Edward F. W. Gaskin
A student of heredity might find in Mr. Gaskin's life an apt illustration of that theory, as his forefathers in both paternal and maternal lines were for generations interested in maritime matters as ship owners and builders. His ancestry is an honorable one, the Gaskins tracing their descent from the time of William the Conqueror. The late John F. Gaskin, our subject's father, was born in 1830, in the county of Kent, England, and became a successful shipwright, following that occupation throughout his life. He married Miss Sarah Hook, also a native of Kent, and in 1870 he brought his family to the United States, locating in Buffalo, where he was engaged in the shipyards of Gibson & Craig on the first iron boats built on the lakes. The children of John F. Gaskin and Sarah (Hook) Gaskin are as follows: Edward F. W. Gaskin (our subject); John R., of Buffalo; George (died in infancy); Alfred George (in the navy yards at Portsmouth, Va.); Walter Thomas, in Buffalo; Mary, married to Albert Clerry, of Portsmouth, Virginia.
Our subject first saw the light December 4, 1855, in London, England, where he remained until he reached the age of fifteen, his education being begun in the schools of that city. In 1870 he accompanied his parents to their new home in Buffalo, and while assisting his father in the shipyards he gained valuable practical knowledge of a line of work in which he is now regarded as an expert. Possessing an active intellect and worthy ambition, he was not content with an elementary education, and after coming to Buffalo he attended night school and took private lessons in the higher mathematics and mechanical drawing. Later he pursued a special course in bookkeeping, thus laying a foundation for the wide and accurate knowledge of business methods. He has always been fond of reading, being specially interested in mechanics, and he has kept well informed upon the various topics which attract current notice. At the age of sixteen he began to learn the machinist's trade with David Bell, of Buffalo, and after spending some time in this shop he found employment with different boatyards on the Erie Canal, at Buffalo, where he worked for about a year. In 1873 he entered upon a regular apprenticeship with the Union Dry Dock Company, the plant being then under the control of M. M. Drake, with Mr. John Lennon as foreman. During Mr. Gaskin's term of four years, the latter position was also held for a time by Mr. William Reed, and then by Mr. Frank Williams. At the completion of his apprenticeship, Mr. Gaskin worked for a few months as a journeyman, but his skill and ability had not escaped the attention of his employers, and he was soon promoted to the post of sub-foreman, although he was at that time only twenty-two years of age. In 1880 the company began to construct a plant for building steel or metal ships, and Mr. Gaskin spent a year as assistant with the engineer in charge. He then went into the draughting office, of which he was later appointed chief, and a year later he was made general foreman of the iron yard, still retaining his position in the draughting office. After two years he was appointed assistant superintendent of both the wood and iron yards, and in 1887, when Capt. M. M. Drake resigned, Mr. Gaskin continued in the same position under W. L. Babcock, as superintendent. In September, 1889, on the resignation of Mr. Babcock, our subject became superintendent of the whole plant, being then only thirty-four years of age, and he has ever since filled the position with marked ability and efficiency, the success of their enterprises being largely due to him. The company is the oldest of the kind on the lakes, and since Mr. Gaskin was made superintendent the plant has been thoroughly rebuilt and arranged with new buildings and new machinery of the most modern kind, until at present it is fully equipped for building and constructing vessels of the largest and most economical type. Under Mr. Gaskin's administration they have constructed many first-class vessels, including the Brazil, the S. C. Reynolds, the George J. Gould, the steamers Ramapo, Starrucca, Oswego and Chemung, Viking, and a large number of steel and wood tugs and passenger boats. They also built the yacht Enquirer, the fastest yacht on the lakes, and this was not only built under Mr. Gaskin's direction, but it was designed by him. At the present time the company is building two large dredges for use on salt water. In September, 1896, he was appointed superintendent of the Union Steamboat Company, and although most men would think the duties of one position sufficient, he looks after the interests of both companies satisfactorily.
In February, 1879, Mr. Gaskin was married to Miss Rosabelle McNeal, daughter of Rev. Benjamin McNeal, of Buffalo. He and his wife are active in social life, and he is identified with various clubs, among them the Buffalo, the Ellicott, and the Acacia Clubs. He attained the thirty-second degree in the Masonic order and is a member of the Washington Lodge, F. & A. M.; Keystone Chapter; Lake Erie Commandery, K. T.; Ismailia Temple, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, and the Buffalo Consistory of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. He is also prominent in several societies composed of men who are interested in mechanical science, being a leading member of the Engineers Society of Western New York; the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, of which he became a member November 30, 1892, and the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, his membership in the later dating from May 10, 1893.
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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.