Sailors, Ships, and Shore Mates from the Great Lakes to the Great Barrier Reef
Captain William Callaway Sailed a Milwaukee Schooner to Hamburg
Milwaukee Harbor Lighthouse
Captain William Callaway sailed the first Milwaukee built schooner across the Atlantic Ocean and returned to make his maritime career on the Great Lakes
Captain William Callaway began his career in his native England, and sailed the oceans and the Great Lakes. He earned the distinction of having commanded the first schooner ever built in Milwaukee that crossed the Atlantic Ocean. One of his more famous rescues took place on November 5, 1869, when he and his crew rescued the crew of the bark Naomi.
Captain William Callaway was born on May 13, 1831 at Portishead near Bristol, England. He went to sea early in his life and made several voyages from Bristol, some of them to North America. In 1856, he settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and by 1862, he had found a partner and bought a ship.
Captain Callaway Sails the Hanover From Milwaukee to Liverpool
The schooner Hanoverwas built near Reed Street in Milwaukee and its owners commissioned Captain Callaway to sail her across the Atlantic Ocean to Liverpool, England. On Wednesday, June 22, 1859, the Detroit Free Press reported that the schooner Hanover had passed down the river towed by the tug John Ely and sparks from the tug set the jib topsail and flying jib on fire. The wind was blowing fresh up stream, so she was headed up river as soon as possible and the flames put out. She was towed into the dock at Windsor.
Four years later in 1863, Captain Callaway set sail for Hamburg, Germany, in the Hanover. He believed that she was the second schooner to make the trip, after the Dean Richmond, which voyaged to Liverpool in the 1850s.
Captain Calloway and his crew had an exciting voyage. Twice between Milwaukee and Quebec, the crew had to lighten the cargo so that the Hanover could pass through the canals. One time the cargo was shipped by railroad and another time barges hauled the cargo. The Hanover arrived in Liverpool safely.
The Hanover Meets the Confederate Blockade Runner Florida
When Captain Callaway was getting ready to leave Liverpool in the Hanover on the last leg of his voyage to Hamburg, Germany, English officials told him that the Confederate gunboat Florida lay in wait for enemy ships at Queenstown. While the Hanover was off Hollyhead making for the Irish coast, Captain Callaway spotted a steamer. The steamer turned off course and came toward the Hanover until nearly even with her. Then suddenly the steamer turned around and went back. Being in English waters. the Florida could not attack the Hanover which flew the Stars and Stripes. The wind changed that night, and the Hanover changed her course to go through the Irish Channel. Captain Callaway didn’t see the Florida again.
A story in the Milwaukee Sentinel dated October 1, 1863, reported the next leg of the Hanover’s voyage. The story said that the brig Hanover, Captain Callaway, which sailed from Milwaukee for Hamburg last spring, had recently been sold in Germany and the Captain and crew were on their way back to Milwaukee.
Captain Callaway Rescues the Crew of the Bark Naomi
Captain William Callaway and his crew arrived safely back in Milwaukee and he still experienced several maritime adventures. One of his adventures involved the rescue of the crew of the bark Naomi on November 5, 1869 off Manistee, Michigan. The Toledo Blade of November 12, 1869, tells the story. The bark Naomi was bound from Erie, Pennsylvania to Detroit, Michigan carrying a load of hard coal. A violent Lake Michigan storm blew up on November 4, 1869, and the Naomi struck bottom. She stranded and totally wrecked on Big Sable Point, Lake Michigan, sixteen miles south of Manistee, Michigan.
The water rushed into the Naomi so quickly that everyone aboard had to escape to the roof cabin, where they were buffeted by the wind and waves. Captain Carpenter then lashed himself and his wife to the mast. The captain asked a sailor to swim to shore for help and the sailor started out, but the storm overpowered him and he drowned. The Naomi’s lifeboat had washed away, so there was no escape for the stranded sailors on the Naomi.
Captain Callaway and his Crew Reach The Naomi
The next day, November 5, 1869, Captain Callaway of the Toledo and his men set out for the Naomi. The wind and waves were still strong and they had to bail water from their boat. Captain Callaway told the story of the rescue. He and his crew took the bark Toledo to the stranded bark Naomi. He said that the first thing he saw as he rowed to the stranded bark was Captain Carpenter and his wife. Captain Carpenter was fastened to one end of the rope passed over the mizzen boom, and his wife, fastened to the other end, lay dead in his lap.
The men on the wreck came along the rail and to the end of the boom, and then dropped into the boat. Three of the men dropped in all right, but when the fourth was in the act of descending into the boat, the waves knocked the boat out from under him and he fell overboard.
The under tow brought Captain Callaway’s boat back to the Naomi and the man in the water came up alongside Captain Calloway’s boat. One of the crew grabbed him and got him into the boat. As soon as he could speak, the rescued man called on heaven and the saints to rain blessings on Captain Callaway and his crew for saving him. It took three trips to rescue the crew of the Naomi.
After two or three trips, Captain Callaway and his crew rescued the rest of the crew, seven men altogether, but Captain Carpenter died before they could take him off. The rescuers left the bodies of Captain Carpenter and his wife on the Naomi, which soon went to pieces. The seven rescued men were all nearly dead from exposure and cold but they were finally revived.
Captain Callaway continued sailing and one of his voyages involved carrying supplies to relieve the victims of the Peshtigo Fire and the other fierce forest fires that burned on the evening of October 8, 1871, the same night of the Chicago Fire.
When he retired from the Great Lakes, Captain Callaway founded the Callaway Fuel Company of Milwaukee. He died peacefully at his home at Hackett Avenue in Milwaukee in 1917, with his wife and children at his bedside.
Gurda, John. The Making of Milwaukee. Milwaukee County Historical Society, 1999
Mansfield, J.B. History of the Great Lakes, Volume I, Volume II. J.H. Beers & Co., 1899
McRae, Shannon. Manistee County (MI). Images of America. Arcadia Publishing, 2006
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Photograph courtesy of the Ecorse, Michigan Rowing Club.