F. J. Reynolds
F.J. Reynolds, whose record as a lake shipbuilder, wrecker and diver is well known, is an old and highly esteemed citizen of West Bay City, Mich. He has led a widely diversified life, interspersed with many thrilling and interesting episodes but being of a diffident nature, he scarcely ever makes mention of them. Mr. Reynolds was born in St. Albans, Franklin county, Vt., on September 5, 1832, and is the son of John and Catherine A. (Oates) Reynolds, both of whom were born in Ireland, the former of English and the latter of Scotch ancestry. The father came to the United States when he was sixteen years of age, and after a residence of three years, during which time he prospered in a reasonable degree, returned to the old country, where he married. He brought his bride to America, locating in St. Albans, Vt., in 1831, and nine years later he removed with his family to Detroit, Mich. Being a man of strong political proclivities, and quite popular, he was chosen to a municipal office in his adopted city, and served with honor.
F.J. Reynolds received his education in Detroit, his school days, however, coming to an abrupt end in consequence of some difference of opinion with his teacher, and he ran away from home, making his way to Buffalo. About the year 1846 he became an apprentice in the shipyard of Bidwell & Banta, and remained with that firm seven years, during which time he assisted in the construction of many ships, notable the Western World and Western Metropolis. Being a workman of fine mechanical ingenuity and great force of character, he soon acquired all the technical knowledge of the shipbuilding industry and at the end of six years was made foreman of the yard. In 1854 Mr. Reynolds went to Detroit and entered the employ of John Skenskey, who carried on a shipyard at the foot of Rivard street, where he again assumed the duties of foreman. He held the position seven years, and it was during this period that he first engaged as a professional diver, sending to Boston for his armor. The first work he undertook in the nature of wrecking was on the schooner Clara, which had been sunk by collision in the Detroit river, and he succeeded in raising her; she was repaired in the shipyard. He was finally entrusted with the conduct of the entire business, being occupied frequently on wrecking jobs in different localities, which, in connection with his duties in the yard, kept him very busy. His next shipyard work was as foreman for Sandy Steward, in Port Huron, where he built the tug Kate Moffat.
In June, 1863, Mr. Reynolds enlisted in the Twelfth Michigan Battery, which upon the reorganization of the First Michigan Light Artillery, was consolidated with same as Company M, and assigned to the Western army, serving under General Burnside at the siege of Knoxville. He took an honorable part with his battery in the battles of Stone River, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge and many engagements of less consequence, at the battle of Missionary Ridge receiving a dangerous and severe wound in the thigh. He was sent to a hospital at Chattanooga and thence to Indianapolis, where he remained five months, being honorably discharged from the service on account of disability. He returned home to his family in Detroit, and after three years spent on a farm for the benefit of his health again took up his regular line of work. In 1876, Mr. Reynolds entered the employ of the United States Government as inspector and diver at Sand Beach during the construction of the harbor of refuge at that place, remaining thirteen years and discharging his duties to the satisfaction of the engineer in charge. The contract under which he was working during this period specified that in the spring and fall months, when his services were not needed, he would be independent of government and might engage in wrecking business on his own account, and, among other notable jobs which he performed at such times he assisted in floating the schooners Starlight and Young America. Since the completion of the Sand Beach harbor of refuge contract, he has devoted the greater part of his time to shipbuilding and individual wrecking jobs, with headquarters in Bay City.
On September 5, 1854, Mr. Reynolds wedded Miss Eliza N. Sears, daughter of James H. Sears, of Detroit, and children were born to them as follows: John James, who died young; Annie E., now the wife of W. Wright, of Sand Beach; Thomas W., a lake engineer; Hugh E., who died October 3, 1894 (he was foreman in F.W. Wheeler's shipyard for a time, and also a lake captain); George S., a ship-carpenter and master of one of Capt. B. Boutell's tugs; Charles L., a machinist, now surfman No. 1, of the life-saving crew of Middle island; Carrie M.; and Lewis, who studied for the profession of civil engineering and is now employed in F.W. Wheeler's shipyard as riveter. The family homestead is at 907 Walnut street, West 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.