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Keystone State shipwreck: Civil War era wreck discovered in Lake Huron

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The Keystone State shipwreck is the remains of a Civil War era ship that was discovered earlier this year in Lake Huron. For more than 150 years, the location of the wreck was a mystery. It sank to the bottom of Lake Huron in the year 1861 with 33 souls aboard. All of them perished.

According to a Dec. 9, 2013 report by USA Today, David Trotter, a 72-year-old veteran shipwreck hunter located the Keystone State shipwreck at the bottom of Lake Huron in July, however the discovery didn't catch the media's attention until December. This latest triumph marks nearly 100 shipwrecks found by Trotter, who has been a shipwreck hunter in the Great Lakes for more than 3 1/2 decades.

Undersea Research Associates, Trotter's official website, made the official announcement about the discovery of the Keystone State shipwreck with the posting of a YouTube video entitled "Desperate Voyage."

The description of the video explains the discovery:

The discovery and exploration of the 288' sidewheel steamer Keystone State, lost with all hands in November, 1861. Abruptly leaving Detroit for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, her cargo appears to be very mysterious and she is also reported to be carrying gold bullion/coins. The Keystone State has long been one of Lake Huron's most mysterious ships..............missing for 150+ years.

Trotter has been quoted as saying that he didn't think he would ever find the wreck. Fortunately, he was wrong.

The Keystone State began life in 1849 as a luxurious steamer measuring nearly 300 feet in length that featured a walking beam engine, giant paddlewheel and twin stacks. The steamship belongs to a class called palace steamers, and it counted leaded glass windows, mahogany trim and carved arches among its details. The interior of the ship was designed to resemble a fine hotel.

In 1857, the Keystone State was set aside due to its high cost of operation. It languished until the star of the Civil War in 1861, when it was refurbished and put to use as a cargo ship. It traveled to Detroit, picked up a load that may have included Civil War supplies including munition, and then headed for Milwaukee. Some time around Nov. 9, 1861, the ship disappeared with its cargo and crew on board.

No one even noticed that the ship was missing until another ship noticed debris from the Keystone State. Debris from the shipwreck also washed ashore near Lexington.

Now, the Keystone State shipwreck lies beneath 175 feet of water. It is covered with zebra mussels, and the stern is badly damaged. However, the engine and the boilers are reportedly in good condition, sitting upright on the bottom of the lake.

Although the manifest for the ship list such mundane objects as barrels of grain, farm implements and iron hardware, some people believe that there is treasure, in the form of gold, lying at the bottom of Lake Huron.

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