Ashtabula, Ohio, is a major coal port on Lake Erie. The coal dock at Ashtabula Harbor is a transload point for coals destined for electricity-generating plants and cement producers in Canada and the Great Lakes area. Coals from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia arrive at Ashtabula by train before being sent on their way. Other commodities coming through the port include iron ore, sand, gravel, and stone.
Among the ships you could see at Ashtabula Harbor was the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, a lake freighter that carried iron ore from mines near Duluth, Minnesota, to iron works near cities like Detroit and Toledo. A young man named Karl Peckol, barely out of Ashtabula High School, signed on to work on the Edmund Fitzgerald. He became a watchman.
Most of the crew on the Fitzgerald were veteran seamen. But there were some novices, including Karl Peckol, who didn’t necessarily aspire to a life as a sailor. Stacy Millberg says that Peckol was working on going to college. He didn’t get to go to college. He died on November 10, 1975, when the Fitzgerald sank in a storm on Lake Superior. At 20 years old, he was the youngest man on board.