"Of the builders and steerers of ships..."

Frederick Dillazone Ketchum (6 Apr 1811 - 21 Jan 1888), a maternal third great-grandfather, is one of my favorite ancestors, and one about whom I would love to learn more. He lived his entire life along the Great Lakes: born in Oswego, New York, then moving to Huron, Ohio, and finally retiring to Mackinac Island, Michigan. His origins are unclear, but he apparently began work as a ship's carpenter at an early age, then worked his way up to Master Shipbuilder, owning a shipyard, and receiving the honorarium "Captain."

O Captain, My Captain.

It is not known for certain who his parents are, although I believe his father was Elijah or Elisha Ketchum (abt 1871 - aft 1840). We know that Frederick was born in Oswego, New York; and Elisha appears on the U S Federal Censuses of Oswego prior to 1840. In 1840, both Frederick and Elisha appear on the same page of the US Federal Census for Huron, Ohio. Tracing Elisha's census information, it appears that Frederick had five siblings, but I have not been able to attach names to any of them.

Detail of the 1840 U S Federal Census of Huron, Erie, Ohio.
 Besides Elisha and Frederick Ketchum, other family names on this page who are
 (or would become) relatives of the Ketchums are Goodell, Cherry, Bennett, and King.

Since I have made the Elisha/Frederick connection, others have found a source that suggests that Frederick's mother might have been a much-married woman named Roxanna Billings (? - 13 Jan 1865), one of whose husbands was an Elisha Ketcham [sic]. Unfortunately, neither the dates nor locations of Roxanna's Ketcham match with the Elisha Ketchum who seems to be Frederick's father, so this--to me--has been satisfactorily disproved.

The question of Frederick's parents still unanswered, I am also fascinated by his middle name: Dillazone. I can only assume it is some sort of family name, but Google searches reveal no other Dillazones, not even as place names, or anything else. Another mystery. I am planning a Road Trip to visit the sites of Ketchum's life and attempt to learn more.

Although we do not know much about Frederick Dillazone Ketchum's antecedents, we do know a good deal about his career. He built schooners, and steamers, and brigs (oh my!), including Fashion and West Chester in 1846, Plymouth and Susquehanna in 1847, Charter in 1849, Sarah J Eason in 1851, and Aldebaran in 1852.

From the Sandusky [Ohio] Clarion, 2 Feb 1847
. Ketchum's "perfectly modeled" ship is probably the Plymouth.

Orion and Arcturus followed in 1853. Arcturus was notable for being one of the largest schooners on the Great Lakes for its time. Despite its size, its travails are typical of ships of the time. There is this, from the Buffalo Daily Republic, 9 Sep 1853:

     A GALE. - The Chicago Tribune of Wednesday says:- The wind commenced blowing a gale, accompanied with heavy rain, early yesterday morning. The white capped waves told plainly that the storm was felt on the lake, and a fleet of vessels from Buffalo and the timber ports were soon in sight and making for our harbor, like frightened birds. We notice the following disasters to the shipping:
Schooner ARCTURUS, from Buffalo, while endeavoring to make the piers at 3 P.M., struck on the south end of the bar, under full headway. The Captain let go his anchor, lowered his sails, and remained quiet until the tug SENECA went to his assistance at dusk, and towed the vessel into port. The ARCTURUS carried away her jib boom in St. Clair River, and was obliged to throw a locomotive overboard in a heavy gale on Lake Huron, to free her deck.

Yes, you read correctly: "throw a locomotive overboard." And that was just within Arcturus' first year. In December 1854, it collided with a propeller ship, Mayflower, and needed repairs. In 1859, "large repairs." Likewise in 1859, 1862, and 1876. By 1879 it was not insurable, and had changed hands numerous times. In 1881 it was repaired again, this time converted into a barge, which finally sank "wrecked, total loss," in 1888.

1854 saw Ketchum another ship of interest: Mount Vernon

Believed to be Mt Vernon.

