Captain James A. Skiffington
Captain James A. Skiffington, of Detroit Michigan, was born in Cornwall Ontario, January 1, 1842. His parents were natives of Ireland, Patrick Skiffington, his father, coming from Tyrone, and his mother, Marie Skiffington, nee Smith from Dublin.
Previous to his life on the lakes Captain Skiffington busied himself for a time at farm work, and was engaged in a couple of stores. He began his lake career as fore-castle boy, and in a few years rose to the command of the fore-and-alt schooner, having filled before this event the positions of cook, deckhand, wheelsman and mate, and was also before the mast.
For the past twenty-two years, since 1876, Captain Skiffington has been in command of the steamyacht, now known as the Pilgrim, but was formerly the Truant, and ten years later, 1886, became commander of the Idler. He was in the boatbuilding and boat-livery business for a period of ten years, and was owner of the Wm. Lachapelle, a smaller steamer, most of the time. During these ten years Captain Skiffington saved at least fifty people from drowning in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit river. On some of these occasions he rescued people at the risk of his own life, but never thought of personal danger when in the noble duty of saving a life.
The Captain has had some narrow escapes during his career. In the season of 1860 he shipped as fireman on the propeller Gore, formerly the Protection and while on her a very severe storm rose on Lake Ontario, almost wrecking the Gore, and those on board narrowly escaped drowning. The top masts came down through two decks, the steering gave way, and the lifeboats were stove in by the water barrel breaking loose. Captain Nelligan, who was in command of the vessel at this time was lost overboard, but the others escaped safely.
In 1864 Captain Skiffington was married in Kingstown, Ont., to Annie G. Dowler. They had nine children (seven of who are living): Henrietta (deceased), Evaline, Alfred J., Hubert H., Winnifred, Vincent T. (deceased), Truman John, Harrie R. and Willow.
Return to Home Port
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.