Frank J. Field, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Frank J. Field


This citizen, who is probably one of the best known men in Porter County, came originally from the Empire State, his birth occurring in Onondaga County, January 10, 1830. His parents, Thomas J. and Louisa A. (Chapman) Field, were natives, respectively, of New York and Connecticut, the former of Scotch and the latter of German origin. The Field family came to America at a very early date, settled in New York State, and some members of this family figured quite prominently in the Revolutionary War, one being a lieutenant on one of the war vessels. On this side of the house there were many merchants, but on the mother's side nearly all were professional men, principally physicians. Both our subject's paternal and maternal grandparents died in the Empire State, where they were honored and esteemed. The father of our subject was a merchant and miller in his native State until 1836, when he came, with his family, to Michigan City, Indiana. He had several thousand dollars in gold in his possession and immediately upon reaching Michigan City he embarked in merchandising, his being the first cargo of goods ever shipped to that city. For about eighteen months Mr. Field continued in business, and in the fall of 1837 removed to Porter County, where he was among the pioneers. He settled in Liberty township, purchased a large tract of land, and bought a saw mill which was known as "Damon Run Saw Mill." In 1842 this enterprising and progressive citizen removed to Portage township, engaged in agricultural pursuits, and there passed the closing scenes of his life. A short time after locating in Portage township he moved to Chicago and made his home there for three years. His death occurred in 1876, five years after his wife received her final summons. They were the parents of six children, four of whom survive. For a number of years Mr. Field was a commissioner of Porter County. He amassed considerable wealth in the various enterprises in which he engaged, and at his death left a large estate. His son, Edgar, was a soldier in the civil war and died at Tullahoma. The original of this biography, who is the oldest child, was but six years of age when he came West with his parents, and he attended the schools of Porter County until nine years of age, when he returned East and attended school at Syracuse, New York. He secured a good education and remained there until 1845 when he returned to this county and worked on his father's farm for two years. From there he went to Chicago, clerked in a store for about nine months, and then his father bought him a canal boat on Illinois & Michigan Canal. He was captain of this boat until 1849 and made considerable money out of this enterprise, making trips from Chicago to St. Louis. He was the only man to take a boat load of McCormick reapers from Chicago to Dubuque, Iowa. For this he got about $1,000. At a very early age he was a "crank" about the water, and seeking higher honors than he had already attained, seized the first chance to go to sea. He had an offer to go to sea on one Friday evening and the Sunday morning following he started East and sailed from Stonington, Connecticut, on a whaling vessel bound for the Arctic Ocean, Northeast Coast Alaska, Okhotsk Sea and around Siberia. He was absent on this trip five years, and during that time he, himself captured forty-three whales. The oil was taken from them, and shipped to different points. The vessel carried 3,100 barrels. Before sailing Mr. Field received eleven days, instruction, and twelve days after they put to sea he was made "boat steerer." He kept receiving promotions until he was made mate of the vessel manned by thirty-one sailors. During the first six months aboard this vessel Mr. Field and two companions took the scurvy. The vessel was anchored at Cape St. Lucas, and our subject and his two companions were buried in the ground, as it was a case of kill or cure. The two companions died, but our subject came out all right. From there they went to Society Islands, where they unloaded their first cargo of oil. Mr. Field is an interesting conversationalist and can relate some thrilling adventures and experiences. While in the Arctic Ocean he harpooned a whale while in a small whale boat, and a dense fog coming on, he and his crew lay for seventy-two hours alongside the whale unable to sight their ship. They got so far north that the thermometer froze, and nearly all perished. After unloading another cargo of oil at the Sandwich Islands, the vessel sailed to Japan Sea and Hong Kong, then on into Okhotsk Sea and thence to Honolulu, where another cargo was unloaded. The vessel cruised around here all winter, got another cargo of oil, and unloaded at the Society Islands; then sailed for home, and landed at Stonington, Connecticut, in June, 1855. Our subject returned to his home, and in 1856 he was married to Miss Chestalette Selkirk, who died in November, 1891. Mr. Field remained on the farm until 1858, when he left his wife in Valparaiso and again went to sea. In the City of New York he went into the merchant's service, and sailed as a mate on the "Coronna" which was wrecked between New York and Cuba in June, 1859. The captain ran her ashore and saved all on board. Shipping again, Mr. Field went to Boston, and subsequently made a trip on the English vessel "Eliza Jane," bound from New York to Hull, England. At the latter place Mr. Field left her, and went aboard another vessel sailing for Rio Janeiro and thence to Boston with a load of coffee. Arriving in the latter city our subject became homesick to see his wife, and came on to Valparaiso. In the fall of 1860 he went to New Orleans, and thence to Alexandria where he ran a wood boat from mouth of Black river. This he continued until June, 1861, when he went to Chicago, where he was engaged in packing pork for a time, and then engaged in, teaming. In Sept. 1864, he enlisted in Company G, 2d Illinois Regiment Artillery, and served until the close of hostilities, being detailed a part of his time in the adjutant general's office and the remainder of the time in the hospital. During his absence his wife bought a farm in Jefferson County, Illinois, and to this he came after his service, and remained on the same until 1872. He then sold out and purchased the homestead of his father in Porter county, near Wheeler. This consists of 160 acres, which he still owns, and Mr. Field has been engaged in dairying and farming ever since. In 1888 he removed to Valparaiso, where he now makes his home. He is surrounded by all the comforts and conveniences of life and is now enjoying the fruits of his industry. As a rule Mr. Field spends his winters in the South. In politics, a staunch Republican, casting his first presidential vote for J. C. Fremont, he has never sought office, and would not accept an official position on any condition. He is a member of the G. A. R.

Source: Goodspeed Brothers. 1894. Pictorial and Biographical Record of La Porte, Porter, Lake and Starke Counties, Indiana. Chicago, Illinois: Goodspeed Brothers. 569 p.
Page(s) in Source: 58-61

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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