Captain James Corrigan
Captain James Corrigan, the subject of this sketch and one of the largest individual vessel owners on the lakes, has by his keen foresight, good business methods and upright life attained to a strong and enviable position in the commercial world. As a young man he was employed in an oil concern and soon commenced to make experiments in oil on his own account, but in the summer months turned his attention to sailing.
In 1867 he sailed the schooner Trial, plying between Cleveland and Port Stanley in the oil trade. On one of his trips an episode occurred which portrays his humanity and the courageous spirit with which he has been endowed. The day was stormy and the waves were running high. Captain Corrigan, after having been on watch many hours gave the helm in charge of a young sailor named Cummings, of Oswego, and turned in, leaving most of his clothing on. He soon heard the cry "man over-board," and on reaching the deck he could just discern his helmsman struggling in the wake of the vessel, having been washed overboard by the heavy sea. The only boat on the schooner was a small one, flat-bottomed and square ended, which was launched with Captain Corrigan in it. He pulled away and rescued young Cummings, but the two were not able to regain the schooner, as she was not put about or hove to. About dark after the utmost exertions for fourteen hours to keep the boat afloat, they were picked up by the schooner George J. Whitney, Captain Carpenter, and taken to Detroit. The schooner Trial, which had come to anchor off Fairport, was picked up by the propeller Dean Richmond, and towed to Cleveland. Captain Corrigan was given up for lost, as for three days nothing of his whereabouts was heard.
In 1872 he had another experience. It was on a day that a portion of the Cleveland City waterworks crib was destroyed by the waves, before the breakwater was constructed. Captain Corrigan was riding at anchor on the Canada side in his schooner yacht Jane Anderson. The wind was blowing at the rate of sixty miles an hour, and the cable chain parted. The Captain made sail, shaped his course across the lake and sailed her into the river at Cleveland, his arrival being witnessed by scores of excited people on the shore. The yacht came inside the piers laying over almost on her beam ends.
All the lines of manufacture and commerce with which Captain Corrigan is identified, including the ownership of steamboats, iron mines, furnaces and oil territory, have prospered under his direction and multiplied many fold. He is, indeed one of the enterprising and energetic business men to whom the country is indebted for the growth and magnitude of the lake commerce. A bold and confident operator, he seems to know intuitively which investment will give the best results, as well as the time to make such investments. It was in the spring of 1872 he commenced to take interest in lake matters, and has since owned the schooner Massilon, Algeria, Hypogriff, Niagara (765 tons), steamer Raleigh (1,165 tons), schooner Lucerne (727 tons), Tasmania (930 tons), Northwest (960 tons), Polynesia, and finally, in 1884, he commenced to purchase steamboats of the larger class, consisting of the Australasia (1,539 tons), the Bulgaria (1,496 tons), Caledonia (1,486 tons), the Italia (1,570 tons), and the Roumania (1,486 gross tons). In 1896 he became the pioneer of the present largest class of vessels, and had built to his order the Amazon (3,600 tons) and Poynesia (3,562 tons), and Australia (3,745 tons).
Captain Corrigan also interested himself in the oil business during the year 1872, and in a short time was in possession of and operated the largest refining works in the country (outside of those owned by the Standard Oil Company), several of which were on Walworth Run, Cleveland. He also owned the Excelsior, Doan, Chase and Commercial Refineries. He was the discoverer of the process for the manufacture of mineral seal oil, which was the first oil ever used successfully in railroad cars, and of the machine oil known as cylinder oil; these oils are of 300 fire test. He also has a process of refining parafine wax. The Standard Oil Company adopted their process for refining lubricating oils from Captain Corrigan. He finally leased his refineries to that company and later sold out to them, taking considerable stock in the transaction. In 1881 he and his brother John went to Austria, Hungary, and purchased a large tract of oil-producing territory, including the estate of Prince Sterbei, who associated with them in the enterprise; they established two refineries, one in Grybow, not far from Crakow, and the other at Kolomea, Austria, their last refining operations being at the latter place. They remained in Austria three years, with their principal operations in the province of Galicia, and as neither of the brothers could speak the language of the country, they were compelled to employ interpreters.
In 1883 Captain Corrigan turned his attention to Lake Superior iron mines, and at various times held controlling interests in the Queen Buffalo, South Buffalo, Prince of Wales, Dunn, Crystal Falls, Sunday Lake, Iron Belt, Aurora, Atlantic and Franklin. In order to get the best results from his steamboat and iron mines, he thought, to make the combination perfect, it would be advisable to have furnaces of his own, and accordingly invested in the River Furnace and Dock Company of Cleveland, Ohio, and two other furnaces, which are located in Pennsylvania.
The confidence and skill with which Captain Corrigan carries on these lines of business, and the interest thus taken in commerce, attracted the attention of the Lake Carriers Association, of which body he has been a member since its organization, and he was chosen president. He presided over the association during the term of 1894, giving universal satisfaction by his energy and business wisdom. Notwithstanding his busy life he finds time to enjoy congenial sport, and some years ago purchased a swift sailing catamaran which it is his pleasure to trim and sail, always inviting a number of his friends to accompany him. He also owned the schooner yacht Jane Anderson, and two steamyachts.
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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.