Captain Benjamin Wilkins
Captain Benjamin Wilkins (deceased) was the first child born to Capt. Thomas and Anna (Henton) Wilkins, and will be remembered by older shipmasters as one of the most popular and skillful steamboat captains on the lakes. He was born at Gospel Hill, near the city of Erie, Penn., commenced his lake-faring life with his father, and was shipmate with Capt. John H. Richards, and many other masters who became notable in after years. After acquiring the necessary lore, he entered the employ of Gen. Reed as master of the steamer Missouri, having previously sailed in the Reed line in other capacities. His next commands were the steamers Illinois and Sandusky, and the first propeller of which he was master was the Ontonagon. He then associated himself with the Spencer line (headquarters at Chicago), as master of the steamers Ironsides, Planet and others.
In the winter of 1867-68, Captain Wilkins superintended the work of removing the machinery and cabin of the Planet to the steamer Northwest, which was new that year, and sailed her during the season of 1868 between Cleveland and Bayfield. She has since been christened Greyhound. The next season he purchased an interest in the steamer Cuyahoga, one of Captain Spencer's vessels, and sailed her two seasons. In the spring of 1871 the captain entered the employ of the Anchor line as pilot on the steamer Winslow until June, when he brought out new the iron propeller India for the Atlantic, Duluth and Pacific line, and commanded her until June, 1873, when that line discontinued business. He was then appointed master of the steamer Winslow, and continued to sail her until the fall of 1877. The next spring he was again made master of the India, then operated by the Lake Superior Transit Co., which was formed by the consolidation of the Anchor, Union and Western lines, and sailed her up to the time of his death, which occurred on October 6, 1880.
Capt. Benjamin Wilkins married Miss Anna Backus, of Gospel Hill. The children born to this union were Joseph H., Thomas E., Parks C., W.W., Clara L. (now Mrs. E.S. Mayloy), Jennie M. (now Mrs. G.M. Mitchell), and Miss Sarah Prescott, all the daughters now living in Chicago.
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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.