Captain Charles R. Cleveland
Many exciting and intensely interesting adventures have been crowded into the life of this gentleman, whose home is in Cleveland, Ohio. Over half a century has been spent on the water by him, and a full account of his experience would fill a volume. His birthplace was London, England, where he first saw the light of day December 4, 1833. His father was Charles Cleaveland [sic], a shoemaker, who migrated to the Cape of Good Hope and remained there two years, during which period the Kaffir war broke out. He was compelled to join the British forces at that time, but at first opportunity he ran away to the Cape and returned to England. He remained in his native land until about fifty years of age, when he removed to America, coming to Ohio, and settling on Central avenue, in Cleveland, and here Mrs. Cleaveland [sic] joined him a year later. The son, however, did not come to the United States until 1852.
At the age of eight years Charles R. Cleveland (who early dropped the extra letter in spelling the name) began to learn his father's trade, but not being entirely pleased with the occupation, he ran away to sea on a fishing smack when he was ten years old. There he was cabin boy, and the life suited him so well that he spent two years on the vessel. His parents were living in Ramsgate at the time, and at the end of two years he went ashore and there spent a few months more at the trade of his father. He was still uneasy, anxious to join an English man-of-war, and in March, 1848, he shipped on Lord Nelson's old ship Victory as naval apprentice, expecting to remain in the navy seven years. A naval school was conducted on board the Victory, on which he spent three months in the gunnery depart- ment, and an equal period in a sail loft and rigging loft, and in a sailing vessel, in order to get a practical knowledge of seamanship. Then he was drafted on board the fifty- gun frigate Leander, belonging to the channel squadron, in which he cruised the Mediterranean, along the coast of Africa and the coast of Spain, spending one winter in Lisbon and one in the Cove of Cork. In 1850 the Leander and three other vessels were dispatched from Gibralter to the Barbary coast to rescue a small English brig which had been captured by pirates. The captain of the brig, his wife and the crew had been made prisoners and a ransom of four hundred dollars each was demanded by the pirates. The English man-of-war anchored near the coast and sent the small boats in to cut the brig loose, at the same time firing over the heads of the men in the boats to protect them from the pirates. On the British side one man was killed and twenty-one wounded, but the brig was released, and it was found that she had been stripped of everything of value and was practically worthless; her crew were subsequently ransomed.
After this incident the Leander cruised around the Mediterranean sea, finally returning to England, and on October 13, 1852, young Cleveland was paid off and honorably discharged at his own request. He at once proceeded to London and embarked for the United States in the ship American Congress. Upon his arrival in New York he shipped in the brig Elizabeth Watts, of Thomaston, Maine, making a voyage that took in Aspinwall, Portobello, Carthagena, and New Orleans, during which all on board became stricken with fever except the captain and young Cleveland, who was made cook of the vessel in place of the regular steward, the latter having died. Our subject left the vessel in New Orleans and ascended the Mississippi river on the steamer North America. This was in 1853; he had not seen his father for seven years, and when, on arriving in Cleveland in March of that year, he presented himself before his parents, the father did not recognize him, so greatly had he changed. Captain Cleveland delights now in relating that, after seven years of sailing, he arrived in the big lake port with nothing more valuable than two three-cent pieces in his pocket. Being a practical seaman of experience, however, he found no difficulty in securing employment in Cleveland, and for some time he worked at rigging vessels. Among the crafts he fitted out in this respect were the schooners Ocean Wave and White Cloud and the barks Sturges and Illinois. Later in the same year he went sailing before the mast on the Ocean Wave, after two months joining the brig Isabella, in which he completed the season. In 1854 he again shipped on the Isabella, as second mate, and continued to fill that berth until July, when he went before the mast on the schooner Robertson, bound for Chicago. At that port he went aboard the O.Q. Melser, trading between Chicago and the North Manistee, on which he remained until, on November 5, she went ashore, a total loss. He was taken to Chicago on the schooner Buena Vista, and there shipped in the schooner T.P. Handy, leaving Chicago, November 24, with 9,000 bushels of wheat, on which a freight rate of thirty-two cents per bushel was paid to Oswego. Arriving there he again shipped in the brig Isabella, leaving Oswego December 3, to return to Cleveland. On the morning of December 4 the Isabella was wrecked at Alcott, Lake Ontario, in the midst of a furious storm, and the crew met with great difficulty in getting off the vessel, their boats capsizing and ice forming on their oil skins half an inch thick, so that their garments had to be forcibly torn off when they reached shore. All the crew were severely frost bitten, Mr. Cleveland having a hand and a foot frozen. The same night seven vessels went ashore at the port of Cleveland.
