Captain Riley M. Burrington
Captain Riley M. Burrington, it would seem, was predestined to become a lake sailor, and since reaching the age of ten years he has devoted himself to that avocation, rounding out a period of half a century in active duty on shipboard, filling all berths, from the humble place of boy cook to that of owner and master. He was born at Painted Post, N. Y., December 22, 1838, and is the son of Leander and Laura (Walker) Burrington. His mother comes of a sailor family, being a sister of Captain Walker, so frequently mentioned in marine historical reminiscences as master of the notable steamer Great Western, and to whom the honor of building the first upper cabins on lake passenger steamers belongs.
Captain Burrington's school days were limited, and his first experience as cook was on the little sloop-rigged scow Eagle, with Captain Ames, after which he found employment, in different capacities, on various tugs, plying on the St. Clair River, notably the Romeo, until the spring of 1855, when he became master of the side-wheel tug Undine, he being but seventeen years of age at the time. It should be mentioned that this was before the government required that masters of steam tugs should be in possession of license. Had the Captain taken out his license at this time in his career, and kept taking it up regularly, he would have now his forty-second issue, as it is, he has thirty-eight, perhaps the highest number on record.
In the spring of 1856 the Captain came out as master of the steamer Columbia, but closed the season as second mate of the steamer Sam Ward, with Captain Fish. The next two seasons he sailed as mate on the steamer Magnet with Capt. George Stewart and Capt. M. Smith, respectively. From this time Captain Burrington prospered. In the spring of 1859 he was made mate of the propeller Buckeye; 1860 mate of the James Eagle, but before the close of the season he purchased the schooner Island City and sailed her; 1861 he rebuilt the steamer Ocean, transferring her into a barge, and sailed her.
In 1862 Captain Burrington purchased the side-wheel steamer Union, and operated her as a tug on St. Clair River, selling her to P. J. Ralph at the close of the season. In 1863 he bought the steamer Wave and sailed her two seasons, and after selling her he bought the tug H. B. Clinton. His next boat was the passenger steamer Lake Breeze, which he put on the shore route, and sailed her one season, when he sold out and was appointed master of the passenger steamer Eighth Ohio, which was operated on the same line. He then purchased the tug Relief and sailed her. During the season of 1872-73 he was master of the propeller Evergreen. In the spring of 1874 the Captain went to Bay City and entered the employ of Mitchell & Boutell as master of the tug Annie Moiles; transferring to the tug Music the next spring, and operating her three seasons, followed by two on the tug Emerald. In the spring of 1879 he was appointed master of the passenger steamer Cora Lock, but closed the year as captain of the tug L.P. Johnson. His next venture was the purchase of the schooner Georgia, which he sailed that season and sold in the winter. In 1882 he again assumed command of the tug L.P. Johnson. In 1883 he bought the barge Sylvia Morton and sailed her, followed by a season as master of the propeller Almira, with the Sylvia Morton as consort. In the spring of 1885 he again took command of the Sylvia Morton and that fall disposed of her, taking the propeller Dunkirk the next spring. He then chartered a steam yacht and operated her on the Saginaw river as a tug, doing a good business. The schooner Lookout was his next purchase, which he put into the old iron trade on the Saginaw river.
In the spring of 1890 Captain Burrington purchased the schooner Ida Robinson, and after a good season's work he sold her and went to work for Mr. Reed at Sault Ste. Marie as master of the steam wrecking scow Ida Burton. In the spring of 1892 he entered the employ of Capt. B. Boutell as master of the rafting tug Ella Smith, trans- ferring into the Peter Smith and C.O. Smith, as occasion required, during the five years he remained with that owner. During the year 1898 he entered the employ of the Michigan Log Towing Company as master of the lake tug Howard. He is a member of the Beneficial Order of Maccabees.
Captain Burrington was united in marriage to Miss Esther Rogers, daughter of Thomas Rogers, of Bay City, Mich., August 9, 1859. The children born to this union are Elizabeth; Ralph R., who is a lumber inspector; and Laura B. The family homestead is near Bay City, Michigan.
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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.