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Mystery surrounds old Lake Michigan shipwreck, woman left tied to the mast

Wreckage believed to belong to the J. H. Hartzell, off Elberta Beach. Photo courtesy of Brent Hamelink


Michigan Live

FRANKFORT, MI - It was 138 years ago this fall that a schooner hauling iron ore met a violent end in a sudden squall in northern Lake Michigan. The wreck still litters the lake's bottom near Frankfort - and sparked a haunting mystery that continues to be part of Great Lakes lore: a woman who died lashed to the sinking ship's mast.

Boaters have floated over the waterlogged timbers off shore. They're all that remain of the J. Hazard Hartzell. That, and a U.S. Life Saving Service annual report that goes into great detail about the 1880 wreck and its controversial rescue effort.

The story itself is that of an extraordinary effort. Townspeople and surfmen from the nearby Life Saving Station worked together under grueling conditions for more than 12 hours to save the seven men aboard. But the only woman on the ship - a cook named Lydia Dale from Toledo - remained frustratingly out of reach.

One sailor after another reached the safety of the beach that horrible day, only to tell rescuers that the woman was already dead. But was it true?

Read the full story here.

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