Captain Henry Esford
Captain Henry Esford, master and pilot of the steamer Corsican, one of the Richelieu & Ontario Navigation Co.'s fleet plying between Montreal and Toronto, is a young man whose innate genius and carefulness have worked him up to a responsible position. Captain Edford was born on November 17, 1855, at Barriefield, near Kingston, Ontario, his father being Thomas Esford, a blacksmith at Barriefield.
Capt. Henry Esford received a sound education in the public schools of his native town, and when he was sixteen years of age he began an apprenticeship to one of Kingston's prominent cord wainers. Not caring for that business, however, young Esford abandoned it after serving nine months and went sailing in 1872, when he was seventeen years of age. The first boat on which he sailed was the steamer Spartan, belonging to the Richelieu & Ontario line, and on her he shipped before the mast. For thirteen years Captain Esford remained in the Spartan, and had advanced to the position of mate before the time had expired. He left her in 1885, becoming mate on the Richelieu & Ontario Co.'s steamer Magnet, running between Charlotte, N.Y., and Prescott, on the St. Lawrence River, for two years. During all those years he had become particularly familiar with the channels in the St. Lawrence Rapids, and qualified as one of the best pilots on the river. Time went on, and it was in the year 1888 that he took the position of pilot on the steamer Passport, and remained with her about five years, when he was changed to the steamer Spartan as mate and pilot. He sailed the Spartan for one season, and then took charge of the steamer Corsican, in which vessel he has been ever since. During the first two years in the Corsican he was master, and after that he became both captain and master. Captain Esford is also his own pilot in the rapids of the St Lawrence River. That he is a valued navigator is evidenced by the fact that he has been in the employ of the Richelieu & Ontario Navigation Co. for twenty-four years.
On May 4, 1877, Captain Esford was married to Miss Sarah Batten, daughter of George Batten, and youngest sister of Capt. George Batten of Kingston. Six children have been born to them, five of whom are living: (1) Edith, the eldest daughter, is a clever young woman who took a diploma in 1895 at the Kingston Business College, after a thorough training in the public schools of Barriefield and in the high schools of Kingston. (2) Louise is attending high school at Kingston. (3) Bertha is studying in Central school in Kingston, preparatory to taking a high-school course. (4) Olive has begun her education in the public schools of Barriefield, and all the daughters, especially Edith (Mrs. Tisdale), are expert pianists. (5) Youngest of all is Master Clifford Henry, the only boy in the family, and his father's namesake; though scarcely five years old, he already shows a fondness for the water. Lowell followed Olive in the order of birth but she died at the age of two and one-half years.
Conservative in politics, Captain Esford has taken at times considerable interest in the election of members to the Dominion House of Commons. During several contests he was political agent for Sir George Kirkpatrick, and was principal scrutineer in the election of 1896 at the polls in Barriefield. Religiously, Captain Esford bears allegiance to the Church of England. He is also a prominent member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
One of the most exciting episodes in the career of Captain Esford was the burning of the Richelieu & Ontario steamer Corinthian, which happened down the St. Lawrence River in the Coteau Rapids, in 1893. There were ninety passengers on board, and an immense quantity of baggage when the fire broke out. Whilst the vessel is running the Rapids every man of the crew is required to handle the boat, and at that hour there were four men at the wheel, four at the tiller while the others were trimming the baggage, so that no person was left aft, when the fire broke out in the dining room, supposed to have originated through the explosion of a lamp on the carving stand. Seeing that the fire could not be gotten under control Captain Esford ordered the boats to be launched, and by the time that was done he had four lifeboats strung ready to lower into the water. Gang planks were run from the ship to the boats and from the boats to the land, and all the passengers and baggage were safely landed. Rapid work was done, for in fifteen minutes after the fire was discovered the vessel was completely devoured by the flames. Captain Esford received great praise from the company as well as from the passengers for his energy and presence of mind.
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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.