Our tugboat, Edna G, was built in Cleveland in 1896. Boat and ship launching in that shipyard was by side-launch and the Edna G stopped about halfway down the ramp and tipped completely over into the water.
The Edna G finally arrived in Two Harbors in 1897 and worked continuously there until her last tow in December 1980 with the Cason J. Calloway. The exception was when the government federalized the tug for work on the east coast for the Department of War during World War I.
By helping Minnesota iron get to eastern smelters, our tug helped build America and defend our country in times of war. When the lake was at its worst, our tug was at her best, helping ships and sailors in peril in storms, pack ice, shipboard fires and loss of power. She has helped pull grounded boats back into the water and drowned sailors out of the
The life of a working tug is a harsh one, as the forces of wind, wave and ice conspire to tear her apart. At the same time, the work she was built for would continually test the shipwrights who put her together.
Torque from engine and propeller would try to twist her out of shape and pull her apart as she strained against tremendous loads. Bedrock in shallow waters was discovered, when propeller blades snapped off. Her hull was buckled and distorted while trying to help an ore boat maneuver near the west breakwall in rough seas.
Lake ice has peened the hull plates around her ribs. On more than one occasion a crewman has had to jam a section of broom handle into a hole in the hull when a rivet had let go.
In recent years, a rivet head had rusted away and water filled the bilge to a depth covering the propeller shaft. Daily pumping was required until an epoxy patch could be placed in late spring and ice-out. Two fender strakes (wooden rub rails) were removed from the hull several years ago. Patches have been placed on the hull. Heavy reinforcement has been added to the hull for harbor ice-breaking.
Part of the history of our town, our state and our country is written in the body of this tug, and fully half of this tug has never even been seen by anyone except for a few divers and a handful of shipyard workers who could not care less about the stories our tug has to tell.
There is history in every part of this tug, history that will be lost if any part of this tug is lost, and this is our history, too.
Our tug is on the National Historic Register and must be preserved for us and those who come after us. Locals and visitors alike can more fully appreciate this marvel of 19th century shipbuilding and marine engineering if our tug is placed safely on dry land, out of reach of Lake Superior.
While the forces of decay and corrosion will never be stopped until the world and time come to an end, entropy will be significantly slowed down and its effects far cheaper and easier to mend if the boat is on land. Edna G's full story will be plainly visible to all and far more accessible as well.
A proper interpretive display of our tug can be the seed, which starts the growth of the rest of what is now the Two Harbors waterfront, helping tell the story of the Anishinabe here before us and all that came after.
Thomas Koehler of Two Harbors has worked on preservation efforts of the Edna G tugboat for the past seven years. He served six years in the Navy in the engineering department of two nuclear submarines.