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Captain Timothy J. Kelley

Captain Timothy J. Kelley

Captain Timothy J. Kelley lived most of his life in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. He left home at age 12 to become a cabin boy on a sailing vessel on the Great Lakes. Through this work, he helped support the family. Despite leaving home at age 12, he was a lettered and learned man. He was a voracious reader and kept a diary from at least age 21 until his death at age 94. At age 21, he earned his master's license on the Great Lakes--the youngest person ever to accomplish this feat at that time. When the lakes called him, there were few steam ships, and when he retired, there was very little commercial sail left. So, he witnessed the entire transformation from sail to steam on the Great Lakes, and documented it in his diaries. These diaries are in the care of The Wisconsin Maritime Museum, to which the Kelley family is very grateful.

Dan "Bear" Kelley gave a presentation on Captain Kelley and his ships on Saturday, August 14, 2010 to the Family Reunion in Bloomington, Mn.

Captain Timothy is but one illustrious ancester about which we have information. Brigadier General Joseph E. Barzynski is another notable in the tree. We probably have some others kicking around the tree about which we know nothing. Regardless, Captain Timothy is one person by whom we can make positive links in geneology. Dan "Bear" Kelley personally had someone say "Hey! I found a Captain Tim Kelley in my ancestry," and the lady who spoke those words turned out to be a lost lamb from the Nordberg branch of the family. So, the point of listing these notable folk on the web site is to make connections and find long lost kin-folk. And we really don't care if your last name is not "Kelley;" if you fit in the tree somewhere, you're family and you're WELCOME!

If Captain Timothy is in your family tree,
And if you are not already in contact with the family,
*** Even if your last name is not "Kelley!" ***
Then PLEASE contact the webmaster to reconnect with your extended family.


The Life and Ships of Captain Timothy J. Kelley

A great many of the original Irish family history records were lost in the 1922 Irish Public Records Office fire. Over half the records were destroyed. So in a great many cases, the only wedding, birth and death records remaining are from newspapers, if they exist at all. Tombstones can be another source of information.

Shipping season on the Great Lakes was generally April to November. It was common for a sailor to sign-on to different ships from season to season. So, the dates below refer to the shipping seasons.

Note: When visiting the site Maritime History of the Great Lakes, variations on the ships names should be searched, as well as alternate names for the ship. Try dropping "(propeller)" and "(schooner)" from the searches. Doing these things will sometimes bring up additional data. However, be very wary of all ship data, as there were often several ships of the same name (e.g. Cleveland).

