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McLain, Linwood Fossett, Captain (1888-1973) | Maine Maritime Museum Manuscript Collection Online Catalog

Name: McLain, Linwood Fossett, Captain (1888-1973)

Historical Note:

Captain Linwood Fossett McLain was born January 20, 1888 in New Harbor, Bristol, Maine. He was son to Alexander C. McLain and Lois A. Jones. He had two sisters, Anna J. (b.1889-d.?) and Verena E. (b.1893-d?). He married Emma Elizabeth (b.1888-d.1965), daughter of Alexander and Agnes E. Longfellow on December 2, 1909.  Linwood and Emma’s marriage certificate identifies Linwood as a seaman. However, the 1910 U.S. Federal Census records indicate us that Linwood worked as a cutter in a shoe shop.2

Six month after the United States Congress declared war on Germany, Linwood enlisted in the Army, October 2, 1917. He was stationed at Camp Devens in Massachusetts, a temporary cantonment camp for training soldiers during the war. Linwood was stationed there until June 1, 1918 serving in Battery B, 303rd Field Artillery and Company B, 602 Engineers.1  He was sent to Camp Laurel in Maryland before sailing for France on July 14, 1918 where he was stationed at  Villeneuve. While in France, he was transferred to the United States tug Gwalia of which Linwood was acting Night Captain. He transitioned to Master Engineer, senior grade, while in service in Nantes and Havre.1 He was recommended for a certificate of meritorious service in January 1919 and was discharged from military duty on June 11 that same year.

After completing his course in Navigation at the Training School of the Recruiting Service of the United States Shipping board, Linwood McLain was employed at Tropical Lines Company from April 15, 1920 to January 19, 1921 as First Officer on the Lake Fariston (Steamer) running between Kingston, Jamaica and South American ports. He was promoted to Master of the Lake Gilboa (Steamer) serving between June 6, 1920 to January 19, 1921.  During his time aboard the steamer Lake Gilboa, Capt. McLain voyaged to Jamaica, Cartegena and Porto Colombia with 2477 barrels of fuel oil.  Such short voyages were not without problems and there were a number of incidents Capt. McLain had to deal with during his voyages to the Caribbean on the steamer Lake Gilboa.  On June 18, 1920, damage to the starboard bow of the work boat occurred while discharging cargo in Cartagena, Colombia. A crewman was unable to keep his hold on the wire while men took turns off the drum of the wench as they were discharging the cargo. The strain of holding the wire was too great and the crewman let go causing the boom to drop 30 feet onto the work boat causing irreparable damage.

Other incidents were desertion, injuries, delayed layovers, and stowaways. When the steamer Lake Gilboa returned to New York in July, a crewman by the name of Victor Pasqual deserted ship.  Voyaging back to Jamaica, another crewman received an injury to his ankle while aboard the steamer requiring immediate medical attention. On November 27, the Lake Gilboa was slapped with an injunction against the company by the Bank Dugand in Barranquilla. A dispute between the company and the bank ensued delaying their departure.  Another incident on the steamer Lake Gilboa happened while discharging cargo in Puerto Colombia.  A stevedore was injured when cargo straps broke dropping contents upon him. Lastly, two stowaways were found aboard the steamer Lake Gilboa, having entered the steamer while it was anchored in Jamaica. Joseph Williamson and Jasper Samuels were deported back to Kingston, Jamaica in November 1920.

Between June 8 and July 31, 1922, Capt. Linwood F. McClain took command of the steamer West Kibar in Montreal voyaging from Montreal to Hamburg and Rotterdam, Germany and back to Montreal.

