“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Cana Island in Door County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Steamer Frank O'Connor

Historic Shipwreck


— Wisconsin's Maritime Trails —

Steamer <i>Frank O'Connor</i> Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 6, 2015
1. Steamer Frank O'Connor Marker

Type: wooden bulk carrier
Built: 1892 as City of Naples,
James Davidson, West Bay City, Mich.
Sank: Oct. 2, 1919
Length: 301' Beam 42.5'
Cargoes: grain, coal, and iron ore
Propulsion: triple-expansion steam engine; propeller
Depth [of wreckage]: 65'
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.
Location: 2.6 miles NNE of Cana Island, 2 seasonal mooring buoys mark the site, northern at bow, southern at engine

In 1892, the innovative shipbuilder James Davidson pushed the art of wooden ship construction past the 300-foot mark with the launching of the City of Naples, renamed the Frank O'Connor in 1916. Heavily braced with iron and steel and propelled with a powerful steam engine, the O'Connor logged 27 years of service on the Great Lakes. On Sept. 29, 1919, she departed Buffalo carrying 3000 tons of coal, bound for Milwaukee. Fire struck on the afternoon of Oct. 2. The captain steered toward shore, but roughly an hour later the blaze burned away the steering gear. The crew escaped in lifeboats, leaving the helpless O'Connor to burn well

Steamer <i>Frank O'Connor</i> Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 6, 2015
2. Steamer Frank O'Connor Marker
into the night. She sank about two miles from Cana Island. The cause of the fire remains unknown, but, suspicion centered on a discarded match or cigarette butt.

Today, the O'Cononor's strong lower hull remains intact, displaying the iron and steel strapping, multiple floor keelsons, and heavy ceiling planking that allowed Davidson's Goliaths to reach their great lengths. The bow holds the contents of the chain locker and other gear, while more artifacts surround the museum-quality machinery in the stern. The remains of the coal cargo, scattered during several salvage attempts, surround the wreck.

[Photo captions read]
James Davidson

Two Scotch boilers, 11' in diameter and 13' long, supplied the engine with 160 psi steam pressure.

The 20' tall, triple-expansion steam engine dominates the stern.

With a 42' stroke, the [?] engine turned the 12' diameter propeller at [?] rpm.
Wisconsin law prohibits unauthorized disturbance or removal of artifacts, structure, cargo, or human remains. Please keep shipwrecks intact for other divers to explore. Report shipwreck looting at (800) TIP-WDNR.

CAUTION: Dive at your own risk. [Balance of warning not transcribed]
Erected by Wisconsin Historical Society and Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
Marker series.

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This marker is included in the Wisconsin’s Maritime Trails marker series.
Location. 45° 5.306′ N, 87° 2.88′ W. Marker is in Cana Island, Wisconsin, in Door County. Marker is about 100 feet north of the Cana Island Lighthouse. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 8800 East Cana Island Road, Baileys Harbor WI 54202, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 8 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Baileys Harbor Lower Range Light (approx. 3.7 miles away); Baileys Harbor Town Marina (approx. 4 miles away); Schooner Christina Nilsson (approx. 4 miles away); August Zahn Residence (approx. 4 miles away); War Memorial (approx. 4 miles away); 8068 Hwy. 57 (approx. 4.1 miles away); 8064 Hwy. 57 (approx. 4.1 miles away); First Permanent Colony in Door County (approx. 7.6 miles away).
Categories. DisastersMan-Made FeaturesWaterways & Vessels

More. Search the internet for Steamer Frank O'Connor.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on October 25, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 245 times since then and 9 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on October 25, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
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