Edward Dempsey is a marine engineer well known to all who follow the same calling on the lakes, and especially known to many of the older class whose lives were spent thereon. He was born February 11, 1840, at Woodbury, N.J., and since his fifteenth year his life has been closely connected with this line of work in its several departments. He is a son of James and Ann (DeBender) Dempsey, who are natives of Ireland and Pennsylvania respectively.
James Dempsey came to America at the age of twelve years, and spent nearly his entire life as a railroad engineer, having been in active service over forty years. He died in 1888, his wife surviving him until the spring of 1896. Mrs. Dempsey's father was a ship carpenter by trade, and was employed upon the building of the frigate Pennsylvania, which at the time of its construction was the largest boat in the United States navy.
Edward Dempsey was only one year old when the family moved from New Jersey to Corning, N.Y., whence, after a short residence, they moved to Buffalo, and later to Toledo. From this place they came, in 1845, to Cleveland, where Mr. Dempsey has since had his place of residence. After attending school for some time he entered a boiler shop, and worked during the summers until 1858, when he entered the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern railroad shops, and served an apprenticeship of five and a half years. At this time he formed a partnership with Henry McGann, and opened a shop for the manufacture of telegraph instruments and light machinery. In this business Mr. Dempsey remained but one year, then entered the shop of Thomas Manning where he was employed during the winter season for several years. His first experience in sailing was gained on the Ironsides in 1866, of which boat he acted as oiler for one season, going the next fall on the Michael Groh as second engineer, in which capacity he served until the spring of 1869, when he became chief of her. In 1871 he was on the tug Clematis, and the following year again on the Michael Groh, this time as chief. The next season he went on the Peerless, and remained until the Oscar Townsend came out new, upon which he spent the rest of the season. For one season he served as second on the Fay, and then spent four years as chief on the tug P.L. Johnson, after which he left the lakes and entered the employ of the Cleveland Linseed Oil Works as night foreman. >From this position he went to Leavenworth, Kans. And started a linseed oil manufactory, and remained there but eight months, when he returned to the east and his life on the lakes. The following two years he spent on the Oceanica, and then for a time was engineer of the Cleveland post office. Upon his return to the lakes he went as chief on the Aurora for one season, on the Progress and Norman one season, and in 1891 brought out the steamer Briton, transferring from this boat to the Wanatam in 1892, and remained with her six seasons, after which, in 1898, he became chief on the Castalia.
On October 24, 1864, Mr. Dempsey was married to Miss Katherine Conlan, of Cleveland, a sister of Father Conlan, who was for many years priest of St. Patrick's parish in that city. Mr. and Mrs. Dempsey have six children: Genevieve; J. Edward, now in charge of the office of the Calumet Steamboat Express Company, of Chicago; Violet; Adelaide; Thomas, who inherits his father's love for marine life, acts as oiler on the Castalia, and Joseph, all of whom reside in Cleveland.
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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.