Erie Railroad - Erie Railroad Lake Line - Milwaukee

From the December, 1913 issue of Erie Railroad Magazine
By H. C. Snyder, Assistant General Freight Agent, Chicago, IL
William J. Fitzgerald, Assistant General Agent.

During the closed season of navigation it will be our endeavor to get better acquainted with the men who are in charge of our Lake Stations, as well as directing the steamers' operations while they are in the several ports, all of which requires men experienced in station, as well as marine operations.

Based on the fact that large buildings have deep-laid foundations, we also find many men, having to do with the affairs of the day, that are blessed with an inheritance of strong charactered ancestry and whose pioneer spirit shows in the generations that follow.

Captain William Fitzgerald, the father of our present representative at Milwaukee, was born in Ireland and came to this country in January, 1829, when he was six years of age. After a brief residence in New York, the family moved to a farm in Michigan on the St. Clair River, where his people experienced the stern hardships of a pioneer life. The vessels passing up and down the St. Clair River had a great fascination for the young men raised on the banks of the River and one after the other of this family of six boys took up marine life on the Great Lakes and became Captains, and throughout their entire lives were interested in marine interests, either as ship builders, ship owners or ship managers.

William, at the age of twenty-one, was Captain of his own vessel and when twenty-eight he commanded the "Hans Crocker", the largest vessel then on the Great Lakes. During the Winter season it was his pleasure to get together a number of men of his own age and vocation, engage a teacher and turn the cabin of his vessel into a class room, for the purpose of receiving the benefits of an education. That fondness for study of the best things was evidenced all through his life.

He came to Milwaukee in December, 1852, and followed the life of a Captain and vessel owner until 1871, when he became United States Inspector of Hulls at the Port of Milwaukee. This work he continued up to the year 1904, when he retired from active business at the age of seventy-five, being at that time the oldest employe in that Department of the Government service, both in age and tenure of office. Captain Fitzgerald died in February, 1910, leaving behind him a record of which he and his posterity could justly feel proud.

Assistant General Agent Fitzgerald is one of the sons of Captain Fitzgerald. His first position was that of office boy for the Western Transit Company and, while he had a brief experience in commercial life, the balance of the time up to his appointment to his present position, July 1, 1911, was spent in the service of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway and the Erie & Western Transportation Company (Anchor Line). Those who are well acquainted with Mr. Fitzgerald, or have dealings with him, appreciate that he is putting forth his best efforts to build up our business to and via that Port and his has been no little part in helping to maintain the every second day sailing, which the Line has averaged this season and which gives us a record second to none and much better than the average.

Erie Railroad Lake Line westbound traffic for the season 1913 to and via Milwaukee, amounted to, approximately, twenty thousand tons; eastbound, from and via Milwaukee and Manitowoc, approximately, one hundred thousand tons, which latter port also comes under this jurisdiction. This tonnage compares favorably with that moving via Chicago.

While Mr. Fitzgerald's time is largely occupied in the handling of freight, he finds time to give valuable assistance to General Agent (Harvey) Pheatt and his staff in the securing of business and making the superior service of our line known to shippers in the East, as well as in the West.

Our dock houses are connected with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway and our steamers also receive and discharge freight at the docks of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, Soo Line and Goodrich Transit Company. The location of our dock freight house gives us a very favorable standing in the handling of local Milwaukee business and by cooperation and persistent effort we can with next season show a much larger business than handled in the past.

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