Shipwreck could be oldest found in Lake Erie

Shipwreck hunters believe a discovery made off Kelleys Island in 2015 may be the Lake Serpent, a ship which went down in 1829 while making a voyage from the islands to Cleveland. Dives over the last couple of years, plus the researching of historic records have led to this conclusion.

The Lake Serpent was built in Cleveland in 1821. The Lake Serpent carried cargo for eight years until it sank in late September or early October 1829. It is unknown what caused the ship to sink, but some experts believe it may have been the result of a bad storm. If this is true, the wreckage is the oldest ever found in the shallowest of the Great Lakes. On October 8, 1829, the Cleveland Weekly Herald reported that the Lake Serpent had left four weeks earlier to get stone from Put-In-Bay on the lake’s South Bass Island.

This is rather interesting because there is nothing in the history books about stone being quarried on Put-in-Bay according to Port Authority Records. It may be more likely that the stone was loaded from Kelleys Island. Exact knowledge of where the ship went down when it was returning to Cleveland might give clues as to where the ship was coming from. In any case, the size of the wreck, the stone cargo, and what appears to be a carving at the ship’s bow all point to it being Lake Serpent. Historical records show the ship had a serpent’s head carved near the front — an unusual feature for a vessel of that era.

It was also reported that the bodies of the vessel’s captain and his brother, Ezra and Robert Wright, washed ashore in Lorain County, Ohio in the first week of October 1829.