Captain Sylvanus Dusenberry
Captain Sylvanus Dusenberry, an old lake captain and engineer, was born November 17, 1825, on the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,300 miles from New York, on the ship Glennandale. He is a son of Alfred and Caroline (Jones) Dusenberry, who were then emigrating to the United States from Cardiff, Wales, whither they had removed some twenty years previous from Holland. When they left Wales they had three children. Margaret, Mary Ann and Hannah Maria. Sylvanus, the fourth child, was named after his paternal grandfather. After arriving in this country they had born to them the following children: Lorenzo M., in 1827; Lydia M., in 1828; Phoebe E., in 1829; George H., in 1831; Susan, in 1833; and two that died in infancy. Alfred Dusenberry, the father, learned the trade of a millwright in Wales, and followed it there and also in the United States for a few years, after which he became a contractor. He was engaged for many years on the Erie Canal building locks, abutments, etc., and he continued in this line of work as long as he lived in New York. In 1856 he removed to Warren County, Ill., where he purchased a section of land, and erecting a sawmill thereon conducted same in connection with his farm until his death in 1863. His wife died October 21, 1837, while they were living at Halfmoon, New York.
Sylvanus Dusenberry, the grandfather, was born in Holland, emigrated with his son Alfred to Wales, and thence in 1825 to the United States. He married Margaret Vincent, and they had following named children: John, Levi, Betsey, Maria, Hiram, Sarah and Alfred. Some of these came to this country prior to 1825, and it was through them that the rest followed, all eventually settling in the United States. Sylvanus Dusenberry located in Halfmoon, Saratoga Co., N.Y., living there until 1848, when he removed to Skaneateles, N.Y., and after a residence of eight years in that place settled in Wolcott, Wayne county, same State, dying there in 1859. He followed farming both in his native country and in Wales. His wife survived until 1876, passing away at the advanced age of one hundred and three years.
Sylvanus Dusenberry attended the district schools until he was thirteen years of age, when he became an employee in the Schenectady Locomotive Works, remaining there until he was nineteen. By this time he had mastered his trade as a machinist and engineer, and he followed locomotive engineering until he was nearly twenty-one. For twenty-two years after he attained his majority he was in the employ of the Michigan Central Railway Company, as foreman of the roundhouse, locomotive engineer and conductor, and was also for a time assistant engineer on one of the large boats belonging to this company. In 1849, in company with about 300 others, he rounded Cape Horn on the way to California, in the ship Brother Jonathan. In 1851 he returned to the "States," and again entered the employ of the Michigan Central Railway Company, but in 1853 he returned to California, where he remained two years. On again coming east he returned to the Michigan Central for a time, and then made a contract with a Mr. Robinson, of New York State, to take round Cape Horn the first fourteen locomo- tives that ever went to the Pacific coast, landing them at San Francisco. These locomotives he set up and started to work on the Sacramento & San Francisco and Sacramento & Nevada railways. Later he went to Marysville, Cal., bought a ranch, and engaged in mining. Returning to Detroit, he went to work again for the Michigan Central Railway Company as locomotive engineer and as extra engineer on their boats, the Western World, Mississippi and Plymouth, running between Detroit and Buffalo, at that time the largest vessels on the lakes. Following this, until about 1860, he was engineer on different lake boats, but when the war of the Rebellion broke out he enlisted in the First Michigan Volunteer Regiment, and he remained in the service of his country until mustered out in June, 1865. During this time he rose from the ranks to the position of captain, later was made lieutenant-colonel and finally colonel. He was with Sherman on the march to the sea, and was present at Lee's surrender.
Returning north at the close of the war, Captain Dusenberry settled in Cleveland, Ohio, and has since made that city his home. He was engaged alternately on salt and fresh water until within the last few years, either as engineer or master of a vessel. About 1879 he built the machinery for five steam canalboats, at Lockport, N. Y., and he is at present a stationary engineer when he chooses to work.
On December 23, 1846, Captain Dusenberry was married to Miss Sylvia Hall, of Wayne county, Mich., who was then principal of a ladies seminary at Ann Arbor. They had two children: Alfred, born in 1848, died at three years of age; and Sylvia, who died at the age of eighteen. Mrs. Dusenberry died in 1853, and in 1875 he married Mrs. Mary E. (Butler) Sullivan. To this marriage was born three children, one of whom died at birth and one at the age of thirteen; the other is living. The mother of these died in 1886. The Captain now lives at No. 1416 Lorain street, Cleveland.
Return to Home Port
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.