A Maritime History – Lorain was not all steel-The Captains

September 29, 2016 at 2:21 pm 2 comments

I am a transplant from a sea faring nation. I always wondered why Lorain did not hold her “inland seas” connection dearer to their historical hearts.

Today’s Morning Journal http://www. morning journal.com covered the talk given by one of Charleston Village Society’s http://www.loraincounty.com/charlestonlorai/ Co Chairs- Renee Dore

http://www.morningjournal.com/general-news/20160928/local-historian-highlights-the-lives-of-lorains-historic-ship-captains

wilford collage

“One of the captains Dore shared information about was Capt. Thomas Wilford. She referred to him as the “steamboat master” and explained how he saved his family from a ship wreck on Lake Superior.
Dore said she learned about Wilford 10 years ago, and is in part how she became interested in the history of the Black River and those who helped establish Lorain, formerly known as Charleston Village.

As I read Rene’s remarks I remembered the night she introduced us to Captain Wilford
https://thatwoman.wordpress.com/2008/02/12/capt-wilford-a-hero-of-the-inland-seas/
and his connection, how this led to a continuing journey through the seas of Lorain’s maritime history and her lights along the shore …

Words: Henry Burton, 1877.

lights-upon-the-shoreI have reprised the article from February 2008

in the pink
that woman by Loraine Ritchey
He has become “my” captain,from the moment Renee Dore came through my front door with his story, this man of the inland sea captivated my imagination and part of my heart.

It all started in frustration and anger -this romance. Charleston Village Executive Board were holding a meeting in my home- we were under threat of blight and had been told that the little park that had been a public green space for two centuries was to make way for “condos”. We were meeting to plan a course of action . What could we do , this small band of neighbors, to show the worthiness of Lorain’s history and this oldest neighborhood, from which Lorain eventually grew, to those that only saw limited revenue for the short term?
the park

As we sat there, Renee mentioned that she had received some papers from a contact at Bowling Green University. Renee, who loves this old neighborhood, played as a child on her streets, and has given back to her three fold, including building a “new” home – Renee's home

hoping to restart a community, had gone in search of a man- a ship’s captain. Her captain may have lived in the house where she lived as a “wee bairn” and in her search through the archives of the Black River Historical Society and the Lorain Public Library, in order to document the stories and the worth of Portside – before it went to the wrecking ball-
Portside sketch click to enlarge
had come across a story of a ship’s captain who had saved his wife, children and crew from a shipwreck.

I remember Renee coming in that evening, full of excitement, even though the meeting was going to be “dour”, as we started reading the old news paper accounts; I came to the overwhelming realization ,that inspite of what we were facing ,I had to chronicle this man’s tale. It is a tale of love, bravery, adventure and humanity, one that my grandfather would’ve described as a “cracking good yarn” .

I persuaded Renee to leave me the documents and started to piece the tale together, my theatrical background switched into overdrive, in my mind I saw the play , the movie that could be made from this…. my creative instincts saw so many possibilities.Charle's Aunt
I kept studying the old black and white photo copy of the man in question, Captain Wilford
I was experiencing deja vu – I know this face, his eyes -why? I am not even from here originally; he was originally from England , but nowhere near where I had lived. Why was this face amongst the old newsprint so familiar? I asked my mother who came over the next day as I was typing “Her Book

“Mum look at this picture what do you think?”

He certainly reminds me of someone but who? – well lets get on with “my memories” mumsince you have nagged me to do this for decades”

and the Captain stayed on the desk.
The days went by and the Captain’s face haunted me, as I typed my mum’s memories of her childhood and young life. I would take a break and look at the photo on top of the printer

“you know me- you know – you know me “


it seemed to accuse but I just couldn’t make the connection.
I eventually got lost in the problems facing Lorain, the root cause
when a phone call took me back to The Captain. It was my very good friend, fellow actor Dave Cotton. Dave and I have gone through the good times and the bad, we laugh and moan together. It was one of those dreary days –

“tell me something good”

he said
Dave, I have just been putting together a story about a sea captain , it would make a great play even a better movie- the visual , the romance , the tragedy, the bravery I just can’t get this guy out of my mind.
Dave hadn’t heard of such a significantly adventurous tale from Lorain’s past and he and his family had lived in the area for generations.
I then went rabbitting on about this Captain Wilford,

That’s funny

said Dave

my great grandmother’s name was Wilford

THE FACE – of course that face -it was David- the moustache , the hair was a little different but the eyes – it WAS DAVID!!!!!

Dave IT IS YOU!!!

David who has known my penchant for the dramatic, laughed and said

” I have never heard of this guy in our family stories or documents” Dave.this is just too coincidental ! You have to look and see

after a couple of days research it was confirmed the heretofore unknown Captain Thomas Wilford was Dave’s great,great uncle.
Dave had passed his home on his way to meetings at the Black River Historical Society , never knowing that he had a connection. Wilford Bartenfeld home
From there the tale continued to grow, in order to raise funds for the Charleston Village Cemetery, Dave, his theatrical talent blessing us, started telling the tale of the shipwreck, and in order to make sure his facts were correct embarked on a journey of his own discovery .
Dave as Captain Wilford

Not only was a remarkable piece of Lorain’s history found, more was uncovered , his wife-Fanny who had had his arms protectvely wrapped around her as the large Canadian ship came out of the fog to slice into their schooner) her own connection to the Civil War
Fanny  Gilmore
, her family and Lakeview Park , General  Gilmorethe worth of a rental, Wilford house
the people who laid this towns foundations, once again living and breathing as we celebrated the two hundred years .
The fact that the State of Michigan deems the story of the shipwreck and the preservation of the wreck as important to the history of the Inland Seas and the archiver of the Titanic- Ken Marschall has also archived the Osborne but Lorain knew not the worth of her people to the maritime history………
Note to access the photos of the Osborne as she rests at the bottom of Lake Superior – near White Fish Point click here and scroll down
to be continued……….proposed maritime museum

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Entry filed under: Charleston Village, city of lorain, Lorain's Magical History Tour, men of substance, Morning Journal Lorain. Tags: , , , , , , .

Study + Plan = money = blah blah = Lorain= ? Oct. 3rd – the episode – Chris Ritchey

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dave  |  October 1, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Always a great story! I wish the city cared more about its history… [sigh]

  • 2. thatwoman  |  October 1, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    well the maritime worth of her seems lost in the smoke stacks of steel………..

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