Century-Old Wreck's Latest Woe: Thieves

4 pieces stolen from Brookhill Ferry in Baton Rouge, La., with 2 still missing
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2022 7:52 AM CDT
Thieves Make Off With Pieces of Century-Old Wreck
A shipwreck is exposed along the banks of the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, due to low water levels, Oct. 18, 2022.   (AP Photo/Stephen Smith)

Four pieces of a century-old shipwreck visible for the first time in decades as a result of low water levels along the Mississippi River have been stolen. Louisiana state archaeologist Charles McGimsey says he caught one man carrying away a piece of the Brookhill Ferry, located near downtown Baton Rouge, a day after the man was photographed stealing more pieces, per the Washington Post. The 95-foot-long ship was used to carry people and horses across the mighty river at night (a sister ship operated during the day) until it sank as a hurricane struck the Gulf of Mexico in 1915, per the Advocate.

"We wanted everyone to enjoy this local history, photograph it, touch it, walk on it," McGimsey tells the Post in explaining why his department decided against erecting a fence around it. But he and his colleagues did not expect visitors to carry away a part of this history. McGimsey says he convinced the man to leave behind the chunk of the wreck, which belongs to the state, though the man argued that nobody owned anything found in the river.

Ryan Seideman, Louisiana's assistant attorney general, tells the Advocate that officials sent "a demand letter" to the individual, who has since agreed to return two hull planks, one of which is 30 feet long. "Because of that, we won't seek civil or criminal charges," Seideman says. Officials continue to search for the other two missing pieces: an 18-inch framing timber and a 5-inch-wide lead sieve that was pried from the wreck. "If anyone happens to have any information on that, we would love to get some leads on it," says Seideman, adding "we won't seek any civil or criminal charges" if a thief returns the item on their own. (More shipwreck stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.