  • 18??: John Kelley & Margaret Mahoney Mahaney married
    • Married in Coachford, County Cork, Ireland?
    • Who were their parents?
    • Newspaper announcement of wedding?
  • 1839: Patrick John Kelley (Capt. Tim's brother) born
    • Where was he born?
    • Birthday?
    • Newspaper announcement of birth?
    • School teacher and Masonry contractor
    • 1867: Married Julia Lantry (of Coachford, County Cork, Ireland) in Manitowoc, WI
    • Newspaper announcement of wedding?
    • 1920: Died on Nov. 4, buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Manitowoc, WI
  • 1841: Historical Note: Iron ore discovered on the South shore of Lake Superior.
  • 1843: Margaret Kelley (Capt. Tim's sister) born
    • Where was she born?
    • Birthday?
    • Newspaper announcement of birth?
    • 18??: Married Mr. Ellard
    • Who was Mr. Ellard?
    • Where were they married?
    • Newspaper announcement of wedding?
  • 1845: Joana Kelley (Capt. Tim's sister) born
    • Where was she born?
    • Birthday?
    • Newspaper announcement of birth?
    • 18??: Married Mr. John Egan
    • Who was Mr. Egan?
    • Where were they married?
    • Newspaper announcement of wedding?
    • Had two sons: Aubry and Kenwood
  • 1845-1852: Irish Potato Famine
  • 1846-1848: Historical Note: Mexican American war
  • 1848: The family emigrates to the U.S.A.
  • 1849: age 0: Captain Kelley was born in Springfield, Mass.
    • Newspaper announcement of birth?
    • Birthday?
  • 18??: Kelley family living in New Jersey . . . where?
  • 18??: Mary Kelley (Capt. Tim's sister) born
    • Where was she born?
    • Birthday?
    • Newspaper announcement of birth?
    • 18??: Married Mr. John E. Hart
    • Who was Mr. Hart?
    • Where were they married?
    • Newspaper announcement of wedding?
    • Had four children: Amy, Edward, "C.L." and "H.J."
  • 1856: Passenger on the Steamer "Cleveland." Arrived in Manitowoc, Wi on April 15th.
    • Side-wheeled paddle steamer
    • Likely Data: Cost $22,500, plus $50,000 for machinery
    • By comparison, a large schooner cost between $6,000 and $10,000
    • 579 tons burden
    • Length: 180' Beam: 28' Depth: 11'
    • Low pressure steam: 10in dia x 10ft stroke
    • Many steamships by this name. Be aware of the one built in 1860
    • Following data from Maritime History of the Great Lakes Cleveland (Steamboat)
    • 1837: Launched in Huron, June 24th, by Pease, Griffith & Company
    • 1837: Finished in Cleveland, October
    • 1847: Rammed by unidentified schooner, Aug 24th
      • Off islands near Buffalo, NY
      • Aug 28th: schooner later identified as the Mohegan
    • 1853: Collision with Schooner Luther Wright, May 30
    • 1854: Burned at Tonawanda, NY, no lives lost
    • 1855: Burst condenser near Green Bay, Jan
    • 1856: Reference to steamer Cleveland "of Manitowoc"
    • 1857: Arrived in Queen Bay after big storm
      • Boiler fires put out several times, much flooding, passengers at pumps
    • 1858: Broke crank, towed to Milwaukee, Sep 1
    • 1858: Collision with Schooner Fred Hill, Buffalo, Nov 22

  • 1858: age 8: Captain Kelley's father, John Kelley, died
    • Buried at Manitowoc Rapids
    • Newspaper announcement of death? In the Manitowoc Pilot?
    • Where was he born?
    • Birthday?
    • Who were his parents? Can we reach further back into history here?
  • 18??: Margaret Mahaney Mahoney Kelley marries Mr. Patrick Murphy
    • Newspaper announcement of wedding? In the Manitowoc Pilot?
    • Who were her parents?
    • Was she from Coachford, County Cork, Ireland?
    • Who was Patrick Murphy?
  • 1861: Historical Note: The American Civil War begins.
  • 1860's: "No Irish Need Apply" (Nina) sentiment very strong throughout U.S.A.

  • No Irish Need Apply
  • 1862: age 12: Left home to become a cabin boy on a sailing ship
  • 1863: Off Season: Printer's Devil, Manitowoc Pilot
  • 1862 to 1865: Ship's Boy. (Sailors often moved from ship to ship after each voyage)
    • Schooner(?) "Ellen"
      • Possible data: 64.34 tons
      • Possible data: 1861: Damaged in collision with schooner M. Ballard
      • Data from Maritime History of the Great Lakes Ellen (schooner)
    • Schooner(?) "Free Mason"
      • Possible data: Scow. Built 1857 in Black River, Ontario.
      • Possible data: 35 tons
      • Possible data: Sank in 1867 in the Detroit River, 3 lives lost
      • Other possible data: Launched Green Bay, May 24, 1855
      • Other data from Maritime History of the Great Lakes Free Mason (schooner)
    • Schooner(?) "Erie"
      • Possible data: 61 tons
      • Possible data: Length 60' Beam 18' Depth 6.9'
      • Possible data: Wrecked in 1868
    • Schooner(?) "Wayne"
      • Possible data: 334 tons
      • Possible data: Wrecked in 1877 at Oswego
    • Schooner "Experiment"
      • Possible data: Wrecked in Manitowoc in 1864
      • It is possible Captain Kelley was aboard, but . . . proving it???
    • Schooner(?) "Board of Trade"
    • Schooner(?) "William Quage"
  • 1865: Historical Note: The American Civil War ends.
  • 1866 (?): Able Seaman: Schooner "Naiad"
    • Possible data: Built 1863 in Huron. 311 gross tons.
    • More data available at Maritime History of the Great Lakes: Naiad (schooner)
  • 1867(?): Able Seaman: Schooner(?) "Suncloud"
  • 1868: 2nd Mate: Barque "Charles Nims"
    • Possible Data: Bark "C.K. Nims" Built 1866 in Cleveland.
    • Possible Data: 700 tons.
    • 1876, Oct 16: Aground off Beaver Island, Michigan; towed to Chicago for repairs
    • 1881, Jun 4: Collision with Prop. Commodore. at Chicago River
    • Possible Data: Sunk off Bar Point 1881.
    • Some data from Maritime History of the Great Lakes: Charles K. Nims (schooner)
  • 1869: Mate: Barque "Charles Nims"
  • 1869: Historical Note: "R.J. Hackett" launched
    • The first "pilot house forward, engine room aft" bulk carrier
    • (Not one of Captain Kelley's ships)
    • Launched in Cleveland by Elihu M. Peck.
    • Length: 208ft, Beam: 32ft, Depth: 19ft
    • 749 gross tons
    • Revolutionized ore shipping on the Great Lakes. Ships could be quickly loaded from ore pocket docks. Ships no longer had to be loaded by shovel and wheel barrow. Loading time was reduced from days to hours.
    • (ref: Oaken Whale with a Cast Iron Tail, by Claire P. Dappert)
    • More information available at Maritime History of the Great Lakes: R. J. Hackett (propeller)
    • 1905, Nov. 12: Aground and burned in Green Bay at Whaleback Shoal

