Monday, October 13, 2014

Great Granddad Was A Great Lakes Sailor

William Allan MCNEIL, my great grandfather, was born 31 July 1865 in Goderich, Huron Co., Ontario, Canada.  He was the son of Duncan McNeil who emigrated from Scotland and Margaret McDonald who was born on Prince Edward Island to Scottish parents.

He married Adaline PROCTOR, daughter of William Proctor and Ellen Sturdy (Irish emigrants), on 31 Oct 1887 in Sarnia, Lambton Co., Ontario, Canada.

In the mid 1890s Allan (the name he went by) became a sailor working on the Great Lakes between Canada and the United States.

His wife Adaline died 25 Nov 1908 in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, USA.

The children of Allan and Adaline Proctor are:

i. Alan W.  MCNEIL born 12 Apr 1891 in Sarnia, Lambton Co., Ontario, Canada
ii Hugh Sturdy MCNEIL born 7 Sep 1894 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, USA
iii Annie Margaret MCNEIL born 8 Nov 1892 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, USA.

Alan died young and does not appear after the 1901 census (Sarnia, Lambton).

Hugh Sturdy McNeil turns up in an orphanage (Good Will Home) in Fairfield, Somerset, Maine, USA in 1910.

Annie was living in Port Huron, Wayne Co., Michigan in 1910, with Anthony Beale and his wife Mabel Colwell (Annie's cousin).  Mabel Colwell (Annie's cousin) was the daughter of John Colwell and Anna McNeil.   This Anna McNeil, born 1863 in Ontario, was the daughter of Duncan McNeil and Margaret McDonald and sister of William Allan McNeil.  

The life of the Great Lakes sailor was difficult.

In 1900, working conditions for a sailor were arduous and hazardous with poor compensation.  Seasonal unemployment complicated their already difficult personal finances and living conditions aboard vessels were deficient, lacking any comfort for common seamen.

These poor working conditions coupled with the loneliness during long sailing stood in stark contrast to most working class men during the early part of the 20th century.

1913 Great Lakes Storm Shipwrecks

Weather related shipping disasters were commonplace in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on inland seas.  The height of shipping on the Great Lakes occurred in the late 1800’s into the first half of the 1900’s.   

Ships that sailed on the Great Lakes carried a wide variety of cargo and people.  They carried everything from grains, livestock, iron, coal, lumber, cement, stone and even Christmas trees. 

After Adaline's death in 1908, Allan McNeil spent the rest of his life working as a sailor, and died 07 Mar 1927 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, USA at age 62.

Allan's life was one of great sadness… his parents and several siblings perished from consumption during the 1880s, he lost his eldest son before he reached adulthood, and his young wife died in her 40s.  While I cannot be sure -- it appears that he may have sailed the world spending long periods away from home.  My father, his grandson, only remembered meeting him one time.

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