CHESTERTON | Indiana officials dedicated the state's first ever underwater preserve at the Indiana Dunes State Park on Monday at the site of the shipwreck of the J.D. Marshall.
"It's in honor of the men who served on the J.D. Marshall that we dedicate this preserve today," said Mike Molnar, program manager for the Lake Michigan Coastal Program.
The Natural Resource Commission approved the creation of the preserve on Sept. 17. The 100-acre J.D. Marshall Preserve is due north of the pavilion at the Indiana Dunes State Park.
The site is open for diving and fishing but precautions will be in place to try to prevent treasure-hunters from removing items from the wreckage and to keep boat anchors from damaging it.
Dan Bortner, director of Indiana State Parks and Reserves, said the J.D. Marshall is a preserve dedicated to preserving and teaching about the maritime history on Indiana's Lake Michigan shores.
"We're here today to honor that history in a way that's never been done before," Bortner said.
The J.D. Marshall was built in 1891 in South Haven, Mich., and converted from a timber hauler to a sand barge in 1910 after its sister ship, the Muskegon, burned and sank near Mount Baldy in Michigan City.
On June 11, 1911, the J.D. Marshall was taking on water, capsizing in a storm and sank, trapping three crew members beneath it and killing them along with one other crew members.
At the dedication ceremony, Molnar read the names of each crew member killed and a bell tolled with the reading of each name. Mate Martin Donahue, Fireman Gus Jake, Assistant Engineer Charles Langeman and Seaman John Wisemann died in the wreck.
Cameron Clark, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said park staff developed the program "Tragedy Beneath the Waves" to tell the story of the J.D. Marshall. Plans are underway for the site to be part of Duneland Chamber of Commerce's Beyond the Beach Trail as well, Clark said.
The wreckage was discovered in 1970 by an early explorer of Lake Michigan shipwrecks. The ship was raised in 1982 by salvage crews from Michigan who planned to sell it for scrap. The crew was stopped by conservation police, but not until after the propeller and other pieces had already been removed.
As conservation officers were investigating the scrapping operation, the lines holding the ship broke, sending it plunging back into Lake Michigan.
The rudder and deck were recovered and have been preserved in Michigan City. The propeller is on display outside the pavilion at Indiana Dunes State Park.