John Phelan was born in Queen's County, Ireland, in 1856, a son of John and Mary (Dey) Phelan. He attended school in his native place till his seventeenth year, when he came to this country, and started to work, doing anything that came in his way until 1877, when his career as a sailor began.
In that year he engaged as watchman on the Jarvis Lord, in which capacity he was occupied all of that season, and the one following he held the berth of fireman on the same craft. He was on the W. Vanderbilt firing for the season on 1879, and doing the same work on the Sparta the following season. In the year 1881 he shipped before the mast on the Sherwood, and the seasons of 1882-83 found him on the B. W. Blanchard as fireman. He next went as oiler on the City of Duluth during 1884 and for the first part of 1885, finishing that season, as well as the one following, as her second engineer, completing three seasons on her. We find him the next on the M. T. Green as assistant engineer, and the two following ones on the Rhode Emily in same capacity. In 1891-92 he was back on the B. W. Blanchard as her assistant engineer, and in the same position on the Minneapolis for the season of 1893. During the early part of 1894 he was assistant on the John Pridgeon, Jr., then chief of the A. A. Parker until the close of the season. In 1895-96 he was chief of the Iron Age, and during the seasons of 1897-98 he filled the position of chief engineer on the steamer Venezuela. He is usually employed during the winter months in some of the machine shops, having served several winters with the Western Electric Company, of Chicago, and at the powerhouse of the Buffalo Railway Company. He has eleven issues of license, and is a member of Local Harbor No. 1, Marine Engineers Beneficial Association.
In December, 1892, Mr. Phelan was married at Buffalo, N. Y., to Miss Clara Fix, of Alden, Erie County, N. Y. They have had three children, two of whom are now living: John Joseph, aged three years, and Edward Frederick, aged four-months. The family residence is at No. 425 High Street, Buffalo, New York.
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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.