The August F. Janssen
was built in 1896 at Sturgeon Bay for the City of Milwaukee Fire Department as their third fireboat. She was named after the Milwaukee Fire Department's assistant chief who had died while fighting a fire. The vessel was placed in service on May 15, 1897. She was built as a twin to the second fireboat, M.F.D. 17
(originally the James Foley
). Her official registry number was 130711 and the cost to build her was $32,800. The name was changed to 23 M.F.D.
in 1901. The M.F.D. 23
was originally docked at the Cherry Street Bridge and she initially spent her time in the Milwaukee harbor, but later moved to the Menominee River Dock for the rest of her career.
By 1922 the M.F.D. 23
was showing her age and a new, more powerful boat, the Torrent
was ordered to replace her. In December of 1922 the M.F.D. 23
was stripped and her major equipment went for spares for the M.F.D. 17
and her engines were scrapped. In the following year she was towed out onto Lake Michigan, set ablaze and sunk in deep water off of Milwaukee.
The wreck of the the M.F.D. #23
had been on the bottom of Lake Michigan since 1923 and it wasn't discovered by divers until 2005. The M.F.D. 23
lies in 72 feet of water sitting upright. "The boiler is mid-wreck and does not look like it was displaced in the sinking. Both the port and starboard sides of the vessel lie open from the vessel's hull, these are large sections extending most of the length of the vessel. There are also small parts of the structure that have broken off during the wreck formation process. The stern area has collapsed exposing the lower hull and keel. The rudder is lying on its port side...The propeller lies in the lake bottom with one blade embedded in the lake bottom, two partly exposed and the fourth fully exposed... the propeller drive shaft is still in place..." Wisconsin's Underwater Heritage June 2011.