Photo via Leelanau Historical Society Museum Facebook
Photo via Leelanau Historical Society Museum Facebook

This otherwise quiet Lake Michigan beach is now the site of a 250-year-old shipwreck and a Michigan mystery.

LUDINGTON, MI — A shipwreck has washed ashore in Michigan and legends say it was sacked by pirates. 

Ludington State Park sits on a quiet stretch of coastline about an hour north of Muskegon. The area’s sights can be described as “pure Michigan” with its campgrounds, sand dunes and iconic lighthouse.

But years ago the scene wasn’t nearly as peaceful. Cargo vessels that traveled across Lake Michigan often faced dangerous weather on their voyages to deliver cargo between the Midwestern states.

Some unfortunate vessels set sail and never returned home; at least not in one piece.

In 1872, a cargo schooner named the Jennie & Annie was doomed to wreck like so many before it.

The ship’s short life began nine years earlier when it was built in New York for a Port Oneida businessman named John Kelderhouse, according to records. The ship was named for his two little sisters, Jennie and Annie.

Sweet naming sentiment aside, the Jennie & Annie had horrible luck. She lost its canvas and gaffs twice during windstorms. And if it’s the mid-nineteenth century and you must rely solely on wind power, those items can be kind of important.

By 1869 the Jennie & Annie had her first wreck. She ran aground near Racine, Wisconsin, and had to be rebuilt. She was back on Lake Michigan’s waters the following year, but would meet her end soon.

A Port Huron Daily Times article that ran on November 15, 1872 says, “The crew of 10 took to the masts and remained there until the vessel broke apart. Only 3 of the crew made it to shore; the rest drowned in the strong surf and cold water.”

A Michigan legend tells of an old curmudgeon named Joe Perry. He lived near North Bar Lake when it was referred to as Perry Lake. He was said to use a light to lure ships ashore, only to plunder the wreckage once the crew abandoned ship.

Since the Jennie & Annie’s fateful end, pieces of her wreckage have washed ashore over the years, including the most recent piece of debris discovered last week near Sleeping Bear Dunes. It was revealed by waves amid high water levels on the Great Lakes and then spotted by people walking, the Ludington Daily News reported.

Similar conditions that ended the vessel’s life brought her back home. John Kelderhouse’s descendant, Kim Kelderhouse, is the curator of collections for the nearby Leelanau Historical Society Museum.

And, yes, all floating vessels are given feminine pronouns. Where are you from, Ohio?

The Associated Press contributed to this story.