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Capt. Riley M. Burrington (1838-1909).
Born in Painted Post, N.Y., maritime career as resident of Bay City, Mich.

Biography, 1899. - Added March, 2010.

History of the Great Lakes, Vol II, J.B. Mansfield 1899.


Captain Riley M. Burrington, it would seem, was predestined to become a lake sailor, and since reaching the age of ten years he has devoted himselt to that avocation, rounding out a period of half a century in active duty on shipboard, filling all berths from the humble place of boy cook to that of owner and master. He was born at Painted Post, N. Y., December 22, 1838, and is the son of Leander and Laura (Walker) Burrington. His mother comes of a sailor family being a sister of Captain Walker, so frequently mentioned in marine historical reminiscences master of steamer Great Western, and to whom the honor of building the first upper cabins on lake passenger steamers belongs.

Captain Burrington's school days were limited, and his first experience as cook was on the little sloop rigged scow Eagle, with Captain Ames, after which he found employment, in different capacities, on various tugs plying on the St. Clair River, notably the Romeo, until the spring of 1855, when he became master of the side-wheel tug Undine, he being but seventeen years of age at the time. It should be mentioned that this was before the government required that masters of steam tugs should be in possession of license. Had the Captain taken out his license at this time in his career, and kept taking it up regularly, he would have now his forty-second issue, as it is, he has thirty-eight, perhaps the highest number on record.

In the spring of 1856 the Captain came out as master of the steamer Sam Ward, with Captain Fish. The next two seasons he sailed as mate on the steamer Magnet with Capt. George Stewart and Capt. M. Smith, respectively. From this time Captain Burrington prospered. In the spring of 1859 he was made mate of the propeller Buckeye; 1860 master of the James Eagle, but before the close of the season he purchased the schooner Island City and sailed her; 1861 he rebuilt the steamer Ocean, transferring her into a barge, and sailed her.

In 1862 Captain Burrington purchased the side-wheel steamer Union, and operated her as a tug on St. Clair River, selling her to P. J. Ralph at the close of the season. In 1863 he bought the steamer Wave and sailed her two seasons, and after selling her he bought the tug H. B. Clinton. His next boat was the passenger steam Lake Breeze, which he put on the shore route, and sailed he one season, when he sold out and was appointed master of the passenger steamer Eighth Ohio, which was operated on the same line. He then purchased the tug Releif and sailed her. During the season of 1872-73 he was master of the propeller Evergreen. In the spring of 1874 the Captain went to Bay City and entered the employ of Mitchell & Boutell, as master of the tug Annie Moiles, transferring to the tug Music the next spring, and operating her three seasons, followed by two on the tug Emerald. In the spring of 1879 he was appointed master of the passenger steamer Cora Lock, but closed the year as captain of the tug L. P. Johnson. His next venture was the purchase of the schooner Georgia, which he sailed that season and sold in the winter. In 1882 he again assumed command of the tug L. P. Johnson. In 1883 he bought the barge Sylvia Morton and sailed her, followed by a season as master of the propeller Almira, with the Sylvia Moton as consort. In the spring of 1885 he again took command of the Sylvia Morton and that fall disposed of her, taking the propeller Dunkirk the next spring. He then charted a steam yacht and operated her on the Saginaw river as a tug, doing a good business. The schooner Lookout his next purchase, which he put into the old iron trade on the Saginaw river.

In the spring of 1890 Captain Burrington purchased the schooner Ida Robinson, and after a good season's work, he sold her and went to work for Mr. Reed at Sault Ste. Marie as master of the steamer wrecking scow Ida Burton. In the spring of 1892 he entered the employ of Capt. B. Boutell as master of te rafting tug Ella Smith, transferring into the Peter Smith and C. O. Smith, as occasion required, during the five years he remained with that owner. During the year 1898 he entered the employ of the Michigan Log Towing Company as master of the lake tug Howard. He is a member of the Beneficial Order of Maccabees.

Captain Burrington was united in marriage to Miss Esther Rogers, of Bay City, Mich., August 9, 1859. The children born to this union are Elizabeth, Ralph R., who is a lumber inspector; and Laura B. The family homestead is near Bay City, Michigan.

Note: Esther's parenters were Thomas and Elizabeth (Wilcox) Rogers, who were among the early settlers in Bay County. See their biographies in right hand column.

Additional Notes.

    1859 Michigan Marriages: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Riley M. Burrington, b. 1834, married Aug. 4, 1859, Esther Rogers, b. 1835.

    1863 The Bay City Press and Times.

  • Riley M. Burrington was among individuals from Hampton township drafted into military service. (No military service record was found. He might have paid another person to meet this requirement, which was acceptable at that time.)

    1880 Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Burrington, Riley b. 1836 N.Y.
  • Esther, wife b. 1837 Canada.
  • Elizabeth, daughter b. 1861 Mich.
  • Ralph, son b. 1867 Mich.
  • Laura, daughter b. 1874 Mich.

    1881 Directory: Bay City, Mich.

  • Burrington, Capt. Riley M. - steamer captain, res s w cor Woodside ave and Lincoln.

    1892 Michigan Marriages: Cheboygan, Cheboygan Co.

  • R. R. Burrington, son of R. M. and Esther (Rogers) Burrington, married on Jul. 13, 1892, to Jessie Raucier, daughter of Jos and Elenor (Wood) Raucier.

    1908 Hyatt Funeral Home Records.

  • Capt. Riley M. Burrington died Apr. 10, 1909, burial at Elm Lawn Cemetery, Bay City, Mich.

Related Pages/Notes

Related Pages:
Rogers, Thomas f-inlaw
Rogers, Elizabeth m-inlaw
Boutell, Benjamin
Smith, Peter C.
People Referenced
Ames, Capt.
Boutell, B. Capt
Burrington, Elizabeth (dau)
Burrington, Laura (dau)
Burrington, Leander (father)
Burrington, Ralph (son)
Burrington, Riley M. (subject)
Fish, Capt.
Ralph, P.J.
Raucier, Jessie (dau-inlaw)
Raucier, Jos
Rogers, Thomas (f-inlaw)
Smith, M. Capt.
Smith, C.O.
Smith, Peter
Stewart, George Capt.
Walker, Laura (mother)
Wilcox, Elizabeth (m-inlaw)
Wood, Elenor
Subjects Referenced
Bay City, MI
Cheboygan, MI
Elm Lawn Cemetry
Hampton Township, Bay, MI
Mich. Log Towing Co.
Mitchell & Boutell
Painted Post, NY
Sault Ste. Marie, MI
St. Clair river, MI
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.