William Brake, a marine engineer sailing out of Marine City, of which place he has been a popular and esteemed citizen about forty years, is in demand at the opening of every season to take command of the machinery of a good steamboat. He is the son of Jonathan L. and Mary A. (Locke) Brake, and was born in England, May 29, 1846. His parents took passage for the United States about the year 1844, first locating in Buffalo, going thence to Detroit, where the father entered the employ of E. B. Ward as foreman of his shipsmith shop, remaining in that position four years. He then removed to Marine City, where he started in business for himself as shipsmith, conducting it successfully up to the time of his death, which occurred in 1874, his wife having preceded him across the silent river.
William Brake acquired his education in the public schools of Buffalo and Marine City. After working with his father two years, and becoming a skillful artisan, he went to Buffalo and entered the employ of J. O. Robison, a gunmaker in business on Main street. Mr. Brake learned this trade thoroughly, devoting two years to it, and is able to make and finish a gun in the most approved style. On his return to Marine City he again worked in his father's shop.
It was in the year 1867 that Mr. Brake first conceived the desire to become a marine engineer, and he shipped as fireman on the steamer Bay City, which came out new that spring. This was followed by two seasons as second engineer on the steamer J.S. Estabrook, owned by the Toledo and Saginaw Transportation Company. In the spring of 1870 he was appointed chief engineer of the Trader. This was the first of that class of vessels since known as steambarges. He remained chief of her two seasons. His next steamer was the Robert Holland, which he brought out new in the spring of 1872, and engineered five consecutive seasons.
In 1877 he took the steamer Salina as chief, and ran her two and a half years, then transferred to the P. H. Birckhead, and was chief on her for the three following seasons. The steamer C. F. Curtis came out new in 1883, and Mr. Brake joined her as chief engineer, going onto the Robert Holland the next year. In 1885 he put in the machinery, and brought out new the steamer J. W. Westcott, engineering her three years. His next new steamer was the Robert F. Freyer, into which he put the machinery and ran her five seasons. In the spring of 1891 he was appointed chief engineer of the F. W. Fletcher, bringing her out new and running her five seasons. His next berth was as chief engineer on the steamer Katahdin, followed by a season in the E. M. Peck, and was retained on her in this position for the season of 1898. During the thirty years since Mr. Brake obtained his first berth as second engineer he has not lost a season, and by mechanical skill and good judgment has steadily advanced in his profession. Socially, he is a Master Mason and a member of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association.
Mr. Brake was united in marriage to Miss Nellie F., daughter of George Beal, of East China, Mich. Their children are Forrest B., Mollie B. and Russell. The family homestead is located on St. Clair street, Marine City, 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.