Capt. C. W. Batchelor, 1823-1896
- from the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Wed., July 1, 1896
Career of the Famous River and Business Man.
HIS LONG LIFE OF USEFULNESS
Which was Ended by Death on Monday, Began as an Apprentice at Wheeling Fifty-nine Years Ago and Became One of the Best Known Men Between Pittsburgh and New Orleans, and One of Pittsburgh's Foremost Citizens.
The following sketch of Capt. C. W. Batchelor, who died in Pittsburgh Monday night, will be read with interest in this city, where Captain Batchelor was well known:
Captain Batchelor was 73 years old. He was born at Steubenbille, O., September 2, 1823. His parents were both born in Philadelphia, and migrated to Ohio in 1810. Joseph E. Batchelor was his father. The captain received his sole education in a private school in Steubenville.
In 1841 he was apprenticed with Captain Henry Mason, of Wheeling, and learned the art of a pilot on the steamer Tioga, plying between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. This apprenticeship lasted until 1845. He filled several positions as pilot on local boats until 1849, when he bought an interest in the Hibernia No. 2, of which he became pilot. In 1853 he bought an eighth interest in the Allegheny. He sold his interest in this boat during the following years.
His career as a boatbuilder began in 1854, when he built the Americus for the trade between Pittsburgh and Nashville. During his career as pilot of the Tioga he married a daughter of Capt. John Vandegrift.
In his steamboat career thereafter he either built, bought or owned the following steamboats which plied the Allegheny, Monongahela, Ohio and Mississippi rivers: Hibernia No. 2, Allegheny, Americus, Eunice, Lucy Gwin, Paragon, Mary E. Forsyth, George W. Graham, W. R. Arthur, Emma Duncan, Darling, Norman, Guidon, F. Y. Batchelor and the Lac Labelle, of Cleveland.
In the spring of 1855 [1845? Captain Batchelor engaged as full pilot on the steamer Fulton under Capt. F. D. Collier, but shortly after went on the Prairie Bird, having Col. W. J. Kountz, of Allegheny, as his relief in the pilot house. It was on this trip, in the month of June 51 years ago, that he first met the woman who afterwards became his wife. He was at his post at the wheel when going through the Beaver shoals, when the captain's son, James M. Vandegrift, took his two sisters into the pilot house. They were Mary Ann, who became the wife of James M. Kenney, and Eliza, who later became Mrs. Batchelor.
They were married the autumn after and soon after the young husband engaged on the Clipper No. 2 on which he remained two seasons, when he left, as his friends supposed, to die, being in ill health. He returned again after a few weeks, much improved in health, and engaged on the Monterey No. 2. In the spring of 1849 cholera broke out on the river. On the last trip of the Hibernia No. 2, just as the boat reached the wharf at Pittsburgh, Jesse Klinefelter, the pilot, died of the plague, and Capt. Batchelor was engaged to take his place. During this trip he purchased the interest in the boat held by the deceased pilot and started out in September as captain of the boat. He had then attained the aim of his early ambition, and was indeed a proud man. The boat proved to be profitable to her owners under Captain Batchelor's management, and the business growing the Allegheny was built and he assumed command of her. This boat was soon after sold and the Americus built. This boat was commanded by Captain Batchelor until her destruction by fire in 1855, after which he left the river.
Since that time few men have become better known in navigation circles between Pittsburgh and New Orleans. From Brownsville to the mouth of the Mississippi, no man has taken more interest in whatever concerned navigation on the inland rivers of the country. Almost every session of Congress he has visited Washington to plead with the committees for appropriations for the advancement of inland navigation, and for the improvement of the waterways.
Since the destruction of the Americus in 1855, Captain Batchelor has been identified with the marine and fire insurance and banking interests of Pittsburgh. He was chosen active vice president and manager of the marine losses for the Eureka Insurance Company, and was so employed for several years. In 1861 President Lincoln appointed him surveyor of the port of Pittsburgh and custodian of the government deposits, which position he held until after President Andrew Johnson became involved in a wrangle with the leaders of his party. Captain Batchelor did not sympathize with President Johnson's policy and was removed from office in consequence of his disinclination to support the President in what he considered a mistaken attitude regarding national affairs. During his term of service for the Untied States, Captain Batchelor disbursed over $100,000,000, and when he settled with the treasury it was found that the government was in his debt for several thousands of dollars.
In 1867 Captain Batchelor became president of the Eagle Cotton Mills Company, which position he filled until 1873, when the company became involved as a result of the panic of that year. In 1868 he was elected president of the Masonic bank, and was successively elected to that position until 1884, when he resigned to become vice-president of the Keystone bank, with which he was connected at the time of his death. He was also president of the Pittsburgh petroleum exchange, president of the Merchants and Manufacturers Insurance Company, president of the Natural Gas Company of West Virginia, and secretary-treasurer of the Natural Gas Company, limited, of Pittsburgh, the first of the companies organized to supply natural gas for manufacturing and domestic fuel purposes in the city, which was in 1875.
When the opening of the Davis island dam was talked of, it was Captain Batchelor who suggested that the river and commercial interests should celebrate the event in a public manner, and he was chosen chairman of the committee to arrange for that event. The arrangements were planned largely by Captain Batchelor, and he gave to it that judgment and large executive ability which he possessed to a marvelous degree, and to which he so eminently owned much of his capacity to achieve results and to perform work which less talented men shrunk from instinctively.