Captain William G. Keith
Captain William G. Keith, than whom no one is better known or more widely respected in the marine circles of Chicago, and who is a sailor from the keel to the main truck, is a native of Scotland, having been born in 1826, in Caithness-shire. He is a son of Robert and Christina (Geddes) Keith, both also natives of Scotland, whence they came in 1853 to the United States, settling in Wisconsin, where they died. The father, who by vocation was a salt-water sailor and fisherman, passing away in 1879, the mother in 1891.
In his native country, at Greenock, on the Clude, Captain W. G. Keith learned the shipbuilding trade, after which he commenced the life of a sailor, making his first voyage from Liverpool, England, as carpenter on the ship Oregon, bound for New York, thence to Quebeck, Canada. After eight months he left her and went in the same capacity on the ship Rajahgopaul, sailing from Liverpool on a trading voyage around the Horn, touching at ports on both coasts of the American continent. His next vessel was the DeWitt Clinton, of New York, running between that port and Liverpool, in which trade he remained over two years, and then shipped on the Miles Barton from St. John, New Brunswick, to Liverpool. Subsequently he made a voyage from the last named port to Melbourne, Australia, where, after remaining on shore some time in the gold fields, he shipped on the James Baines for Liverpool, thence sailed to New York on the steamer City of Baltimore. From there he came to Chicago, his second visit. Returning soon afterward to New York, he there shipped on the steamer City of Washington for Liverpool, and there again found a berth on the good ship Tornado, bound for Melbourne. At that port he shipped on the Mountain Wave for Victoria, British Columbia, and then went to San Francisco, thence proceeded to northern California, where he remained three years contracting and building vessels. This brings us to 1863, the year in which he finally located in Chicago.
In 1864 Captain Keith began sailing the lakes out of Chicago, his first vessel being the schooner Collingwood, in the grain, coal and lumber trade, and he remained on her some years, part of the time as mate and later as captain, owning an interest in her. He then built, at Port Huron, Mich. the bark William G. Keith, which was lost in Lake Erie twenty months later, one man being drowned. In 1873 he built the schooner Ida Keith at Saugatuck, Mich., and sailed her some ten or twelve years. He is now interested in the steamer City of London, of Chicago, engaged in the general freight trade. In 1881 he retired from a seafaring life, and has since been interested in vessel property. For the past three years he has ably and efficiently filled the position of inspector of Inland Lloyds Insurance Companies. Socially he is a Freemason, member of Covenant Lodge No. 526, F. & A. M.; of Corinthian Chapter No. 69, R. A. M.; and of St. Bernard's Commandery No. 35, K. T. At one time he was a member of the Vessel Owners Association.
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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.