Captain Henry W. Davis
Captain Henry W. Davis, who sailed on the Atlantic ocean for many years after serving an apprenticeship on the lakes in the early 'fifties, is a well known and genial citizen of Port Huron, Mich., when he is ashore, and believes that this life should be enjoyed as thoroughly as possible. He was born August 21, 1841, near Perry, Lake county, Ohio, and is a son of Calvin and Jane (Snell) Davis. He comes of old New England stock, his father having been born in Vermont, while his mother was a native of Pennsylvania. They came west about 1836, and stopped for a time at Perry, Ohio, but afterward located in Geauga county, the same State. The father was a ship-carpenter and assisted in the construction of the schooners R. R. Johnson, Matt Root and Calvin Snell at Richmond, and at times engaged in sailing. Later in life he removed to Willow Creek, Mich., and there engaged in farming after clearing his own land.
It was during the years that the family lived in Richmond that Henry W. Davis, the subject of this article, acquired his education in the public or district schools. It was in 1853 that he took his first lessons in seamanship on the schooner Matt Root, built by his father and uncle, Solomon Snell. He remained on this schooner four seasons, going to school during the winter months. In 1857 the schooner Calvin Snell was built by his uncle, and he came out with her new. The next season he joined the Snell, and was with her until she was wrecked off Long Point, Lake Ontario. The crew of thirteen all told got ashore in the yawl at Presque Isle. He sailed the remainder of the season on the brig Young America, Mary Collins and other vessels, before the mast. In 1859 he was before the mast on the schooner Andrew J. Rich, followed by a season on the Mary Collins. That fall he went to New York and shipped on a brig engaged in the coasting trade, making a round trip to the West Indies. In 1861 he joined the full- rigged ship Patrick Henry as able seaman, and made the passage to London, returning to Philadelphia in a Baltimore clipper and putting in some months on a coaster.
In 1862 Captain Davis joined the large, full-rigged ship Ryan, bound for South Shields where he left her and shipped on a fruit boat bound for Seville, Spain. It has been said that his vessel waited for the fruit to grow as she did not return with a cargo to Liverpool until the close of the year. He then shipped in the clipper Wilmington for Baltimore, and was there during the riots consequent upon the promul- gation of President Lincoln's emancipation proclamation. He went to Providence, R. I., and took passage on a steamer bound for New York where he joined the American ship Invincible for Liverpool. On his arrival at that port he went as able seaman on the English ship Gondola on a voyage to Buenos Ayres, Peru, where he remained about ten months, finally returning to Boston in the bark William Case, going thence by rail to Painesville, Ohio, reaching home in the fall of 1864 after an absence on the Atlantic of nearly four years. After a brief visit with friends he shipped on the schooner Harriet Ross.
In the spring of 1865 Captain Davis came out as mate of the schooner Tartar, followed by a season on the Frankie Wilcox. In 1867 he was appointed master of the schooner D. G. Wright, transferring the year following to the S. L. Seaver as mate and sailing master with his uncle Solomon Snell, who owned both vessels. In the spring of 1869 he purchased the schooner Caledonia and sailed her two seasons, followed by a season on the schooner Harrowdale as master. That year Captain Davis, who had been living in South Haven, Mich., removed to Port Huron and was employed in Mr. Fitzgerald's shipyard; also in Simon Langell's shipyard at St. Clair, thus passing two years in the construction of the Wilson and the Chauncey Hurlbut. On the completion of this work he shipped as mate in the steambarge Mary Jarecki with Capt. Paul Pelker. In the spring of 1876 he shipped as mate on the Iosco, and the next season brought her out as master. In 1878 he was made mate of the T. S. Skinner, and the following year he purchased a one-third interest and sailed her four years. She was wrecked late in the fall of 1882 off Grand Haven, Mich., the crew reaching shore in the yawl. In 1883 he sailed the schooner Frank C. Leighton. In the spring of 1884 he entered the employ of Penoyer Brothers, as mate of the steamer Ogeman. The next three seasons he sailed the schooner City of the Straits. He then stopped ashore and superintended the rebuilding of the schooners S. J. Tilden and the A. C. Maxwell, sailing the Tilden in 1889. In the spring of 1890 Captain Davis was appointed master of the schooner Arenac, and sailed her until he was taken ill early in 1896, his life being despaired of, but after a favorable turn in his malady he slowly recovered and in the fall of 1897 he shipped with his brother, E. H. Davis, in the steamer Britannic, laying her up at the close of the season.
He is a Master Mason, a charter member of the Knights of the Maccabees at Port Huron, with which he has been connected for seventeen years, and carries Pennant No. 138, of the Ship Masters Association.
On March 1, 1866, Captain Davis was united in marriage with Miss Mary M., daughter of William H. and Catherine A. (Thomas) Pine, of Richmond, now Painesville, Ohio. Her father was a native of New York state, her mother of Pennsylvania. Mr. and Mrs. Davis have a family of five children: Ina A., now the wife of G. M. Dole; Hattie B., now Mrs. G. M. Johnson; Calvin H.; Leslie E.; and Harold L. There is also one granddaughter, Lydia Dole. The family residence, at No. 703 Ontario street, Port Huron, is presided over by Mrs. Davis, who is a public-spirited woman and an ideal American mother.
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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.