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Local historians locate Lake Michigan slave ship

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« on: September 20, 2007, 05:33:10 am »

Local historians locate Lake Michigan shipwreck

September 19, 2007
BY CHARLES M. BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent

An Illinois-based group named for a local historian thinks it has found the remains of a ship that once carried escaping slaves to freedom before it was destroyed by slave hunters on the shore of Lake Michigan in Ogden Dunes.
Roger Barski, an underwater photographer and ex-Hollywood lighting technician, presented the findings of the Briggs Project to a spellbound audience of two dozen history buffs at a meeting of the Portage Community Historical Society on Tuesday night.

Barski is a Project leader and a member of the underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago. He served as official photographer for the Kankakee Valley Historical Association's 2005 excavation at the Collier Lodge near Kouts.

He said his group has found virtually everything in the records that can be found about the ship.

"We've traveled everywhere, to other states, we've looked in the National Archives. Everyone is highly interested all the way to Washington, because it's tied to the Underground Railroad," he said.

Barski said the project began more than four years ago when Peg Schoon, who worked at Indiana University Northwest, showed researchers some writings of former Portage Township teacher and ex-high school principal William Briggs, who was also a noted historian.

"He grew up in the years after the Civil War and had access to the people who actually lived through it. We believe his word is truthful," Barski said.

For this reason, he said, the search for the boat was named the Briggs Project.

"We asked Mr. Barski here because William Briggs was a Portage citizen. What he wrote gave them the information that this ship was there," said Lois Mollick, PCHS president.

For details on the Briggs Project, go to,ptghistory.article
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