John McLaughlin supervised the initial trip from Toledo Shipyard back in 1911.

Masters and Chief Engineers of the Chief Wawatam


  • William P. Robertson 1911

  • Robert McDowell 1911

  • A.H. Boynton 1912

  • G.W. Boynton 1912

  • A.H. Boynton 1913

  • G.W. Boynton 1913

  • William P. Robertson 1914 – 23

  • John A. Shufflebeam 1924 – 34

  • Gerald A. Shufflebeam 1935 – 38

  • Charles H. Brown 1938

  • Alexander Tromblay 1939

  • Charles H. Brown 1939 – 44

  • Melvin J. Bishop (Mike) 1945 – 63 from St. Ignace

  • C. J. Closs 1964 – 68 from St. Ignace

  • Robert E. Tamlyn 1968 – 70  Was the Captain until his untimely passing in1970.

  • Thomas A. Jewell 1970 – 74

  • Roderick Graham 1975 – 83

  • Eugene McLean 1984

Chief Engineers:

  • Richard Walsh 1911 – 12

  • Joseph H. Taylor 1913 – 21

  • Sam Backie 1922

  • Joseph H. Taylor 1922 – 26

  • John T. Goulding 1927 – 34

  • B.E. France 1934 – 37

  • Leo W. Specht 1938 – 39

  • Harry Cheeseman 1939

  • Leo W. Specht 1940 – 41

  • Harry Cheeseman 1942 – 43

  • Peter R. Jonas 1944

  • Harry Cheeseman 1944 – 48

  • Ivo C. Coveyou 1949 – 59

  • Clayton B. Cheeseman 1960 – 68

  • Douglas W. Bynorth 1969 – 73

  • Robert E. Bentgen 1974

  • Robert T. Tamlyn 1975 – 79  Starting as a coal passer in the winter of 1964.

  • Arnold Specht 1980 – 82

  • George Patzer 1983 – 84


If you, or know somebody, that was a crew member on the Chief, leave the name of that person in the Comment Area below and we will post it as a permanent record on this page. Please include their position, Oilier, Firemen, Stoker, etc. and years served if possible.


  • Albert LaJoice – Oiler, Fireman, Water Tender. Served Aboard Chief for 40 Years.
  • Amos Leveille – Wheelsman, 1930 – 1950.
  • Basil Cheeseman – Fireman from St. Ignace, west US 2 on Gros Cap road.
  • Bill McLaughlin (John McLaughlin’s son who supervised the initial trip from Toledo back in 1911).
  • Bob McNamee – Engineer from St. Ignace.
  • Brian Kendall – Fireman, Water Tender.
  • Chas Leveille – First Mate, 1930 -1950.
  • Dale Barton – died 1976 – At one time had the radio from the Chief in his shop.
  • Donald J. Goudreau Sr. – Deckhand, coal passer.
  • Doug Litzner – Deckhand, wheelsman.
  • Edward Elmer Sheber – Water tender and fireman from St. Ignace.
  • Elmer Johnston – Carp River (Wife – St. Ignace Township treasure) Their house burned to the ground 5/9/63 with all the tax records and township tax rolls while he was on duty on the Chief.
  • Eric Matson – First Mate worked on the Chief in the early 1900’s until he got cancer and died in 1944. He was colorblind so he couldn’t get his captains papers.
  • Forrest Brown – Wheelsman from St. Ignace.
  • Frances Coveyou – was a deck hand, watchman from Moran.
  • Francis Hadley Grondin – Everybody called him Adley, was from St. Ignace.
  • Francis Martin – Cook – She was from the Gaylord area, but lived out by Trout Lake when she worked on the Chief and Sainte Marie back in the 30s & 40s.
  • Frank Rapin
  • Freddy Grant – was a watchman, deckhand from St. Ignace.
  • George Davis – Engine Room.
  • Gordon Trainor – was a Wheelsman, 1st Mate from St. Ignace – Built several Models of the Chief.
  • Floyde Paquin – St. Ignace – Coal, water tender.
  • Harold Sterk – Fireman from St. Ignace. Started in the early 50s.
  • Harold Taylor – Mate from Mackinaw City.
  • Harold Welch – Welder.
  • Jacob James Sheber – 1st Cook – St. Ignace – 1926 to aprox 1965 when they closed the galley. He started working there when he was 15 years old.
  • Jay Bicknell Sr. – Coal Passer, from St. Ignace in 1966.
  • Jerome Lee – Coal, water tender Worked the Chief for 12 years, died 1997 at 76 from St. Ignace.
  • Jim Bishop – Deckhand, watchman from St. Ignace.
  • Jim Krause – Coal, water tender.
  • Jim Litzner – Fireman, water tender and oiler.
  • Jimmy Bishop Jr. – Coal passer from St. Ignace 1976 – 1980.
  • Joe Sayles – Coal, water tender.
  • Joe Sterk – 1st Assistant Engineer 1926 c. – Dec. 1964. Started on the Chief in 1912. He was almost 69 when he retired and working on the Chief was the only job he ever had. Died in 1989 at 94 years old. He was a water tender when first started.
  • Kevin Joesph Mclean – Firman – Worked on the Chief from 1969 to 1973.
  • Leonard Goodreau – Cook (also cook on the St. Marie) from St. Ignace
  • Leonard Siren – Fireman from St. Ignace.
  • Melville Lant
  • Michael G. Tamlyn – Fireman, Oiler.
  • Mike Doud
  • Mrs. Niles – Cook – Known for her good donuts.
  • Noel Paquin – Deck Hand – St. Ignace (Born 1977)
  • Pete Jonas Jr. – Fireman back in the 40s.
  • Phillip “Heimer” Robinson – Coal Passer, from St. Ignace in 1966.
  • Richard McLaughlin
  • Roy Closs
  • Roy Jr. Closs
  • Stanley Vachon – Welder.
  • Swede Swanson
  • Thomas Paquin – St. Ignace – Worked part-time. (Father – Noel Paquin)
  • Tucker Thomas – 13 years as a coal passer, fireman, water tender and oiler from St. Ignace.
  • Walter Douglas Litzner – Was last watchman on the Chief.

