Joseph R. Blanchette
Joseph R. Blanchette, who has been chief engineer of the Nyanza since the season of 1892, is the second of five sons of William and Catharine (Quilliams) Blanchette. The father was an old-time steamboat engineer, and was lost on the lakes, in 1856, while on the J. W. Brooks, of the old National Transit line. The sons, like their father, all became engineers; and Thomas, the eldest, met with the same fate, being chief engineer of the B. W. Jones, when she was blown up at Port Huron, on the St. Clair River, in May, 1871. John is a locomotive engineer on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad, and resides at Aurora, Ill. Nelson is a locomotive engineer on the Flint & Pere Marquette railroad, residing at Saginaw, Mich. Frank, the youngest, is engineer on the Northern Pacific railroad.
Joseph R. Blanchette, the subject of this sketch, was born in Avon, Ohio, in 1845, and obtained his schooling at that place. His first employment was running a drill for the Dean & Eaton Car Co., at Detroit, Mich., and after three years of that work he entered the machine shops of the Kellogg Nut and Bolt Works, remaining there two years. He then started railroading, firing on the Grand Haven & Milwaukee railroad for the three years of 1864-65-66, and in 1867 began his marine life as assistant engineer of the tug Grant, out of Detroit, owned by John Deman. Leaving her after two seasons, he went on the tug Thomas Quayle, of which he was second engineer for the season of 1869, and the succeeding seasons of 1870-71 was chief engineer of the Jay Cook, a passenger boat, of Detroit. In 1872 he returned to railroading, as locomotive engineer of the Flint & Pere Marquette railroad until May, 1874, when he left to accept the position of chief engineer of the John Sherman for that season. During the winter of 1874-75 he engaged in railroading again until March 22, 1875, when he again went on the John Sherman as chief. In 1876-77 he was chief of the George R. Dunlap, and for the four successive seasons, from 1878-81 inclusive, of the Dove, being then transferred to the Arundel, of which he was chief the next nine seasons. It will thus be seen that Mr. Blanchette spent seventeen years in the employ of the Detroit, Bay City and Alpena Mail line of steamers. He entered the service of the McBrier line, of Erie, Penn., in 1891, as chief of the Fedora, and in 1892 went on the Nyanza, belonging to the same line, and was on her five seasons. During his career as engineer Mr. Blanchette has proven himself a careful, reliable and steady navigator, never having been in any steamboat collision or wreck, and since he has had chief's papers has been in the employ of only two lines, one seventeen, the other seven, years.
He is the holder of a number of issues of chief's license, is a member of Local Harbor No. 1, Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, of Buffalo, and is a thirty- second-degree Mason, being a member of Michigan Sovereign Consistory, A. A. S. R., Valley of Detroit, and Blue Lodge No. 129, F. & A. M., of Bay City, Michigan.
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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.