Thomas J. McDonnell
Thomas J. McDonnell, who is a close student of engineering works and accomplished in his profession of marine engineering, is descended from a long line of patriotic warriors, and although himself too young to take an active part in the Civil war, the family was well represented in that struggle. He was born in Rochester, N. Y., August 31, 1853, a son of James and Hannah (Covelle) McDonnell, both of whom were natives of New York and of Scotch parentage. His grandfathers, James T. McDonnell and William C. Covelle, both came to the United States from Scotland prior to the war of 1812 and espoused the cause of their adopted country, the former joining a clipper ship belonging to the American navy, which was very successful in its operations against the enemy; the latter joining General Proctor's army of invasion and being killed at the battle of Maidstone Cross, twenty miles back of Windsor, Ontario. During the Civil war, the father of our subject enlisted at Ann Arbor in the Seventh Michigan Cavalry, and with his regiment did gallant duty in various cavalry engagements, all of which are recounted in detail in the work entitled "Michigan in the War." Mr. McDonnell was a veterinary surgeon and when General Grant took command of the Army of the Potomac, he was appointed to his staff with a commission as lieutenant. At the close of the war he resigned and soon afterward was appointed veterinary surgeon for the State of Nebraska, holding that honorable office fourteen years, after which he retired to more fully enjoy the comforts of home life. His son, William C., enlisted in the 22d N. Y. V. I., at the breaking out of the war, and at the end of his three months' time re-enlisted in August, and served with his regiment until the close of the war. He then became a railroad construction boss and while at work on a section of the Tennessee railroad in Mississippi, he was murdered by a negro, who at once paid the penalty of his crime. James H., the second son, also enlisted in the 22d N. Y. V. I., and was captured during a hot engagement, sent to Libby prison in Richmond, where he remained confined many months, suffering all the horrors for which the southern prisons were notorious; since returning home at the close of the war, he has been a captain of the Detroit detective police force. Harriet is the wife of Samuel Robinson, a speculator in oil at Oil City, Pennsylvania. Sarah E. is the wife of John Enbody, a pork speculator, living in Fremont City, Neb. George C., like his brother Thomas J., is a marine engineer and was chief of the steamer Arundel, N. K. Fairbanks and George Stone, among other boats. On June 1, 1898, he was appointed chief engineer of the United States man-of-war Massachusetts, a first-class battle ship of the flying squadron under command of Commodore Watson.
Thomas J. McDonnell, received a liberal education in the Rochester public schools, and became a competent machinist, passing four years under instruction with the firm of Jackson & Wyley, of Detroit, Mich., and in 1876 shipped in the river tug Gladiator as second engineer. Two years later, having thus fulfilled the requirements of law he was appointed chief engineer of the steamer Albert Miller and ran her five seasons. He was then placed in charge of the fine pleasure yacht Uarda, owned by Cameron D. Waterman, of Detroit, retaining that berth three seasons. He passed the seasons of 1884-85 as chief engineer of the steamer Chenango, and the next season stopped ashore at Wyandotte, Mich., having been appointed chief engineer of the soda ash works in that place. In 1887 he was engaged by William H. Langley, a wealthy New Yorker, to take charge of the machinery of the yacht Tilley, cruising on the Atlantic coast. At the close of the pleasure season he returned to Detroit and became chief engineer of the power house of the Detroit & Wyandotte motor line, where he remained two years. In 1890 he entered the employ of the Davis Bolt & Oar Works at Wyandotte, as chief erecting boss. In 1893 went to New York City and took charge of the steamyacht Sultana for Mr. Langley, who retained his services two seasons, and after a year spent at home in Alma, Mich., he again took charge of the yacht Sultana. In the spring of 1897 Mr. McDonnell entered the employ of Capt. James Davidson as chief engineer of the steamer Shenandoah, transferring to the steamer Appomattox in the spring of 1898.
On August 31, 1875, Mr. McDonnell was united in marriage with Miss Mary M. Davis, of Rochester, N. Y., and the family residence is in Alma, Michigan.
Return to Home Port
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.