David Burns may be ranked among the most prominent and successful marine engineers on the lakes, and he is always in demand to handle the best class of machinery. He is conscientious and industrious, and he busies himself constantly around his machinery in order to keep it in first-class condition.
Mr. Burns was born in Marine City, Mich., on April 14, 1858, son of Thomas and Susan (McCarran) Burns. After acquiring his education in the public schools, which he attended until he was about sixteen years of age, he occupied some time in experiments as to the vocation which he was to follow for a livelihood, and finally determined to become a mariner, in common with many of his townsmen. In the spring of 1878 he became a sailor before the mast in the barge Charles Weeks, following with a season in the schooner Sol. Gardner in a like capacity. In the spring of 1880 he was advanced to the position of wheelsman in the steamer Salina, which he retained until June, changing into the steamer Abercorn as fireman, and thus making the first step towards the responsible position he now holds. He remained in the firehold of the Abercorn the two succeeding sesaons, and in 1883 shipped in the Morley, whose name was afterward changed to Grand Traverse. In the spring of 1884 Mr. Burns, having applied for and received an engineer's license, was appointed second on the Morley. His next berth was in the Kate Buttironi as second engineer, an office which he retained six seasons, transferring from her to the steamer Samoa as second. In 1892 he was engaged on the Sauber until September, when he was given his first boat as chief, the steamer Waldo Avery, running her during the season of 1893 also. In the spring of 1894 Mr. Burns was appointed chief of the steamer Neosho, which went ashore on Spectacle reef, Lake Huron, that fall. As the storm was fierce and the steamer in bad shape it was deemed advisable to go ashore, and a tug took off the crew. After forty-eight hours the waves subsided, and all hands returned to the vessel, got her off and worked her into port. The next year Mr. Burns again shipped as second in the steamer Kate Buttironi. In the spring of 1896 he joined the steamer John B. Ketcham, closing the season as chief of the steamer Joseph L. Colby, operated by the American Steel Barge Company. In the spring of 1897 he entered the employ of the Minnesota Steamship Company as chief engineer of the steel steamer Manola, in 1898 transferring, in the same capacity, to the Mariska, which he laid up at the close of the season.
Socially Mr. Burns is a member of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, John Ericsson Lodge No. 53, Marine City, Mich., of the Knights of the Maccabees and the Independent Order of Foresters. On February 9, 1887, Mr. Burns was united in marriage to Miss Mary Shields, daughter of John and Annie (Linch) Shields of Durand, Mich., and the following named children have been born to this union: Florence Lillian, William James and George Francis. They make their home in 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.