James E. Evans
James E. Evans, an accomplished marine engineer, and a man of broad and liberal views, who fully enjoys the pleasures consequent upon a finished education, is very popular among his friends and acquaintances.
His choice of a maritime life was but natural, and accorded with his desire to be useful to his father in the intelligent management of his vessel and tug interests. He was born at Peacock point (now Walsingham), Ontario, October 24, 1860, a son of Edward and Nancy (Bissett) Evans, who were natives of Canada, but his grandfather, Edward Evans, came to America from Wales. Since 1848 his father has been master and owner of vessels, notable among which were the schooner Billow, and tugs William Peck, General Grant (which he built), N. P. Sprague, Rob, New Era, Relief, Wisconsin and Flossie Thielke. When he retired from the lakes he established himself in the lumber business under the firm name of Evans, Kilmaster & Co., at Tonawanda, N. Y., to which city he removed in 1861, and there he purchased a homestead, where the family reside at the present time. He also established himself in a general banking business under the firm name of Evans, Swinger & Co. He is the inventor of the principle and instrument now known as the Wells double piston balance engine, which is fast coming into general use. He retired from active business enterprises in 1895, and now contents himself with the care of his real-estate interests, which are quite large, among his holdings being a tract of land in Duluth, Minn., upon which he has erected some eighteen houses for residence purposes.
James E. Evans was a close student in his school-boy days, and passed through the Tonawanda public schools with a fair share of honor, finishing his education in the Chamberlain Institute at Randolph, Cattaraugus county, N. Y. It was with him a pleasure during vacations to occupy himself on his father's boats, and thus at the age of thirteen he became a reliable watchman. In 1877, with the purpose of becoming a marine engineer, he entered the employ of the Tonawanda Machine Company, and the next year he was granted a special license to run the tug N.P. Sprague, owned by his father. He remained on the Sprague two seasons and then transferred to the tug Relief. In 1881 he built a steam canal boat which he named Free Canal. This was during the period when the measure to abolish tolls on the Erie canal was under discussion in the New York Legislature, and it was by way of advocating the passage of a law to that effect that he gave his boat that novel name. He took his new canal steamer to New York, and put her in the Long Island Sound coal trade between New York, New London, Mystic and Newport, following that business three years.
In the fall of 1884 Mr. Evans took out master's license in Norfolk, Va., and started for Charleston, S.C., by way of the Chesapeake bay, and Raritan and Delaware rivers, engaging in the lumber trade between North Carolina ports and Baltimore and Philadelphia. In 1888 he became master of the tug Nellie Prior, towing juniper logs from Alligator river in North Carolina to Richmond, Va. The next year he was appointed master of the steamer Mary Lowrie, plying on Albermarle Sound, carrying ties for the Norfolk Southern Railroad Company. In 1890 he resumed his place in the after end of the steamer Wemple as chief. She engaged that year in the coasting trade, and the next two years in the interest of the dock department and the Norfolk navy yard, placing lightships and bouys between North Carolina ports and New York harbor. In January, 1893, Mr. Evans was appointed chief engineer of the passenger steamer Newbern, of the Old Dominion line, plying between Norfolk, Va., and Newbern, North Carolina.
In April, 1893, Mr. Evans removed to Duluth, was appointed chief engineer of the steamer Otego, and after laying her up he closed the season in the Ossifrage. The next spring he brought out the Otego, which plied between Duluth, Hancock and Houghton, again transferred to the Ossifrage and closed the season in the Lora. In the spring of 1895 he entered the employ of the A. Booth Packing Company as chief engineer of the passenger steamer Hiram R. Dixon, plying between Duluth and Port Arthur, and during the four seasons he has been with her, like Capt. Jacob F. Hector, who sails her, he has not missed a voyage however violent Lake Superior may lash the shores.
During his sojourn in Virginia, Mr. Evans was married, March 27, 1891, to Miss Etta, daughter of Jacob Hollar, of Harrisonburg, Rockingham county, and they make their home at No. 7 Glenn avenue, Duluth, Minnesota.
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This version of Volume II is based, with permission, on the work of the great volunteers at the Marine Captains Biographies site. To them goes the credit for reorganizing the content into some coherent order. The biographies in the original volume are in essentially random order.
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.