the registration requirements of Criteria C and D of the property type bulk freighter as described in the Multiple Property Documentation Great Lakes Shipwrecks of Wisconsin. (Cooper and Kriesa, 1992). The work of an acknowledged master shipbuilder and embodying the distinctive characteristics of the Great Lakes steam bulk cargo vessel, Appomattox is considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places at the state under Criterion C. The remains of the largest wooden-hulled steam bulk carrier constructed on the Great Lakes, the wreck of the Appomattox has yielded and is likely to yield more information important in Great Lakes maritime history and is eligible at the state level under Criterion D.

From the From the National Park Service NRHP Inventory Nomination Form 2004

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on January 20, 2005
Reference number
NR name
APPOMATTOX (Shipwreck)
Areas of significance
Archeology - Non-Aboriginal; Maritime History; Architecture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction; D - Information Potential
Property type
Historic function
Periods of significance
1875-1899; 1900-1924

Update Log 

  • March 11, 2016: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated status and added photos