Captain Seth Lee
Captain Seth Lee, now a prominent citizen and business man of Muskegon, Mich., has been one of the popular and successful master mariners. He began his career on the lakes over fifty-two years ago. He was successful because he acquired vessel property of his own, and never lost any belonging to other people; he was popular because he was a manly man, a good officer and a wholesome, hearty companion. Still possessing robust and vigorous health, he loves to go down to the steamboat landing and recount old times and adventures with the officers yet in active command of ships, this being especially true of his meetings with his shipmate, Capt. David M. Cochrane. Captain Lee is the son of George and Sarah (Rose) Lee, of Kalamazoo, Mich., and Auburn, N. Y., respectively. The father was a stone mason and contractor, and among other works built the courthouse and jail at Elyria, Ohio. He died in 1844, his wife surviving until 1891. Of their sons, George and Seth became sailors, the former, among other vessels, commanding the Sea Gull and Dawn.
Seth Lee began his career on the lakes in the spring of 1846 as cook in the schooner Citizen, commanded by Capt. Dennis McBride, who treated the boy right, according to the legend. At the close of the season the schooner was laid up at Erie, and the captain gave Seth $110 for his season's work and $10 to pay his way home to Elyria. Instead of using the money for that purpose he walked the distance, and gave his mother the entire sum. The next season he shipped in the schooner Colt with the same captain, and in the spring of 1848 in the schooner Industry with Captain Snell, closing that season in the schooner Monsoon with his brother-in-law, Capt. John Peterson, with whom he continued as sailor before the mast the next three seasons, going with him in the schooner Forest in the spring of 1852. During the next three years he sailed as mate in the schooners Wild Rover, Tartar, Eclipse, Scott and William Buckley, in the brig Julia Dean, a handsome and speedy ship, and as wheelsman in the steamer Rochester, with Capt. James Lundy.
In the spring of 1855 Captain Lee was appointed master of the schooner Ellen Kent, finishing the season in the Velocity. He followed this season with a season in the schooner Tartar, engaged in carrying stone for the construction of the old Sault canal, and in 1857 he joined the schooner Cuba as master, sailing her two seasons. His next command was the schooner Circassian, which he retained until the spring of 1861, when he brought out the schooner Kelpie, transferring to the Capt. Horn, however, before the close and sailing her until 1865. That year he brought out the schooner Presto, but after purchasing an interest in the George C. Drew he changed to her command. During the winter of 1865-66 he built the schooner Mystic, brought her out new and sailed her with good financial success for six consecutive seasons, selling her in the month of May and purchasing the schooner Kate Lyons, which he sold that fall. In the spring of 1873 he purchased the schooner Rouse Simmons, continuing to sail her until August, 1874, when he retired and accepted the position of superin- tendent of the Muskegon Boom Company, and office which he held five years. During this time, in 1877, the tug Ira O. Smith was built to Captain Lee's order. In 1879 the Captain returned to his lakefaring life as owner and master of the schooner S. Anderson, and was out in her during the fierce Alpena storm of October 16, 1880, which caused great loss of life and property. In the spring of 1881 he bought the schooner Andrew Jackson, selling her that winter. The next year the Captain founded a ferry line on Musekgon Lake with the steamers Centennial, Mary E. Menton and Ira L. Hackley, operating this line ten or twelve years; but as a motor line of cars was put on between the points reached by his steamers he gradually disposed of his boats, in 1895 trading the Centennial for a valuable tract of land near Muskegon. In conjunction with the ferry enterprise in 1882 he made contracts with the city of Muskegon for the paving of several streets. In 1888 he opened the People's Steam Laundry, which is under the immediate direction of his wife, and she has conducted it with good success for ten years, being endowed with the enterprise and thorough business methods so essential in that trade. On October 1, 1897, Captain Lee was appointed collector of customs for Muskegon.
For his first wife Captain Lee married Miss Fina Mills, daughter of Durlin Mills, of Milan, Ohio, and they had one daughter, Cora, who is now the widow of Tate Starke, who at the time of his death was superintendent of the Thayer Lumber Company. On August 19, 1874, the Captain wedded Mrs. Kittie M. (Haight) Burrows, daughter of Charles Haight, of Buffalo, N. Y., shipbuilder and contractor of the tugs Kittie M. Haight (named in honor of his daughter) and Annie Laurie. The children born to this union are Kittie M., a graduate from the Muskegon high schools, who is now assistant librarian in the Hackley public library at Muskegon, and Charles Henry Hackley, a lad of good mechanical ingenuity, who declares he will be lake captain like his father. The family homestead is at No. 172 Webster avenue, Muskegon. Socially the Captain is a veteran Master Mason of Erie Lodge No. 239, of Milan, Ohio, in which he was raised when twenty-one years old; taking his dimit, however, to Muskegon Lodge No. 140.
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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.