Captain James Ferguson
Captain James Ferguson, who retired from active life on shipboard many years ago, keeps in touch with the marine fraternity as selling agent for the supply firm of T. M. Sullivan. He was an old saltwater sailor, spending many years on the Atlantic Ocean. He was born in Bangor, near Belfast, County Down, Ireland, June 16, 1833, a son of George and Bell (Cardey) Ferguson. The father was an old sea captain, his last voyage across the Atlantic being on the schooner Louise, bound from Quebec, in 1840. On the return passage from Quebec to London he was wrecked on or near Prince Edward Island, the crew all being saved. He then purchased the Louise, above mentioned, and set out for home, touching at Belfast. After reaching London, and discharging his cargo, he shipped as master of the schooner Kittie, in the coasting trade, and was thus engaged until one sad day when a small boat capsized with him and he was drowned, being at that time seventy years of age.
It was on the Kittie that James Ferguson, the subject of this article, began sailing with his father, remaining on her but three months, when he was bound as an apprentice for four years in the brig Undine. After remaining half of the specified time he ran away from his ship at Liverpool, and joined a ship bound for ports in the Black Sea. His next berth was on the brig Peru, on a voyage of the Danube river to the Black Sea ports, touching at Gibraltar and Constantinople, and returning to Sligo, Ireland, after an absence of thirteen months.
In 1851 Captain Ferguson shipped out of Donegal, Ireland, on the brig Dispatch, in the passenger trade to New York. On his arrival in that city he joined the packet ship Isaac Webb, bound for Liverpool, and carrying passengers to attend the great exhibition at London that year. His next voyage was in the full-rigged ship Adept, followed by a season in the Corea in the passenger trade between Liverpool and Charleston, S. C.; then on the schooner Sarah Louise, after which he was on the steamer Southerner, that being his last vessel in the ocean trade.
It was in the spring of 1852 that he went on the lakes, shipping out of Oswego, N. Y., in the square-rigged brig Algoma, after which he joined the schooner Henry Wheaton, closing the season in the brig Sizer, with Capt. G. Vickery. The next season he shipped in the new schooner Belle Sheridan, of the Red Bird line, all of the vessels of this line being painted a bright red. He was also on the bark Indiana that year, and on the Grace Greenwood. Capt. Joseph Kimball, to which vessel he helped to fit the rigging. In 1854 he was seaman on the brig Pilgrim, with Capt. Jack Gorham, that vessel being the first to carry a cargo of stone for the canal at the Sault. He then transferred to the schooner H. Spencer, with Captain Peterson; was on the bark Merrimac a short time, and closed the season on the Grace Greenwood. He passed the next season on the schooners Avery and Morey.
In the spring of 1856 Captain Ferguson was appointed mate on the schooner Dreadnaught, closing the season as mate of the Merrimac. The next six years he sailed as mate on the schooner George Steel, after which he joined the schooner McGill, with Capt. Robert Kerr. In 1866 he was made master of the schooner Cuyahoga, and sailed her three seasons. In 1869 he sailed as mate of the schooner Henry Fitzhugh, and as master of the Alvin Bronson; 1870 was master of the schooner George Foote; in 1871 was mate of the Corsican and Senator; in 1872 was mate of the schooner Dreadnaught, and the next three seasons he was master of the schooner Hoboken. The season of 1876 he passed as mate on the schooners Frank Crawford and Ada Medora, owned by Captain Martin, and he then transferred to the Frank Crawford as master. During the same season he was mate on the Ada Medora and Sam Cook. In that fall he removed to Chicago and worked in Miller Brothers' shipyard. During the next two years Captain Ferguson was mate of the Canadian schooner Hyderabad; of the Groton, which was in the Lake Superior ore trade; and of the Floretta, working winters in Miller Brothers' shipyard.
In the spring of 1880 Captain Ferguson began work for John Ford, in Chicago, soliciting orders for groceries and meats, remaining in their employ five years. In 1885 he engaged in the same business with Magner & Winslow, greatly increasing their trade during the twelve years he was with them. In 1897 he transferred his services to the Chicago Packing Company's meat market, Mr. Roland being manager. In August of that year he took a vacation, going on the steamer Cuba to the St. Lawrence river ports. On his return to Chicago he again worked for Magner & Winslow, after which he was with Degan & Sullivan until 1898, when Mr. Degan withdrew from the firm, Mr. Sullivan still continuing the business.
On October 11, 1853, Captain Ferguson was united in marriage to Miss Eliza, daughter of George and Eliza (Curry) Hillock, of Oswego, N. Y., the ceremony being performed by Mason Gallagher, an Episcopal clergyman, who was afterward chaplain of the Twenty-Fourth New York Volunteer Infantry during the Civil war. The children born of this union are George Henry, now in the commission business on Water street, Chicago; James W., a printer, who married Minnie Linn; Joseph Curry, who died in May 1896, leaving a widow; John, who has been with the purchasing agent of the Rock Island Railroad Company for fifteen years; Belle, widow of William Strouts; and Olive E., all of whom were born in Oswego, N. Y. The grandchildren are Sylvester J. Ferguson and William and Warren J. Strouts. The family residence is on Indiana avenue, Chicago, Illinois.
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This version of Volume II is based, with permission, on the work of the great volunteers at the Marine Captains Biographies site. To them goes the credit for reorganizing the content into some coherent order. The biographies in the original volume are in essentially random order.
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.