Captain Orlo J. Mason
Captain Mason was born on July 26, 1835, at Lafargeville, Jefferson Co., N. Y. He is the son of Johnson and Mary (Greenleaf) Mason, both of whom died when Orlo was quite young, and he was thus compelled to learn self-reliance at an early age. However, he managed to acquire some knowledge in the public-schools of his native place. When he reached the age of twelve years he went to work on a farm, where he again had an opportunity to attend school in the winter months. In 1853 he left the farm and went to learn the carpenter's trade at Lafargeville; he also worked in Theresa, N. Y., about three years, after which he obtained desirable employment in an organ and piano manufactory in Clayton, where he remained until the opening of hostilities between North and South, in which the bravery and the resources of the two sections of this great republic were pitted against each other in a long and bloody war, and through which Captain Mason carried himself with honor.
On October 21, 1861, he enlisted in Company B, Ninety-fourth New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which was assigned to duty with the army of the Potomac. He participated with his regiment in all the stubborn contests of that magnificent army except the battle of Gettysburg. At the time that decisive engagement took place he was confined in the hospital by reason of a serious wound received in the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862. Previous to this period he had been with his regiment through the second Bull Run battle and those at South Mountain and Antietam. He does not designate the numerous smaller affairs in which he took part. After seven weary months in the hospital he was permitted to join his regiment, which was before Petersburg, and was an integral part of the Fifth Corps under General Warren. Captain Mason took part in all the fighting around Petersburg and Richmond and at Five Forks, and also marched in support of General Sherman's cavalry, which succeeded in heading off the Confederates at Appomatox, after the fall of Richmond, and thus he was present at one of the closing scenes of the great Rebellion. His first rank, in 1861, was that of sergeant; on June 12, 1864, he was commissioned second lieutenant, and on March 21, 1865, he was promoted to the responsible rank of captain of Company A, to which he had been transferred in 1862. He re-enlisted as veteran near Fredericksburg, Va., in December, 1864, and was granted the usual furlough. After the close of the war he was honorably discharged in Albany, N. Y., July 31, 1865.
Captain Mason then returned to Clayton, N. Y., and resumed work in the organ manufactory he had quit for military service. In the spring of 1866 he went to Detroit and entered the employ of the Dry Dock Company as carpenter. The next year he went into the car shops on Crogan street, and helped to build the first Pullman palace car ever constructed. In May, 1868, Captain Mason went to St. Louis, Mo., where he worked in the car shops of the Iron Mountain Railroad Company two years. In 1870 he entered the employ of the Broadway Street Car Company, and worked for that firm ten consecutive years, after which he passed two years in the Franklin avenue car shops. In 1882 he returned to Detroit and again found employment in the Pullman car shops. In June, 1885, Captain Mason was appointed keeper of the Mamajuda lighthouse on Detroit river and held that position nine years, and so conscientiously did he perform the duties that no cause of complaint was ever entered against him. This is a rare commendation, when the enormous amount of tonnage depending upon the guidance of his light is considered. It was during Captain Mason's incumbency at Mamajuda that his daughter, MISS MAEBELLE, a maid of fourteen years, performed an act of heroism which attracted the attention, not only of the lake marine men, but of the government officials as well. On May 11, 1890, a man in a rowboat threw a line for a tow to the steamer C. W. Elphicke, Captain Montague, while passing on the Detroit river, half between Mamajuda light and Grassy isle. The line missed connection but caught just right to capsize the boat, spilling the unfortunate man into the river. On passing Mamajuda light Captain Montague, who could render no assistance, signaled the lightkeeper that there was a man overboard and in danger of drowning. Captain Mason was absent with the government boat, and it therefore devolved upon the humanity and courage of Mrs. Mason and her daughter Maebelle to attempt a rescue. The only thing available in the shape of a boat was a small flat-bottomed punt, which was hauled out of the dock at the lighthouse. The mother and daughter succeeded in launching this, and it was quickly decided that the daughter should undertake the work and danger of rowing out to the aid of the perishing man. After about a mile of hard rowing she came up to him near his upturned boat and succeeded in getting him aboard of her light craft, he being nearly exhausted. She then returned to the lighthouse, towing with her the submerged boat. The stranger thus rescued from death by water was profuse in incoherent thanks. This act of heroism was rewarded by the United States Government by the presentation of a life-saving medal of the second class, procured through the efforts of the late Capt. Charles V. Gridley, who commanded the Olympia at the battle of Manila, but who in 1890 was government inspector of the Tenth lighthouse district. At the expiration of his term Commander E. W. Woodward, United States Navy, succeeded him, and on behalf of the United States Government presented the medal to the young lady at the "Cadillac Hotel," Detroit, during the National Convention of the Grand Army of the Republic.
The maiden received the present with the naive modesty so charming in a young maiden, believing that she had but performed an act of humanity. The Ship Masters Association also presented her with a gold life-saving medal with a Maltese cross and gold chain attached. This medal bore the inscription:
Presented to Miss Maebelle L. Mason
From that day all steamers carrying the pennant of the association saluted while passing the lighthouse until the young heroine was wedded June 21, 1892, to Mr. Connell, who carried her away. She now has a son, named Orlo James in honor of her father.
In the month of June, 1893, Captain Mason was transferred to Ashtabula Harbor, where he was placed in charge of the lights, one being on the outer pier with a rear range and fog signal.
Captain Mason was united by marriage to Miss Belle M. Mills, daughter of Capt. Andrew H. Mills, a well known vessel and tug owner of Detroit. Maebelle L. is the only child. The family homestead is pleasantly situated on the hill at No. 1 Walnut street, overlooking the lake and harbor at Ashtabula, Ohio. Both the Captain and his wife are consistent members of the Methodist Church. Mrs. Mason is a public spirited and charitable lady, a charming and talented musician, and does all in her power to make her husband and others happy. Their daughter Maebelle is also proficient in music, having doubtless inherited her mother's taste and skill in producing harmony of sound.
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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.