John Alexander, a prominent engineer sailing out of Ogdensburg, N.Y., on the steamer William J. Averill, received engineer's papers as soon as they could be legally granted, that is, when he reached the age of twenty-one years, since when he has come rapidly to the front in the lines of promotion. He was born on Croil island, near Lewisville, N.Y., in American waters of the St. Lawrence river, and is a son of John and Susanna (Robinson) Alexander, natives of Osnabruck, Ont., who removed to the United States about 1855, but some years later returned to Osnabruck, where the father died in 1863, the mother passing away in 1878. Our subject's paternal grandfather, Henry Alexander, was a native of Scotland, while his maternal grandfather, William Robinson, was born in county Armagh, in the North of Ireland.
John Alexander, the subject of this sketch, attended the public schools in the villages of Lewisville and Waddington, making good use of his time there until he was seventeen years old. Two years later he shipped as fireman on the passenger steamer Island Dove plying between Waddington and Ogdensburg, and he held that berth three years. In 1882 he was granted a government license, and was appointed chief engineer of the passenger steamer Massena plying on the St. Lawrence river between Ogdensburg and Ft. Covington, running her successfully three seasons. His next berth was on the steamer Cresco, which traversed the same route as the Massena in the passenger, freight and excursion business. In the spring of 1888 he was appointed first assistant engineer on the St. Lawrence river tug Curlew, running between Ogdensburg and Montreal, and during the fore part of the season of 1889 entered the employ of the Ogdensburg Transportation Company, as first assistant onto the steamer Oregon, transferring later on the new steamer Governor Smith. In the spring of 1890 he transferred to the steamer Walter L. Frost, closing the year as engineer on the H.R. Clark, a pleasure yacht on the St. Lawrence river. The next six seasons he passed as assistant engineer of the steamers W.A. Hascall, William J. Averill and Henry R. James, respectively, remaining in the last named boat three seasons; all of these were operated by the Ogdensburg Transportation Company. In the spring of 1896 Mr. Alexander was appointed chief engineer of the steamer William J. Averill, and presided in her engine room up to 1898. He is a man of unusually fine physique, tireless in the performance of his duties; and his machinery is always found in first-class condition.
Socially, he is a Knight Templar, belonging to St. Lawrence Commandary No. 28, of Canton, N.Y.; St. Lawrence Chapter No. 132, R.A.M.; and Canton Lodge No. 111, F. & A.M. He is also a member of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association of Ogdensburg, No. 87.
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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.