of anthracite coal, valued at $30,000
in 1923, inspired several salvage attempts. When initial search
efforts failed to locate the vessel, it was assumed to have
sunk in deep water. The early searchers, however, had looked
too far to the north. On June 29, 1923, the Door County Advocate
reported that Charles Innes of North Bay and Chester Smith
of Milwaukee had found the wreck of the O'Connor. The men,
using two gasoline launches and a 1,000-foot-long rope sweep,
dragged the area off North Bay and quickly found the ship.
In August and September of that year, the Marine Salvage and
Wrecking Company of Milwaukee worked for five weeks using
centrifugal pumps to suck coal off the wreck. Hampered by
bad weather, they recovered only 700 tons, not enough to warrant
further efforts. The wreckers also claimed that most of the
coal had been lost when the sides of the ship burned away.
1935, Charles Innes, still believing that money could be made
from the old steamer, interested the noted Chicago diver Frank
Blair in another salvage attempt. Innes' son-in-law, Charles
Rohrback, relocated the wreck after three weeks of dragging
"about three miles off of the point in 65 feet of water."
One hundred tons of coal were recovered from the site, and
plans were made to return the following year with better
The latter scheme never came to fruition, and the O'Connor
lay quietly forgotten until rediscovered by modern sports
rediscovery of the Frank O'Connor was reported to the Wisconsin Historical Society in the fall of 1990. Its proximity
to shore and moderate depth make the site accessible to sport
divers and looters. Because of its archeological value and
its vulnerability to thievery, the Frank O'Connor became
top priority for field survey in 1991.
out the Frank O'Connor today