CHESTERTON | Just off the shore of the Indiana Dunes State Park lies the J.D. Marshall, which sank during a squall 101 years ago.
The shipwreck killed four men that night, and its story continues to intrigue visitors at the park, said Brad Bumgardner, an interpretive naturalist for the state park.
Bumgardner tells the tale of the Marshall during monthly school programs and to thousands of visitors. The park houses a re-created pilot house inside the Nature Center, and the giant propeller from the 154-foot wooden sand sucker lies next to the park's pavilion.
"It is pretty unique because it is our shipwreck, just off the beach. It is the story of death and tragedy just off our shore," he said.
The wreckage is about a half mile offshore in about 30 feet of water, he said.
The story of the Marshall begins before its wreck on the night of June 10, 1911. A year before, the Muskegon burned and sank while lying in dock in Michigan City. The Marshall had been dispatched to salvage parts from the Muskegon and take them back to Chicago.
Capt. Leroy Rand and his crew of 10 had finished their task and were headed toward Chicago, Bumgardner said, when the Marshall sprang a leak just off the shore of the now-defunct town of City West. Rand anchored the ship offshore as a three-man crew went down below to do repairs.
"Then something happened," Bumgardner said.
An unexpected squall started blowing and rocking the fully loaded Marshall. Twenty-foot waves washed over the ship.
The ship — in seaman's terms — "turned turtle," flipping upside down still intact to the bottom of Lake Michigan. The three crew members below drowned. Rand swam to shore and commandeered a lifeboat to help rescue the rest of the crew.
While most crew members were rescued, the ship's first mate, Martin Donohue, also was found dead, still in his life jacket. The speculation is Donohue was killed instantly when the ship flipped. His watch was stopped at 1:45 a.m., the time of the accident.
The Marshall left a legacy, Bumgardner said.
In the 1980s, salvagers were caught by the U.S. Coast Guard attempting to raise the Marshall. The artifacts they had taken were confiscated, and many, including the propeller, are on display at the park.
"That was a huge catalyst to shipwreck preservation," he said.