Captain Samuel Law
An old-time mariner of the Great Lakes, who began his life's career at the early age of seven, is Capt. Samuel Law, of Cleveland. His educational advantages were very limited, his time being divided between work and school till he was ten years of age, when he quit school, studying at odd times evenings by firelight. His father, James Law, was an expert cotton spinner in England. About the year 1820 he desired to remove to the United States, but learned that the English Government did not allow skilled mechanics to go to the young republic, and it was only by securing a laboring man, whom he knew, to take out papers in his own name that he was enabled to get past the wary customs officers, thus coming to America as "James Leonard, laborer." When he reached this country he commenced building woolen machinery, and also superintended the erection of many woolen spinning mills before he retired from active life to become a farmer. At first he lived at Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side, but afterward removed to Goat Island, residing there some time, when he returned to the Canadian side, and, though he was much of his time employed in the United States, made Canada his home. His wife and his daughter, Sarah, and his sons, John and Samuel, followed him to America, two years after he crossed the Atlantic, going up the St. Lawrence river from Montreal in Canadian bateaux; from Prescott to Queenston they took passage on the old steamer Frontenac.
Samuel Law, living so close to the water all his life, early became a sailor. His first practical experience came when he was eleven years of age. A thirty-ton schooner became becalmed off Highland creek, near Toronto, and he being sent on board to deliver the cargo of tan bark, and bring back woolen machinery for which it was traded, the captain, having a fatigued crew, asked him to remain on board and watch the vessel while the sailors slept. Captain and crew had not been in their bunks fifteen minutes before a breeze sprang up. The boy knew the vessel's destination to be Niagara, and he also knew the course to be steered to reach that point. All the sails having been left standing, he stepped to the wheel when the breeze came, laid the little craft upon her course, and navigated her alone from nine o'clock in the morning to five o'clock in the after- noon. When the captain finally came on deck, he was astonished to perceive the boy at the wheel, and the guns of Fort Niagara in sight over the port bow, the vessel having sailed forty miles since his nap began.
After this the young man remained at home several years, working with his father, then he spent a season in the schooner Schultz, Captain Quick, after which two years were spent in learning the carpenter's trade, then he bought the schooner Native, afterward known as the Highland Chief, which he sailed five years. This vessel went ashore in a storm January 9, 1849, near Oswego, being stripped of her canvas. Five days later Captain Law got her off, and, borrowing some sails, he managed to take her into Oswego, where she was repaired. After this he went to Chicago on the schooner Fashion, which went aground at Erie and at Chicago during the trip, but the Captain succeeded in working her off each time. Then he joined the schooner Velocity, and after two or three months went to Lake Superior on the steamer London. There he shipped on the steamer Monticello, which had been hauled over the passage before the canal was built, as wheelsman, and after making one trip remained ashore following the trade of carpenter. He was mate of the steamer Manhattan in 1853, and since then he has not sailed, except for pleasure. Since leaving the water he has largely devoted his time to shipbuilding, having been employed in the shipyards of Quayle and Martin, Roderick Calkins, Allen E. Turner, Capt. Sir Francis Drake, Ira La Frienier, E.M. Peck and others. In 1874, he commenced the building of a small boat near the west pier at Cleveland and has followed that occupation up to the present time.
During 1863 and 1864 Captain Law was engaged in the construction of vessels for the United States navy, at Bridgeport, Ala., and while there he saw the beginning of Sherman's famous march to the sea. When the bonding law first went into effect, Captain Law took the first cargo of bonded merchandise from a foreign port into Oswego, N.Y. This was in 1848 while he was sailing the Highland Chief, and the cargo consisted of flour from Darlington, Ont. Captain Law relates that the customs officials then at the port of Oswego had not yet become familiar with the new regulations, and were at a loss how to make out the proper papers. He had made a study of the matter, however, and was able to make the necessary entries himself.
Captain Law was married in Ontonagon, Mich., in November, 1855, to Miss Eliza Hutchinson. Their children are Lucy Laura, now the wife of Charles Metcalf; Mary Ann, widow of Wilton Woodward, once a well-known marine engineer; Fannie Ethel, who is married to Walter N. Metcalf, the deep-water diver; Sarah Emma; James S., a marine engineer; Carrie, now Mrs. Edwin E. Closse; Edwin J., a marine engineer; and Maud, who is a telegraph operator.
Captain Law claims to be the first discoverer of stilling the seas by pouring oil upon the troubled waters. As far back as 1849 he discovered, by experiment, that raw linseed oil was the best to calm the turbulent waters.
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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.