Divers explore the A.J. Rogers—or at least what's left of it—off the coast of the Old Mission Peninsula near Traverse City. (Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve via gtbup.org)
Divers explore the A.J. Rogers—or at least what's left of it—off the coast of the Old Mission Peninsula near Traverse City. (Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve via gtbup.org)

Taking a boat ride along the coast of Grand Traverse Bay, there are some sights you expect to see: Sandy beaches. Cherry orchards and wineries. Tourists enjoying the water. But what you might not expect are all the sights you could find below the water’s surface. 

TRAVERSE CITY—Grand Traverse Bay is home to dozens of known shipwrecks, spanning from the early 1800s to the late 1900s. Now a popular vacation area, the bay was once a hub for commerce and maritime trade—and like most trade routes, this one has a storied past.

Check back every Wednesday as we explore history in Shipwrecks of Grand Traverse Bay. This is the third story in the series—the story of a schooner that sunk just off of Old Mission Point.

The A.J. Rogers

The A.J. Rogers was a 138-foot, two-masted wooden schooner whose fate was sealed off Old Mission Point. Its problems began shortly after it left Elk Rapids carrying 585 tons of crude iron on Oct. 8, 1898.

Headed for Ohio, the trip was supposed to take the ship out of the Grand Traverse Bay, up through the Straits of Mackinac, and down south through Lake Huron—but its Captain Frank Conlin had a problem. 

The schooner had a leak. And by the time it was found, it was already out of the Grand Traverse Bay.

Conlin turned the ship around in hopes of making it back to port, but the the floodwaters were steady. About five miles off the northern tip of Old Mission Peninsula, the ship went down. Fortunately, the whole crew made it to land and sheltered in Mission Point Lighthouse (which still stands today, by the way).

The entire cargo of pig iron the A.J. Rogers was eventually recovered, too, but the empty and relatively undamaged schooner was left 50 feet below the surface. Today, the ship is remarkably preserved. Although covered with algae, the wreck is popular among scuba divers with enough skill to reach it.

For more information on shipwrecks in the area, the Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve, which works to preserve these historic shipwrecks and promote education about them, is a great resource. Click here for information and locations of many more shipwrecks.