John Beswick Cowle
John Beswick Cowle, a prominent and highly-esteemed citizen of Cleveland and a pioneer of Cuyahoga county, was born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, September 16, 1826. He is the son of Daniel, a native of Kirk Andreas, Isle of Man, and his wife, Alice (Beswick) Cowle, a native of Bolton, Lancashire, England.
In the reform movement in England, in 1838, Daniel Cowle joined the party of Chartists, who were endeavoring to correct English politics, and being fearless and outspoken he was compelled, in 1839, to leave his country and family, and find refuge in the United States. The Chartist party took its name from the people's charter, a document in which the scheme of reform was embodied and which provided for annual parliaments, universal suffrage, vote by ballot, abolition of property, qualification for membership in the House of Commons, payment of members and equal electoral districts. Upon reaching this country Mr. Cowle landed at Fairport. His father and sisters owning a farm, he located at Concord, Lake Co., Ohio, remaining there until the summer of 1840, when Mr. Cowle removed to Cleveland, his family following in the fall. The father opened a marine black- smith shop on the corner of Detroit and Center streets, and there continued in business until his death, in 1855, which was caused by cholera.
John B. Cowle, with his mother and three sisters, took passage at Liverpool for New York, and after a voyage of six weeks and four days landed in New York. While on board ship Catherine, one of the sisters, sickened and died and was buried at sea. Leaving New York they went by way of canal to Buffalo, this trip taking seven days of their time. Thence to Fairport, a journey of two and a half days. On their arrival at Concord, to which they had journeyed, they found that the father, who had previously preceded them to this country and to Ohio, had gone back to New York. Upon his learning that his wife and family were in Ohio, returned to that State, where he found them. John B. Cowle received a limited education in the government grammar schools before leaving his native country. At the age of fourteen years he entered the employ of the Cuyahoga Steam Furnace Company, to learn the molder's trade, serving an apprenticeship of seven years, and was with that firm fifteen years. In 1855 he purchased from Mr. William McClellan a three- eighths interest in a machine shop located on Elm street, which proved to be a successful venture. The firm was known as McClellan & Co., and was changed successively to McClellan, Sanderson & Co., and after to Cowle, Cartwright & Co., and was generally known as the Globe Iron Works.
On January 25, 1869, Henry Coffinberry, Robert Wallace and John F. Parkhurst purchased a five-eighths interest in the firm, doing business under the firm name of the Globe Iron Works. In the fall of 1881 the firm decided to put in a plant for the building of iron and steel vessels. A contract was secured in due time, but this was no easy matter, as the metal boat at that time was designated as a "tin pan." The first iron steamer built in Cleveland, and known as the Onoko, was put under construction and launched the following year; this was considered a monster vessel at the time - 306 feet over all, 288 feet keel, 21 feet depth of hold, and 38 feet beam - and carried the largest cargo on the lakes, 100,800 bushels of wheat, or 108,000 bushels of corn. This steamer was followed by the iron steamer J.H. Devereux, William Chisholm; the iron tugs Record and International; the side-wheel passenger steamer Darius Cole, and the steamer Spokane, all of which were in commission in 1898.
In 1886 a change took place in the firm of the Globe Iron Works, Henry D. Coffinberry, Robert Wallace and John B. Cowle withdrawing. In the meantime, during May, 1876, the company had purchased an interest in the Cleveland Dry Dock Company, and, after the change mentioned in the old firm, Mr. Cowle purchased Mr. Presley's interest, and was chosen treasurer of the company, after which he turned his energies toward the dry dock, which was enlarged to 360 feet long by 50 feet at the gate. He has lived a long and useful life in Cleveland, and has been well recompensed, although he has met with some losses - on disastrous venture being the construction of a new building and plant, at a cost of $158,000, known as the Etna Iron and Nail Company, at Newburgh, Ohio, Mr. Cowle being chosen one of the directors. This concern suffered two years of very dull trade and then failed. At present he holds a money interest in the iron steamers Onoko, J.H. Devereux and William Chisholm, and the wooden steamers George Presley and H.B. Tuttle, and the schooner Nellie Redington.
In 1851 John B. Cowle was wedded to Miss Catherine Gillett, of Littleport, Cambridgeshire, England. The children born to this union were: Oscar Daniel; Ann Alice, now Mrs. W.E. Perkins; Margaret Isabella; Henry John; Furnace Henry, and Catherine Florence, of whom all are deceased except Mrs. Perkins and Catherine F. The family homestead is located at No. 90 Clinton street, Cleveland, Ohio. On August 13, 1897, Mr. Cowle met with a severe loss in the death of his wife after an illness of two years, which she bore with great patience.
Mr. Cowle has been a member of the Erie Lodge of Odd Fellows since 1844. At the time of joining the order he was not yet twenty-one years of age, but a special dispensation was secured from the Grand Lodge for his initiation. For many years he was one of the most active members, and filled all the chairs of the subordinate lodge, and of the Encampment. When the Odd Fellows hall was erected on the corner of Pearl and Church streets, he aided the enterprise by a liberal subscription. He has also long been a consistent member of the St. Johns Episcopal Church, and has been its efficient treasurer for a number of years. He is well and favorably known by vessel owners and business men, and by strict integrity has made hosts of friends.
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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.