The Globe, Oct. 16, 1897
Capt. George Williamson, sailing master of the schooner St. Louis, belonging to the Sylvester Bros., is as well versed in the navigation of the great lakes, perhaps, as it is possible for a man to be. His experience is long and active. He was born on August 17, 1843, in Edinburgh, Scotland, and when he was but four years of age his parents brought him to Canada. They settled in Cobourg, Ontario, and there young George grew up and received his education in the Common Schools, as the Public Schools were termed in those days. He finished his instruction and took course in the Cobourg Commercial College.
Going out upon the world while he was yet but twelve years of age, Capt. Williamson shipped as boy in the schooner Annie Craig and went from Cobourg to Chicago. At that time the shipbuilding interest in Cobourg was flourishing and it was there that the Annie Craig in 1855 was launched. She was on her maiden trip when young Williamson went aboard her to Chicago. With a carrying capacity of 20,000 bushels, the Annie Craig was considered a "stunner" then, and Capt. Williamson never forgot his initial experience afloat in such a fine craft.
From the time that Capt. Williamson left the Annie Craig until 1863 he continued to sail out of Chicago in several vessels, rapidly working his way up, until at the age of fifteen he had reached the rank of chief mate. During the American rebellion he did well, for mariners made good money. Throughout the seasons of 1859 and 1861 Capt. Williamson changed from fresh water to salt water, and went to sea in the full-rigged ship Transit, of Bristol, an East Indiaman, which sailed from Montreal, in the year 1859. Determining to get a thorough training on the salt water, he went from the Transit into the full-rigged bark Jane, a West Indiaman trading to Europe, and spent all of 1861 in her. Those two years the captain enjoyed thoroughly, in spite of the hard work and oftentimes inclement weather, because he was a young man with a resolve to see and learn something of the world.
When Capt. Williamson came back to the great lakes he shipped as mate in the bark Desote, then he took the same post in the schooner Sea Gull, sailing from Cleveland, and in 1863 he went as mate under Capt. Kelly in the bark General Von Seigel, trading between Chicago and Buffalo. Returning to Canada, he shipped as mate with Capt. Soloman Sylvester on the schooner Eureka, although he was then only twenty years of age. That fall he remained as mate with Capt. Sylvester; the following spring he helped to fit out the vessel, sailed several trips in her as mate, and then changed into the schooner E. B. Allen, a new ship which had just been completed at Ogdensburg, N.Y. In 1866, at the time of the Fenian raid, he shipped as mate in the bark Garry Owen, and made some exciting trips, the year 1867 saw him mate under Capt. Crangle in the schooner Mary Grover, except for seven weeks, when he sailed the Tranche Montague [sic] for Capt. Joseph Jackson, that skipper being laid up ashore with sickness. That same season, in the fall, Capt. Williamson went as mate under Capt. Soloman Sylvester on the brig D. M. Foster.
Determining to strike out for himself, in 1868 Capt. Williamson bought the new schooner W. T. Greenwood, and sailed her as master and owner for six seasons. In 1874 he sold out and bought the schooner Star. That vessel he sailed until 1878, when she foundered off Genesee whilst bound from Chicago to Kingston with a load of grain. Terrible gales succeeded each other, and there were many vessels cast away. Capt. Williamson and all of the crew took to the boats and got safely ashore after a hard tussle with the waves. That experience somewhat disheartened the skipper, so he ceased being an owner and again took service with Sylvester Bros., going as master into the brig D. M. Foster. That was in 1879. In the spring of 1880 he took charge of the schooner J. G. Worts for the same firm, and remained in her until the late fall of 1896, when the vessel was cast away near the entrance from Lake Huron to the Georgian Bay by being towed into the wrong channel whilst a consort of the steambarge Owen Sound. No one was drowned, but the vessel finally became a complete wreck, and was uninsured. Capt. Williamson afterward went into the schooner St. Louis belonging to Sylvester Bros., and that vessel he still sails.
Capt. Williamson was married to Miss Agnes McFiggens, of Cobourg, in the year 1869, and three sons and one daughter have been born to the Capt. and Mrs. Williamson.Miss (Agnes Ida) Williamson, the eldest of the children, is at home. Mr. George Sterling Williamson, the second, and John Williamson, the third, are in good trades in Toronto, whilst Harry, the youngest, is attending school. Liberal in politics, Capt. Williamson has always voted for that party's candidates and has done much to help the cause. At the time that Hon. Alexander Mackenzie was put into power, Capt. Williamson drove his team night and day at Cobourg to get voters to the polls, being thoroughly resolved that Mr. Mackenzie should be elected. In municipal concerns the captain takes a great interest, invariably voting and working for his men irrespective of partyism.
Rev. Dr. Hunter, the late well-known Presbyterian divine of Edinburgh, Scotland, was Capt. Williamson's grandfather, and several of his uncles were and are also lights of the church, so that it seems but natural that the worthy skipper should himself take much interest in Presbyterian affairs in Toronto. Mrs. Williamson also does her share of labor in church circles, and the parents and all the family are members of Chalmers Presbyterian Congregation. Their home is 834 College street, and was bought by the Captain some years ago. Beside his other affiliations, Capt. Williamson is a prominent member of the Free Masons, the United Workmen, the Canadian Order of Foresters, and the Select Knights. Capt. and Mrs. Williamson visited their friends in Edinburgh two years ago.
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