Captain Gilbert Townsend
Captain Gilbert Townsend, son of John T. and Ann Townsend, was born in 1832 at Fort Niagara, N. Y. His father was a regular-army soldier for forty years, and served with some distinction throughout the Black Hawk War, attaining the rank of first sergeant. After his enlistment the family removed from Sacket's Harbor to Fort Niagara, N. Y., and in 1834 removed to Fort Gratiot, Michigan.
There Capt. Gilbert Townsend attended the public schools for a short time, and at the age of twelve years he commenced sailing in the small vessels of those days. He soon attained to the position of master of the schooner Seabird, which had a capacity of 8,000 bushels of wheat; followed by similar appointments on the schooners FitzHugh, J. G. Masten, and many other vessels of like tonnage. He spent the latter part of his active life as mate on various steamers, rounding up a period of forty-two years on the lakes. He sailed into Chicago harbor when there were no piers or lights as aids to navigation. The only lights at that time placed by the government were at Fort Gratiot, Thunder Bay and on the Bobloe islands. He usually laid up his vessel at Chicago during the winter, if she was not frozen up in the straits near St. Helena. He mentions many episodes of a like nature, which the lake mariner of the present day does not have to contend with. On one occasion in trying to put into the Buffalo harbor he was wrecked on the breakwater during the prevalence of a lively gale. At present he is engaged in the lumber business.
In 1856, Captain Townsend wedded Miss Adelia, daughter of Captain Henry Robertson, of Algonac, Mich., and seven children were born to them: Mary, who died young; Captain Bernard D.; Captain Hoyt H.; Engineer Marshall B.; Captain C. Owen; Nellie A. and Josie E.
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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.