Henry Chalk has long been a sailor, having begun his marine career forty-one years ago as ferry boy on Buffalo creek, his boat, named the Wild Irish Girl, plying at the foot of Main Street and the Richmond elevator. Since that time he has become one of the best known engineers on the lakes, and has held the position of chief in the passenger steamers of the Lake Michigan & Lake Superior Transportation Company for twenty-one years. Mr. Chalk is one of those engineers whose machinery is always in order, and readily gains the confidence and esteem of all interested. He is a son of Michael and Catherine Chalk, both of whom were natives of County Roscommon, Ireland, coming to America in 1832, and locating on a farm near Oakville, Ontario, where Henry was born April 15, 1837. During his early boyhood he assisted his father on the farm, and attended the district schools.
In 1894[sic] Mr. Chalk began his lakefaring life out of Buffalo before the mast in the schooner Scotland with Capt. Dan Bowen. The vessel was dismasted that fall in a squall, but this did not deter him from shipping again the next year, as he joined the schooner Robert Emmet in the same capacity, following with a season in the new schooner Alice, in which he made his first trip to Chicago. In the spring of 1867 he was advanced to the position of wheelsman in the schooner Hunter, holding that berth but a short time, and changing to become fireman in one of the Evans line steamers, plying between Buffalo and Chicago. That winter he worked under instruction in the Buffalo Iron Works, with the purpose of becoming a marine engineer, and retained his place there until the spring of 1870, when he shipped as oiler in the steamer Colorado, closing the season in the tug Monitor, operating out of Chicago.
In the spring of 1871 Mr. Chalk took out engineer's papers, and was appointed second in the steamer F. B. Caldwell, holding a like berth in the B. F. Wade the next two seasons, and in 1874 joining the Canisteo, also as second engineer. In the spring of 1875 he was appointed chief engineer of the passenger steamer J. T. Truesdell, taking the Ida M. Torrent the next season. In the spring of 1897[sic] he entered the employ of the Lake Michigan & Lake Superior Transportation Co. as chief engineer of the passenger steamer City of Duluth, which he ran for twenty consecutive seasons, until she sank at the piers of St. Joseph, Mich., in the winter of 1897. In the spring of 1898 he was appointed chief of the steamer James Fisk, Jr. Mr. Chalk passed one winter on the ocean, making the passage to Liverpool in the Arizona, and thence to Hull, England, and Glasgow, Scotland, in the steamer Illinois, finally going to Greenock, where he shipped in the Ocean Monarch for Boston.
Mr. Chalk is one of a family of nine children. John, the eldest son, enlisted in a New York volunteer infantry regiment in 1862, and served with distinction; he was killed at the battle of Gettysburg, Penn., and although his mother and sister went after his remains, they were never recovered. Ellen became the wife of F. Lynch, of Boston, Mass. Elizabeth is the wife of George Connolly, of Valley Falls, R. I. Theresa is living in Pawtucket, R. I. Michael has been engineer in the Leland, St. Paul, Annie L. Craig and other steamers, and is now United States boiler inspector for the Duluth district. Edward enlisted in the Union army in 1864, and participated in the battles around Richmond and Petersburg; he died while in the service, and his mother went south, received his body and took it to her home for burial. William became an expert machinist, as did also Timothy, who is an inventor and took out patents for oil cups and rubber packing which are coming into general use. Henry Chalk now makes his home in Chicago. He is unmarried. Socially, he is a member of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association.
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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.