Erie County (PA) Genealogy

Family Histories & Biographies

David Carroll

Contributed by Morton & Cynthia Thompson


Site visitor Morton Thompson has contributed the family history below. Any questions or comments concerning this family history should be sent directly to Morton & Cynthia Thompson.


From Morton: "My wife, Cynthia, is a Carroll and her family is from Erie County. Her father, Frederick Margah Carroll, was the son of Clarence Carroll who was the son of Jonathan Carroll. All descended from Ferdinand Carroll."

"My wife's aunt (Mildred Carroll Frazier) had given us an article copied from the Union City Times about David Carroll, a grandson of Ferdinand Carroll. David Carroll, would have been the nephew of my wife's 3rd great grandfather. We found it interesting and went on a search to find the writer of the article, Kathy Warnes. We have had multiple email exchanges with Kathy, who has given her permission to post her article on the Erie County (PA) Genealogy website."

During research, a newspaper article written by David Carroll was discovered. This article was in the March 31, 1881, Union City Times. It has not been transcribed but it is included here as a photo image in two parts:



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Here is the article written by Kathy Warnes. It is believed to have been written and published August 30, 1982, and is under a title of "UC historical notes".

David Carroll invented the Leway ship log which proved to be invaluable to the steamships on the Great Lakes. A look at his background reveals how he developed the independent thinking and persistence to invent and patent his log.

David’s grandfather, Ferdinand Carroll, immigrated to Union Township from Ireland in 1801, with his five sons and four daughters. The family and all their earthly possessions came to Union Township on horseback from Pittsburgh and they built their first small home from poles and called it “Castle Halsey.” William, his youngest son, was to become David’s father.

David Carroll was born on Aug. 13, 1828 on the old homestead farm. He was a diligent schoolboy, always winning prizes. Mathematics was his best subject and he was always far ahead of his classmates. But de­spite his talent in mathematics, sci­ence was his favorite subject.

His interest in science and the mechanical aptitude he had inherited from his father led him into becoming an inventor. He could pic­ture in his mind the dimensions of every separate piece of a machinery and how it would look put together. When he was still a boy he conducted perpetual motion studies. His most important invention was his Leway ship log.

In David’s time the purpose of a ship log was to fix the latitude and longitude of a ship at sea. Until modem technology developed instruments to do this, it was done in clear weather by observing the sun or stars, or by landmarks if the ship was near enough to shore.

But bad weather created a navigational problem for ships. It caused ships to run slowly, increasing the danger of going onto reefs or rocks or drifting off course.

David made his Leway ship log with two wheels that were lowered down through a pipe in the vessel, reaching about four feet below the bottom of the ship. These wheels were connected with the indicator by wires. The indicator was on deck and had two dials, one for headway and the other for leeway.

The ship log recorded the headway and also the leeway of the drift. The dials had hands that pointed to the distance as clock hands point to the time.

Getting the log manufactured was the next obstacle that David had to overcome, but whenever he got discouraged he thought about the ships he knew of that had been lost.

Whenever David visited Cleveland, he talked about his invention to the captains and ship owners. They laughed at him and asked him where he had learned to sail.

“Wait and see before I cut a hole in my vessel,” one captain told David. Many of them ridiculed a mountaineer coming down to the sea to show them how to sail a ship.

Finally, David convinced a captain from Cleveland to try his log. David said, “I agreed that it should not cost him a cent if it did not fit the bill exactly.” In May of l880 David took a ride on the vessel Erie and got into a storm, which resulted in making him very sick, but he endured the storm with pleasure because of the opportunity it gave him to test me ship log.

According to the log, they had drifted 30 miles in about 14 hours and shortly came in sight of Canada. The next day the weather was good and they had a pleasant trip back.

David concluded: “The ship log now became common talk, and was highly praised, the captain giving a big puff in the Chicago and Buffalo papers. Word about David Carroll’s ship log spread and he continued to manufacture and sell it. In December 1881, he moved his family to Sheffield, Ohio to work in the lumber business and try to raise more funds to keep his family and his log. He made his patent ship log until his death in 1888.

Neither historic nor contemporary logs have David Carroll’s name on them, but his principles are still operating.

Every time a Patent log, Chip log, Taffrail log, Forbes log or Pitometer log is operated by modern mariners, David’s invention gains new momentum.

Additional family information: "The only relative Cynthia had that remained in Erie County was her great aunt, Winifred Carroll Flaugh. Her husband, Carl Flaugh, died in 1941 and Winifred lived until 1975 to age 81. She ran a dairy farm that is west of Union City on US 6. Looking at a map it appears to be just past Vincent Road with a road named Flaugh connecting Highway 6 and Vincent Road. Winifred was befriended by a family named Nitschke [sic] that worked the dairy farm and upon her death the farm was left to the Nietzsche family."


This page was last updated on  Monday, November 12, 2007 .

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