BUCKEYE LAKE, Ohio (AP) — When workers on a dam replacement project pulled planks and pieces of wood from the muck of Buckeye Lake months ago, the director of the local historical society was sure they’d found the Black Diamond, a coal-hauling canal boat swallowed by the water in 1850.
After considering the discovery, experts under contract with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources have reached the same conclusion.
“Given that the location of the wreckage and the artifacts discovered nearby closely correspond with historical records detailing the crash, experts working with ODNR are very confident that the wreckage is the Black Diamond,” said Matt Eiselstein, an ODNR spokesman.
Square nails that were found date to the mid-19th century, and officials also recovered more than 400 pounds of coal, including some pieces larger than 10 inches square, Eiselstein said.
The Black Diamond reportedly hit an obstruction along the north bank while hauling tons of coal to a mill. The crew survived.
J-me Braig, who runs the Greater Buckeye Lake Historical Society and museum, had assumed wreckage remained to be found, so she asked crews to keep an eye out as they started work to replace the lake’s deteriorated dam.
They found several hundred pieces of wood, along with 20th century bottles, ceramics and more modern debris. The larger wood pieces are still being stored in containers submerged in the lake for preservation purposes as the interested parties work out a plan for what will happen to the wreckage.
Braig said she hopes the historical society’s museum eventually can have the wreckage, perhaps to create a full exhibit about that nugget of local history, and she plans to pursue grants to try to make that happen.
Meanwhile, work on the dam project will continue. Crews have installed a stability barrier along the 4.1-mile earthen dam, and the second phase of the project is being designed.
The nearly 180-year-old dam has been weakened by several hundred homes, docks and other structures built into it. Since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded the dam was at risk of failing, the state has kept the water level lower than usual as a precaution.