History of the Great Lakes, Vol. 2 by J.B. Mansfield
Published Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co. 1899.
CAPTAIN HARRY L. SHAW
Captain Harry L. Shaw has been identified with many and varied enterprises. He is
a man of good ability, and readily adapts himself to the different callings in which
he has been engaged with more or less financial success, his pluck and indomitable
will giving him the mastery over all difficulties to be met with in the battle of
life. He was born in Fremont, Ohio, March 9, 1859, a son of Henry L. and Sarah (Dixon)
Shaw, both of whom were natives of Ohio, the father born in Toledo, the mother in
Perrysburg. Harry attended the public schools in Fremont and Toledo, Ohio, and also
in Saginaw, Mich., his parents removed to the latter city in 1864. After leaving
school he became a messenger boy in the Western Union Telegraph office, and in the
course of time learned to be an operator, and it was he who assisted in establishing
the first telephone line between Saginaw and Bay City, their encouragement being but
In 1880 he entered the employ of L.P. Mason, a lumber shipper, as tally boy, and
was with him about nine seasons, becoming a full-fledged lumber inspector and expert
in that business, and it is said that he could carry three and even four columns of
figures of different grades of lumber in his head, and call the totals of each. During
this period he worked winters for the Bell Telephone Company, and became assistant
and manager of the Saginaw office, under James Green; was also correspondent and agent
of the Marine Record, published in Cleveland by A.A. Pomeroy. His first venture in the
maritime way was the purchase of the tug Edgar Haight and barge J.I.C., which he
handled successfully. The next vessel property that came into his possession was the
tug Mildred, in 1887, followed by the tugs Jordon Beebe, Jr., John B. Griffin, Sallie,
Kitty M. Smoke, James L. Allison, James L. McCormick; the passenger steamer Charles
P. Fish, barge Norway, a dredge and six lighters. He passed successfully the
examinations for both a master's and engineer's license in 1886, and assumed charge
of either end of his steam tugs as occasion required. Some of his tugs were fitted up
as fire boats and became, under his management, very necessary auxiliaries to the
city of Saginaw, on account of the numerous lumber yards which lined the valley on
each side of the river, the office for the fire tugs being established at the
Mackinaw street bridge. The tugs for towing purposes were stationed near his office,
at the foot of Genesee avenue. From this point Captain Shaw conducted a large and
lucrative business, doing general towing between Saginaw and the Bay cities. He also
secured a government contract for excavating the Crow Island cut, and performed
private dredging, looking at the reclaiming of marsh islands in the Saginaw valley.
He had the contract for the stone work in the construction of the Belinda and
Twenty-third street bridges in Bay City, and the Mackinaw street bridge in Saginaw;
also for the stone work on the Interurban mother line between Saginaw and Bay City,
all of which will remain as a monument to his industry and enterprise.
About this time Captain Shaw was overtaken by reverses, and he disposed of the
vessel property and shipped as chief engineer on the passenger steamer Periwinkle,
followed by a season as chief on the steamer E.F. Gould. He then sailed as master
of the Straightaway, afterward named Wapiti. He also sailed the yacht Fannie H.
His last work on Saginaw river was on the superstructure of Court street bridge on
the west side. The Captain is now nicely berthed as chief engineer of the United
States engineer's private yacht, under Colonel Lydecker, at Detroit, Michigan.
In 1886 Captain Shaw was married to Miss Laura W. McCormick, daughter of James L.
McCormick, a well-known and wealthy lumber merchant in Saginaw. The family residence
is situated at No. 1423 Genesee avenue, Saginaw, Mich. Mrs. Shaw has always taken an
earnest and helpful interest in all of the Captain's various enterprises, and is
blessed with a charming disposition and happy temperament.