Captain Orlando J. Parker
Captain Orlando J. Parker, whose life as a mariner covers a period of fifty years, was a patriot of the way of the Rebellion, and served with honor in the infantry, artillery and navy. He is a son of Salmon and Eliza (Scofield) Parker, and was born in Onondaga county, N.Y., March 4, 1835, his ancestors being purely American for many generation. His father was a native of New York, and mother of Stamford, Conn. The family removed to Rochester where the father took command of an Erie packet, and later going to Granby, Oswego county, N.Y., where he died in 1848, leaving a widow and three sons; Joseph P., at one time mate of the schooner Chicago Board of Trade, and later sailing on Lake Ponchartrain; Lewis B., a citizen of Webster, Wayne country, N.Y., and a veteran of Company K, Fifth New York Calvary; and Orlando J., the subject of this sketch. The mother died in Way county, Mich, in 1882.
When but fourteen years of age Orlando left home and secured a berth on a canal boat as bowsman, and went with her to New York City, where she was laid up, all hands being paid off. He then shipped as a cook on the schooner Rio Grande, engaged in the coasting trade on the Atlantic ocean. After his first month's experience he ran away from the schooner and returned home, where he remained all summer, too ill to be about. In 1850 he accompanied his mother to Sumpter, Mich., thence to Monroe, Mich., where he was employed as a fisherman. While in this employ he met a salt-water sailor, who prevailed upon him to ship as a sailor again, and then went on board to the old schooner Cambria and turned in, and after two months in this schooner he returned home. In 1852 he shipped on the brig Hampton, of the White Diamond Line, with Captain Davis, and after five months joined the brig Acadia. He passed the next season on the schooner Pierrepoint, Captain Jenkins; brig Mariner, Capt. R. Hackett, and the schooner Andrew J. Rich. In the spring of 1854 he was appointed mate of the schooner Winslow, and after two trips transferred to the Jessie Woods. The next season he sailed as mate on the bark Ocean Wave, and before the mast on the schooner S. J. Hawley, with Capt. B. Hayes. In the spring of 1856 he came out as second mate on the brig William Lewis, and after five months shipped on the schooner H.E. Muzzie. His next berth was on the schooner Titan of the Red Bird line, with Captain Robinson, closing the season on the schooner Hampton. In 1858 he was appointed second mate of the schooner Comanche, and the following season served as second mate and mate of the schooner Grace Murray, filling this position until December, when he made a last trip for the season on the bark Danube. In the spring of 1860 he shipped before the mast on the new schooner Virginia, but closed the season on the S.J. Hawley; in 1861 was on the brig William Treat, the largest vessel sailing the lakes, closing the season on the schooner Jamaica, which reached Oswego December 13, with a cargo of wheat, the freight on which was 27 cents per bushel.
In the spring of 1862 Captain Parker came out as second mate on the brig William Lewis, but on August 10th he resigned, and on the 13th enlisted on the One Hundred and Forty-seventh New York Volunteer Infantry, and with his regiment participated in many hotly-contested battles, among them being that of Fredericksburg. He was then transferred to the First New York Light Artillery, and was in the battles of Chancellorsville, Burton Station, and the three days' fighting at Gettysburg, and as No. 4 of No. 1 gun, first section, had the honor of firing the first piece of field artillery that opened the great artillery duel on July 3. Early in 1864 Captain Parker was transferred to the United States navy, going on board the receiving ship North Carolina, where he remained three weeks, when he was consigned to the cruiser Merrimac, a former Rebel blockade runner. He was a side-wheel steamer, brigantine rigged, and capable of making a speed of fourteen knots an hour. She carried four 24-pound guns, a 30-pound Parrot on the forecastle, and a 12-pound Dahlgren as a stern chaser, Mr. Parker being in charge of the last mentioned gun. She was stationed with the Gulf squadron at Key West, and cruised about the West Indies and Yucatan.
Captain Parker was promoted to the office of quartermaster, and when a Rebel schooner was captured he carried her to Key West as a prize master. On one occasion he was sent with a boat's crew to Tampa bay for a load of fat pine, where he contracted yellow fever, but recovered after six weeks and was sent to Havana. From here he cruised with Commander Budd to New York, the banks of Newfoundland, Rockland, Maine, and finally to Portsmouth navy yard, where he remained four months. In February, 1865, the Merrimac started on a winter cruise, and on the 14th she ran into a norther, when the tiller parted, she sprung a leak, which put the fires out, and she lay exposed to the furies of the storm. Soon, however, the mail steamer Morning Star came along and took off all hands, and the Merrimac when down to Davy Jones' locker. The Morning Star put in at Port Royal, where the blue jackets were put on board the receiving ship Maine and sent to New York. Captain Parker reported his time out, was honorably discharged and returned home.
In taking up his life on the lakes again in the fall of 1865, Captain Parker was appointed second mate on the schooner Comanche. At the close of navigation he went to Sumpter, Mich., and bought forty acres of land, upon which he built a house, and in the spring of 1866 shipped as second mate on the schooner A.H. Moss. The next year he took up his residence at Grand Rapids, and in 1868 shipped on the tug W. Mary for the season. During 1869-70 he was city marshal of Dowagiac, and in 1871-72 ran the engine in the steam sawmill of Fred Hedrich; and the next three years he acted as night policeman. In 1881 he again returned to Grand Haven and was employed in the freight house until 1883, when he applied for a license and was appointed mate of the steamer Milwaukee; in 1884, mate of the steamer Swallow, closing the season on the Hickox; 1885, mate of the steamer City of New York, with Capt. Neil Chatterton; 1886, second mate of the steamer Depere, with Captain Raleigh, remaining with him five months, when he met with an accident and was laid up the balance of the season. In the spring of 1887 he came out as second mate on the steamer Shrigley, closing on the Mary Groh as mate, and in 1888 acted as mate on the steamer William Edwards, closing the season on the Charles Street; during 1889 was made master of the tug Stewart Edward, remaining on her until September, when he took charge of the lightship on the White shoal. In the spring of 1890 Captain Parker came out as mate of the steamer C.H. Starke, but after three months he was made master and sailed her until the close of navigation. The next year he came out as mate of the Berrien, but was promoted to master, and the next season was made second mate of the passenger steamer City of Racine. He then entered the employ of the Goodrich Transportation Company, as first mate of the steamer Atlanta, and remained in the employ of the company five years. In the spring of 1898 he was appointed second mate of the steamer Minnesota of the Inter Ocean Transportation Company, and during the season of 1898 served as second mate on the steamer Kalamazoo, chartered by the Crosby Company. He was fifteen issues of master's license.
Socially, the Captain is a Master Mason of Grand Haven Lodge No. 139, and a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, Wetherwax Post No. 75, Department of Michigan.
On December 1, 1854, Capt. Orlando Parker was wedded to Miss Zilpha Farnham, of Oswego, Oswego Co., N.Y. The children born to this union are Mary E., now the wife of A.C. Merrill, who keeps a popular hotel at Sioux City, Iowa; Edward E., chief engineer of the yacht Sam Allerton, plying in Lake Geneva, and who espoused Miss Elizabeth M. Fair, of Chicago; Byron F., who died in 1875; and Nellie M., a graduate of Grand Haven high school, and of the Teachers Institute, Iowa, from which she holds a second-grade certificate. The family homestead is on the corner of Third and Clinton streets, Grand Haven, 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.