In the spring of 1855 Mr. Cleveland went on the schooner W.F. Allen, to Chicago, where he joined the schooner Gem; on this vessel he served until July, when he transferred to the schooner James McKay as mate, continuing on her until late in the fall. On November 25, they left St. Joseph, Mich., with lumber for Chicago. When well outside a leak started, and the boat sank as far as her cargo would allow and then drifted in a water-logged cond- ition. Those on board having expected to be in Chicago for breakfast, only provisions enough for one day were on board, and as Chicago was not made until Sunday afternoon, the crew had nothing to eat from Wednesday morning until that time. They were almost famished, but after a hearty meal of bread and milk were soon in good condition again.
In December, 1855, Mr. Cleveland went to New York with two companions and shipped on board the American Eagle for London, with a cargo of flour, etc. They encountered very bad weather on the way, losing all their boats, having their deck swept clean, and being finally forced to heave to in order to save the ship. On the morning of December 10, they picked up two boats containing twenty-four men and the stewardess from the ship Shebago, which had foundered in the gale. The castaways reported that six men had been left on board the Shebago in a drunken condition, refusing to enter the boats; they were never heard from again. The Shebago's crew was taken to London, Mr. Cleveland returning to America in the American Eagle, reaching Cleveland in the spring of 1856, where he soon shipped as second mate of the schooner Ketcham, making a trip to Saginaw for lumber and returning to Chicago. They set out on another trip for lumber, this time to Bay City, and on the way back the vessel ran ashore on the Spectacle reef, the boat sinking with a hole in her bottom. By throwing off the deck load they managed to float her and get her into Cheboygan, where a diver repaired the break temporarily, so that she could be sailed to Chicago, though still leaking badly, and was there laid up for the season. In the fall Captain Cleveland shipped in the bark Illinois to Cleveland, and then became wheelsman on the propeller Manhattan, remaining in her until she went ashore on the Cleveland pier; she was hauled out on the pier and repaired during the winter. The following spring he became second mate on the Manhattan, and the vessel was sunk at the "Soo" on the first trip, striking Topsail island. He remained with her until she was raised, and then made two trips on her, after which he became second mate of the propeller City of Superior, which vessel ran ashore in a snowstorm at Copper Harbor on November 10, a total loss, and he returned to Cleveland on the steamer North Star. That winter they built the propeller Northern Light for Hanna, Garretson & Co., the Captain going as her second mate and sailing two years. A brief record of his sailing for the next ten years is as follows: In 1860 he was second mate and pilot of the propeller Fountain City; mate of the steamer Illinois; 1861-62-63, mate of the propeller Iron City; 1864, master of the Iron City; 1865, mate of the propeller Ironsides until August, then master of the propeller Governor Cushman; 1866- 67, master of the steamer S. Clement; 1868, master of the steamer Dubuque; 1869, master of the Dubuque and also master of the propeller Old Concord; 1870, master of the Old Concord until August, then master of the propeller R.G. Coburn.
In 1871 Captain Cleveland purchased a farm, intending to retire to it, but he resumed sailing in August, when he became mate of the propeller India, in 1871 being mate and pilot of the same vessel. In 1872, he remained at home until August, when he became mate and pilot of the propeller Pacific. In 1874 and 1875, he was mate and pilot of the steambarge Vienna, spending the next two years on his farm. During the seasons of 1878 and 1879, he was mate and pilot of the steambarge Oscar Townsend, spending the seasons of 1880 and 1881 on the propeller John N. Glidden. In 1882, he was mate of the Henry D. Coffinberry; 1883, mate of the E.B. Hale; 1884, mate of the R.P. Ranney; 1885, mate of the Devereux; 1886, mate of the John N. Glidden; 1887-1888, mate of the Henry Chisholm; 1889, mate of the Pasadena and then of the J.H. Devereux, remaining mate of the latter until September, 1894, when he became master of her. He was her mate again in 1895, sailing as master of her throughout the season of 1896 and 1897, and of the William Chisholm, 1898.
Captain Cleveland has been married twice. In 1859 he wedded Miss Isabella McDougall, a native of Scotland, who died in December 13, 1861; one son was born of this marriage, named George Laughlin Cleveland, but death claimed him a few months later. On February 5, 1863, the Captain was again wedded, this time to Miss Jennie Tompkins, of Columbia, Ohio. Their children are: Lelia M., now the wife of Dr. Berton G. Watson, of Benton Harbor, Mich.; Clara Isabel, now Mrs. Frank Van Noate, of Brecksville, Ohio; Grace A., a professional nurse; and Norman R., a machinist, who is married to Miss Lelia Hayes.
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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.