Captain William Lyman Stevens
Captain William Lyman Stevens, keeper of the Life Saving Station at St. Joseph, is a son of James E. and Lucinda (Hastings) Stevens, and was born in St. Joseph, Mich., December 5, 1851. The father, a native of Brownsville, Jefferson County, N. Y., born within sight of Watertown, in 1823, came to St. Joseph in 1842. At that time the country about Benton Harbor was all in timber, there being but one house, and that a log one, which stood about where the pumping house now is, and was occupied by the grandfather of J. S. Morton, now of Benton Harbor. As time passed by J. E. Stevens became one of the most active, and probably was engaged more largely in business than any of the other citizens of the county who were contemporaneous with him during his active business career. In 1860 he commenced farming, cleared up the woods and improved 160 acres of land at Eastman Springs. For a period he farmed extensively and carried on a large general store at St. Joseph; also had a general store at Benton Harbor, and one at South Haven. He had commenced merchandising at St. Joseph in 1844, and was for twenty-eight years a merchant at that place. From 1864 to 1870, in addition to his large business interests, he was active in the lake trade, building and operating the schooners R. B. King and Belle Stevens; also was one of a company who built and ran the propeller Favorite; held interests in the steamer Benton, and the Lady Franklin; and in the propellers Van Raalte and Skylark, which plied on Lake Michigan between St. Joseph, Chicago, Milwaukee, Grand Haven and Muskegon. During the same period Mr. Stevens was engaged in the lumber business, and was represented in yards in Milwaukee and Chicago. He is now residing on a farm within a couple of miles of Benton Harbor, and is engaged in raising small fruits.
Capt. W. L. Stevens, the subject of this sketch, grew up and was educated in St. Joseph. He assisted his father in his different business enterprises, and farmed for several years. Later was employed for a number of years as foreman in the work about the docks in his native place, and for one year was similarly occupied at Chicago. In December, 1879, some six months after the establishing of a full crew at the life saving station at St. Joseph, Mr. Stevens was made the keeper of the station and captain of the crew, which relation he has ever since sustained with the U. S. Life Saving Service. During a service of nearly a score of years, which is of itself sufficient evidence of ability and efficiency, Captain Stevens and his noble crew have rescued many lives from wrecked vessels, and performed acts of heroism. In referring to the wreck of the steamer Protection, which occurred off Saugatuck, November 13, 1883, and to the St. Joseph crew, the report from the published records of the U. S. L. S. service at Washington set forth that:
In several marked respect, including the distance of sixty-four miles traveled by the life-saving crew to effect their magnanimous purpose, this case of rescue may be considered unparalleled in the annals of the service. But for the gallant aid rendered them it is more than probable the fifteen men aboard the Protection would have perished. It will be seen that the efforts made by the brave citizens of Saugatuck to get out to them in a boat were baffled by the terrible wind and sea. Adrift in an unmanageable vessel, their places of shelter breaking away under the shocks of gale and wave, they would in all likelihood have soon frozen to death, or become the prey of the surf, but for the action of the little corps of life savers.
When the steamer City of Duluth was wrecked off St. Joseph, January 26, Captain Stevens succeeded in getting his crew together, and six hours after receiving the information of the wreck had saved forty-one lives, which constituted the crew and passengers of the City of Duluth. This following was one of the most notable and important services rendered Captain Stevens and his crew. On November 10, 1898, when the schooner Lena M. Nielson was stranded at Lakeside, twenty miles south of St. Joe, the crew went down by fast train, and rescued the crew of four men of the ill-fated vessel, who were clinging to the rigging, a feat that required not only bravery, but great skill and generalship.
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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.