Captain Thomas Wilford
Captain Thomas Wilford, who is one of the most prominent of steamboat masters on the Great Lakes, and a supervisor of construction, was born at Clipston, Northampshire, England, in 1841. In his capacity as a steamboat master he is independent, self-reliant, and always ready for any emergency that may transpire in his chosen line of work. He removed to the United States in 1853 with his father's family, locating at Amherst, Ohio, where his father died the following year, thus giving him limited opportunities for acquiring an education, but by dint of perseverance he was enabled to attend the public schools for some time. He is another of those men who have worked their way to the front by integrity, the force of energy, and a keen knowledge of the requirements necessary to the successful handling of large steamboats.
The first four years of his residence in this country were passed in the monotonous routine of a farmer boy's life in Amherst township, Lorain Co, Ohio. In the spring of 1858, deciding to cast off the lines that held him to the farm, and make fast to those of the water, he shipped as seaman on the schooner John S, Reed; and the following year joined the schooner Planet, remaining on her two season; then shipped on the schooner Winona and the Exchange for one season each, serving on these vessels in the capacity of seaman. In the spring of 1866 he was appointed mate of the schooner H.G. Cleveland, which position he retained four seasons, giving great satisfaction to those employing him. In 1871 he went as mate on the schooner Charles Wall, and then to the schooner George Warmington for two seasons, but closing the season of 1874 on the schooner Pathfinder. In 1875 he was appointed master of the schooner Exile, owned by H. Kelly, and later by W.C. Richardson. He held this command eight years, and was then appointed master of the steamer J.M. Osborne, owned by Capt. J.C. Richardson, which was sunk in Lake Superior, in 1884, by the Alberta, sailing in the interests of the Canadian Passenger Streamer line. In 1885 he brought out new the iron steamer J.H. Devereux, remaining with her five years. In 1890 be brought out new the steel steamer J.H. Wade, retaining command of her two years, or until 1892, when he was again required to take command of a new steel steamer, the Samuel Mitchell, which boat he laid up at the close of navigation of 1896 at Chicago, and taking command of her again in the spring of 1897; thus rounding up a period of thirty-nine years on the lakes, twenty years of which were passed as master of vessels, both sail and steam. He has been eminently successful as master of steel steamers. For the J.H. Wade and Samuel Mitchell he made the contracts, and was superintendent of construction. Captain Wilford sailed the steel steamer Samuel Mitchell, 2,278 gross tons, and has sailed metal steamers longer than any other master out of port of Cleveland.
He has been fairly prosperous, and owns a money interest in the steamers J.H. Devereux, Wade and Mitchell, and is also the owner of other property. He is a member of the Royal Arcanum, and of the Ship Masters Association, carrying Pennant No. 196.
In 1870 Captain Wilford was wedded to Miss Fannie McQueen Gilmore of Lorain. Two children have been born to them, one dying young. Cora E., the daughter, is wedded to Charles f. Bartenfeld, or Lorain, Ohio.
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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.