Bruce County MP wants Jane Miller wreck protected

The Jane Miller at midship laying flat at the bottom of Colpoy’s Bay in July of this year.

OWEN SOUND—Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Larry Miller MP is calling on federal and provincial heritage ministers to dedicate the recently discovered site of the wreck of the Jane Miller in Colpoy’s Bay,  Georgian Bay as a restricted/grave archaeological site for the purposes of protecting the site from disturbance as a result of tourism and diving activity.

Mr. Miller has appealed to the Honourable Melanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, as well as the Honourable Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport for the Government of Ontario, to express his concerns and urge them to move quickly to protect the site and secure a heritage designation.

As The Expositor reported last month, the Little Current-built Jane Miller, a 78-foot passenger and cargo steamer, was found on the bottom of Lake Huron in July 136 years after going missing while enroute to Manitoulin during a storm 136 years ago with over 25 people aboard, all of whom drowned.

Three shipwreck hunters were granted permission this past summer to search for the vessel and were successful in locating the wreck in July, but waited for the 136th anniversary of the sinking on November 25 to make the finding announcement.

One of the men who discovered the Jane Miller, Ken Merryman, explained that during their initial scuba dive he and fellow shipwreck hunter Jared Daniels found the hull fully intact, the ship’s wheel, crates on the deck, dishes, and what they think were human remains.

“I am calling on the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario to act as swiftly as possible to dedicate the site of the wreck of the Jane Miller as a restricted/grave archaeological site,” said MP Miller, in a release. “The ship still contains the bodies of local men and women whose families still reside in the area. Out of respect to these men and women and their families, it is important to ensure that this site remains intact and free from disturbance from tourist and diving activities.”

The wreck was found in Colpoy’s Bay, an inlet of Georgian Bay leading to Wiarton on the east side of the Bruce Peninsula north of Owen Sound.

Mr. Merryman told The Expositor that he would like to get back to the Jane Miller wreck for another dive, but said he hasn’t heard back from the ministry. If the wreck is declared an archeological site and grave site, it could prevent his team from further exploring it.

The Jane Miller was built in Little Current in 1879 by James Miller and Son, named after Jane Miller (nee Bell). The ship was sold to Captain Andrew Port in 1880.

According to the ‘Canada’s 150 Most Famous Great Lakes Shipwrecks’ by Cris Kohl and Joan Forsberg (and available at The Expositor Office bookstore), the Jane Miller was a 210-gross-ton, wooden propeller ship that transported cargo and passengers around the many small ports of Georgian Bay and the North Channel.