Note from Robert T. Tamlyn (Chief Engineer 1975-79):

The main reason you see quite a few Engineers and firemen is due to the hiring of extra people in the winter months.  The “Chief” had three engines, (one forward) and six boilers.  The forward engine was not used in the summer months and was disconnected.  Only 4 boilers were used during the summer months.  When ice conditions warranted, usually the end of December, the remaining two boilers were lit off and the forward engine was re-connected and three extra people were hired for the 3 month operation of ice breaking, one engineer, one fireman and one oiler.  These people were not steady employees and sometimes it was difficult finding these extras as they had to be licensed and certified.  


Home » CREW » Chief's Crew Photo's
Jacob Sheber on right- 1st Cook (c. early 40's) from Tim & Carol Nye
Jacob Sheber on right- 1st Cook (c. early 40's) from Tim & Carol Nye
Chief's Crewmen (L-R) Jacob Sheber - 1st Cook, Edward Sheber - Water Tender and Fireman, Other 3? from Tim & Carol Nye
Chief's Crewmen (L-R) Jacob Sheber - 1st Cook, Edward Sheber - Water Tender and Fireman, Other 3? from Tim & Carol Nye
Chief's Coal Tender
Chief's Coal Tender
Dell Ahlich, and a Coveyou early 1940s by Carol Ahlich Haege
Dell Ahlich, and a Coveyou early 1940s by Carol Ahlich Haege
Dell Ahlich, early 1940s by Carol Ahlich Haege
Dell Ahlich, early 1940s by Carol Ahlich Haege


Crew Photo from Jessica Hill – If anybody can identify crew members in the above photo, please contact us at  Click on Photo to enlarge it!


Click Below to Hear the Chief’s Whistle:

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Story on Albert LaJoice Inducted into the Great Lakes Museum







10 Responses to CREW

  1. Brian Kendall says:

    Brian Kendall – Fireman, Water Tender

  2. Rob Kneisler says:

    Hi There – I’m actually working on a song that involves the Chief Wawatam and am doing research. A few members of my family contributed to Frances Burgdorf’s book on the ship, and I am going through that book and related articles at the present time. (The book is signed by the author with a nice note to my grandmother, Mabel Elliott of Sault Ste. Marie.)

    I know that my great-grandfather John McLaughlin supervised the initial trip from Toledo back in 1911 and that is son Bill was aboard in some capacity. I hear that Bill was later Chief Engineer on the Wawatam for a time, but see no reference to it. I also hear that Richard McLaughlin was a crewmember at one time, but again haven’t worked out his relation to me or specifically when it was or what he did.

    But I DO know for sure that all three McLaughlins are referenced in the book, so will be able to provide details later. Will also let you know about how the song is coming along. I need to have it finished by the middle of next month for a contest entry.


    Rob Kneisler.

  3. no mention of amos leveille the wheelsman an first mate chas leveille both aboard the chief in the 1930-1950

  4. Jessica Hill says:

    My great grandfather Melville Lant worked on the Chief. I don’t have dates or position, if anyone comes across this info. I would appreciate it!

  5. Monty Siren says:

    My grandfather Joseph H. Martin worked on the Wawatam as well as my grandmother Alexandria Siren.

    • Doug Taylor says:

      Monty Siren, What was their titles. I’m told there was a female cook, who’s donuts were out of this world, could that have been your Grandmother. Webmaster, Doug Taylor

  6. Beverly McKenzie says:

    My first father-in-law, Swede Swanson, worked on the Chief. I don’t remember in what capacity, tho. When the Chief stopped running, he worked for the State Highway Dept. until his retirement. I think my second father-in-law, George McKenzie, also worked on the Chief. Personally, I think every abled-bodied man in St. Ignace worked on the Chief at one time or another.

    • Doug Taylor says:

      Beverly, I’ve been told that just about every family in St. Ignace had somebody from their family work on the Chief. Doug Taylor

  7. Steven Penrose says:

    I would like to submit for the Crew List, 2 Names. My Grandfather Jacob J Sheber, Who served on the Chief from 1926 to aprox 1965 when they closed the galley. He retired as 1st Cook. Second is his son, my Uncle Edward Sheber who was a water tender and fireman. I am not sure of the years he served.

  8. Bill & Carol Brown says:

    Bill’s Dad, Forrest Brown, first came on the Chief May 19, 1942 during the war. He came on as an Able Seaman, but had four years on the State boats. He had sailed Outside on the freighters for years before that, for Cleveland Cliff Company on the ‘Frontenac’ AB on her, wheeling and watching. When he retired in the 70’s he had almost a half century of sailing the Great Lakes.

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