From the December, 1913 issue of Erie Railroad Magazine
ERIE RAILROAD LAKE LINE DIVISION, PORT OF MILWAUKEE.
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.