Henry Hess, chief engineer of the steamer Harlem, of the Western Transportation Company, is of good substantial German extraction, having been born May 2, 1836, in the suburbs of Nachenheim, Hesse-Darmstadt, on the river Rhine, son of Adam and Catherine (Kurts) Hess.
Mr. Hess was educated in the town of his birth, coming to America in 1854. Previously he worked for awhile in the vineyards on the Rhine in the neighborhood of his home. His first work in this country was on the Erie canal, after leaving which he labored in a sawmill at Black Rock until 1855, when he went as fireman on the steamer Sebastopol, a new boat at that time; she plied between Buffalo and Chicago. He was next employed in the same capacity on the steamer Southern Michigan, in 1856-57 was fireman on the propeller Dunkirk, and in 1858 on the Free State. In 1859 he obtained engineer's papers, but remained as fireman on the Free State until July of that year when he became second engineer of the Kentucky, continuing on her until September 2, when he returned to the Free State, also as second engineer. During the season of 1860 he was second on the Pittsburgh, and served as such on the Acme for the seasons of 1861-62; was second engineer of the Potomac during the seasons of 1863-64-65, and of the Empire State for that of 1866. His first experience as chief engineer was upon the old Mohawk, a wooden boat, during the seasons of 1867-68-69, and for the season of 1870-71-72-73-74-75 he was chief of the Fountain City, at that time the most prominent passenger boat on the lakes. For the seasons of 1876 to 1884, both inclusive, he was chief of the steamer Hudson, and for the next three years of the Mohawk, the new boat of that name. In the spring of 1896 he took the steamer Harlem, and was chief engineer of her until August 9, 1898, when he took the position of chief engineer of the steamer Troy, a new boat of the Western Transportation Company. He brought out the Albany, Mohawk, Hudson and Troy. Mr. Hess is a sturdy man, of good physical proportions, and has had the remarkable experience of having been in the employ of the Western Transportation Company for the unusual period of nearly thirty-eight years, thirty-four of which were consecutive.
In 1860 Mr. Hess was married in Buffalo to Martina Schill, and they have the following named children: Mary, John, Josephine, Henry, Christina and Charles. The son John is now (1898) thirty-two years of age, and was second engineer of the steamer Olympia during the season of 1896; Henry is twenty-eight years old, and is in the employ of Case & Son, copper and tin smiths of Buffalo; Charles was oiler on the steamer Mohawk during the season of 1896.
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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.