Sheldon Thompson, the first mayor of Buffalo elected by the people, a prominent business man, and one of those who in the early days established commerce, trade and shipbuilding on the Great Lakes, was born in Derby, Conn., July 2, 1785. His grandfather Jabez Thompson, was one of the selectmen of his town, and served as an officer in the French and Indian war; was in command of the first troops sent from Derby after the battle of Lexington. He was major of the first regiment in 1755, and afterward became colonel of his regiment, and was killed September 15, 1776, in the retreat from New York. His son, Jabez, was born January 7, 1759, was a sailor from his youth, and was lost at sea while in command of a West Indies trading vessel.
Sheldon Thompson, son of Jabez, when ten years of age, went to sea as a cabin boy with his brother William, who was master of a vessel. When twenty-four years of age he was himself master of a vessel, Keziah, trading to the West Indies. Abandoning the sea in 1810 he settled at Lewiston, N.Y., soon afterward forming a partnership with Jacob Townsend and Alvin Bronson, under the firm name of Townsend, Bronson & Co., the purpose being to engage in mercantile pursuits, and in shipbuilding and coasting on lakes Ontario and Erie. This firm had a vessel named the Charles and Ann, built at Oswego, in which Mr. Thompson took the carpenters around to Lewiston, and then brought them over to Cayuga creek, and there built the Catherine, named after his affianced bride, the vessel being completed in June, 1811. Both of these vessels were engaged in the war of 1812.
On April 6, 1811, Sheldon Thompson married Catherine Barton, a daughter of Benjamin Barton, of the firm of Porter, Barton & Co. After the war of 1812 had come to a close the two firms, Townsend, Bronson & Co. and Porter, Barton & Co. established a branch firm, named Sill, Thompson & co., and Mr. Thompson removed to Black Rock. This firm built the Michigan, of 120 tons, and the Red Jacket, a smaller vessel. The former, being too large for the trade, was finally sent over the Falls in 1829.
The firm of Sheldon, Thompson & Co., formed in 1823 or 1824, owned one of the first organized lines on the Erie canal, known as the Troy & Black Rock line, the name being changed to the Troy & Erie line when the head of the canal was fixed at Buffalo. The firm aided materially in the establishment of steam navigation on Lake Erie, building the Pioneer, the third steamboat on the lake. In 1828 they built the Sheldon Thompson at Huron, Ohio. In 1830 Mr. Thompson moved to Buffalo, and in 1836 his firm consolidated with Townsend & Coit, under the name of Coit, Kimberly & Co., Messrs. Thompson and Townsend retiring from the leadership.
While Mr. Thompson was not a politician yet he was a patriot, as had been his ancestry before him, and was elected by the people mayor of Buffalo in 1840, the mayors having previously been elected by the common council. Mr. Thompson was a member and vestryman of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. His wife died May 8, 1832, and he died March 13, 1851. Their son, Augustus Porter Thompson, was for a time president of the Cornell Lead Company, and after the transfer to the National Lead Company became its manager, which position he still holds. Mr. Thompson was of a type of men now rarely seen, brought up surrounded by pioneers, and having all the rugged, honest qualities attributed to them. Men of the present, while equally honest, have more polish and culture, and consequently not so much individuality.
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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.