Captain A. F. Pitman
A well-known writer has said that the "authentic picture of any human being's life and experience ought to possess an interest greatly beyond that of fiction, inasmuch as it has the charm of reality," and in the varied career of the subject of this sketch there is material for an interesting novel.
Captain Pitman is of English descent, and his ancestors settled at an early day in Nova Scotia. Capt. Richard K. Pitman, his father, was a lifelong resident of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and followed the sea until his death in 1872, being for many years on ocean vessels. Our subject was reared in Yarmouth, where he first saw the light August 25, 1849, and although his educational opportunities were limited to the local schools, he managed to acquire a wide range of information by his reading and observation in later years. When only twelve years old he began his career as a sailor on coasting vessels plying between Yarmouth, the head of the Bay of Fundy, and the town of Sidney, Cape Breton island, and at the age of fourteen he shipped from Yarmouth as an ordinary seaman on the bark Clara to Dublin, and from Dublin went to Ardrossan, Scotland, thence to Glasgow, where he was in the hospital for fourteen days, and then joined the Mary A. Troop, in which he visited the West Indies, and points of Europe. On February 20, 1866, he left that ship at New York City and went to Buffalo, where he helped to fit out the bark The Red, White and Blue, in which he sailed at the opening of navigation as an able seaman. The crew was paid off on their arrival at Milwaukee, and he then spent two months on a schooner in the lumber trade, running from Milwaukee to Oconto and Menominee. During the fall he was employed on several small boats engaged in the lumber trade and later on the steamer Ontonagon, under Captain McKay, running to all ports in Lake Superior, but after three trips was taken ill. In the following spring he took a position as wheelsman on the steamer Manistee on which he spent about eighteen months, and he then served one season as second mate on the steamer St. Joe. In the fall of the same year he shipped as second mate on the steamer Messenger, of the Ingleman line, running between Milwaukee, Manistee and Grand Haven, and he remained on this boat three years, leaving it to take the post of second officer on the steamer Ironsides. On his second trip the ship, on February 15, 1871, went down five miles off Grand Haven, the captain, first engineer and eight passengers losing their lives. Our subject had a narrow escape from a like fate, being one of the four survivors of the wreck. He was cast off from the ship with one of the painters and after three hours and a half of battling with the fierce waves he managed to make his way to shore, his experience being made all the harder by the sight of the desperate yet futile struggles of others who were less fortunate than he. His next position was as first mate on the steamer Bertschy, and on several other boats of the same line, with which he remained until he took a situation in the Cudahy packing house in Chicago. In the spring of 1878 he shipped on the steamer De Pere, of the Goodrich Transportation line as first mate, and this position he held until he was appointed captain of the same vessel in the spring of 1880. For two years he had charge of this boat, running between Chicago, Green Bay, and Milwaukee, and he then served as captain on various boats, spending one season on the steamer Minnie M.; two on the James H. Shrigley, and five on the steamer Roanoke, which he left in August, 1893. During a part of the season of 1894 he had charge of the steamer Maggie Duncan, but since that time he has been in the employ of the Hudson Transportation line, being now the captain of the F.& P.M., No. 1. He is a senior captain of the line, and is held in high esteem by the company for his ability and faithfulness in the discharge of his duties. In the course of his long service on various boats he has also gained the confidence of the traveling public, and among his cherished treasures is a testimonial from the passengers of the De Pere, which he was sailing during the stormy night that sent the Alpena to the bottom of the lake.
The Captain is popular socially, and is a member of the Ship Masters Association, being interested in all marine matters. In 1879, he was married to Miss Margaret Gibbons, of Milwaukee, and they have four children: Albert, Olivea, Margaret and Gerald.
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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.