Captain John Kelly
Captain John Kelly, a retired shipmaster, and at one time largely interested in vessel property, is now a prominent and enterprising business man of Saginaw, Mich. He is a self-made man in the true sense of the term, as he commenced his career on the lakes in the capacity of cook on a scow, and steadily advanced by the application of energy, industry and determination to the position of master and owner until he acquired a competence, which has enabled him to retire from active life on shipboard and take his place in the business world. As a heavy stockholder in the American Commercial Savings Bank, of Saginaw, and of which he is also a director, he is esteemed as one of the substantial citizens of that city.
The Captain was born in County Down, Ireland, March 7, 1843, and is a son of John and Mary (Goslin) Kelly, who, in 1849, came to America, locating at York, on the Grand river, in the County of Haldimand, Ont., where our subject received a primary school education, after which he joined his father at work in a sawmill. He was but twelve years of age when he first adopted a seafaring life, his first venture being as cook on a lumber scow, trading on Grand river to Buffalo, followed by a season on the new tug Howard.
In the spring of 1862, when the Civil war threatened to be of long duration, Captain Kelly determined to join the United States navy. He enlisted at Buffalo, and with a number of other lake sailors was sent to Erie, where he was put on board the old gunboat Michigan. After a short time at drill exercise, he was transported to New York, where he joined the receiving ship North Carolina, and in due time was assigned to the United States cruiser Huntsville, Captain Rogers, belonging to Commodore Wilkes' squadron. It was the good fortune of the Huntsville to capture many prizes, among them the iron brig-rigged steamer Adella, of Belfast, with a cargo of arms, ammunition and medicine, and the steamer Reliance, with a cargo of cotton; other prizes were Mississippi river steamers, engaged in running the blockade between New Orleans and the British island of Nassau. The Huntsville had a crew of 130, all told, and lost 34 from yellow fever; but none of the young men from the lakes took it. As the close of his term of enlistment drew near young Kelly was transferred to the old frigate St. Lawrence, which visited each ship of the entire blockading fleet, and took on board all the sick, wounded and invalids, and sailed for Portsmouth, N. H. , where they were received into hospitals, and it was here that Captain Kelly was honorably discharged from the service, receiving his share of prize money. He returned to Buffalo and the spring following he again took up his life on the lakes, shipping before the mast on the schooner Lucy Blossom. He made his last trip on her to Boston with a cargo of walnut lumber, and there left her, while he returned to the lakes and shipped on the Castalia. In 1866 he went to Saginaw, which city he made his home port.
In the spring of 1869 Captain Kelly was appointed mate of the tug Ballentine, with Captain Madden closing the season as master of the tug Ransom, which boat he sailed three successive seasons. It was in 1873 that he first began purchasing vessel property, buying a half interest in the barge Matilda, and after sailing her three seasons sold her, and bought the barge Joseph, of which he was master three years. In 1879 he purchased the tug A.W. Wright, and the barges Sylvia Morton and Norway, going as master on the tug. That fall he sold the Sylvia Morton. The next season he sailed the tug A.W. Wright, and in 1881 assumed command of his barge Norway, and sailed her one season. In the spring of 1884 he purchased the schooner Goshawk, and sailed her five seasons. He then bought a quarter-interest in the J.H. Prentice, put in the machinery, and sailed her until September 1892, and with the Goshawk and A. A. Carpenter, which he had purchased as consorts, engaged in the lumber-carrying trade. He sold the Goshawk in 1892 and bought the Kittie Brainard, which he sold at the end of that year, and added the S.C. Baldwin and Middlesex to his fleet. Later he sold a two-thirds-interest in the A.A. Carpenter and S.C. Baldwin, he still retaining a third-interest in both boats respectively, and bought the schooner Halstead. The next transfers he made were the steamer J. H. Prentice and consorts Middlesex and Halstead, which he sold to the Shores Lumber Company. Since retiring from the lakes, in September, 1892, Captain Kelly has devoted his attention to his financial interests and real estate in and about Saginaw, as well as looking after his farming interests and hardwood timber lands, also situated in the old Lake State.
On January 24, 1876, the Captain was married to Miss Annie, daughter of Thomas and Margaret Holmes, of Saginaw. One daughter, Eva A., is the only child born to this union, and has just finished her education in the convent of the Sacred Heart at Grosse Point, Mich. The family residence is a handsome modern structure, at No. 937 Genesee Avenue, Saginaw, Michigan.
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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.