Captain Edward J. Wylie
Captain Edward J. Wylie, a well-known master of tugs operating out of Ashtabula Harbor, was born in Ashtabula, Ohio, in 1856, a son of William and Elizabeth, (Cook) Wylie. The father was a Scotchman by birth, and on coming to America located in Montreal, Canada, where he remained until 1854, when he removed to the United States, settling in Ashtabula, Ohio. At the breaking out of the Civil war he enlisted in the Fiftieth O. V. I., under Colonel Strickland and Capt. Thomas Gwinn. He was killed by a minie ball at the battle of Snake Creek Gap, Ga., May 31, 1864.
Edward J. Wylie attended the public schools in his native town until he reached the age of fifteen, and in the spring of 1871 he engaged in fishing out of Ashtabula Harbor. He had made a few trips on the lakes previous to this, however, on the schooner Zouave and Abe Lincoln, as cook, with Capt. Thomas Booth. He also fished out of Fairport and Erie until 1875. While returning from Erie to Ashtabula, in October, 1873, alone in his fishing boat, it capsized; he clung to the bottom of the boat until picked up six hours later by William Clark in a fishboat. Mr. Clark was afterward captain of the Erie life saving station, and was drowned while in discharge of his duties. In 1875 our subject went sailing with Captain Lampole on the schooner Ahira Cobb before the mast until July. He then shipped as fireman on the iron tug Dexter, operating at Ashtabula, closing the season on the tug Ingram. In the spring of 1876 he joined the schooner Goshawk, Capt. Ed Morton, until July, when seaman's wages running low, he returned to his old berth on the tug Dexter.
The next year he went to Edenburg, Clarion Co., Penn., and engaged in building oil tanks. In July he returned to Ashtabula and passed sometime on the tug Dexter, but closed the season on the steamer Jarvis Lord as wheelsman with Captain Drake, laying the boat up in Chicago. During the entire season of 1878 he fired on the tug Dexter. After laying up his boat he went to the Bradford, Penn., oil regions and was employed in building oil tanks. During the next four seasons he was employed on the tug Dexter, taking out pilot's papers in June, 1881, and sailing her two years.
In the spring of 1883, Captain Wylie entered the employ of the Ashtabula Towing Company, as master of the tug Red Cloud, and sailed her four seasons. In the winter of 1885-86 he went to Warsaw, N. Y., to build salt blocks; in 1887 was appointed master of the tug John Gordon, and sailed her until the fall of 1891. Next spring he brought out new the tug William D., and sailed her five consecutive years to this writing. During the twenty years he has been engaged exclusively in the tugging business, Captain Wylie has given the best of satisfaction, his boats having all been free from mishaps. He has made some notable rescues, among them the saving of two men from a capsized small boat, a third man being drowned before he could get to him. He took the crew off the schooner Parker while at anchor off Ashtabula during a fall gale and in danger of going ashore. He also, with a volunteer crew of six tug men in a lifeboat, took the crew off the schooner Nevada, which soon afterward went to pieces in a furious storm. On another occasion he jumped overboard from his tug and saved the life of a young man named Charles Huff.
Socially Captain Wylie is a Royal Arch Mason, having passed the degree of Master many years ago. He is in possession of a Masonic heirloom which has been handed down over a hundred years through several generations, and is a relic of great interest. It is composed of polished bone, squared and beveled on two edges, with a square and compasses engraved and colored apparently with red India ink, and in each of the beveled surfaces is engraved an arrow, each pointing in different directions and also colored red. It is not known how long the original possessor (a Mr. Wood) had it. Mr. Wood lived in York, England, and when his son, Erastus Wood, came to America in 1805 he gave it to his son; at his death it was passed into the hands of his wife, and when she died in 1871 it was received by her daughter, while in 1872 it was given to the great-granddaughter of Mr. Wood, who is now Mrs. Terry, and she in turn passed it down to her daughter's husband, Capt. E. J. Wylie, as a Christmas present with a gold plate on the reverse side bearing the dates "1776-1897."
Captain Wylie was married in 1881, to Miss Hattie M. Cosgrove, daughter of John and Sarah Cosgrove of Ashtabula. Two sons, John E. and Lionel W., have been born to them. The family residence is at No. 37 Spruce street, Ashtabula, Ohio.
Capt. James T. Wylie, a younger brother of our subject, was also a master of tugs operating out of Ashtabula Harbor, having been appointed master of the Tug Dragon in 1886. He also sailed the Red Cloud, Kunkle Brothers, and brought out the tug Sunol new. He was washed overboard and drowned November 24, 1894, while towing out the steamer Pontiac, Capt. James Lowe, in the teeth of a fierce gale. Five days later his body was recovered near Conneaut, about thirteen miles distant from the scene of the disaster. He was thiry-one years of age, and his bravery was proverbial, as he had saved the lives of many persons at the peril of his own. During the season 1892 he was instrumental in saving eight lives. When his death was announced the flags at the Harbor were placed at half-mast.
The other members of the family are Eliza, now the wife of John Sterns; Emma, wife of C. Todd, and William, a railroad engineer on the Ashtabula & Pittsburg road.
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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.