Captain Charles T. Bronson
Captain Charles T. Bronson is a descendent of two very noted families, whose names are so familiar to students of lake history, his grandfather on his maternal side being Henry Navarre, named for Henry IV, King of France and Navarre, while his grandmother was Mary LaSalle, a relative of the great explorer and discoverer of that name, who built the first two vessels to navigate the lakes below the falls of Niagara, one being the Griffin, while the other, which was wrecked on her first voyage, was not named.
Captain Bronson was born at Monroe, Mich., in the pier lighthouse, Lake Erie, on February 25, 1858, his father being the keeper of the light at that time. He is the son of William E. and Clara (Navarre) Bronson, and a grandson of Edward Bronson and wife, both natives of Scotland, and the latter a member of the MacLaren Clan. They came to the Unites States and located in Seneca, N.Y., when that city was a very small hamlet. The Captain's father, who was a well-known maters of steamers on the lakes, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1823, which was very early in the history of that great lake port. The mother's birth occurred in a cottage near Monroe, Mich., which was owned by her father at that time. There Gen. Anthony Wayne, the great Indian fighter, known in history as "Mad Anthony," made his headquarters during the time he was waging an aggressive war again the "noble red man," then the allies of the French. Mrs. Bronson is now sixty-eight years of age, and makes her home in Chicago. Notable among the steamers which her husband sailed were the City of Toledo, Dart, Clematis, Kate Williams, Bonnie Boat, his last command being the Joseph Barber. He died in Monroe, Mich., in 1873.
Capt. Charles T. Bronson and his sisters secured their primary education at Sandusky, Ohio, at which time the father was sailing the Bonnie Boat between Fremont and Sandusky on the Fremont river. They would take their lunch baskets and go to school by boat in the morning, and return in the same way in the evening. The Captain afterward attended school in Detroit, and finished his education at South Bend (Ind.) Academy, where he studied for several winters. He commenced his marine career at an early age, going first with his father as wheelsman in the Clematis and transferring to the schooner Erastus Corning, Bridgewater and St. Paul as the years passed. In 1873 he went to New York harbor and shipped in the bark James L. Prendergast, bound for Rio Janeiro, where he contracted yellow fever and was left in the hospital. Being strong in vitality and having a good constitution, he recovered after two months, and shipped as second mate in the brig John Shay, returning to New York by way of St. Thomas. He then went to Louisville, Ky., where he was appointed master of the small steamer Corinne and sailed her two seasons on Green river, between Bowling Green, Ky., and Evansville, Ind. Returning to New York, he shipped in the bark Fannie H. Loring, and made a voyage to the Mediterranean Sea, touching at Gibraltar, Alexandria, Malaga and other seaports, the round trip occupying about eighteen months. His next voyage was to Rio Janeiro, Brazil, as second mate in the James L. Prendergast, being absent nine months. Leaving his ship at Baltimore, Md., he joined the schooner James M. Riley, going before the mast at Liverpool, thence to Cadiz, Spain, and returning to Philadelphia with a cargo of merchandise.
In the spring of 1881, Captain Bronson went to Buffalo, N.Y., and shipped in the steamer Maine, one of the old Northern Transportation Company's boats, as wheelsman. This was followed by a season as second mate in the schooner J.C. Masten, going thence in the same capacity in the Michifian, a smart schooner. He stopped ashore in 1884 and entered the employ of the Pullman Car Company as time keeper, and steadily advanced until he became assistant superintendent. In 1887 the company purchased the steamer May A. Minter and he took charge, sailing her three years, when he was transferred to the Leo. It was in the spring of 1891 that he first entered the employ of the Goodrich Transportation Company, as mate of the passenger steamer Indiana, the next two seasons holding a like berth in the steamer City of Racine. In the spring of 1894 Captain Bronson was appointed sailing master of the United States revenue cutter Calumet, at the same time being invested with the office of custom inspector. At the breaking out of hostilities between the United States and Spain he was directed to take the Calumet to Cleveland and deliver her to the navy department, which he did on April 15, 1898, and returning to Chicago he was appointed to the captaincy of the passenger steamer Chicago, of the Goodrich Steamship line, plying between Chicago and Lake Michigan ports. Although he resigned his office as inspector of customs at the time he returned over to the government the cutter Calumet, his tender has not yet been accepted. Captain Bronson lived in Detroit a number of years, but removed to Chicago in 1872, and now makes his home at 454 Fifty-fifth street, that city. He was married on October 4, 1878, to Miss Zeppa Curtis, and and to them have been born two children: Ada had just graduated with honors from the Hyde Park high school, and her essay on Patriotism, which was the subject announced by the faculty, received the highest commendation. She chose for her theme "Mad Anthony," and handled it with rare ability, originality and pathos; Charles C., the son, is a pupil of great promise.
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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.