Captain Thomas Honner
Captain Thomas Honner, a United States inspector of hulls, is one of the ablest officers on the Great Lakes, and his present responsible position,which comes under the civil service rules, was secured by merit only. His high standing upon examination is the more credit to him because of the fact that he is almost entirely self-educated, his early opportunities for attending school having been extremely limited. The following account of his life will be read with general interest, as he has a host of friends and acquaintances.
His family is of French origin, the line of descent being traced back to old Norman times, but his ancestors settled in Ireland many years ago. Edward Honner, the father of our subject, was born in Queen's County, Ireland, and about 1822 came to America, locating first at Utica, N.Y., where he purchased a large tract of land and engaged in farming. Owing to a defect in the title the property was lost and he then removed to Cobourg, Canada, settling upon a farm, and about 1848 he made his permanent home at Amherstburg, Ont., eighteen miles below Detroit.
Our subject was born March 2, 1845, at Cobourg, Canada, and his father removed to Amherstburg, Ont., about three years later, he was reared in the vicinity of that town. The schools of the locality were not suited to a clever and ambitious lad, but he made the best of his advantages, and sought by reading to supplement them. After he had begun his work as a sailor the deficiencies in his early training became even more apparent to him, and for two terms he attended school at Oberlin, Ohio, pursuing the higher branches. This desire for excellence has characterized his efforts throughout life, and to it we may attribute his success in whatever he has undertaken.
In 1862 he secured employment on the schooner Narragansett going before the mast, and a portion of two seasons was spent on that boat; but during the latter part of the second season he shipped on board the three-masted schooner the Oneonta. At the opening of the third season he was employed on the schooner Saranac, under Capt. Charles Gale, bound for Birkenhead, England, with a load of copper ore. They reached Liverpool on July 4 of that year, and our subject shipped on the Peruvian, of the Allan line, for Quebec. On arriving there, he ran away and went to Buffalo, N. Y., and the remainder of the season was spent on the lakes on the bark Sunrise. During the following summer he made another trip with Captain Gale, this time in the bark Thermutis, and remained with the boat on the entire voyage to and from Birkenhead. The fall months were passed on the Sunrise; and during the next season he served before the mast on the Oak Leaf, and for two seasons following, he was employed as wheelsman on tugs in the Detroit river, first on the Prindeville, and later on the Castle, and then for two seasons was mate on the tug Torrent, owned by Gen. R.A. Alger. In 1876 he became master of the tug Hector, of Detroit, on which he spent two seasons, and then took charge of the Castle for the same company.
His reputation as a safe and reliable captain was by this time well established, and he was continuously employed in that capacity for some time, serving one year on the tug John Owen, towing rafts for General Alger; one season on the tug Gladiator; two years on the tug William A. Moore; two years on the steam barge Iron Age, in the iron ore trade for McMillan & Co.; two years on the Iron Duke for the same company, and two years on the barge Morley, which had been rebuilt at Port Huron and christened the Grand Traverse. On leaving this boat be became captain of the Wisconsin, belonging to the D.& M. R.R., and remained until 1896, when the vessel was sold to the Crosby Transportation Company. Since April, 1898, his time has been devoted to the duties of his office of inspector, in which his sound judgment has been many times demonstrated. He has always been interested in general marine affairs, and was one of the first members of the Buffalo branch of the Ship Masters Association, known as Branch No. 6. Socially, he is also identified with the B. P. O. E. and the F. & A. M., but is not at present affiliating with any local branch of the latter order.
Return to Home Port
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.