Oliver J. Soleau
Oliver J. Soleau, a master mariner, who has had command of lake vessels, both steam and sail, for many years, is of French descent, and numbers in his immediate family a grandsire, sire and four brothers who took honorable part in the American wars.
A son of James J. and Emily (LaCroix) Soleau, he was born October 9, 1859, in Monroe, Mich., which was also the birthplace of his parents. His grandfather, Tousaint, came to the United States previous to the war of 1812, locating at Monroe, Mich., and saw active service in the ranks of the United States infantry during that stirring period. The father, James J., was first lieutenant of Company E, Eleventh Michigan Cavalry, and served throughout the Rebellion, being a portion of the time in General Stoneman's division. At the close of the war he returned home, but soon died from the effects of the hardship and exposure while in the service. His brother, Adrian C., who died at Knoxville, Tenn., was also in the Eleventh Michigan Cavalry, and was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant. They participated in sixty cavalry engagements, the most important being at Pound Gap, Ky., and several fights while on a raid under General Stoneman and Burbridge in Kentucky and West Virginia, at Mt. Sterling and Saltville, Piketon, Jonesboro, and on the Big Sandy river in Kentucky; also at Cobbs Ford, Bristol, Wytheville and Morristown, Va.; Boone, Salisbury and Sawanoa Gap, N.C.; Caesar's Head, Picksville, and Anderson, S.C. The Eleventh was consolidated with the Eighth Michigan Cavalry July 20, 1865, and were mustered out September 22, 1865. Two other brothers, Francis and Henry enlisted in the Fifteenth Michigan Infantry, the former being a major and the latter a sergeant. They first met the enemy at Pittsburg Landing, under Gen. U.S. Grant, April 6 and 7, 1862, the regiment losing two officers and thirty-one men killed, sixty-four wounded and seven missing. The other engagements in which they participated were Farmington, the sieges of Corinth, Iuka, Vicksburg, and Jackson, Miss.; Resaca, Big Shanty, Kenneshaw, Ga.; Decatur, Ala.; siege of Atlanta; Jonesboro, Lovejoy Station, Clinton, and Fort McAllister, Ga.; Orangeburg, Congaree river, Saluda creek, and Columbia, S.C.; Fayettville and Bentonville, N.C., having had the honor of marching with General Sherman to the sea. Francis was once wounded. Tousaint, another brother, was qualified as sutler of the regiment.
Capt. Oliver J. Soleau, the subject of this article, received a liberal education in the public schools of Monroe, Mich., which he attended until he reached the age of fifteen years, and during the winter months, even after he had begun his marine career, which took place on the schooner O.L. Frick, in the year 1875; and after coming out on the same schooner the next spring he transferred to the schooner Harriet Ross, known, in 1813, as one of Commodore Perry's war vessels, closing the season before the mast on the schooner Miami Belle; also sailed on the George S. Hazard, Elizabeth Jones, Melvin S. Bacon, E.A. Nicholson, Wabash, Mays, E.R. Williams, John Wesley, Columbia and Adventure.
In the spring of 1880 Captain Soleau was appointed mate of the schooner Walter A. Oades. While lying at anchor off Port Huron the Anchor line steamer Chicago ran into and sunk her, without loss of life, however. He closed that season on the schooner A. Boody, before the mast and as second mate. The next year he joined the schooner Brooklyn as mate, and in the spring of 1882 came out as second mate on the Reuben Dowd, closing the season on the S.V.R. Watson. In the spring of 1883 the Captain got his first vessel to sail, the bark Waverly, and since that time has had an uninterrupted run of success as master. His next command was the schooner Consuelo, after which he was in command of the Genesee Chief in 1885, the Fannie Neil in 1886, Genesee Chief again in 1887, and in the spring of 1888 he was appointed master of the schooner Bay City, sailing her two seasons. In 1890 he took command of the schooner Porter, and sailed her four consecutive seasons. Captain Soleau then turned his attention to steam, and after sailing the Raleigh one season, was appointed master of the steamer Veronica, which he has sailed with good business success for four seasons, including that of 1898.
On January 16, 1895, Capt. Oliver J. Soleau was wedded to Miss Cora E. Murdock, of Ypsilanti, Mich. The family homestead is No. 329 Locust street, Milwaukee, Wis., where the Captain has erected a new house.
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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.