Henry C. Farrell
Henry C. Farrell, although young, has had wide experience in the handling of engines on the Great Lakes. Personally, he is possessed of indomitable pluck and energy, coupled with the determination to stand up to the last in critical moments, and in addition to his ability as an engineer has good business qualifications. Had he the necessary means to carry out his idea regarding the shipment of freight, he would be manager of the freight line instead of engineer.
Mr. Farrell is of Irish parentage, his father, Michael J. Farrell, a watchman by occupation, having been born in Ireland, whence he came to America in 1862. He married Ellen Mooney, and they now reside on Smith street, Buffalo. Henry C. was born in Buffalo May 27, 1864, and obtained his education in the public schools of that city. After a period of five years spent in mastering the machinist's trade at the respective shops of the King Iron Works, Farrar & Trefts, and Paul Sands, and a couple of months in the oil country, he began an eventful career on the lakes as oiler on the steamer Gordon Campbell, where he remained the full season of 1883. In the spring of 1884 he fitted out the Campbell, went with her one month as oiler, and then became second engineer of the Iron Duke, which had for a consort the Iron Cliff. The chief of the Duke was John Caddick, who had at that time been on the lake about forty years; Thomas Honer was her master. In the fall of that season the crew on the Duke had a narrow escape from a watery grave in Lake Superior, on the up trip from Sault Ste. Marie to Duluth with a cargo of coal. On the 21st of October, when about eighty miles from White Fish Point, the Duke encountered a fierce gale; in the height of it the tow-line parted, and she put out to run for shelter under Grand island. The velocity of the wind can be imagined when it is stated that the Iron Cliff not only lost all her canvas but had her name washed off. Aboard the Duke matters were so serious that the Captain gave up all hopes, and gave orders that if he blew three blasts of the whistle all hands were to seek safety in the boats. The chief engineer abandoned the engine-room to the care of the second engineer, Mr. Farrell. There were about five feet of water in the firehold, and as there was only about forty pounds of steam on, the stokers were compelled to abandon trying to burn coal picked out of water, and old clothes and buckets of oil were used for fuel instead. The second engineer was compelled to oil up with the teapot, the oilcans not being within reach, and he was at the most critical time very much fatigued from his steady watch of about forty-eight hours without food of any kind. The water from the hold worked into the engine-room and into the crank-pits, and while in this apparently hopeless condition and anxiety they managed to get under Grand island, and very fortunately, too, for the locality was entirely new to Captain Honer, he never having been in there before. They hove to and dropped anchor in safety, and this escape was all due to Mr. Farrell, the plucky man in the engine-room, to whom the Captain gave permission to sleep a week if necessary. However, they got away in a couple of days, and shortly afterward laid up at Duluth without further mishap.
Beginning with 1885 Mr. Farrell was second engineer of the Commodore for three seasons, and he was chief engineer of the Robert A. Packer for the year 1888, during which season he had a second narrow escape from death. In July, when the steamer left Buffalo to begin her trip she was found to be on fire while still in the harbor; this was put out with the pumps and the aid of the fireboat George R. Potter. A hose was kept in readiness lest she might catch fire again, but all went well until she reached Chicago, when another fire started; this was also quenched in time to prevent damage; but on one of the trips down during the month of September, about one o'clock in the morning, when off Skillagalee light, fire again burst out, this time in the engine-room, and in such a way that Mr. Farrell who was on watch at the time was entirely cut off from the stairway. He managed to escape from the deck by getting out under the boiler; not, however, without being severely burned about the face and hands and with the loss of his hair. The steamers R. P. Fitzgerald and the H. E. Packer, which were within hailing distance at the time, were signaled, and aided in putting out the fire, but not until the woodwork of the unfortunate craft, from forward of the boilers clear aft, was burned off. In that condition, astonishing as it may seem, she was towed to Buffalo with her engines working continually to keep her afloat, and when she was unloaded it was discovered that her cargo of grain was not damaged in the least, a very remarkable circumstance. Mr. Farrell was kept under pay during the repair of the Packer, and acted as her chief engineer for the last trip that season.
During the year 1890-1891 he was engaged in the grocery business on Ferry street and Woodlawn avenue, Buffalo. In 1892 he fitted out the steamer H. E. Packer at Chicago, and was her chief engineer for the season. On one of her trips, in September, while coal laden, she went ashore on Middle Island reef. On her last trip that season she started out of Buffalo so heavily laden with coal that she had a draft of fifteen feet, two inches forward, and fifteen feet aft; but she had a good run until in sight of South Manitou island, Lake Michigan, where she passed twenty-five vessels at anchor. When about ten miles from Little Point au Sable the wind came around from the northwest and blew what seafaring men called a living gale, into which she was compelled to head and take the consequences, which proved only to be too serious. The large seas came over her and carried away the front of her boilerhouse, filling the firehold with water, cooling the boiler and causing the steam to drop materially. As in the case of the Iron Duke, old clothes and oil were used for fuel, and she was finally carried through the gale but succeeded in making only sixty miles in about seventy-two hours. She reached Grosse Point in safety, and from there went in to Chicago harbor and was laid up.
In 1893 Mr. Farrell was night engineer for Thornton & Chester, on Erie street, and during the season of 1884 was chief engineer on the propeller Avon, of the United Transportation line. In 1894 he founded the Lake Superior & Lake Erie line of freight boats from Buffalo to Duluth, and started it in motion by buying an interest in the steamer Samuel B. Hodge, with his mother, Mrs. Michael Farrell, and Michael G. Garen. He was made manager, and through his ingenuity in making contracts he landed freight at every railroad dock at Buffalo, and also received it from nearly all of them. The line was compelled to take up two more steamers, the J. C. Ford and the Saginaw Valley, in order to handle the enormous amount of merchandise they had contracts for. The Hodge was a very unfortunate steamer. She was considerably in debt, was ashore several times during the season, and forty-two days in dry dock, but in spite of all she did well and paid $3,500 on her mortgage debt. The Ford cleared $7,000 and the Saginaw Valley about $12,000 that season, and the success of the line was due entirely to the good management of Mr. Farrell. The following year he drew out of the line, and it has since been succeeded by another which is still in operation. During the season of 1896 Mr. Farrell was manager of the Hodge until July, when she was lost by fire on Lake Ontario, with a cargo of steel wire, while on her way from Cleveland to Prescott. She went down abreast of Cobourg. All of the crew were rescued but one man, a lookout, whose name is not known. Mr. Farrell had a narrow escape, being compelled to make his exit on short notice after being aroused from his sleep by the crackling of burning timbers. He went out of the window of his stateroom to the deck, jumped from the rail with a life preserver on, and was picked up by the boat's crew after he had been in the water some time. He did very little sailing the remainder of that season, only acting as chief engineer of the excursion steamer Shrewsbury for the month of August. He has had fourteen issues of papers, and has had considerable experience for a young man.
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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.