Robert T. Walker
Robert T. Walker was born in Waupaca, Wis., February 6, 1852. Two years later his parents removed to Hall's Corners, near Geneva, N. Y., and when he was four years of age they moved thence to Drummondsville, or as it is more familiarly known, Lundy's Lane, Canada. On the trip Mr. Walker crossed the suspension bridge at Niagara Falls, which was then uncompleted, upon a man's back, the man making his way across on a walk made of thirty-inch planks laid lengthwise, the whole width being 106 inches. The family remained at Drummondsville about four years and then moved to Thorold, on the Welland canal, where they lived until Robert T. was about sixteen years of age. George and Elizabeth (Turnbull) Walker, the parents, were both born in Scotland, and came to this country in 1845, locating at Geneva, N. Y.
Robert T. Walker, the subject of this sketch, obtained most of his schooling while living at Thorold. In 1868 he entered the employ of John Brown, who had the contract for the building of the canal at the St. Clair flats, and was engaged there for two seasons as fireman of the tug J. H. Doyle. After that, and while fireman of the same tug, he was employed in connection with some dredging work at the mouth of the Saginaw river, later returning to the flats to finish some work there which took about a month. Then he went to Port Huron, where he remained until January, 1870, finishing some dredging work at Muir's dry dock. In the following spring he again went to Port Huron and worked as fireman on the same tug about two months, at the end of that time going to Detroit, where he took passage on the steamer Milwaukee for Chicago, and in that city he obtained employment as fireman on a derrick on the Chicago & Alton canal, near Blue river, about twenty miles from Chicago. After two months of this work he went to St. Catharine's, Ontario, and obtained employment on the Welland railroad, working there in the machine and carpenter shop, as fireman, and as brakeman (extra man on the road) for about three months. In September he went to Brantford, on the Grand Trunk railroad, and from there to Buffalo, in search of employment, finally locating at Erie, Penn., where he had the position of brakeman and flagman on the Erie & Pittsburg railroad. In February, 1871, he entered the Erie City Iron Works to learn the machinist's trade, remaining there until September, 1873, when he went to Toronto, Ontario and worked in the machine shops of Dickey, Neal & Co. until November following. He then went to Detroit and Toledo for a while, and later located at Sandusky, Ohio, where he worked in the Baltimore & Ohio railroad machine shops until August, 1874. At this time he engaged as engineer of the steamer North Star, owned by Captain Bennett, which was employed in the passenger, mail and coasting trade between Mackinaw and Cheboygan. In order to reach his boat he had to cross the Straits of Mackinac on the ice, a distance of eighteen miles, which he did in company with the mail carrier and his dog train. The season that year was very late, boats not getting through the straits until May.
In 1875 Mr. Walker became second engineer of the steambarge Yosemite, owned by Capt. John Estes and Ryan, Johnson & Co., of Sandusky, Ohio. The season of 1876 he was second on the barge Ohio, and in 1877 became chief on the Yosemite, remaining one season. In 1878 he was second on the Alaska, of the Anchor line, for a season, and in 1879 brought out the Delaware as chief, holding that position for four consecutive seasons. In 1883 he abandoned the lakes, in February of that year becoming chief engineer for Lee, Holland & Co.'s planing-mill, where he remained ten years steadily. Beginning with the month of February, 1893, he was chief engineer of the Erie County Bank building, and in February, 1895, he became a partner in the firm of King & Walker, which partnership was dissolved in June 1897.
Mr. Walker has been a member of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association since the fall of 1879, and in 1890 joined the National Stationary Engineers Association, No. 16, of Buffalo. He was president of that association for a year, a delegate to the Omaha convention in 1892, and in 1893 doorkeeper of the national body at the Atlanta convention. In September, 1896, he was also a delegate, and on the executive committee for the fifteenth annual convention at Buffalo.
In January, 1879, Mr. Walker was married to Miss Annie Notter, and they have the following-named children: Bessie, now (1898) aged seventeen years; George, fifteen; Charles, eleven; and Harriet, nine. Mrs. Walker is the second daughter of George H. Notter, who for many years was a tug and canalboat builder at Buffalo. He commenced that line of business in 1846 as partner of the firm of Van Slack & Notter, but for the greater part of his life was alone in business. He died in 1889. He had three sons who are also boat builders, Thomas N. Notter being now with Grady & Maher, tug and boat builders; the other two now live in Chicago, George being in charge of the Delaware & Hudson Coal Co.'s dock there, and Charles, superintendent for Bogle, Notter & Co., who manage a machine shop and coal hoists.
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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.