Captain Wm. E. Rice
Captain Wm. E. Rice, custodian of the Harbor of Refuge at Sand Beach, Mich., is the son of Versal and Samary Rice, and was born at St. Johns, New Brunswick, April 28, 1842, of American parents, who were temporarily residing there. In the fall of the same year, he removed with his parents to the United States, locating at Buffalo, N.Y., where they remained two years then removing to Dunkirk, N.Y., remaining there only one year. Late in the fall of 1845 they removed to Detroit, Mich., and soon after his father became master of the steamer Red Jacket, plying between Detroit and Port Huron. His father then became infatuated with the lumbering business and removed his family to St. Clair, Mich. Soon after, resigning his position as master of the Red Jacket, he engaged as superintendent of the lumbering firm of Parker & Rice (the latter a brother), and shortly after with Wesley Truesdall, with whom he remained until his death at St. Clair, in 1849, leaving the mother with five sons, the oldest being fifteen years of age, and William E. but seven years. The family being left in somewhat poor circumstances (owing to the long sickness of the father), it became necessary to use the greatest economy, and at that it was a hard struggle for the brave mother. At the age of nine years, William E., on his own hook, looked up a job and went to work in the sawmill of William Oakes at St. Clair, being at work for a contractor and earning $15.00 when he was taken sick and had to give up the situation. He has always regretted that he was not taken sick sooner, as he never succeeded in collecting the $15.00, and now counts it a dead loss. His school privileges were very limited, but his practical education is now quite extensive and was acquired by the constant and varied experience in connection with the world, and it may be said in this connection he has not been worsted. He is a man of strong convictions and self-reliant power, in fact one who may be termed a self-made man; without any particular assistance from friends, and without the influence of money to aid him, he started in life and has been successful. Usually he is quiet and unassuming, but in conversation on topics of interest to him he is a strong and forcible speaker, and the trend of his thoughts gives evidence of a well stored mind. Above all he is patriotic, espousing the cause of his adopted country in its struggle for life as readily as if it had been his own quarrel. Early in the Civil war (1862) he enlisted in Company E, 22nd Mich. Vol. Inf. at St. Clair, Mich., and remained in the field until the close of the conflict, being honorably discharged July 14, 1865. He was with his regiment in the battle at Wauhatchie, near Lookout Mountain, and saw the famous battle above the clouds on Lookout Mountain, although his regiment took no active part in this battle. The regiment having been attached to the Cumberland army, was detailed, built and laid the pontoon bridge for Sherman's army to cross the river above Chattanooga, preceding the battle of Missionary Ridge, and was thereafter with General Thomas' army until the close of the war, including the engagements of Sherman's campaign to Atlanta. They returned with Thomas' army to Nashville, but were detailed to remain at Chattanooga, where they still were ordered to be mustered out of the service. Mr. Rice was promoted to the rank of first sergeant of the company just before the Atlanta campaign, which rank he held when mustered out of the service. On returning home at the close of the war Captain Rice located at Alpena, Mich., and engaged in the arduous task of lumbering, and from the station of a laborer, he reached the top of the ladder, being appointed foreman of the largest mill in Alpena, that of F. N. Barlow & Co., remaining in that position until 1872, when he was engaged as superintendent of the long timber business of Ives, Green & Co., of Detroit, Mich., where he remained two years. He then resigned to accept the position of general superintendent of the extensive lumbering and mercantile firm of Geo. L. Colwell & Co. at Au Sable and Harrisville, Mich., in which position he remained nine years.
Captain Rice had invested his savings in vessel property, having first purchased a quarter-interest in the steambarge Mackinaw, and resigned his position with Geo. L. Colwell & Co. for the purpose of devoting his time to the vessel business. Soon after, with Mr. Van Buskirk, he purchased the whole of the Mackinaw, and later on the steamer T. W. Snook, two years later sold the Snook, and the Mackinaw was destroyed by fire in 1889. Captain Rice, on his connection with the vessel business, at once took command as master of the Mackinaw, and general manager of the vessel in which he was interested. After the loss of the Mackinaw, Captain Rice purchased the steamer Rhoda Stewart and became sole owner, and today owns in addition the barge Magnet, besides an interest in several other barges. Captain Rice sailed the lakes as master for seventeen years, and finally retired to accept the government position of custodian of the harbor of refuge at Sand Beach, Mich., where he is now located.
Captain Rice has been president of Port Huron Lodge No. 2 of the Ship Masters president of the Grand Lodge of that association two terms; at the last annual session of the same, held in Milwaukee in February 1898, he was elected to the highest office in the association, that of grand president. He is an ardent and active worker, and at all times deeply interested in the welfare of the association. He is also a Knight Templar Mason and a member of the Mystic Shrine.
While on detail in 1864, as recruiting officer from the army, Captain Rice was married to Miss Mary Brabant, with whom he had been acquainted from early childhood. She died in 1870, leaving two children; Minnie, now Mrs. Louis F. Yearn, and Charles H., who is now an engineer on the lakes. In 1873 the Captain was again married, his second union being Miss Mary Ripkey of Port Huron., Mich., in which city the Captain lived the ten years preceding his removal to Sand Beach, in July, 1898.
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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.