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Capt. Henry Ernest Ditzel (1863-1956)
Maritime Biography -- born in Buffalo, N.Y., resided in Bay City, MI.

1899 Bio. - Courtesy of Links to the Page website (Jun., 2005).

History of the Great Lakes, Vol. 2 by J.B. Mansfield
Published Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co. 1899.



Captain Henry E. Ditzel is one of the best known tug men on Lakes Huron and Superior - a thorough officer and gentleman, well read on current events and companionable in his intercourse with man. He was born in Buffalo, N.Y., November 19, 1863, a son of Ernest H. and Christine (Shepherd) Ditzel. The father, who was a lake captain, engineer and vessel owner, was born in Saxony, Germany, and came to the United States with his mother when he was six years of age, locating in Buffalo. The grandfather, Samuel Ditzel, died on the way from Saxony to the seaboard. The maternal grandfather, Jacob Shepherd, was a native of Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, and the great-grandfather was engaged in the manufacture of nails on an extensive scale in that Province, and was also a notable soldier in Napoleon's Russian campaign.

Ernest H. Ditzel, our subject's father, began his life on the lakes by sailing out of Buffalo, and the first passenger steamer he owned and commanded was the Hattie Brown, plying on Lake Ontario and the Niagara River in 1869. He finally took her to Bay City, Mich., and established a passenger route to Banks, and two years later the family joined him. He then built the steamer J.G. Hubbard at Bay City, and operated both boats, the latter from Essexville to Bay City. In the spring of 1881 he sold both steamers and built a larger and finer boat in Buffalo, which he named Cora K.D., in honor of one of his daughters. He took her to Saginaw and put her on the route between Bay City and Banks, later adding the tug Harley, and, assisted by his son Henry, operated both up to the time of his death, which occurred in 1885. His remains were taken to Buffalo for interment. The mother is still living in Bay City. They had a family of six children: Anna M., now the wife of A.C. Fisher, a lumber dealer of Bay City; James W., a marine engineer on the tug M.D. Carrington; John G., who was drowned in Saginaw River, in 1875, when but six years of age; Cora K.D. and Arthur D. both graduates of the Bay City high school.

Capt. Henry E. Ditzel attended the public schools until 1871, when he went to Bay City to join his father, afterward attending school at that place winters, and also secured two courses at the Bay City Business College. It was in 1871 therefore that he first adopted his lake faring life, as wheelsman in his father's steamer Hattie Brown, but had sailed with him during vacations previous to this, however, for when he was thirteen years old he could sail small steamers quite well, his father carrying the license and running the engines. His next experience was in the steamer J.G. Hubbard, of which he was wheelsman until 1880, when he was granted pilot's license and took command of her, sailing her until she was sold. His father then gave him the tug Harley to sail in the vessel-towing business on Saginaw River and bay until April, 1888, when she was sold to Alvin Neil, the Cora K.D. having also been disposed of in the meantime to Gillenham Bro. He was then appointed master of the tug Witch of the West by Captain Sharp.

Captain Ditzel then went to Buffalo and built a tug, which he named Arthur D., in honor on his youngest brother, and sailed her until she was sold in 1890. He sailed the lake tug Waldo Avery for the Michigan Log Towing Company, between Spanish River and Bay City in 1891, closing the season on the tug J.V. O'Brien as master. The next year he took command of Capt. James Davidson's tug Perfection, which was sold to Capt. J.S. Dunham three months later, when our subject was appointed master of the passenger steamer Lora, plying between Bay City and Alpena. In the spring of 1893 the Captain went to Duluth and entered the employ of Capt. B.B. Inman as master of the tug J.L. Williams, sailing her two seasons, and in the spring of 1895 he went to Boston Harbor and took charge of the tug Zenith, which he brought out new for the Singer Towing Company, and has sailed her up to the present time. He considers the Zenith the best tug of her time on the lakes, and with her he does great business for the White Line. Socially, the Captain is a Master Mason, and a member of the Ship Masters Association, carrying Pennant No. 473.

On July 19, 1885, Captain Ditzel wedded Miss Minnie A. Walrath, daughter of Henry and Anna J. Walrath, of Bay City, Mich. The children born to this union are: Edward James, Harley Ernest and Caspar Henry. Although the Captain makes his summer residence on Lake Avenue, Duluth, the family homestead is at No. 1402 Washington Street, West Bay City, Michigan.

