The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
St. Joseph Herald (St. Joseph, MI), 25 June 1870

Full Text
Died - Capt. Samuel G. Langley, in Chicago, June 4, 1870. Aged 57 years.

Capt. Langley was born Aug. 11, 1813, in Lee, a town situated on one of the estuaries of the Piscataquay river, some 15 miles from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The associations of his childhood were with salt water, and he went away to sea when only 14 years old. His upward progress must have been rapid, for at the age of 19 he brought home the whale ship Napoleon, whose captain had died while on the voyage, leaving him the first mate in charge. Subsequently he made five or six voyages in command of different vessels, visiting Liverpool, Leghorn and other ports both on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

In 1837 Capt. Langley came west to Detroit and St. Joseph, and commanded for his first vessel on the Lakes the schooner Napoleon. On the 30th of January,1840, he married the daughter of Capt. Beechley of Detroit, who died in January of 1842. At one time he was mate and sailing master of the full-rigged ship Julia Palmer. In the fall of 1842 he was cast away on the Canada shore in the Frances Mills, a vessel of which he was the owner. Shortly after he married Miss Sarah A. Fitzgerald, who survives his loss.

Capt. Langley came to St. Joseph and went into business with Hon. Warren Chapman in St. Joseph. In 1845 he formed a partnership with R. E. Ward, and went into the Western Hotel in St. Joseph, and afterwards kept the Exchange under the hill. St. Joseph was then one of the leading points in the west, and the expected terminus of the Mich. Central Railroad.

In 1847 Capt. Langley was in the propeller Pocahontas. He sailed the J. R. Giddings in 1848, and the S. F. Gale in 1849, both full-rigged brigs. During the years 1850-'51, he was master of the steamer Illinois. In 1852 Capt. Langley sailed the prop. F. W. Bacchus, and the next year the prop. Fintry, one of the fastest and best boats of her time, which blew up in 1855, during the midnight watch, some 250 miles from Buffalo off the Round O; out of 40 souls saving only 15, who were in the water nine hours before they were picked up. That winter Capt. Langley was appointed to the Mississippi, a side-wheel steamer 350 feet long of 2,500 tons burden, a sister to the Western Wrold and Plymouth Rock, which cost $750,000 each and had accommodations for 2,000 passengers. Those were the golden days of steamboating on Lake Erie, when these boats took all the passengers from the N. Y. Central to the Michigan Central, and the trip from Buffalo to Detroit was one long joy with music and dancing into the wee small hours, as the advertisements had it, "the only desirable route between the Atlantic and the Mississippi." Retiring from the command of the Mississippi in 1855 Capt. Langley became master of the prop. Illinois in 1859, and afterwards master of the Mayflower during the years 1860-'61.

The years 1862, '63, and '64, were spent in command of the prop. Tonawanda. Leaving the lake in the fall of 1864, he devoted his time to beautifying his elegant mansion, and the labors and duties of a prominent citizen. At the time of his death he was a Vice President of the Fruit Growers' Association, Road Commissioner, and in charge of the completion of the Universalist Church in St. Joseph.

Capt. Langley in the course of his long and arduous career on the Lakes found many opportunities to manifest the true qualities of a noble sailor, in rescuing from the terrible death of drowning a very large number of men, women and children. Such qualities deserve honorable mention. Whoever from his sunken plank has watched the receding sail pass by leaving him alone with cold death in the water, knows how the heart warms toward the one who stands down, lowers his boat and picks him up.

While on the Fintry Capt. Langley rescued the passengers and crew of the steamer E. K. Collins, which took fire at midnight a little below Malden, Oct. 9th, 1854. The current at this point sweeps strongly into the lake and if it had not been for the propeller and her boats every one must have been immediately drowned.

The citizens of Detroit expressed their admiration of Capt. Langley's conduct by giving him a solid Service of Silver.

The opportunity to save life is never neglected by any true sailor. Capt. Langley was privileged while in the steamer Mississippi to be only five miles away when the Northern Indiana took fire off Point Belle, and with the Republic, who had taken the burning boat in tow succeeded in saving upwards of 120 souls all of whom the Mississippi brought to Detroit. The Free Press of that time says:-

"Capt. Langley with his proverbial kindness, did everything in his power to render the unfortunates comfortable, and all speak in terms of the highest praise of the conduct of himself and officers and crew."

Capt. Langley also picked up the crew of the Forest City, and in recognition of his services on that occasion was presented with a gold watch, chain, seal and masonic emblem. Again, when in the Mayflower, Capt. Langley picked up nine men of the crew of the Storm King which was run down by the prop. Michigan and subsequently in the same boat, picked up 31 bodies of the company of the ill-fated Lady Elgin.

In the spring of 1870 Captain Langley broke his resolution to remain in private life, and took command of the Favorite. He was enjoying the most robust health and expressed himself at the table among old friends as never feeling better in his life, only 20 minutes minutes [sic] before his prosperous career was arrested by the hand of death.

In his death he was honored by the community in which he lived; by the masons whose order he loved and cherished, and by the thousands of friends who have experienced his attention and care, and especially by those who owe him their lives, or the lives of others dear as themselves. He sleeps well.

Media Type:
Item Type:
Although the above clipping states that Langley died in Chicago, his death record states that he died while on Lake Michigan.
Date of Original:
25 June 1870
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Robert C. Myers
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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St. Joseph Herald (St. Joseph, MI), 25 June 1870