Captain James Richardson
Captain James Richardson is one of the most experienced mariners on the Great Lakes, having held many important positions aboard different vessels, not the least onerous of which is his present office, that of chief mate on the big steamer Chippewa, of the Niagara Navigation Company's line, on the run between Niagara river ports and Toronto. Always faithful to his duties, respectful to his superior officers and firmly courteous to the men beneath him, Captain Richardson is well liked by all.
Born at Dublin in March, 1829, the Captain is a true Irishman, but he lacks not in affection for Canada, the land of his early adoption, for he was only seven years of age when his parents brought him hither, landing at what is now Church street wharf, Toronto, then Little York, in July 1836, just the year before the William Lyon McKenzie rebellion in Upper Canada. Being of the Roman Catholic faith his parents had him educated under the care of the Church, in the schools of that time, and the young man proved a clever pupil. Living at a lake port and constantly seeing vessels arrive and depart, he acquired a liking for the water, and at the age of thirteen began sailing, going in the spring of the year 1842 as mess boy in the sailing vessel James Coleman, of St. Catharines, under the late Captain Emslie, the vessel's chief mate being Sam Sherwood. She traded on Lake Ontario. The following season he acted as seaman in the same vessel, and leaving her the next year he went as sailor in the brig Ocean Eagle of Buffalo, trading between Buffalo and Chicago. In April, 1857, he shipped as first mate in the schooner Alameda, of Toronto, trading on Lake Ontario, and remained in her two years, transferring in April, 1860, to schooner John A. MacDonald, as chief mate, which berth he occupied one season. In September, 1863, he took the position of second mate in the schooner Rainbow, of Detroit, and stayed with her until December, 1864, trading between Chicago and Buffalo. During 1865 he traveled through the United States, and the next spring shipped as chief mate in the brig Flora de Mara, of Montreal, trading between Milwaukee and Kingston, sailing in her two years. She was one of the largest ships on the lakes at that time. Coming back to Toronto, he purchased the schooner J. G. Baird and sailed her on Lake Ontario, as master, for three months, when, receiving a favorable offer, he sold her, and, in July, 1874, shipped as first mate in the steamer Clyde, of Montreal, on which he continued for five months in the passenger and freight business on Lake Ontario. In the year 1879 he shipped in the steamer Southern Belle, of Halifax, as chief officer, remaining in her for five years; the Southern Belle was a blockade runner during the Civil War, and was brought to Lake Ontario at the close of the war by Messrs. Keith & Fitzsimmons, of Toronto, who had her remodeled. She ran for several years in the passenger business on Lake Ontario, chiefly on the Hamilton-Toronto run, and was finally broken up on the marine railway at Picton, Ont., in the year 1889, and sold for old metal. On leaving the Southern Belle, Captain Richardson in the spring of 1888 became chief mate of the new steamer Cibola, which was built that year by the Niagara Navigation Company, of Toronto, to run between Toronto and Lewiston, N. Y., and burned to the water's edge in Niagara River in 1894, the second engineer losing his life. Captain Richardson was not mate in her at the time, however, he having been advanced in the spring of 1894 to the office of chief mate on the steamer Chippewa, belonging to the same company, and under command of Commodore McGriffin, which responsible position he has held ever since.
Captain Richardson has been married twice. In October, 1857, he wedded Miss Gray, of Toronto, who died in the year 1871; no children were born to that union. In 1877 the Captain was again married, and one son, James, was born to this union, who is now on the steamer Chippewa, along with his father, as a deckhand. Captain Richardson is independent in politics, always voting for what he considers the best measures and the best men. He has always remained true to the religion of his forefathers, being a member of the Roman Catholic Church.
With so long and active a career on the water, it is only natural that Captain Richardson should have had some exciting adventures. In the late autumn of 1861, when he was in the schooner Omar Pasha, that vessel was driven ashore on the rocks at the foot of Lake Ontario, a terrific gale and snowstorm prevailing at the time. Capt. Frank Jackman was in command, and he bravely had all the men out of the boat before he left her. She was laden with 16,500 bushels of wheat, and both cargo and vessel belonged to Messrs. Gooderham, of Toronto, from which port she was bound for Cape Vincent. All hands managed to scramble off on the rocks, and from there got safely to land, excepting the man cook, who slipped away in the darkness and was drowned. Cargo and vessel were a total loss, only the mast being saved. The ship broke in two and all the grain was flooded out of her. Remaining in the snow and cold until daybreak, the captain and crew then struck out afoot, and found a habitation where they were hospitably cared for. In the summer of 1845 Captain Richardson had a close call in the brig Ocean Eagle. While crossing Lake Erie with two locomotives aboard, she was stuck by a squall and capsized, the great weight on her deck having made her top-heavy. Both locomotives rolled off into the lake and were never recovered. All hands clung to the capsized vessel until they were picked up by the steamer Keystone State and put ashore at Dunkirk. Captain Todd, of Buffalo, who had command of the brig, secured a wrecking tug and brought in his vessel, which was ready to sail again in a few days.
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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.