William McKittrick is one of the few engineers who did active duty on the lakes before licenses were required by the government, and although several years have passed, while working ashore, that he did not take out license, he has thirty-one issues.
Our subject is the son of Thomas and Clarissa (Sweet) McKittrick. The father was also a lake engineer, but the mariners who were contemporary with him have all passed away. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and came to America about the year 1813, locating in Kingston, Ont., with his parents. In the course of time he became second engineer on the older steamer Telegraph, plying between Oswego and Kingston. He also served as second engineer on the old steamer St. Lawrence seven years. She was operated by the American Express Company between Ogdensburg and Lewiston, N.Y. He then shipped in the old Vandalia, the first propeller ever built, as second, John Fayette being chief engineer. He was chief for four seasons on a steamer built by Sylvester Doolittle, of Oswego, and the next season he brought out new the steamer Oswego, as chief, running her four seasons between Oswego and Chicago. In those days the marine engineer did not receive the consideration that is shown him to-day. His wages are $30 per month, and he fired his own watch with wood; the second getting $20 and firing his own watch. These were the good times so often discussed by shipmates of the present day. But to return to Mr. McKittrick, Sr. After leaving the steamer Oswego, he took charge of the machinery of the first elevator in Oswego operated by steam, afterward having charge of the stationary engine in a planing-mill for twenty years. The last vessel of which he was chief was the propeller Kentucky, on which he remained one season, then went to the planing mill. He died about a year later at the age of eighty-six, after having lived a long life of usefulness, and integrity. The mother was a native of Massachusetts, and died about the year 1841.
Engineer William McKittrick was born January 12, 1833, in Oswego, N.Y., where he was educated. His first experience as an engineer was under his father, as second in the Oswego elevator, in 1853, after which he served as second with him on the propeller Kentucky without license. The next spring he was appointed engineer of the tug Blower, at Oswego harbor, and the three following seasons ran the tug Mulford, A.A.Smith, Dobbie and Manwaring.
In 1857 Mr. McKittrick went to Chicago and ran an engine in an elevator, but later took the tug Sturgis and ran her for Capt. Redmund Prindiville, and after passing some months as superintendent of a retail coal yard, he shipped as engineer on the tug Walter McQueen. In 1861 he went to St. Louis and took charge of the machinery in the six tugs which had been built by Mr. Adams for General Fremont, and took them to Cairo, where he turned them over to Commodore Foote for use by the navy department; after which the Commodore gave him a position on the tug used as a dispatch-boat by him and on which he saw active service during the war. He then returned to Chicago and joined the propeller Prairie State as second engineer. In 1863 he sailed as second and then as chief engineer of the old propeller Ontario. The following year he entered the employ of the Northern Insurance Company as chief engineer of the tug Hector, which had been chartered by the government to tow the steamer New World, when dismantled to be used as a floating hospital, to Fortress Monroe. He returned with the Hector after completing the contract.
During the next four years Mr. McKittrick was chief engineer of the Northwestern elevator at Oswego, N.Y. In 1869 he went to Bay City and ran the tug Tornado for Dobbie & Manwaring. This was followed by two seasons as chief engineer of the lake tug Winslow, then owned by Ballentine & Co. He was chief engineer of the steamer R. Prindiville, of the Anchor line, in 1872, and the next spring bought a half-interest in the tug Seeley, and ran her. He was then chief engineer of the steamer Phil Sheridan two seasons; chief of the Annie L. Craig; chief of the St. Joseph; part of the season on the tug Stranger, and chief of the tug Sweepstakes; then assumed the position of assistant superintendent of a blast furnace at Hamtramck, after which he worked in the car shops of the Michigan Central Company. In the spring of 1882 he again took up the duties of an engineer, and was made chief of the steamer Business, and, in 1883, of the steamer Osceola, which he ran three seasons, followed by two on the H.D. Coffinberry. In 1888 he fitted out the steamer Monteagle, but closed the season on the lake tug Music. He then ran the steamer S.C. Baldwin two seasons, and the Nipigon one. In the spring of 1892 he was appointed chief engineer of the passenger steamer William Harrison, which he ran two seasons in the excursion business between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. In 1894 he received a government appointment as chief engineer of the mail equipment at Washington, D.C., which he retained three years. In the spring of 1896 he was appointed chief of the ferry steamer Fortune, on which he closed the season; and took out the steamer Germania, during the spring of 1897, and in 1898 joined the steamer R.J. Hackett as chief engineer.
Socially, he is a member of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, and of the Ancient Order of the United Workmen.
On December 24, 1853, Mr. McKittrick was wedded to Miss Elizabeth A., daughter of Henry and Margaret (Henry) Watson, of Oswego. The children born to this union were William, who sailed as chief engineer many years, and died in South Chicago, October 12, 1897, at the age of 43 years; Edith, now the wife of S.A. Whipple, of Detroit, a former lake captain. The family homestead is at No. 226 Twenty-fourth street, Detroit, 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.