Captain George A. Symes
Captain George A. Symes is the youngest son of James B. and Margaret (Campbell) Symes, of Sarnia, situated at the head of the St. Clair river, the former of whom is known as a pioneer captain of Georgina Bay. There were four children in the family, those besides the subject being: (1) John C., who is master of the steamer Cadillac, owned by the Cleveland Cliffs Mining Company, was born October 13, 1862, and moved to Sarnia with his parents in 1872. He commenced his career in marine life in the spring of 1878, as lookout on the steamer Manitoba, and from that time on advanced until he held the position of first officer on the best passenger and freight steamers of the United States, plying between Buffalo, Chicago and Duluth. In the spring of 1888 he was appointed master of the steamer Nelson Mills, of Marysville, which steamer he commanded with the utmost satisfaction to her owner for three years, and then became master and part owner of the steamer H.D. Coffinberry, of Cleveland. After one season of successful service he was next found on the bridge of the steel steamer Cadillac, which he successfully commanded for the seasons 1893-94-95-96. On January 18, 1893, at Sarnia, Captain Symes was married to Miss Teney McMasters, and made his home at Port Huron, Mich., where he was respected by all who knew him. He died at his father's home in Sarnia, December 12, 1896. (2) Duncan J., a telegraph operator, and (3) Margaret J., unmarried, and living with her parents.
Capt. George A. Symes, the subject of this sketch, was born May 21, 1868, in Bruce, Ontario, and attended school in Collingwood. His first occupation in life was as clerk in a dry-goods store, where he remained for a couple of years. In 1885 he went before the mast on the schooner Sweepstakes, out of Courtright, Ontario, and remained on her that season. In 1886 he was porter and watchman on the propeller Arctic, out of Detroit. Until September 1, during the season of 1887, he was lookout on the propeller Portage, after which he was wheelsman on the Northern, of the Ward's line, until she ran on Kelley's Island reef, where she became a total loss from fire. During the season of 1888 Captain Symes acted as wheelsman on the Osceola, of Ward's line, and served in a like position on the Nyack, of the Union line. The next season he joined the propeller Avon as wheelsman, remaining on her until the middle of the season, when he became wheelsman of the Gogebic for the remainder of the season. She was brought out new at the time from the Bay City dry dock. In 1890 he was given second mate's berth on the propeller Edward Smith, owned by Grattvick, Smith & Fryan, of Buffalo; this office he held for three months, and closed the season as mate of the steambarge Lothair, owned by the Perry Sound Lumber Company.
In 1891 he was mate of the steambarge Mills, on which he remained until the fall of 1892, which season he filled out as mate of the H.D. Coffinberry. Captain Symes' first master's berth was in 1893 and on the steambarge Canada, owned by John Nesbit, of Sarnia. On October 18 of that year this boat was burned at the dock at Port Huron; and afterward made into a tow barge. During the season of 1894 he was not only master, but manager of the steamer City of Windsor, owned by S.T. Reeves, of Windsor, Canada, and for the season of 1895-96 he was master of the steambarge St. Louis, owned by the Niagara Falls Paper Company. During the season of 1897 Captain Symes was appointed master of the steel barge Cadillac, to succeed his brother John C., and in 1898 was serving in the same capacity on the same boat.
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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.