Capt. Linwood F. McLain then took command of the steamer West Campgaw sometime after August 1922 making two trans-Atlantic voyages from Boston and Portland to Germany and Antwerp. An incident occurred en route to Hamburg causing the steamer to become grounded. Leaving on Portland February 4, 1923 and arriving at Elbe River, Germany February 21, they came upon the passenger steamer Melita. What follows is a brief description by Captain Linwood McLain:

“The S/S ‘Melita,’ a two-funnel passenger boat, came up astern of us, proceeding at a good rate of speed (in my estimation about ten to twelve knots per hour), blew no whistles that we could hear to indicate that she was going to pass us, and as she passed us the suction created by this vessel’s passing so closely to the ‘West Campgaw”\’ cause our stern to go towards the ‘Melita’ and our bow toward the bank. Wheel put hard to starboard but ship would not steer. At 4:35 Ship’s bow grounded.” (folder 9)

Next, Capt. Linwood F. McLain took command of the steamer Deuel from April 1923 to August 1923.  He voyaged from Montreal to Hamburg, Germany. Upon loading the ballast with 400 tons of sand and preparing to voyage back to Montreal from Hamburg, Germany on July 21,1923 a fire broke out in the fire-room bilges.  As described by the captain based on accounts made by the Chief Engineer and Fireman aboard:

At 8:45 pm, the Chief Engineer Dittmar came up to the bridge where I was at the time and notified me that there was a fire in the fire room bilges, and that it would be necessary for us to anchor, as we would be unable to work engines when everything had to be shut off in the engineroom[sic]. Engines were accordingly stopped and ship’s head was allowed to cease before anchoring.” (folder 12)

Unfortunately, this solution caused a minor problem:

Our position at this anchorage was approximately 800 feet northerly directed of Easte [sic] River entrance very close to port side of River Bank. As the channel is very narrow at that place ... Ship swung shortly upon anchoring as it was ebb tide and her stern caught on edge of Schwein Sands.” (folder 12)

The fire in the bilge room was finally put out at 10:21 pm but it spread to the shelter deck and port bunker:

“Due to the heat from the fire room bilges, the dunnage in No. 3 shelter deck and a protection casing to a sounding pipe in No . 3 lower hold, also some sawdust and bags in port bunker, caught fire.” (folder 12)

With no steam now and attempting to put out the fire, the Deuel steamer had to anchor in the narrow channel of the Black Sea until she could be stabilized before returning to Hamburg. At 7:30 am, with assistance from the tugs Karl and Johann Petersen at bow and Caroline on stern, the steamer Deuel proceeded safely to Hamburg, Germany where it docked at 11:40 am.

After retuning to Montreal from Hamburg, Capt. McLain then took command of the steamer Sinasta making trans-Atlantic voyages to London, Hamburg, Rotterdam and Montreal. From there the captain left the Sinasta to command the steamer Dallas between November 1923 and May 1924. Records shows that Capt. McLain was aboard the steamer West Harcuvar as commander in 1924. On May 2, 1926, under his command, Capt. McLain, his officers and crewman rescued four crewman from the French fishing schooner Muguet, 200 miles west of the Azores. The schooner was completely wrecked and sinking after a series of storms. Sadly, two men were lost. 3

Capt. Linwood F. McLain left the steamer West Harcuvar sometime after November 1927 to take on a new position as Pilot for Portland, Maine Harbor.  United States Federal Census records show that he continued on as a Pilot Captain for Portland Harbor in 1940 at the age of 52. Very little else is known about Capt. Linwood McLain after 1940. Capt. McLain and his wife Emma never had children. Emma died on August 30, 1965 at the age of 78 years and Capt. McLain died on March 10, 1973 at the age of 85 years.

The Capt. Linwood F. McLain papers show us a clear picture of his responsibilities as Captain aboard these vessels. He oversaw the safety of his crew and passengers. He had to ensure the steamers were running at their optimum, be able to navigate efficiently and oversee the vessels’ performance. Capt. McLain had absolute authority over his vessels and the pressures involved with these responsibilities were tremendous.  This is what defined Capt. McLain as a respected commander aboard these vessels.


1. Francis, Charles. The Fortunate Island of Monhegan: a Historical Monograph. Worcester, MA Jenney Davis Press, 1922 [From Vol. 31 of the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society].  http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/charles-francis-jenney/the-fortunate-island-of-monhegan-nne/page-6-the-fortunate-island-of-monhegan-nne.shtml

2. Ancestry.com

3. The Wreck Site, http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?178500

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