Martin J. Fleming
Martin J. Fleming, an engineer of wide experience and well qualified for the responsible position of engineer of passenger steamers, is a citizen of Manistee, Mich. He is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, however, born February 24, 1846, son of Watson P. and Harriet (Whitmore) Fleming, the father born in 1821 near Quebec, Canada, of Scotch parentage, and the mother in Essex county, N.Y., in 1823, of English descent. The grandfather, James Fleming, came to America in 1807 and served in the war of 1812.
Watson P. Fleming was an expert machinist and engineer, and for some time was foreman at the old Cuyahoga furnace in Cleveland. He afterward embarked in business at Grand Rapids, Mich., at the time of the Civil war, going thence to Mound City, Ill., to join the United States navy, the date of his enlistment being October 3, 1862. He was appointed chief engineer of the gunboat Chilicothe, operating on the Mississippi, Yazoo and Red rivers, and was with his boat in many hotly contested engagements, participating in the running of the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg and Island No. 10, and with General Banks in his expedition up the Red river. While engaged at close quarters with a Confederate fort a shell from the enemy struck the muzzle of one of the guns on the Chilicothe and exploded the piece, killing fourteen of his shipmates. Mr. Fleming was honorably discharged in the fall of 1864, and after his return home entered the employ of Leitelt Brothers as foreman of their machine shops, remaining eleven years. He also had charge of the engine and machinery of the Michigan Barrel Works in Grand Rapids, and held other first-class positions. He sailed on the lakes as chief engineer in the passenger steamers Alabama, North American and a number of others of that class.
After attending the public schools in Cleveland and Grand Rapids, Martin J. Fleming worked in his father's machine and blacksmith shop in the latter place until his enlistment in the Union service, October 7, 1862, four days after his father responded to the call for volunteers. He cast his lot with Company M, Sixth Michigan Cavalry, as bugler in General Custer's famous brigade, and participated in all of the engagements in which his regiment took part through the valley of the Shenandoah, the stubborn fight at Winchester, where defeat was turned into victory, and the gallant charge at Gettysburg, where the cavalry under General Custer defeated Stewart's experienced troopers and helped to win the most decisive battles of the war. Bugler Fleming has in his possession letters of high commendation from officers of his regiment for the intrepid manner in which he sounded his calls on this great day. He was honorably discharged October 20, 1865, at Washington D.C., his term of service having expired. While in Washington he was chief bugler at the Soldiers' Rest, which was the main depot, and witnessed the Grand Review in that city, when 600,000 of the best soldiers that ever took part in battle came marching home.
On his return to Grand Rapids, Mr. Fleming settled down to work in the shops of Leitelt Brothers, and ran the first engine at the first State fair ever held in that city, his father having charge of machinery hall. He remained with that company five years, and had charge of other stationary engines until the spring of 1877, when he purchased the passenger steamer Minnie, running her on Grand river between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven. In 1878 he put the machinery into the steamer Twilight and sailed her, going as chief engineer of her the two following seasons. From that time he was engaged in chief engineer's berth as follows: In 1881 on the steamer W.H. Barrett; 1882, on the Messenger, plying between Sheboygan and Manistique; 1883, on the Duncan City; 1884, on the George D. Sanford; 1885, on the John D. Dewar; 1886, on the Duncan City; and 1887, on the boats of the Canfield Tug Line at Manistee, consisting of the Irma L. Wheeler, Frank Canfield, Jerry Osgood and Charles Gnewuch, holding that position three years. In the spring of 1890 Mr. Fleming entered the employ of the Seymour line, which was composed of the Skater, Puritan and Petoskey, engineering the Skater two seasons and the others one season each. During the seasons of 1893-94 he was supernumerary engineer in the F. & P. M. steamers Nos. 2 and 3, and in 1895 he was appointed chief engineer of the steamer Minnie M., closing that season in the Charles West. He subsequently took charge of the machine shop of the Mackinaw Lumber Company's mills at St. Ignace, and that winter overhauled the machinery of the steamer Myrtle M. Ross at Manistee. In the spring of 1898 he fitted out the passenger steamer City of Grand Rapids, putting in new pipes, etc., and engineered her that season. He has twenty-three issues of engineer's and two of master's license. Socially Mr. Fleming is a Knight of the Maccabees, a member of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association at Manistee, which he serves as chairman of the examining committee, and an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, in which he has held several offices.
On September 2, 1866, Mr. Fleming wedded Miss Annie, daughter of John E. and Cordelia (Swartout) Spees, of Grand Rapids, formerly of New York State, and they reside in Manistee, Mich. To this union was born one son, Charles J., who commenced to follow the lakes in 1879 with his father in the steamer Twilight and in due time secured engineer's license. After running the tug Frank Canfield for a time he went to Duluth and joined the tug Estelle as chief, transferring to the B.B. Inman, Islander, Miner, Sailor Boy, Columbia, St. Ignace, Alva, Ossifrage, and now serving as chief engineer of the pleasure yacht Mina, owned by Mrs. Margaret Free. He has seven issues of license. He was married to Miss Blanche Hagar, of Chicago, on December 31, 1897.
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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.