  • 1870c., age 21: Captain Kelley earned his master's license.
    • Youngest ever to have done so on the Great Lakes at the time.
  • 1870: Married Annie Buggie of Manitowoc
    • Married in Chicago
    • Wedding announcement from the local paper? The Manitowoc Pilot?
    • 1851 Born Haverstraw, New York
    • 1851 Daughter of Edward Buggie
    • 1863 Relocated to Manitowoc, Wisconsin
    • 1870 Married Timothy J. Kelley, Chicago, Illinois
    • 1927 Died, Manitowoc, Wisconsin

  • 1870: 1st Mate: Schooner(?) "Annie Sherwood"
  • 1871: 2nd Mate: Schooner(?) "Annie Vought"
  • 1871: 2nd Mate: Schooner(?) "Willie Keller"
    • 1888: Schooner Willie Keller sank in a collision
    • Data available at Maritime History of the Great Lakes: Willie Keller (schooner)
  • 1871: 2nd Mate: Schooner(?) "Annie Richards"
  • 1872: Captain: Schooner "C.L. Johnston"
    • The schooner "C.L. Johnson" was of Peter Johnston's Fleet of Manitowoc, Wi
    • Nov. 1872: Lost big anchor and chain near Sheboygan
    • Data available at Maritime History of the Great Lakes: C. L. Johnston (schooner)
  • 1873: Daughter Mary "Mayme" Kelley born
  • 1873-1880 (?): Captain: Schooner "Thomas Howland"
    • The schooner "Thomas Howland" was of Peter Johnston's Fleet of Manitowoc, Wi
    • Peter Johnston sold his fleet, and Captain Kelley moved on.
    • May 12, 1900: Schooner Thomas Howland sank 4 mi. out of Buffalo, holed by ice
    • Data available at Maritime History of the Great Lakes: Thomas H. Howland (Schooner)
  • 1874: Son Edward L. Kelley born
  • 1876: Son Dr. John M. Kelley born
  • 1876: Historical Note: General George Custer is defeated by the Sioux at Little Big Horn.
  • 1977: Son Harry Francis Kelley born
  • 1880: Son Charles Kelley born
  • 1881: Captain: 3-masted Schooner "Wells Burt"
    • Painting of the Wells Burt
    • The Wells Burt was a bulk carrier launched in 1873 by Detroit Dry Dock Co.
    • Length: 212ft, breadth 34 ft, depth 14ft, tonnage 756
    • October 1881 was "The Big Blow"
      • See "The Big Blow of 1881," below
      • Many ships were sunk
      • The Wells Burt survived the storm
      • Mini-mystery: some record 1880 as being the big blow
    • On May 21, 1883, the Wells Bert sank with all hands in a storm off Evanston, Ill.
      • (Captain Kelley was commanding the schooner "Metacomet" that season.)
      • The Wells Bert was rediscovered mostly intact in 1988
      • Now a historical site for the State of Illinois.
      • The Wells Burt wreck site
      • Data available at Maritime History of the Great Lakes: Wells Burt (Schooner)
  • 1882: Son Timothy Kelley Jr. born
  • 1882-1883: Captain: Schooner Tow Barge "Metacomet" (Spelling? Meticomett?)
    • This is likely the Captain's first ship with the Inter-Ocean Transportation Co.
    • Possible data: Built 1880 in Detroit, Michigan
    • Possible data: 852.95 gross tons. 819.27 tons net
    • Possible data: Length: 176' Beam: 34.1' Depth: 17.6'
    • Possible data: Formerly named "Iron State" U.S. No. 100255
    • See the May 25, 1883 incident "The Collision of the Metacomet" described below
    • Data available at Maritime History of the Great Lakes: Metacomet (Propeller)
  • 1883: Historical Note: The first iron-hulled bulk carrier, "SS Onoko," launched.
    • Length: 302.5ft, Beam: 38ft, Depth: 20ft, 2164 gross tons.
    • Data available at Maritime History of the Great Lakes: Onoko (Propeller)

