Captain Frederick L. R. Pope
Captain Frederick L.R. Pope, one of the best known men of the lakes, and now United States inspector of hulls for the district of Buffalo, was born on December 9, 1832, at Saxe-Weimer, in the Province of Saxony, Germany, the son of Christian Frederick Joseph and Josephine (Pope) Rohr. The adoption of his mother's maiden name as the surname of our subject was due to a similar adoption by his brother Charles Frederick, who, when twenty-one years of age, became a professional actor and selected as his professional appellation the maternal family name. The brother won fame and fortune in his profession, and our subject, in his youth also for a brief time followed the histrionic art, and adopted the name his brother had chosen and to which he had equal right. The name Pope is one of the oldest and best known in the Fatherland, and one variation in the orthography is Pabst.
The father was a millwright by trade and, when our subject was a babe, migrated to America, settling in Rochester, there until his death in 1849 he followed his trade. His widow survived until 1876. Of the four children, two, Albert and Wilhelmina, died in Germany. Charles R. who became an actor of national reputation, has also been prominent in politics and during the administration of President Harrison was United States consul at Toronto. His success in life was due to his own efforts and his name must be added to those bright scholarly, self-made men who in their early days followed the Erie tow-path.
Frederick Pope in his boyhood days attended one of the public schools of Rochester for one year, and a German school for six months. That was the limit of his educational equipment with which he had to fight the battle of life. When a lad of eight years, he with his meager earnings assisted in the support of his family. He had a natural love for books, however, and spent much of his time in reading. Especially when on the sea, where later he spent seven years of his life, he made friends with the best books he could acquire, and thus laid the foundation, which has so ably supplemented his large store of practical knowledge. Until he was nineteen years of age he remained most of the time at home engaged in various kinds of employment, but there was in him a dash of the romantic, coupled with the restlessness of a traveler. At eleven years he was waiter and porter in the packet boat Toledo, on the Erie Canal, at twelve years he was for a season with Howe's circus, and when thirteen he ran away from home and at Buffalo shipped on the schooner DeWitt Clinton, sailing out of Buffalo and Cleveland.
In 1852 he left home for New York. His brother was then general utility man with Edwin Forrest at the old Broadway theater. Our subject secured an engagement at the Grove theater with John R. Scott, the great tragedian, and there played for three or four months, and for about the same length of time he played at the old Chatham theater. But the taste for a seafaring life won in the struggle that occurred in the young lad's mind. Going to New Bedford he shipped in the whaling ship Majestic, and remained with her until 1857. Discharged at the Sandwich (now the Hawaiian) Islands, he, a few months later, shipped to New Bedford in the bark Manuel Orteas, arriving in New York City, April, 1857.
In July of the same year Captain Pope came to Buffalo, and through the friendship of Charles Barton Hill, then a bookkeeper for the L. S. & M. S. R. R., but now an actor of fame, secured from Captain Perkins an appointment as quartermaster, or wheelsman, on the steamer City of Buffalo, then one of the Michigan Southern line, plying between Buffalo and Toledo, and sailed for the season. In 1858, he shipped before the mast on the bark Great West, Captain Robinson. In 1859, he shipped as quartermaster on the propeller Winona, Capt. Huff, on the New York Central line, plying between Buffalo and Chicago. In the fall of that year, while the boat was loading at Chicago elevator Captain Pope fell into the hold of the vessel and was seriously injured. He was taken to Buffalo and made ship-keeper for the winter, sailing in the Winona again as watchman in 1860.
In 1861 he shipped as second mate on the Fountain City, and the same year was licensed as second-class pilot. The two following seasons he continued as second mate and was then promoted to first mate, serving in that capacity through the years 1864-65. In 1866 he was mate of the Atlantic, running from Buffalo to Cleveland, in 1867 he was mate of the Arctic between Buffalo and Toledo. In 1868 Captain Pope was appointed master of the propeller Congress and commanded her for three seasons. During the season of 1870 he was master of the propeller Araxes of the New York Central line, plying between Buffalo and Toledo. In 1871 he commanded the passenger steamer Arctic, of the New York Central line, between Buffalo and Chicago. In 1872 he commanded the freight steamer Eclipse, and the two succeeding years he was in charge of the passenger steamer Passaic, of the Union Steamboat Company, plying between Buffalo and Chicago. In 1875 he was mate of the passenger steamer Comet from Buffalo to Duluth. Beginning in the season of 1876 Captain Pope took charge of the iron freight steamer Java, a twin screw, and remained with her until she was lost in Lake Michigan in the fall of 1878, foundering in 750 feet of water caused by breaking of the shaft. The entire crew was saved. Captain Pope was then immediately assigned to the command of the Colorado of the same line and remained with her until 1882, in the fall of which year he took command of the steamer Fred Mercur, and was with her until the fall of 1883. The season of 1884 he passed as mate of the George King.
Quitting the lakes temporarily, Captain Pope was for two years conductor on the Manhattan railroad, and on returning to the lakes in 1887 he that season was mate of the City of Cleveland. In 1888 he was mate of the Rochester and Majestic.
Captain Pope was transferred to land duty in 1889 by the appointment as assistant inspector of hulls, being the first appointee to that office, and holding the position until December 25, 1897, when efficient service secured for him promotion to the office of United States local inspector of hulls for the district of Buffalo, the appointment coming from Secretary of the Treasury Lyman J. Gage. In this capacity he succeeded Captain Marion, and he still holds the important office. Captain Pope is today one of the best known vessel men of the Great Lakes, and his success he owes wholly to himself. He has been a member of the Ship Masters Association, and is a prominent member of the DeMolay Lodge No. 498, F. & A. M.
In 1858 Captain Pope was married to Miss Sophia Ann Trimlett, a native of Cobourg, Ontario. She died in 1893, leaving a family of three children. Of these, Virginia is now the representative of a large drug house of Philadelphia, and by her success upon the road has demonstrated her rare capacity and talent for a business career. The other two children, Ada and Charles, are at home.
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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.