Captain Walter Robinson
Captain Walter Robinson, who has been with the Union Steamboat Company's line for thirty years, came of good old "down-east" Yankee stock. His father, George Robinson, was born in Vermont in 1817, and located in Sheridan, N.Y. when he was sixteen years of age. He was a millwright by trade, but also engaged in farming part of the time after he came west; he died in 1880. His wife was Miss Clarissa Meyers, of Washington county, N.Y., who died in 1848, when the subject of this sketch was only three years old. Almond Robinson, a brother of George, was a sailor by occupation, and Nelson, his son, who died in 1894, was at one time master of the steamer M.M. Drake, and of the Inter Ocean; he was considered a skillful pilot. William, another son, is a millwright at Silver Creek, New York.
Captain Robinson was born at Sheridan, Chautauqua Co., N.Y., in 1844, and attended school at his native place, spending part of his early life on a farm. Being brought up on the lake shore, he acquired a liking for sea-faring life, thinking it preferable to the drudgery of a monotonous existence on farm. In 1864, at about the age of twenty, he went before the mast with Captain Blake on the schooner Restless, and after about three years' service, in sail vessels, he became wheelsman with Capt. M.M. Drake on the steamer New York. In September, 1866, he was made second mate of the same steamer, remaining in that capacity until the close of that season. The following year he was second mate on the propeller Owego, which went ashore on November 25, at Van Buren Point, Lake Erie, and became a total loss, five of the crew being drowned. In 1869 Captain Robinson was second mate with Capt. William Thorne on the Olean for a season, and in the same berth with the captain on the Tioga for the season of 1870. The next season and also that of 1872 he was mate with Captain Shannon on the Evergreen City and Eclipse, respectively. For the seasons of 1873-74 he was master of the steamer Olean, and during that of 1875 he was master of the Tioga, which was burned in 1880 on Lake Erie. In 1876-77 he was master of the James Fisk, Jr.; 1878, of the Dean Richmond; 1879-80-81, of the Waverly; 1882-83, of the Starrucca; 1884, of the Portage, 1885, of the New York; 1886-87-88, of the H.J. Jewett; 1889, of the new Tioga, and in 1880-91, of the new Owego. From the spring of 1892 until September of the season of 1896, he was master of the steel steamer Chemung, being then transferred to the new steel steamer Ramapo; the following season he was transferred to the new steel steamer Starrucca, which he has since commanded. Captain Robinson has had a very clean record, having lost no boat in all his thirty years with the service of the Union Steamboat Company. He is to-day the oldest master with the line, has always commanded their best boats, and has been with the company continuously since he entered this employ in 1867.
In 1869, while he was before the mast on the schooner Rebecca with Capt. Elijah Gibson, he had his first experience going ashore. The schooner was bound for Sandusky harbor, but she was caught in a gale to the northward of Kelley's Island, Lake Erie; the anchors were dropped when off the east end of the island, but the cables parted and the schooner went ashore. While on the H.J. Jewett Captain Robinson experienced some difficulty in handling her without her rudder, which she lost in one of her trips on Lake Michigan; but he managed to weather a gale in a heavy sea by working her stern first to the windward, and was picked up later and towed into port. In 1893, while master of the Chemung, he reversed operations in the management of the rudderless steamer. He was on the way to Chicago, on Lake Erie between Grand river and Mohawk island, abreast of Port Maitland, when he put about in a heavy sea a third time to render assistance to a disabled craft, losing his rudder in the attempt. However, he forced his boat bow first into the eye of the wind and a sea, and succeeded in getting under Erie peninsula, where he was subsequently relieved by a couple of tugs from Buffalo, which took lines from the stern of the Chemung and steered her into that harbor.
On April 6, 1887, Captain Robinson was married to Miss Hattie Chesebrough, a daughter of Gordon D. Chesebrough, who was on sailing vessels on the lakes twenty years ago. They have two children, and the family reside at No. 326 Fifteenth street, Buffalo, New York.
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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.