  • 1884, age 34: Captain Kelley assumed command of his first steam ship
  • 1884(?)-(1889)-??: Captain: "SS Massachusetts"
    • Ore carrier built for Inter-Ocean Transportation Co.
    • In 1882 by Detroit Dry Dock, Detroit, Michigan
    • Maiden voyage ended in Chicago on May 1, 1882
    • Hull #54D, Wood hull? Composite?, U. S. No. 91416
    • 1,415 gross tons. Length: 235ft, Beam 37ft, Depth 18ft
    • One of largest ships on Great Lakes at time
    • "the steam craft for this line" the only steam ship for the line?
    • 1913: Canadian registry C130927, home port Montreal
    • 1915: Renamed Compton
    • 1923: wrecked on Lake St. Louis, St. Lawrence River
    • Data available at Maritime History of the Great Lakes: Massachusetts (Propeller)
  • 1887: Son George "Ken" Kenneth Kelley born
  • 1887: Historical Note: The first steel-hulled bulk carrier, "SS Spokane"
    • Launched at Globe Shipbuilding Co. in Cleveland, Ohio
    • Data available at Maritime History of the Great Lakes: Spokane (Propeller)
  • 1890-1904(?): Captain: "SS Manchester"
    • Captain Kelley commanded Manchester for 15 years
    • Ore carrier built for Inter-Ocean Transportation Co.
    • In May 4, 1889 by Wyandotte Shipbuilding, Wyandotte, Michigan
    • Composite hull: Iron frames w/wood planking
    • Hull #91W, U. S. No. 92087
    • 2132 gt - 1611 nt 281' x 41' x 20'
    • 1,200 i.h.p. (883 KW) triple expansion steam
    • 2 coal-fired scotch boilers
    • 1906: June 17: Manchester rams Steel King in fog on Lake Huron
    • 1921: Renamed Joseph W Simpson
    • 1922: Shortened to 256' 09" x 41' 00" x 22' 06", 1,813grt
    • 1928: Converted to crane ship
    • 1938: Renamed Mindemoya (Canadian C 170256)
      • Albatross Steamship Co., Montreal, Que
    • 1946: Renamed Yankcanuck
      • by Capt. Frank Manzzutti, Yankcanuck Steamship Co.
    • 1959: Laid up. 1960: Scrapped
    • Last composite ship on Lakes
    • Data available at Maritime History of the Great Lakes: Manchester (Propeller) Check her other names as well
    • Data available at Maritime History of the Great Lakes: Yankcanuck (Propeller) Check her other names as well
  • 1903: Margaret Mahaney Mahoney Kelley Murphy (Captain Kelley's mother) died
    • Newspaper announcement of death? In the Manitowoc Pilot?
    • Who were her parents?
    • Was she from Coachford, County Cork, Ireland?
  • 1904: Son Charles Kelley died in a railroad accident
  • 1905-1915: Captain: "SS Maryland"

