Captain Charles E. Benham
Captain Charles E. Benham is one of the busiest and most enterprising men along the entire chain of lakes. He began his career as a sailor at the age of nine years, and has filled many positions of trust and responsibility from the age of fifteen up to the present date.
Captain Benham was born in Ashtabula county, Ohio, September 29, 1847, a son of Samuel Benham, who has charge of his son's vessel supply store on River street, in Cleveland. Captain Benham graduated from the Ashtabula high school, and removed to Cleveland when he was fourteen. He occupied himself during the winter seasons in school, and the summers, since his ninth year, on various lake craft. He also spent one year in a commercial college in Cleveland. From 1862 to 1883 he sailed continuously, as master of all classes of craft, from one hundred and fifty tons to two thousand tons burden. Following are a few of the vessels on which he has served in various capacities: scows - Union, Spanker, and Jim Hill; and schooners - American and Medbury. In August, 1862, he was appointed master of the scow Industry, after which he sailed the tugs L.H. Nichols, T.W. Notter, W.D. Cushing, J.H. Martin, Solon Rumage, and the river tug Samson; also the topsail scow Seabird, bark Indiana, the steambarge Fayette, and the steamers J.K. White, Hickox and Metropolis, and the V.H. Ketcham, of which he was part owner, besides numerous other vessels, of which he was in temporary charge in his capacity of wrecking master. During his career as wrecking master Captain Benham used the tugs Champion, Gillett and Adams, releasing the steamer Wallace and consort from the beach below Marquette, and was master of the powerful tug Samson, five years, which he owned. He accomplished some notable work in that branch of the business, as representative of the old Mercantile Marine Insurance Company (by whom he was employed seven years), now operating under the firm name of Foote & Maxson. He is still in charge of the marine department of the firm; also representing the Fire and Marine Insurance Company of Toronto, the St. Paul Insurance Company, and the Greenwich Insurance Company. Among the wrecks recovered by him may be mentioned the schooners Zach Chandler, Cormorant, George Sherman, James F. Joy, the David and Robert Wallace, etc. During the years 1894 and 1895 he has recovered several wrecks, among which is named the W.B. Hall, and he also stripped the B.F Bruce. The job of wrecking the two Wallaces was attended with unusual danger and difficulty, both vessels being frozen up in the ice. Captain Benham shipped his pumps and other wrecking appliances by rail from Cleveland to Marquette, and on the passage up with the water expedition he stopped at Detroit and took along some of Captain Grummond's wrecking appliances. The water expedition reached the scene of the wreck before the pumps, etc., shipped by rail, were taken off the cars at Marquette. The expedition was entirely successful; both vessels were pumped out and floated without loss of life notwithstanding the precarious conditions. Capt. C. E. Benham is also largely interested in the wrecking tug C.E. Benham, lighter Mentor, the steamers H. B. Tuttle, Nahant, Rube Richards, May Richards, Germanic, Edward S. Pease and consort Planet, the schooners H. C. Richards and Queen City.
He is now engaged in the brokerage business and the marine insurance business, making a specialty of marine surveying. He was connected with the municipal department of West Cleveland, being chairman of the waterworks board for three years, and was chairman of the joint committee on annexation. He was for several years chairman of the West Cleveland Republican club, a member of the infirmary board of Cuyahoga county for some time, and is at the present writing a member of the city council, and the chamber of commerce of Cleveland. He was chairman of the navigation committee of the Chamber of Commerce for one term, and represented Cleveland in the session of the Deep Waterways Convention at Toronto. He has been a member of the river and harbor commission in Cleveland for three years, representing both the city and the Chamber of Commerce at different times. He has filled all the offices in the Ship Masters Association, and now holds the rank of past grand president in the Grand Lodge of that Association, and carries Pennant No. 234. He is also purser of Harbor No. 42 of the American Masters and Pilots Association. He is interested in several banks and a director in one; a member of the Lake Carriers Association and the Vessel Owners Association, and has always been very active in working for the improvement of channels, lighthouses, etc., maintained by the government, having often appeared before committees in Congress for this purpose. He is now serving on two commissions for the improvement of rivers and harbors, and was one of the compilers of the Rules of the Road at sea, termed the White Bill - Captains George P. McKay and William S. Mack (deceased) being the other two members of that commission.
Capt. C. E. Benham was wedded to Miss M. J. Prescott, of Boston, Mass., and seven children have been born to them.
The eldest son, Capt. Chas. A., was master of the steamer Sitka during the season of 1896; the second, Capt. William P., was master of the steamer Nahant during the season of 1896; the third, Capt. George E., master of the Queen City, in 1895; Robert is a marine engineer; Harry and two daughters, Eva M., the wife of J. A. Karr, one of Cleveland's young business men, and Jennie, complete the family.
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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.