Charles W. Butler
Charles W. Butler is a distant relative of the famous lawyer, statesman, soldier and politican familiarly known in history as Gen. Ben Butler. He is the son of Gerald Butler, a resident of Ogdensburg, N. Y., foreman of a sash and door factory.
Gerald Butler's grandfather was a brother of Benjamin, who was a grandson of Ann Butler. Charles Butler has some long-lived relatives on the maternal side. His mother's name was Sally Olmstead, and she hailed from Vermont, where she died in 1861. Moses Olmstead, her great-uncle is still believed to be living about seven miles from Potsdam, N. Y. at the great age of one hundred and six years, and two of his sons, Luman and Oren, are still living at the same place, the former ninety and the latter eighty years of age. At the age of sixty-nine Moses Olmstead by an unfortunate fire lost all he possessed, with the exception, perhaps, of his apple and potato crops, in the way of personal property located upon his farm near Potsdam, which embraced between four and five hundred acres. He saved also some bonds of the Ogdensburg & Lake Champlain railroad, which he obtained by the sale of rights of way through land purchased by him in his neighborhood and sold to the railroad company. Being left substantially penniless, he sacrificed his railroad bonds at the rate of forty cents on the dollar, and so successfully extricated himself from his embarrassment that he afterward established several of his children in business by presenting them each with a goodly number of acres of farm land.
Charles W. Butler, the subject of this sketch, was born in Ogdensburg, New York, in 1857, and obtained a limited amount of common-school education at Public School No. 4 of that city. His first employment in life was in the flourmill of Rhody & Bill, at Ogdensburg, where he worked for about a year. He was next employed in the shinglemill of Chapman & Son, at Morristown, N. Y., for a period of two years, and at the age of sixteen he returned to Ogdensburg to run an engine in a sash and door factory for his father for about two years, and then to work in the shop of John Glass about the same length of time. After that he went to work in Canada and worked in Black Brothers' shops at Brockville about six months, and at various times he has been employed in other shops. In the spring of 1874, Mr. Butler shipped out of Morristown, N. Y., on the steamer John Harris, upon which he remained about five successive seasons, three as fireman and greaser, and two as engineer. For the season of 1881, which was only six months long, he was chief engineer of the steamer Armstrong, a carferry between Morristown and Brockville in connection with the Utica & Black River and Canadian Pacific railroads. The following season he was chief engineer of the steamer Cygnet, carrying passengers between Alexandria Bay and Ogdensburg, and for the three succeeding seasons he was chief of the Stranger, in the same trade. While on the Stranger in 1855 she went to the assistance of the steamer Oneida, wrecked between Alexandria Bay and Clayton, and while engaged in relieving her of her cargo of corn the side-wheel steamer Concord went ashore about two miles above the Oneida. The Stranger rendered valuable services in the efforts made to raise the latter steamer, finishing the undertaking successfully December 3.
The next year Mr. Butler operated a stationary engine at the Sidney Brown flour mill at Ogdensburg, and the two succeeding years he was employed erecting engines in different parts of the country for the Cummer Engine Company, of Cleveland, Ohio. In the spring of 1889 he shipped as second engineer of the steambarge Heckler, laying her up at Chicago, at which place he shipped as chief engineer of the steamer Germania, on Dec. 13, for Buffalo, and thus closed that season. The Germanic brought down a cargo of corn, the freight upon which was seven cents per bushel. During a part of the season of 1890 he was chief engineer of the steamer Oneida, and closed it as second of the H. E. packer (under Henry Rocker as chief), which was laid up in Chicago. The following seasons he was second engineer of the H. E. Packer and Cayuga respectively, and in 1892 of the steamer Seneca, which was laid up at Buffalo. Mr. Butler brought her down on the last trip because the chief left and went home. In the spring of 1893 Mr. Butler fitted out the steamer Robert A. Packer and intended to act as her chief engineer for that season, but was unable to do so because of illness which set in April 10 and lasted until July 18. About the date last mentioned he shipped as second engineer of the William Edwards, remaining only two months, however. He then became second of the Buffalo of the Western Transportation line, upon which he remained in that capacity until the close of the season of 1894 at Chicago. During the fore part of the season of 1895 he was still second of the Buffalo, but changed to the Edwards again in the capacity of chief, laying her up at Chicago. For the season of 1896 Mr. Butler was chief engineer of the excursion steamer Shrewsbury until September 6, after which he was second of the Thomas Davidson until she was laid up at the end of the season at Buffalo. For seasons of 1897- 98 he was engineer for Urban Milling Company. In all his experience on the lakes he has had no mishaps of any importance, and he never was in an accident or collision.
Mr. Butler was married in 1879 at Morristown, N. Y., to Jennie Blackmer, by whom he had eleven children, only one of whom survives. Harry, now (1898) aged eight years. They reside at No. 389 Elk street, Buffalo. Our subject has been a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen for about five years, and he is a member of the National Engineers Beneficial Association, Keystone No. 50.
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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.