Crusader Fishing Vessel

The Crusader II



Resting along the shore of Agate Bay sits a lonely boat named the Crusader II. With its bow pointed toward its home port of Knife River the Crusader II is one of the few artifacts that remain as a testament to the once vibrant commercial fishing village on the shores of Agate Bay. It was built in 1939 by Rueben and Helmer Hill for Carl Erickson and christened in Knife River by the reigning Crown Prince of Norway during his visit to the North Shore. Although in need of some fresh paint the Crusader II still wears the coat of arms of the royal family of Norway.

The Hill family had a long history of master boat building on the North Shore. Reuben who worked as a carpenter for the Duluth Missabe &Iron Range Railroad learned boat building from his father Charles. With his family, Reuben Hill continued to build quality craft by hand late into the 20th century. The 35-foot fishing boat is an excellent example of the herring tugs that worked these waters for decades. Its deep v hull and heavy teak and oak construction made it a very stable craft in rough weather. The enclosed design allowed fishermen to fish well into the winter until the lake froze over. The design of two large side doors allowed fishermen to bring nets in, remove the catch, and reset set the nets in a continuous effort. Commercial fishing was a large part of the North Shore economy until the invasion of the sea lamprey in the 1950’s nearly destroyed the fish populations on the Great Lakes.

In August of 1983 the boats last owner donated the Crusader II to the Two Harbors Area Development Corporation for use as a tourist attraction. Upon accepting the donation the THADC would assume responsibility for the boat storage in the Knife River Marina. This came to $200.00 per year and prompted the THADC to donate the Crusader II to the Lake County Historical Society in 1985. Later that year the Society accepted the donation and began plans to move the vessel from Knife River to Two Harbors.

Just getting it into the historic waterfront district of Two Harbors was a challenge as the DM&IR underpass on Hwy 61was too low. Eventually the Society would get the Crusader II next to the Depot by bringing it through the railroad yards. The Crusader II would sit next to the Depot for a few years as discussions took place about how best to proceed with the restoration. The Sons of Norway recognizing the historic significance of the ship that was christened by a Norwegian Monarch solicited bids to restore the ship as it sat near the Depot. In 1987 a bid was awarded to restore the ship for $2600.

In 1989 the Commercial State Bank of Two Harbors (now the Lake Bank) was celebrating its centennial. In honor of its one hundredth year the bank chose to donate $5000.00 to the Society for the relocation and further restoration of the Crusader II on Lighthouse Point. A small plot of land outside the Light Station known as the Falk Lease Land was chosen for the Crusader II display. At this time a pad was prepared on Lighthouse Point and the ship moved to its new home in the fall of 1990.