  • 1916, age 67: Captain Kelley supposedly retired from the Great Lakes...
    but disliked idleness.
  • Date unk.: Ferried/delivered ships to Boston from Manitowoc Ship Yards
  • 1917-1918: Historical Note: The United States enters World War I.
  • Date unk.: Captain: Tug "Butterfield" two seasons
    • Launched 1919 by Bethlehem Steel Co. in Elizabeth, NJ
      • Photograph of tug Butterfield courtesy of the Door County Maritime Museum
      • Hmmm. Built in 1919 for WWI, which ended in 1918??
      • US 218244, Hull Number 2130
      • Length: 149ft, Beam 27ft 8in, Draft 15ft, 436 gross tons, 296 net tons
      • Triple reduction steam
    • Served in U.S. Navy as floating radio station in Caribbean
    • 1922: Commercial tug service on Great Lakes
      • Sometime in here was when Capt. Kelley commanded her
      • Towed rafts from N. shore of Lake Superior to Ashland
      • Mini-mystery:
        • Captain Kelley commanded the Butterfield for two seasons
        • 1922: Tug Butterfield in commercial service
        • 1922: Captain Kelley retired (again) at age 73
        • So, was the tug Butterfield actually in commerce in 1921? meaning Captain Kelley commanded her for both the 1921 and 1922 seasons *OR*
        • Did Captain Kelley command the tug Butterfield for the 1922 and 1923 seasons? meaning he retired later than noted in his obituary?
    • 1942-1945: Returned to Navy as Large Tug 145 (LT-145)
      • Served in Aleutian Islands, supplying Army garrisons
    • 1945: Returned to commercial tug service on Great Lakes
    • 1957: Re-powered to two GM diesel engines
      • Renamed "John Purves"
    • 2003: Tug "John Purves" donated to

  • 1927: Anna (Buggie) Kelley died
    • Can we get her obituary?
  • 1941: Son Edward L. Kelley died
  • 1941: Historical Note: The United States enters World War II.
  • 1943: age 94: Died in Manitowoc, Wi. on April 13th.
    • Buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Manitowoc, Wi
    • Two sons preceded Captain Kelley
      • Charles Kelley
      • Edward Kelley
    • Survived by
      • Mrs. M. J. Ryan of Manitowoc
      • Manitowoc Postmaster Harry F. Kelley
      • Kenneth Kelley of Manitowoc
      • Dr. John M. Kelley of Cato
      • Timothy Kelley, Jr. of Beloit
    • Can we get birth, wedding, obituaries on these folk for the web site?
      • To whom were they married? Biographies?

The Big Blow of 1881

Excerpt from the Manitowoc Herald-News, no date
Note: This account says the "Big Blow" was in 1880, but Captain Kelley's career seems to indicate that he was in charge of the Meticomet in 1881.

Here is an illustration of how rough it was to be a sailor on the great lakes. Captain Kelley sailed to three different "safe havens" before finally finding shelter in a fourth place, but only after a harrowing close-call.

In 1880 Capt. Timothy Kelley of Manitowoc was commander of the Wells Burt. The Burt was bound from Buffalo to Chicago loaded with coal and was on Lake Michigan in the big blow of Oct 16, 1880 when the Alepna was lost.

  • The Burt made the west shore off Kewaunee but the heavy head seas and wind were too much for her to beat against so Capt. Kelley decided to run for shelter to Baileys Harbor.
  • When abreast of Baileys Harbor with the big seas breaking over the reefs, the captain did not like the looks of things and he decided to make for North Bay.
  • When near North Bay he saw six or seven wrecked and stranded vessels at the mouth of the Bay among them the Guido Pgister, H.C.Richards, and the Lem Ellsworth.
  • Then he squared away for the Door intending to seek shelter under Plum Island. There were from fifty to sixty vessels anchored under the island. The place looked like a tamarack swamp with all the masts sticking up.
  • There was nothing left for Capt. Kelley to do but to square away for Escanaba which he did and everything went well until he reached Sand Point at Escanaba where the seas were rolling high.
  • When the Burt rounded the point she rolled so heavily that she shifted her cargo of coal, but made port with a heavy list to starboard.
The next day the wind shifted to the northwest which was a fair wind for her destination and after trimming the ship she set sail for Chicago and arrived there in a few days. Capt. Kelley's last season on sailing vessels, but he was in command of steamers for many years after.


