John A. Francombe
John A. Francomb was born at Bristol, England, a son of the late John Francombe and Ursula (Shearn) Francombe, also natives of England. John Francombe, Sr. was a native of England and came to the United States in 1847, locating in Detroit, and filled the position of chief engineer on the Michigan Central & Great Western car ferry steamers, the Union and others. His last steamer was the Brunswick, the first iron steamer on the lakes and the largest at that time. He lost his life on the steamer Brunswick, which collided with the schooner Carlingford, November 12, 1881, and was a total wreck. His body was found ten days after near Black Rock, and taken to Windsor, Ont., for interment. Mrs. Francombe survived her husband only one year and died at Windsor, Ont., 1882.
To the same department of marine industry John A. Francombe has devoted the great part of his life, and at the present time stands high in the estimation of his associates. At the age of fifteen years John A. Francombe entered the shops of the Detroit Locomotive Works, and there served an apprenticeship of four years. While there he ran a night ferry, known as the old rowboat ferry. After this time he went sailing on the steamer Mary Pringle, where he remained two years as second engineer, upon the tug Constitution he spent two years, and then went on the Colin Campbell as chief engineer. After sailing as chief engineer on the B. W. Jenness eight seasons, he went on the Excelsior, of the ferry line between Detroit and Windsor, and then entered the employ of the Bay City & Cleveland Transportation Co., which is now changed to the Hope Transportation Company. He spent two and one-half years on the Alpena and two years on the Alcona, afterward going to the steamer Thomas S. Christie, of which he is part owner. At the present time Mr. Francombe is manager of the Hope Transportation Company, and owns considerable interest in the steamer W. R. Stafford, schooners John A. Francombe and Ed McWilliams, all of which were built under his instructions and management.
On March 4, 1872, he was married to Miss Matilda Bell, of Ogdensburg N. Y. Their children were: Irvin A., employed as chief engineer of the steamer Lagonda; Alice, Anna, Agnes, and John A., Jr., who are in school; and Nelson, who died in 1891 at the age of three years.
Mr. Francombe is a member of the M. E. B. A., I. O. O. F. and A. O. U. W. at Detroit. He is a brother of George Francombe, Jr., and cousin of Charles and Thomas and nephew of George Francombe, Sr., all of whom are marine engineers, well-known along the chain of lakes at different points.
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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.