Charles Fero is descended on the maternal side from ancestors who were patriots of the American Revolution, and his grandfather served throughout the war of 1812 with distinction. Mr. Fero was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., August 22, 1840, the son of Abraham and Laura Ann (Frazier) Fero. His father, who was born in Germany, came to the United States when a young man and located in Battle Creek, Mich., where he met and married Miss Frazier, who was but fourteen years of age at that time. While great-grandfather Frazier was with the American army his field of operation was about Detroit, Grand Traverse Bay and Mackinaw, and he was considered one of the greatest Indian fighters of that day. After the close of the war he settled in Mackinaw, where he died, and a modest tombstone marks his grave. Mr. Fero's grandfather, William Frazier, after the war of 1812, in which he was actively engaged, settled among the Indians at Grand Traverse, his being the only white family in the locality. After the recapture of Detroit by the American troops he was appointed by the President as Indian agent and paymaster, having previously had some experience as a missionary. He had under his jurisdiction all the Indian tribes living on reservations between Elk Rapids and Cheboygan, making his home at the former place, which he named in honor of an elk that met its death by a shot from his rifle; this was believed to be the only elk which had made its way into that region. Mr. Frazier enjoyed the confidence of the Interior Department as Indian agent up to the time of his death, which occurred at Elk Rapids; he passed peacefully away at the advanced age of ninety- three years. He was the owner of tracts of land measuring twelve miles about Elk lake and other smaller lakes in the region, which his children (of whom Mr. Fero's mother is one) inherited. Mr. Frazier was succeeded as Indian agent by Albert Miller.
During his infancy Charles Fero was taken from Grand Rapids to Elk Rapids, on Grand Traverse Bay. At the age of seven years he took boy's berth in the little schooner Poland, remaining on her until she was wrecked three years later on the south end of Manitou Island, with the loss of three lives. His next berth was in the full-rigged brig Robert Burns, on which he continued for four seasons. In the spring of 1854 he went to Milwaukee and made one trip in the schooner Traverse to Grand Haven, where he left this vessel and entered the employ of Squire & White, dredging and pier building contractors, as fireman on the tug Waukawzoo. After serving thus for some years he took out pilot's license and sailed her, and some time later took out engineer's papers. Thus fortified Mr. Fero was enabled to take charge of either end of the several tugs and other boats operated by the company and became one of their valuable men transferring as occasion required; he remained with them about twelve years. He was also in the St. Mary, one of the first iron tugs owned by E.B. Ward. Mr. Fero went to Petoskey to take charge as engineer of the passenger steamer Lady May, which was sold at the close of the season. In 1877 he built the passenger steamer Fanny Hazelton, the company for which he sailed the previous year backing him for the sum of $4,500, and put her on the route between Petoskey, Little Traverse and Harbor Springs, sailing her successfully with an Indian crew for nearly two seasons, carrying passengers and towing telegraph poles for the Grand Rapids & Indian railroad. This steamer was wrecked in the fall of 1879, the night that the Alpena went down, one of his Indians drowning. The railroad company had the steamer Gazelle chartered for the same business and Mr. Fero was appointed engineer in her the next season, running her to Detroit, where he laid her up. The following spring her came out as chief engineer of the steamer Oswegatchie, that year removing his family to Bay City, where he purchased a home. In the spring of 1882 he put in the machinery and brought out new the steamer Siberia as chief engineer, and two years later he was chief engineer of the steamer Australasia, subsequently engaging in that capacity on the steamers Lowell and Loretta, the tug O.W. Cheney and the steamer Glasgow. He then entered the employ of Capt. S.B. Grummond as chief engineer in the passenger steamer Flora, lake and wrecking tugs Oswego, William A. Moore, Champion and Sweepstakes, passenger steamer Atlantic, tug John Owen, and steamer Mary Pringle. There were sixteen steam-propelled vessels in the line and he was chief engineer in each as occasion required. During the time he was in Captain Grummond's employ, in which he continued up to the time of that gentleman's death, he perfected himself in the profession of diver, which was perhaps the best feature in the engagement, and he was successful in many notable wrecking jobs. Some time after the Captain's decease, Mr. Fero went to work again for Mr. Sharp, as engineer of the Witch of the West, O.W. Cheney, Louise, and steamer J.P. Donaldson. On September 22, 1897, he entered the employ of the Bay Port Fish Company, and he has charge of all their machinery ashore and in the boats, comprising that in the elevators, gristmill, quarry, mine, etc. He erected the engine and brought out the new steamer the company built in 1898.
On Christmas day, 1867, Mr. Fero wedded Miss Augusta Scott, daughter of Morgan and Hannah Scott, of Ada, Kent Co., Mich., and four children were born to this union, but one of whom survives. William was drowned at Wheeler's slip when eleven years of age; Roy died when nine years old; Augusta died in infancy. Charles Morgan, the first-born, has adopted the vocaton of a marine engineer, and is second in the steamer Stevens. The family residence is at No. 204 Hill street, corner of John, West Bay City, Mich. Mr. Fero also owns the homestead of eighty-seven acres at Elk Rapids, left by his mother.
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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.