William Erskine, superintending engineer of the large planing-mill of Lee, Holland & Co., Buffalo, N. Y., is a native of Glasgow, Scotland, having been born in that city October 31, 1850. His father, William Erskine, married Ellen Spears, in their native country, and they came to the United States about the year 1886, making their home in Buffalo, where they still reside.
Our subject's early education was obtained in his native place, and he also spent seven years there learning the machinist's trade. At the age of twenty-one years he came to Buffalo, and began by working here at his trade in Bell's machine shop, where he continued one year. In the spring of 1873 he began life on the lakes as oiler on the steamer China, of the old Anchor line, where he remained one season. He followed this with one season in the India, transferring from that boat to the Gordon Campbell as chief engineer, in which berth he remained for three years, and then went for four years as chief of the Delaware. His last employment was with the Anchor line as chief engineer of the Susquehanna, on which he served three years, thus making sixteen years in all in their employ. For the two years following he had charge of the Three Canals and Free Trade elevators. For seven winters during his employment with the Anchor line he superintended the repairing and overhauling of steam canal-boats in New York, New Jersey and Brooklyn.
In the fall of 1888 Mr. Erskine went into the Northern Light, of the Northern Steamship Company, and in the spring of 1889 fitted her out and engineered her until July 3, 1890. On July 5, 1890, he was transferred to the Northern King, was aboard of her two trips, and then went into the Northern Queen, where he remained the balance of that season and part of 1892. On September 15, 1892, he took charge of the machinery of the Cayuga, finishing the season in that boat, and making extensive repairs on her. He then came to work for Lee, Holland & Co., in their extensive planing-mill, and has remained with them continuously up to the present time. During his stay with them he has made extensive alterations in their machinery department, and will undoubtedly remain on shore and in his present employment the balance of his life.
Mr. Erskine was married in New York City, March 23, 1876, to Ellen McClelland, who was also born in Glasgow. Their children are as follows: Nellie, Agnes, Frank, Donald Bernard and James William. The latter is seventeen years of age, and is learning his trade in Trout's machine shop. Mr. Erskine is a Master Mason, a member of Erie Lodge No. 161, and for over eighteen years has been a member of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, also member of the Stationary Engineers Association No. 50. Mr. Erskine has one of the most responsible positions of its kind in the city of Buffalo, New York.
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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.