Captain Fred G. Benson
Captain Fred G. Benson, may with truth be designated as the typical tug master, genial and large hearted, courageous and gentle, of fine physique and great endurance, broad mined and generous to a fault. He is the son of Royal and Emily (Bates) Benson, and was born June 20, 1854. The only other child of the family is Isabella, now the widow of John M. Came. The father was a carpenter and millwright, and carried on business in and about Saginaw, Mich. having removed to that city from Iowa in the year 1864.
It was in Saginaw that Fred G. acquired his education, attending school winters until he reached the age of eighteen years. He was apprenticed to learn the carpenter's trade with Benson & Campbell, his father being the senior member of the firm and remained with that firm four or five years, sailing as occasion offered when his trade was dull, on the Saginaw river and bay, and it was by reason of this experience that he was made wheelsman in 1873 on the steamer John Sherman, formerly a United States revenue cutter and considered the speediest boat on the lakes. Her machinery is now in the steamer Alaska. Capt. John Steward was in command of her at one time, and she was operated by Messrs. Cole & Halt. The next season he shipped as lookout and acting second mate in the same steamer.
In the spring of 1885 Captain Benson joined the steamer Mendota, with Captain Palmer, closing the season in the steamer China, Capt. Charles Christy, as wheelsman. The following season he was appointed second mate in the steamer G.P. Heath, owned and sailed by Capt. R.C. Brittin in the fruit and lumber trade between Chicago and Saugatuck. Captain Benson had his first experience on Lake Superior in the steamer Annie L. Craig, as wheelsman. Capt. William Cunnings sailed the Craig, Michael Chalk was chief engineer, and Thomas Lang mate. In the spring of 1878 he was appointed master of the tug Uncle Sam, operating on the Saginaw and owned by L.D. Russell. The next two seasons he sailed the tug Charles Lee, for W.A. Avery, which had the machinery of the tug Gray. During the season of 1881 he sailed the tug George Hand for Thomas Hubbell, of Saginaw, who had a contract for government work at Sand Beach, engineer Gilbert being in charge. It was in the spring of 1882 that Captain Benson entered the employ of the Tittibewasse Boom Company with whom he remained six years. During that period he sailed the tugs J.P. Logie, Charles Lee, James Hay and Robert Weideman, being master of the latter tug four seasons. He purchased an improved farm of eighty acres near Clio in the winter of 1883-84, upon which he built a spacious modern home, and which his wife manages in a practical business way during his absence on the lakes. In September, after sailing the tug Music, he entered the employ of Capt. B.B. Inman as master of the tug O.W. Cheney, transferring to the Cora B. the next season, and in September taking command of the M.D. Carrington, which he sailed until the fall of 1894. In the spring of 1895 Captain Benson was appointed master of the fine new tug B.B. Inman, of which he is still in command. He designates her as the flower of the fleet. She is one of the most powerful tugs on the lakes, and has the name of being the handiest and most sensitive to her rudder on fresh water. She is handled entirely by steam as regards windlass, stearer and reverse gear. She has a Dean independent air, feed bilge, water and fire pumps, using seventeen steam cylinders and the Howden hot air draft.
In 1877 Capt. Fred G. Benson was wedded to Miss Julia, daughter of Eleazer and Amanda Woolsey, of Saginaw. The children born of this union are: Frances E., now the wife of William McCumsey, of Clio; Roy E., Nellie B. and Fred Albert. When the snow of winter approaches Captain Benson retires to his pleasant home at Clio, the fittings of which are in keeping with the education and refinement of its occupants.
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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.