The Collision of the Metacomet

Excerpt from the East Carolina University research report number 13
Entitled: Oaken Whale with a Cast Iron Tail:
Subtitled: The Single-Decked Wooden Bulk Carrier Monohansett
ISBN 0-9741937-4-7 (Volume 13)
by Claire P. Dappert
With primary investigators: Bradley A. Rogers and Nathan Richards
Copyright 2006 by the Program in Maritime Studies, East Carolina University,
Admiral Ernest M. Eller House, Greenville, North Carolina 27858
Excerpt from Page 33. Used by permission. Thank you, Claire!

On May 25, 1883, Monohansett escorting the barge Metacomet was light and headed up Lake Michigan towards Escanaba to pick up a load of ore. That same night the schooner Metropolis set out from Bark River on her way to Grand Haven. It was loaded with cedar ties. A dense fog had rolled in, and the air was thick. After passing through the Door and settling into her regular course, Metropolis emerged from the fog to find it was in a collision course with Monohansett. Metropolis sounded its whistle, but to no avail. Monohansett struck the schooner on its bow. The captain of Monohansett tried to reverse the engines, but its consort Metacomet retained momentum and struck the schooner in the same spot as Monohansett, smashing an 8 foot wide hole on the port bow apparently above the waterline. Metropolis remained afloat and was towed to Chicago for repairs. Fortunately, Monohansett and Metacomet sustained minimal damage (APL 1883).

(End Exerpt)

Note: The Monohansett and Metacomet were both owned by the Inter-Ocean Transportation Company at the time of this incident. (Metacomet was possibly chartered to Atlantic Transport) And since Captain Kelley commanded ships for that company for the following 30 years, we can assume that Captain Kelley was cleared of any wrong-doing in this incident.

Research Note: We should check Captain Kelley's logs on this incident!

Monohansett: Launched 1872 as the "Ira H. Owen." Registered as 100156. 164.8 feet long, 32 feet beam, 9.4 feet depth of hold, 572 gross tons. On March 3, 1872, the Chicago Times indicated that "Ira H. Owen" was capable of carrying 800 tons of iron ore in a single trip (Chicago Times 1872). On February 10, 1879, the Lake Michigan Transportation Co. sold "Ira H. Owen" and "Jesse Linn" to the Inter-Ocean Transportation Company of Milwaukee (GLMHC 2005). In 1882, the "Ira H. Owen" was renamed "Monohansett."


We need more information and pictures of Captain Kelley's ships!

We have no photographs of the ships, but would like to link the above list to pictures of each ship. Please help us complete this list and pictoral record. If you have ship information and/or photographs of the ships, please contact the webmaster.


Links to Captain Kelley information

Timothy J. Kelley Obituary

Wisconsin Maritime Museum - Where Captain Kelley's diaries from 1870 to 1943 reside.

Door County Maritime Museum - Where the tug John Purves (formerly Butterfield) is on display.

Wisconsin Local History and Biographies - Enter "Timothy J. Kelley" and "Manitowoc County" into search to find articles

Newspaper article: "Reminiscences of Things Maritime" By Timothy Kelley, SR., The Manitowoc Pilot, Feb 17, 1910.

Newspaper article on Captain Timothy and Mrs. Annie (Buggie) Kelley's Jubilee. The Milwaukee Sentinel, Nov 28, 1920.

Some ship data taken from History of the Great Lakes in Chapter 42: List of Lake Vessels


We need more links and information on Captain Kelley

If you happen to find a reference to Captain Kelley on the web somewhere, please contact the webmaster.


Manitowoc County, Wisconsin Genealogy biographies of Edward L and John M Kelley M.D.


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