Historical Society: Robert C. Pringle Shipwreck listed on the State Register of Historic Places

Town of Wilson, WI. – The Wisconsin Historical Society added the Robert C. Pringle Shipwreck (Town of Wilson, Sheboygan County) on the State Register of Historic Places on August 14, 2020.

Built in 1903 as an excursion steamer and converted in 1918 to a lake tug, the Robert C. Pringle is a Great Lakes converted tug vessel type expressing the history of the Great Lakes passenger and packet service and towing industry. The Robert C. Pringle is a rare example of a vessel type that was vital to Wisconsin’s economy, the economy of the Midwest, and water-based transportation infrastructure. The vessel’s operational history offers an important look at small-scale passenger excursion operations in the Great Lakes during the early twentieth century. Very few examples of this vessel type remain marking Robert C. Pringle as particularly important. Additionally, the vessel’s remains allow an in depth look at converted tug boat construction, a little understood vessel type. Having operated in multiple different trades for various transportation companies, Robert C. Pringle allows a deeper understanding of the economics of the region and the development of waterborne transportation in the Great Lakes.

Many opportunities remain for future archaeological research on Robert C. Pringle. Although the vessel sits on a sand and clay bottom, there is a potential for other artifacts to be lying nearby. Many smaller artifacts associated with the vessel’s trade, navigation, and some of the crew’s personal effects, are also likely preserved beneath a thick layer of silt that has gathered within the wreck. Additional information from the site may add to our understanding of the construction of Great Lakes converted tugs. Nineteenth-century wooden vessels were rarely built to drawn plans. Today, little documentation exists that illustrates how these unique vessels were constructed, and how they were converted to other uses later in life. Great Lakes converted tugs were incredibly distinctive and varied widely in their construction and design.  Documentation and study of the Robert C. Pringle allows researchers to add to the knowledge and understanding of this unique vessel type. 

State laws protect this shipwreck. Divers may not remove artifacts or structures when visiting this site. Removing, defacing, displacing, or destroying artifacts or sites, is a crime. More information on Wisconsin’s historic shipwrecks may be found by visiting Wisconsin’s Great Lakes Shipwrecks website.

The State Register is Wisconsin’s official list of state properties determined to be significant to Wisconsin’s heritage.  The State Historic Preservation Office at the Wisconsin Historical Society administers both the State Register and National Register in Wisconsin.

To learn more about the State and National Register programs in Wisconsin, visit www.wisconsinhistory.org