Shipwrecks and artifacts reemerge as Mississippi River drops

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


Although few would likely celebrate the reason why it is happening, historians and archaeologists are taking advantage of the fact that a falling Mississippi River is unveiling items it has kept hidden for decades. 

News outlets from across the nation have reported a series of stories about rare finds all along the muddy track of the mighty Mississippi

Earlier this month, a long-ago-sunken ship became visible near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As first reported by WBRZ, the city’s ABC affiliate, the remnants of a 19th-century ship were noticed by a local artifact collector. 

It was later learned that the ship in question was the Brookhill, which had been built in Indiana in 1896 only to sink, along with her sister ship, during a major storm in 1915. 

Chip McGimsey, Louisiana’s state archaeologist, told WBRZ that the old wooden ship, which is now 90% exposed, is a valuable artifact, one that the state has known about for some time but has never been able to study. 

“For the most part, there are not good documents on boat building, especially when you get back into the area of wooden boats,” McGimsey said. “They have a lot of individuality in these boats, and there are so few of them remaining. This is a rare example of one from around 1900.”

Denise Gutzmer of the University of Nebraska’s National Drought Mitigation Center shared an image of the Brookhill on Twitter. 

To the north, in Tennessee, a much more recent shipwreck has become visible. As reported by a Memphis Fox affiliate, the Diamond Lady, formerly a floating casino, has reemerged after 14 years below the waters of Lake McKellar, which is connected to the Mississippi and was once part of the river. 

Originally christened in 1991, FOX 13 reports by famed letter-spinning “Wheel of Fortune” co-host Vanna White, the Diamond Lady sunk in 2008. 

“You see all the sins of the past basically, everything that sank comes up to visit us during these low water times,” Captain William Lozier, President of Memphis River Boats, told Fox 13. 

Civil War buffs have also found scavenging the banks of the Mississippi for artifacts a far more fruitful endeavor of late. 

The Weather Channel reports that bullets and cartridge boxes not touched by human hands since the 1860s have been found near Memphis near one of the bridges that connects Tennessee with Arkansas.

“There’s all these artifacts just kind of laying along there that have been in the water for the last 160 years,” the Weather Channel quotes one artifact collector as having said. 

According to the Weather Channel report, the mass of relics is explainable by the site’s proximity to Fort Pickering, a former outpost of the Confederate Army that later was taken by the Union.