The wooden tug Rudolph Wetzel
was built in 1870 at Buffalo, New York by George Notter. The official registry number was 21944. The vessel 's boiler was overhauled at Milwaukee in the spring of 1880 along with the hull being rebuilt. At the time of loss, she was thought to be valued at $5,000.
Last Document of Enrollment: Surrendered: Milwaukee: 6/30/1883: "Total Loss".
On 11/28/1882 at 7am while approximately 3 miles off Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the tug Rudolph Wetzel
exploded her boiler, killing the crew of three men, she went straight to the bottom. Continuing a long rivalry, the Wetzel
had been racing with the tug Henry S. Sill
before the explosion occurred. The crew of the Henry S. Sill
, which was thirty feet astern of the Wetzel
, noticed the fireman leave the engine room and run to the pilothouse and speak to Captain Lovell, and then return to the engine room just prior to the explosion. "The shock was so terrific, however, that the Sill
was fairly lifted out of the water and her crew were almost paralyzed ... When the dense smoked had cleared away it revealed nothing but floating timber and wreckage." It was thought that the engineer, William Keeley was responsible for the disaster, possibly letting the water in the boiler run low, and then admitting cold water after building up a full head of steam.
More than a week after the accident, Jone's Island fishermen recovered a large portion of the Wetzel's
hull, found floating in the lake.
The remains of the Rudolph Wetzel
have yet to be found.