Captain William A. Boswell
Captain William A. Boswell, a well-known and justly popular master of passenger steamers sailing out of Chicago for many years, was born on the banks of St. Joseph river, near the city of that name, in Berrien county, Mich., and is the son of Ezra and Sarah (Connelley) Boswell, natives of Scotland, many of the sterling characteristics of the Scotch people being inherited by our subject. The father was born in Edinburgh, May 5, 1823, the mother on the 6th of June of the same year.
With their respective parents they came to America, and after living in Richmond, Va., for a time, they moved to Columbus, Ohio, where they were married. In 1848 they took up their residence in Berrien county, Mich., where they made a permanent home. The father was a man of fine physique, being six feet four inches in height, but did not appear so tall on account of being so well proportioned. In the early days of steamboating he sailed on the St. Joseph river, and became a pilot on that river. He is now residing at Greenfield, Tenn. Our subject's paternal grandfather died in Scotland. Allen Connelley, his maternal grandfather, was an old salt-water sailor of the British merchant marine; was a well-educated man and a thorough navigator, who had sailed the water in the different latitudes, as master of ships. He died of pneumonia at St. Joseph, Mich., in the fall of 1859. Henry T. Boswell, a brother of our subject, is a marine engineer, and as such has held a good position for many years.
It may with truth be said that Captain Boswell is a born sailor, for when a small boy he was always about the water, having doubtless inherited a love for the same from his maternal grandfather. Given a knife and a block of wood, he would make a boat and go down to the river and sail it. The district schools possessed no attraction for him, and he began his career as a sailor, when quite young, on the side-wheel steamer St. Joseph on the St. Joseph river with his father, after which he shipped with Capt. Thomas Richardson on the double topsail scow Addie, on which he remained two seasons, transferring to the schooner Gertrude, owned by the same party, and remained on her, filling all subordinate berths until he was appointed master, and he was also master of the schooners Gertrude, Flora Temple, Ella Teal, Souvenir, Evergreen and Regulator.
Captain Boswell then turned his attention to steam vessels, and entered the employ of the Goodrich Transportation Company, as wheelsman on the side-wheel steamers Seabird, and Orion. In 1870 he applied for and received pilot's papers, being recommended by Capt. Thomas Butlin, A. E. Goodrich and Nelson Napier, and was appointed second mate of the passenger steamer Ottawa, and while in that employ transferred to the steamers Seabird, Orion, G. J. Truesdell (now the John Otis) and Comet. He then resigned to take charge of the tug Ellen M. O'Brien, operating out of Pentwater, and sailed her one season. The next season he sailed the tug Sport, at Ludington, for Capt. Eber Ward, after which he took charge of the passenger steamer Fannie Schriver, plying between Pentwater and Ludington, then the terminus of the railroads in the North, and he was next transferred to the steamers Magnet and Grace Dormer as master. In the spring of 1880 the Captain went to St. Joseph, and entered the employ of Mr. Graham as mate of the propeller Lora, with Capt. Cal. Barlett. This was followed by a season as master of the Skylark. That winter the company built the steamer St. Joseph, and Captain Boswell came out in her as mate, with Alex Elton. The next season he became master of the ferry boat Belle, operating about Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Mich. When she was sold he entered the United States service as master of the General Gilmour. He then purchased an interest in the tug and ferry line operating between Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, but after two years sold his stock, and again entered the employ of the Graham & Morton Transportation Co., as mate of the winter boat Petoskey, after which they chartered the steamer Lawrence, and he went as mate on her. When she laid up at the end of the season he again went as mate on the Petoskey, thus alternating between those steamers and the City of Charlevoix, until the City of Louisville was added to the line, when he came out on her as mate, and on July 31, 1895, when Capt. John Griffin resigned, our subject was appointed master, and has sailed her daily between Chicago, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor for many seasons, including the winter months.
Captain Boswell was made a Master Mason in Oceana Lodge No. 200, of Pentwater, in 1870, but now affiliates with Lake Shore Lodge No. 28, F. & A. M., of Benton Harbor. He is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows; a charter member of the Knights of Pythias, and of the Puritan Lodge and Uniformed Rank of Burton, Tenn., and also belongs to the Knights of the Maccabees.
On November 13, 1873, Captain Boswell wedded Miss Ettie, daughter of Perry and Annie Brooks, of St. Joseph, Mich., and the children born to this union are Claude William and Walter Leo. The family enjoy the comforts and luxuries of a handsome home at No. 120 Belleview avenue, Benton Harbor, Michigan.
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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.