Captain Henry J. Woods
Captain Henry J. Woods, keeper of the United States Life Saving Station at Muskegon, Mich., is not only experienced in his line of duties as a life saver, but has given close attention to the mechanical appliances in use in the service, and has invented several ingenious additions thereto, the most important of which is his system of carriages for transporting and launching the large lifeboats in use at all stations, patent oar locks and steering oar locks. He has at his own cost a machine shop fitted up, adjacent to the station, and supplied it with $1,000 worth of tools at his own cost, and so well do the officials of the life-saving service regard his appliances that they have authorized him to construct for government use several sets of launching carriages and oar locks. He is not only an expert boat man but an engineer, and perhaps contracted his love for machines while running a stationary engine in the oil country near Erie, Pennsylvania.
Capt. Henry J. Woods was born near Oneida, Cattaraugus County, N.Y., on May 29, 1850, and is a son of Henry J. and Harriet J. (Starkweather) Woods, both being born near Brandon, Vt., and descendants of a long line of reputable ancestors in the Green Mountain State. After attending the district schools until he was fourteen years of age, he went with a brother-in-law, Capt. Frank Jackson, who commanded the Twelfth Ohio Independent Battery of Artillery, stationed at Murfreesboro, Tenn., and after the battle of that place the battery was transferred to Chattanooga, where is remained until the close of the war, and, although Henry was not an enlisted soldier, he enjoyed the discharge of the artillery just as well as any of the volunteers. He then went to Fond du Lac, which place his mother had made her home after the death of the father in 1851. In the spring he went to Erie, Penn., where he acquired his first experience as a boatman, as he engaged as a fisherman for two seasons. In 1868, he started in business for himself, owning two boats, and fishing along the shore out of Erie, Conneaut, Ashtabula and Fairport until 1875, when he went to St. Joseph, Mich. The next year he went to Edenburg, Penn., where he engaged for three years in the oil fields. At the expiration of that time he returned to St. Joseph and took a contract for hopping pails in the factory of A. H. Morrison, but before the close of the year the factory was destroyed by fire.
In the spring of 1880 Captain Woods entered the life-saving station at St. Joseph, and was appointed surfman No. 1. He remained at that station two seasons, and took a prominent part in rendering assistance to all vessels in distress. In 1882 he was appointed keeper of the Muskegon station, and the first vessel requiring assistance in his new office was the schooner S. B. Pomeroy, taking off the crew on March 29, and later assisting in getting the schooner out of trouble. It would occupy too much space in this work to give in detail the lives saved and the vessels assisted by Captain Woods with his crew of veterans during the sixteen years he has been keeper at Muskegon, but the following are among the most notable instances of rescue: Barge Burton, scow Miami, schooner Trial and three men, steamer Michael Groh and fourteen men, Emma L. Nelson, Pilot, Harkins and nine men, John Bean, Naiad, Penobscot, R. B. King (which struck the pier and capsized, two men being saved and two lost), steamer Henry Johnson, schooners Ada, Alvin Bronson, Blue Wave, Novina, Magnolia, Triad, Cheney Ames, Nellie Hammond, S. P. Ely, Mischicott, Condor, steamer Charles Retz and consorts, John Mark, and Agnes Potter and Waukesha, which did not signal for aid and foundered during the night, but one man being saved. In addition many lives were saved from small boats in Muskego lake, among them two sailboats with six people, yacht Viking and four men, sailboat and three men, three from a fishing boat, and several capsized boats with from one to four men, also the life of a boy whom the Captain discovered floating under water. One of the most thrilling episodes experienced by the Captain and his crew was on November 28, 1882, when the schooner Donaldson, dismasted, was sighted by the lookout. They could not get a tug, so pulled out a lifeboat through a blinding snowstorm with a heavy sea on. The crew lashed themselves to the thwarts to prevent being washed overboard, and after a noble struggle with the elements reached the distressed vessel, seven miles out in the lake and sixteen miles north of the station, and after twelve hours exposure to death they reached the shore drenched to the skin and covered with ice. The crew of the Muskegon station, as constituted at this writing, consist of George I. Van Burt, John Edlund, Henry Walker (detailed as surfman at the Omaha exhibit), Henry Berg, Guy Patterson, Fred W. Cramer and George McKinzie, numbered in the order named. Capt. Henry J. Wood was honored by being appointed keeper of the station at the exhibition at New Orleans in 1885-86, during the Cotton Centennial Exposition, and filled the office with ability.
Capt. Henry J. Wood was united by marriage to Miss Hulda A., daughter of James L. and Lucinda L. (Bartlet) Wells, of Marietta, Ohio, the ceremony being performed at Grand Rapids, Mich., on February 6, 1881. The children born to this union are: Hattie H., who died January 23, 1898, and Gracie B. The home at the station evidences the intelligence and refinement of the wife and daughter.
The Captain is quite popular with many of the social orders of the day, being a Master and Royal Arch Mason, a charter member of Knox Lodge of Odd Fellows, of Edinburgh, and Knights of Pythias, Elks and Foresters.
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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.