Captain James Finegan
Captain James Finegan is a salt-water sailor of fourteen years' experience, ten of which have been spent in service on the Atlantic Ocean and four on the Pacific, also one of the early lake mariners, some twenty-one years of his sailing life having been passed upon the Great Lakes. He was born in 1829, in County Wexford, Ireland, a son of John and Mary (Doyle) Finegan, also natives of the Emerald Isle. The father came to New York State, and died in Utica in 1863, the mother having passed away in Ireland.
Our subject was reared and educated at the place of his nativity, and at the age of fifteen began a four-years' apprenticeship on the bark Margaret, sailing out of New Ross, County Wexford, and on this boat saw six months' service as second mate. This same bark Margaret was one of the vessels which carried seven cargoes of passengers across the ocean during 1847, her starting point being New Ross, her destination Quebec, and her cargo 670 people, including crew; the time in making this voyage as thirty-five days. While out at sea ship cholera visited the ship, and 350 passengers and six sailors succumbed to it and were consigned to the deep. His next berth was before the mast on the vessel bound from Baltimore to Liverpool, England. On his arrival to the latter place he shipped on an English vessel and returned to New York. Leaving her at this port, he put in three months on coasters. He was also before the mast on ocean vessels during this transporting of two cargoes of passengers to Quebec, one to New York, one to New Orleans, and one to Baltimore.
Proceeding to New Orleans, he there shipped on the ship Peter Marcy, bound for Havre, France, making two voyages in that trade; then sailed to Mobile on cotton vessels. After a time she shipped on the clipper Young America that sailed round the Horn to San Francisco, reaching that port some time in 1851; from there he went on her to Mendocino, Cal., where he left her, securing a position as overseer of scows for a lumber company of that place. Returning to San Francisco he shipped from that port as first mate on the brig Glencoe, in the Puget Sound trade, with which he was connected three years, sailing between 'Frisco and the Sound. Then he sailed for Honolulu, where he left the vessel, and made his way to Nicaragua, then proceeding to Panama, and from there to New York, thence to Chicago, arriving in that city about 1856, being then twenty-seven years old. The Captain put in some eighteen years ashore, acting as a stevedore about the docks of New Orleans and Mobile.
In 1856 Captain Finegan began sailing out of Chicago, his first voyage being on the schooner Abigail, engaged in the lumber and wood trade. He shipped on her as an able seaman, but at the end of two months bought the schooner 76, sailed her, and had her nearly all paid for when the party from whom he had bought her failed, and she was sold on a mortgage, Captain Finegan know nothing of it. He then returned to the Abigail, and sailed on her as mate one and a half seasons, at the end of which time he sailed the schooner Dresden for one year; then bought a quarter-interest in her, his partner being a Mr. Buckley, the firm being known as Buckley & Finegan. After two years the firm purchased the schooner Syracuse, which our subject sailed for six months, her career ending by foundering in Saginaw bay. After that the firm bought the schooner Sam Robinson, and Captain Finegan sailed her for two seasons in the grain trade. The next vessel in which our subject was interested was the topsail schooner Dan Tyndall, bought by Buckley, Finegan & Roach, and our subject sailed her for three seasons, when she was wrecked in 1871, in lake Michigan, becoming a total loss. He then sailed the Sam Robinson again, bound for Oswego with grain, which, however, at the end of about four months was run down in a fog. His next vessel was the barkentine Winona, which he sailed some five years, having fitted her out for ocean voyages. At Michigan City he loaded her with lumber, took her to Liverpool, England, put her in dock there, had her coppered, and when ready sailed her to Buenos Ayres, South America, with a cargo of coal. He then loaded her with grain up to Paraguay River, unloaded her and returned empty. While there he did considerable business in the grain trade, in connection with an English steamship, our subject agreeing to furnish ship and crew for $800 per month, the steamship people to furnish pilot. On one trip he went up the river some 1,500 miles (the voyage occupying forty days), but she was tied up on account of low water. He then sold the vessel and began contracting at Buenos Ayres, a business he followed twelve years, putting up windmills, etc. After a residence of sixteen years in that city, he returned to Chicago in 1895, since when he has lived retired.
In 1858 Captain Finegan was married to Miss Mary O'Connor who was born in Ireland, and by this union there are two children living: John H. and Marie Catherine, both in Chicago. The Captain owns a couple of good residences on Carroll Avenue. Socially, our subject is a member of the U.O.T.
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.