The Sinking of the Lady Elgin

Detail from a painting of the Lady Elgin disaster that shows a door floating in Lake Michigan

In the wee morning hours of September 8, 1860, Jacob Conrad tied a rope around his waist and plunged from the shore bluff into Lake Michigan. His daring gesture saved as many as 28 people from the shipwrecked Lady Elgin. After the ship collided with the schooner Augusta and sank, more than 300 of the 400 passengers drowned, making this disaster the greatest loss of life on open water in the Great Lakes.