Captain Michael A. Healy

Captain, U.S. Revenue Marine Captain Michael A. Healy was born in 1839 near Macon, Georgia. He began his seagoing career as a cabin boy aboard the American East Indian clipper JUMNA in 1854. He rose to the rank of officer, and in 1864 applied for a commission in the U.S. Revenue Marine. Healy served as a junior officer of the cutters RELIANCE, VIGILANT, MOCCASIN, and ACTIVE. He made his first cruise to Alaska in 1868 and on July 20, 1870, he was promoted to first lieutenant. He obtained his first command, CHANDLER in 1877, and was subsequently given command of RUSH in 1880. He was promoted to the rank of Captain on March 3, 1883, and took command of THOMAS CORWIN in 1884. Captain Healy took command of BEAR in February 1886, and remained her commanding officer for the next nine years.

Records indicate that in his twenty years of sea service between San Francisco and Point Barrow, Captain Healy set a standard of performance yet to be matched. In the early years of the United States’ administration of the new Alaska territory, Healy was essentially the federal government’s presence in the region. He was swift but fair in establishing and dispensing federal law in the land. Thousands owed their lives to his skill and daring in rescue operations that included saving stranded whalers and bringing food to starving Inuits. Mission schools depended on supplies carried on the BEAR. Medical help was furnished whenever possible to white and native without discrimination. Anyone in distress could depend on Captain Healy for relief. The native Americans throughout the vast regions of the north came to know and respect this skipper of the BEAR and called his ship "Healy's Fire Canoe". Captain Healy's special compassion for the native population was expressed in many deeds and in his standing order, "Never make a promise to a native you do not intend to keep to the letter". His compassion towards the northern people was perhaps best expressed in his sponsorship of the great reindeer experiment wherein 1200 reindeer were shipped from Russia to Alaska as a source of food and clothing to compensate for the diminishing seal population.

Proud and courageous to the end, Captain Healy would not accept defeat as final. Upon retiring in 1904, Captain Michael A. Healy, the man, passed into legend, part of the lore of the sea and one of the great figures of the U.S. Revenue Cutter service. Captain Healy is buried in Colma, California.