Captain J. McArthur
Captain J. McArthur was the commander during the season 1893, at the time of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, of the large steam passenger monitor Christopher Columbus, and gave every evidence of a clear, strong mind, quick in its application and a nerve force that stood a very severe strain, as his great boat with the load of humanity plied the waters of Lake Michigan. When it is known that during the continuance of the World's Fair no less than 1,800,000 passengers were carried on his boat with the loss of but one single life, a member of the crew, one can realize the immense responsibility he bore, and the care with which he transported these sightseers. In recognition of his admirable management the commissioners of the Exposition presented him with a fine gold watch, on the back of the case is engraved a miniature of the Christopher Columbus, and on the inner side an appropriate inscription. When the Columbus was launched and thoroughly fitted out Captain McDougall said to him, "There is your steamboat; take her down to Chicago and make a success of her." This injunction was literally fulfilled.
Captain McArthur was born in Edwardburg, Ontario, on July 12, 1847, son of Alexander and Barbara (Graham) McArthur. The father was born in Ireland and came to America with his parents, locating in Canada, where he met his wife. During the Canadian rebellion of 1837 he espoused the cause of the patriots, and as a volunteer partici- pated in several of the engagements with the Government troops. Some time after the close of the war he was commissioned pilot on the St. Lawrence river and sailed in the schooners Traveler, Gildersleeve, John Munn, and other vessels, retiring in 1855. Two years later he removed his family to Goderich, Ont., and purchasing a farm began to till the soil. It was in the spring of 1859 that Mr. McArthur began his lakefaring life as boy on the little standing-keel schooner Annexation, of 120 tons burden; she traded between Goderich and Montreal. The same year he served a short term in the schooner Wilson and bark Gem of Kingston. During the period between 1860 and 1864 he sailed before the mast in the barks Unadilla and Alexander, the Groton, Minnehaha, Minnie Williams, Trivola (which spring a leak off Oswego and after sailing to Kingston, sank), and bark Massillon, and as mate of the schooner Hercules. He was one of the crew of the bark Mary Jane when she went ashore on Long Point, Lake Erie, and capsized on the beach during a November gale; the entire crew remained at Port Rowan that winter. In the spring of 1864, having decided to turn his attention to steamboating, he went to Buffalo and shipped as wheelsman in the passenger steamer Empire State; in 1865 he served as wheelsman in the steamer Mohawk; 1866, as second mate in the steamer Badger State; 1867, as second mate in the twin-screw steamer S. D. Colwell; 1868, in the city of Fremont as seond mate; 1869, in the steamer Meteor, as second mate; 1870-71, in the Northern Light with Capt. M. H. March, closing the latter season, however, in the steamer Artic. In the spring of 1873 he was appointed mate and pilot of the Canadian steamer City of Chatham, plying between Chicago and Montreal in the passenger and freight trade, followed with a season in the same capacity in the propeller Eastern about the same route. During the season 1874 he was mate of the passenger propeller Benton, plying between Cleveland, Saginaw and Detroit.
In the spring of 1875 Captain McArthur was appointed master of the Benton. The next two seasons he sailed the Canadian steamer Mary R. Robinson, in the lumber trade between Chicago, Georgian Bay ports and Quebec, and during the seasons of 1878-79 he sailed the Canadian steamer Van Allen, between Chicago, White Lake and Quebec, carrying black walnut lumber and deals. The next spring he went as mate of the steamer Jim Fiske, but closed the season as mate of the City of Duluth. In the spring of 1881 he brought out new the steamer Samuel F. Hodge, as master. The next season he commanded the steamer James Davidson, at that time one of the largest vessels on the lakes. He passed the season of 1883 as master of the steamer Siberia, and sailed the W. R. Whiting the next three seasons for Leopold & Austrian. In 1887 he was appointed master of the steamer Hiawatha, which he sailed three seasons, after which he became master of the steamer Aurora for a season. In 1891 Captain McArthur entered the employ of the American Steel Barge Company as master of the steam monitor Colgate Hoyt. The next season he brought out new the great steam passenger monitor Christopher Columbus and made a pronounced success of her as a passenger steamer during the Columbian Exposition. His next command was the monitor James B. Colgate. In the spring of 1895 he brought out new the steam monitor John B. Trevor as master, and the next season the new steam monitor Frank Rockefeller. In 1897 Captain McArthur entered the employ of the Northern Steamship Company as shore captain, was stationed at Duluth. The Captain has been eminently successful with every vessel of which he has had command, and thrifty with his earnings, having acquired considerable real estate and improved property in Port Huron. He is also a heavy stockholder in the Kentyre Mining & Smelting Co., at Roseland, British, Columbia.
Socially, the Captain is a Master Mason, belonging to Pine Grove Lodge, and Huron Chapter, R. A. M. He is also a member of the fraternity of Elks, and he has been a member of the Ship Masters Association from the inception of that order in Port Huron. He carried Pennant No. 78. Captain McArthur was united in marriage, in November 1870, to Miss Agnes Lean, daughter of James and Eliza Lean, of Teeswater, Ontario. Their children are Madeline; John, who was mate of the steamer Matoa in 1897; William, a graduate of Sarnia Commercial College; and James and Eunice, both attending the public schools of Port Huron. The family homestead is at No. 1018 Washington street, Port Huron, Michigan.
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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.