History of the Great Lakes, Vol. 2 by J.B. Mansfield
Published Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co. 1899.
JOHN A. STYNINGER
John A. Styninger, who retired from active engineering on the lakes about a quarter
of a century ago, was a noted chief in his younger days, and is now perhaps one of
the best known dealers in engineers’ supplies and other goods that enter into the
outfit of steamboats. At any rate, he is a popular, congenial and accommodating man.
There is no question why he should not take naturally to a seafaring life, as he was
born on the Atlantic Ocean on October 13, 1848, in a full-rigged ship hailing from
Hamburg, Germany. The voyage to New York occupied two months, and the ship was in
American waters, about a week’s sail from her destination, when the event here
recorded transpired. His parents were John A. and Mary (Styninger) Styningner (not
related). After landing in New York they continued their journey west, locating in
Lower Saginaw, now Bay City, Mich., and John was the only young white boy in the
valley, as his parents were among the first pioneers. His playmates were all Indian
children and their playground on the banks of the Saginaw River was the site now
occupied by his store. The father died in 1849, soon after reaching his new home,
and John was thrown upon his own resources at a very tender age. His first employment
was in the shop of C. E. Jennison & Brother, in Bay City, to whom he was apprenticed
for five years, and there he thoroughly learned the machinist’s trade. He then went
to Painesville, Ohio, where he remodeled the old brewery under the hill, the work
occupying about three months.
In 1867 Mr. Styninger went to Cincinnati and shipped as oiler on the river steamer Twilight. The next year he took out engineer’s papers, serving in the same steamer
another season, and in the fall he went to Cleveland and entered the employ of Parsons
& Hokondobler, then located on Merwin Street, by whom he was engaged until 1873,
especially during the winter months. He was fixing the pumps in the tug Old Jack when
she exploded her boilers, on the Cuyahoga River, in 1870, and is the only survivor of
that disaster. In the fall of 1873 Mr. Styninger was on the passenger steamer Idler,
plying between Cincinnati and New Orleans, and the next year he engaged to take charge
of the shop of C. E. Jennison, in Bay City, but before he reached there the place was
destroyed by fire. The Jennisons started him in business the year following on his
own account, and he has successfully continued in same up to the present time. He
began in a small way, but by enterprise and industry he has built up a large business,
carrying one of the most complete stocks of engineering and vessel supplies to be
found along the lakes, oils for illuminating and lubricating, heating and cooking
stoves, and in addition conducting a plumbing, steam and gas fitting branch. Mr.
Styninger keeps his place open night and day to accommodate the trade and is assisted
by a force of competent workmen. He has recently made an extensive addition to his
storeroom, which is now 42 x 136 feet in dimensions.
Socially Mr. Styninger has been a member of many fraternities. He held Pennant No.
5 of the Excelsior Marine Beneficial Association, and is an honorary member of the
Ship Masters Association, the American Association of Masters & Pilots of Steam
Vessels, and of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, representing the latter
body as delegate to Detroit, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Mobile and
Washington. He has eighteen issues of first-class engineer’s license.
On March 30, 1885, Mr. Styninger wedded Miss Hattie, daughter of William and Julia
Harwood, and two children, Roy Augustus and Gracie Merila, have been born to this union.
The family homestead is at No. 1115 Van Buren street, Bay City, Michigan.