Mt Vernon was one of the only propeller ships built by Ketchum, so consequently was through a partnership with an "itinerant" shipbuilder, Joseph Keating, about whom more later. Just a few years after its' completion, Mt Vernon, en route from Detroit to Buffalo:

exploded her boiler and became a total loss. Her stern was blown to pieces and she sank in 20 minutes, a total loss. The survivors of her crew climbed her rigging as she went down and were rescued by the schooners FOX and LOOKOUT.... Her wreckage was struck by several vessels in the months that followed, causing the loss of at least the scow OTTOCA of Saginaw.

Pages from a longer document about the Mt Vernon.
Left: Builders Ketchum & Keating ; right: Captain James Bennett was Ketchum's son in-law.

Last year, during a trip to Washington D C, I was glad I had already encountered (and remembered) Keating's name in conjunction with my ancestor. At the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History there was an exhibit, "On the Water," which went into great depth (you should pardon the pun) about the sinking of another of Keating's ships, Indiana. It was built in 1848, and sank in 1858, those dates book-ending the time of Keating's collaboration with Capt Ketchum on Mt Vernon. Although my third-great grandfather was not mentioned in the exhibit, it was still thrilling to see. You can take a virtual tour here: http://amhistory.si.edu/onthewater/exhibition/4_3.html

1855 brought Canopus, the apparently eponymous Ketchum ("masts carried away in a storm crossing Saginaw Bay," in 1860; capsized in 1861, sunk in 1864, rebuilt again in 1874, ultimately wrecked in 1883) and Live Oak. Shook and Clyde (again with Keating) were built in 1856.

Not pictured: later clippings describing Canopus' collisions with the brig
 Champion in 1857,  propeller Globe in 1858, schooner Collingwood
 in 1861;  nor running aground in 1863 and sinking in 1865.

The last known ship of Capt Ketchum's was La Petite, built in 1866, although the 1870 U S Federal Census still lists his occupation as "shipbuilder." A few years later, he retired to Mackinac Island, Michigan, where he lived with a daughter and son-in-law until his death in 1888, at age 76.

La Petite
Photo courtesy of Historical Collection of the Great Lakes,
Bowling Green [Ohio] State University.

Unfortunately, none of the ships designed or built by F D Ketchum have survived, at least above water.... (In researching my ancestor, I have learned there is an entire underwater underworld--so to speak--of shipwreck aficionados, who research, locate, dive for, and study sunken ships on the Great Lakes, whose fervor and attention to detail rival that of any genealogist; see links.) Typical of his era, all of Capt Ketchum's ships were lost to storms, sinking, collisions, and explosions. Happily, the eight children he fathered during those years fared better. But more about them next time....

1. Frederick Dillazone Ketchum (6 Apr 1811 - 21 Jan 1888), son of Elisha Ketchum and ?, married Mary Ann Cherry (17 Dec 1813 - 11 Nov 1853), daughter of John Wallace Cherry and Clarissa Adams, on 13 Feb 1835, in Huron, Erie, Ohio.

2. Caroline Clarissa Ketchum (30 Sep 1848 - 7 Feb 1920) married Phillip Jacob Runser (30 May 1845 - 22 Mar 1921), son on Philippe Jacob Runser and Anna Marie Brunner, on 19 Feb 1871, in Black River Falls, Jackson, Wisconsin.

3. Isabelle "Belle" Runser (21 Oct 1881 - 30 Mar 1960) married John Jacob "Jack" Severin (11Jul 1878 - 2 Jan 1965), son of Jacob S Severin and Anna Margaretha "Annie" Nissen, on 13 Feb 1903, probably in South Dakota.

4. Myrna Margaret Severin (6 Nov 1907 - 12 Jan 1997) married Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984), son of Clarence Edgar Brown and Cora Mabel Kinman, on 21 Oct 1933, in Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota.

5. Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010) married [Living] Burnett, son of Leroy Stanley Burnett and Hazel Lucille Erickson, on 4 Mar 1961, in Long Beach, Los Angeles, California.

6. Your humble blogger.

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