Additional Notes.

    1880 - Census: West Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Ditzell, Ernest H. - b. 1840 Germany - ferry man.
  • Christine, wife - b. 1846 Germany
  • Henry P., son - b. 1864 New York
  • Mary Ann, dau. - b. 1866 New York
  • James W., son - b. 1868 New York
  • Catherine C., dau. - b. 1874 Mich.

    1885 - Michigan Deaths: West Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Ernest H. Ditzell, b. 1840 Germany, died May 9, 1885. Father Samuel Ditzell.

    1894 - Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Ditzel, Henry E. - b. 1865.
  • Minnie, wife - b. 1869.
  • James E., son - b. 1866.
  • Harley E., son - b. 1889.

    1896 - West Bay City Directory.

  • Ditzel, Catherine A (wid Ernest H.), res s cor 2d and Green, 1st ward.
  • Ditzel, Henry, vessel captain, bds. Mrs. C.A. Ditzel.

    1900 - Census: Duluth, St. Louis, Minn.

  • Ditzel, Henry E. - b. Nov 1863, New York
  • Mary A., Wife - b. Apr 1869, Mich.
  • James E., son - b. 1886, Mich.
  • Harley E., son - b. 1889, Mich.
  • Casper H., son - b. 1898, Minn.

    1931 - Directory: Bay City, Mich.

  • Ditzel, Arthur C. (Pearl M.) - pharmacist, h 1402 Marquette av.

    Deaths related to Henry E. Ditzel.

  • Ditzel, Arthur, brother, born 1880, died 1953, burial at Seaman Cemetery, Bay City, MI.
  • Ditzel, Christine, mother, born 1845, died 1926, burial at Seaman Cemetery, Bay City, MI.
  • Ditzel, Edward J., son, died Sep. 8, 1947, St. Louis Co, Minn.
  • Ditzel, James William, son, died Aug. 27, 1939, St. Louis Co., Minn.
  • Ditzel, Harley E., son, died Apr. 12, 1959, St. Louis Co., Minn.
  • Ditzel, Henry E. subject, died Jul. 28, 1956, St. Louis Co., Minn.
  • Fisher (Ditzel), Anna, sister, born 1866, died 1929, burial at Seaman Cemetery, Bay City, MI.
Related Pages/Notes

Capt. Ditzel

Related Pages
Davidson, James
People Referenced
Davidson, James (Capt.)
Dizel,Anna M. (sis)
Ditzel, Arthur D. (bro)
Ditzel, Casper H. (son)
Ditzel, Catherine C. (sis)
Ditzel, Edward J. (son)
Ditzel, Ernest H. (father)
Ditzel, Harley E. (son)
Ditzel, Henry E. (subject)
Ditzel, James W. (bro)
Ditzel, John W. (bro)
Ditzel, Mary A. (sis)
Ditzel, Samuel (g-father)
Dunham, J.S. (Capt.)
Fisher, A.C.
Inman, B.B. (Capt.)
Neil, Alvin
Sharp, (Capt.)
Shepard, Christine (mother)
Shephard, Jacob (g-father)
Walrath (?), Anna J. (m-inlaw)
Walrath, Henry (f-inlaw)
Waltrath, Minnie A. (wife)
Subjects Referenced
Alpena, MI
Banks (village), MI
Bay City Bus. College
Bay City High School
Bay City, MI
Boston Harbor
Buffalo, NY
Duluth, MN
Essexville, MI
Gillenham Bro.
Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany
Lake Ave., Duluth
Lake Huron
Lake Ontario
Lake Superior
Master Mason
Michigan Log Towing Co.
Niagara River
Saginaw Bay
Sagianaw River
Saginaw, MI
Saxony, Germany
Ship Masters Assoc.
Singer Towing Co.
Spanish River
Washington St. 1402, WBC
West Bay City (WBC)
White Line
Arthur D. (blt. tug)
Cora K.D. (blt.)
Harley (tug)
Hattie Brown (steamer)
J.G. Hubbard (blt. steamer)
J.L. Williams (tug)
J.V. O'Brien (tug)
Lora (steamer)
M.D. Carrington (tug)
Perfection (tug)
Waldo Avery (tug)
Witch of West (tug)
Zenith (tug)
Internet References
Links to the Past
Online book, "History of the Great Lakes," Vols. 1 & 2, by J.B. Mansfield.
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.