Captain Cornelius B. Chatterton
Captain Cornelius B. Chatterton, more familiarly known all over the lakes as Niel Chattertown, was born at Ogdensburg, N. Y., March 22, 1844. He is a son of Jacob Chatterton, an old steamboat man and a bateau pilot on the St. Lawrence river before the day of steamboats, who was a Canadian by birth and died in 1889. He had quite a family of children, six besides the subject of this sketch, viz: Stephen, a lake and saltwater sailor; Michael and Edward, machinists; William, who died in Chicago, in 1893; and two who died in early life.
Captain Chatterton obtained his education at his native place and Morristown, N. Y., not attending school any after he was eleven years of age, but by close observation he has come to be a well-informed man. At the age of eleven years he shipped out of Ogdensburg as boy on the schooner Allegan, of Cape Vincent, remaining part of the season, which he finished in a sloopscow that he had under charter to carry cordwood and tanbark up and down the river St. Lawrence. In 1856 he was master of the scow Sharp, and in 1857 was before the mast on the schooner Governor, of Kingston, owned by Captain Taylor. In 1858 he started out as a driver on the Erie canal, but by some misfortune had his team drowned at Syracuse, and was consequently discharged without pay. He then thought he would try his chances at New York harbor, and going to that place shipped on the ship Edward Hyman, bound for San Francisco. After three years knocking about in the western country, sailing mostly along the Pacific coast, he turned up in Chicago, as a substitute broker, and there resided and carried on that business about two years. An interesting fact is that he built the first recruiting office, on the ground now occupied by the Chicago courthouse, out of twelve-foot slabs, part of the cargo of a schooner, the capital stock in the enterprise consisting of twenty dollars, a half-interest being owned by Hiram Manuel, now a wealthy vessel owner of San Francisco. During the winter of 1862-63 the partnership was dissolved and Captain Chatterton did business, individually, in substitute brokerage in different parts of the country until about 1865, in the spring of which year he, with James Pringle, of Benton Harbor, bought the schooner Annie, of Bronson harbor. In October he sold his interest to a Mr. Black, and the vessel went ashore subsequently at St. Joe, Mich., drowning both owners. Captain Chatterton then shipped before the mast out of Milwaukee in the bark DeSota, which he left at Buffalo. He then went to New York City and shipped in the bark Kate Kelley, trading between that port and Aspinwall, and next took a couple of voyages in the schooner Jim, a small packet trading to the West Indies.
From that employment Captain Chatterton returned to the lakes and became mate of the bark David Morris in the lumber trade from Pidgeon river, Lake Huron, to Cleveland, and coal to Chicago, at which latter place she was laid up at the close of the season. He was next mate of the schooner Rosa Dousman, which was lost on her first trip about two miles north of New Buffalo, Mich. The vessel was lying at the end of the pier, being loaded with cordwood, when the wind struck her from the northwest so close that she could not fetch out. They let go her anchor, but a gale of wind followed with such fury that the anchor chain parted, and the vessel went ashore on the ice which had formed an almost perpendicular wall some forty feet high. There she hung from 8 in the evening till 8 the following morning, with the sea running over her all night. About 1 a.m. one sailor perished, and about an hour afterward two more succumbed; but they were made fast to the main boom. At about 8 a. m. the people of New Buffalo came down, and a line was passed to them so that the remainder of the crew - the captain, the mate (Chatterton), the cook and one sailor - were taken off. He was next mate and sailing master of the schooner Kitty Grant for about four months in the trade to White Lake, Mich., and for the rest of the season he was mate of the Kate Darley, out of Chicago. For the succeeding season he was mate of the propeller Omar Pasha and steam barge Dunbar, of Chicago. He now returned to mate's berth in the Kate Darley, and from her went on similar berth in the Equator, after a trip and a half becoming her master, and so remaining until she was lost off the dock at North Manitou island November 6, 1869. He was next master of the propeller Lady Franklin, with which he did some wrecking work for the schooner Hammond, ashore on North Manitou island. For this service he received $1,600, after a period of seven years spent in litigation in Chicago. The Franklin was subsequently refitted, and used in the trade to Green Bay along the shore of Lake Michigan in opposition to the Goodrich line, and later sold to Cleveland parties. That season (1870) was finished by Captain Chatterton as master of the schooner A. Rust. In 1871 he was mate of the tug Bismarck, towing barges from Chicago to Buffalo, and he was also in the Bismarck three trips in 1872, thence going to Cleveland and bringing out the steam barge Michael Groh. He returned to the Bismarck and because the master left to go into the Messenger he filled master's berth until the close of that season. In the spring of 1873 he made a couple of trips to Chicago as mate of the passenger steamer India, but finished the season as master of the schooner Annie Sherwood.
Until August of 1875 Captain Chatterton was interested in a saloon at the corner of Water and Wells streets, Chicago, when he fitted out an expedition to go to Lake Erie, to search for a cargo of whiskey sunk off Monroe, Mich.; but at the end of three months he returned to Chicago unsuccessful. In 1876 he was mate and sailing master of the steambarge Leland, and continued until July 1877, when he transferred to the propeller Norman, which was made over into a lumber barge at Milwaukee. In 1879 he was mate of the Japan, of the Anchor line. The following season he made two trips in the Japan, and then became master of the India, in which he remained till the close of the season in 1883. He was in the India, on Lake Superior, during the big blow of 1880 when the Alpena went down in Lake Michigan, and was in the trough of the sea for fourteen and one-half hours, shifted her upper masts, and she was finally pulled out.
In 1884 he was master of the steamer Oneida from Chicago to Ogdensburg, N. Y., and the following season he was for part of the time master of the excursion steamer Pickup, which he chartered at Marine City to run on Niagara river. He was also mate and pilot of the steamer H. E. Packer, which he laid up at Chicago after a trip so late in the season that he crossed Saginaw bay on Christmas eve, and on Christmas night went through Mackinac straits without a light on his way up. In 1886 he was master of the steamer New York, in the trade between Chicago and Muskegon, and between Chicago and Georgian bay, which went ashore on November 22 at Cordwood Point, Lake Huron, but which he finally laid up at Chicago. In 1887 Captain Chatterton bought the schooner C. A. King, of which he was master four seasons, selling her in June, 1891, and finishing the season as master of the Toledo. During the season of 1896 he bought the steamer Harbrecht and barge Camphor, which he runs with excursion parties in connection with his liquor business, which he carries on at No. 120 Main street, Buffalo. These vessels he sold, however, in the fall of 1897.
The Captain has had a long and successful experience in the navigation of the Great Lakes, sailing in his time some of the best boats of the lakes, and had had many trying times, such as would test the courage of any man. Because of his coolness in all times of danger, he has invariably reached port in safety, and on occasions when other men have given up the ship. He is a member of the Ship Masters Association, carrying Pennant No. 367, and of local Harbor No. 41, of the American Association of Masters and Pilots; socially, he affiliates with the Elks, the Masons (Blue Lodge and Chapter) and Knights of Pythias. He was married in 1884 to Miss Eliza Crabb, of Erie, Penn., and they reside at No. 120 Main street.
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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.