Captain John Condon
Captain John Condon, well and favorably known to the early navigators of the Great Lakes, is a native of Cork, Ireland, where he was born in 1820, the son of John and Ellen (Culoman) Condon. The father was a moulder by trade, but dealt in land after he became a resident of Michigan in 1829. There were seven children in the family besides John; Edward and James were both sailors, and of the five daughters Katherine is living in Detroit, Johanna at Cleveland, and Mary at Ann Arbor; Ellen and Margaret are deceased.
John Condon was five years of age when brought to America, and he attended school at West Point, where the family was located for some time. At about the age of fourteen he went to Freedom, Mich., to reside, but later removed to Detroit where he began sailing in 1840 as wheelsman of the side-wheel steamer Erie. She was in the passenger service between Port Huron, Toledo, Maumee and Perrysburg. After a couple of seasons in the Erie he went before the mast with Captain Raymo in the schooner Mississippi, in the Sault Ste. Marie river trade, and remained on her two seasons. His next service was during the memorable season of 1844, when a southwest gale caused such a destructive flood at Buffalo harbor. He was before the mast in the Ramsey Crooks, and on one of her trips down the Detroit river, about the time of the gale, the water was so low at the lime-kiln crossing that she scraped her rudder off and was compelled to return to Detroit for repairs. During his time upon the lakes, and he did not abandon the service until 1890, Captain Condon was in many vessels and steamboats in almost every capacity; and he had a varied experience. He was never the means of losing a life or a vessel, but has on many occasions saved people from drowning, and prevented many accidents. In the 'forties he was wheelsman of the old side-wheel steamer General Scott, and during that early period was second mate, mate and master of many old schooners, among them being the Gov. Porter, Avenger and Eudora.
Previous to the Civil war Captain Condon sailed on salt water for about two years. He was mate of the ship Lanark on a voyage to Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans with a cargo of coffee, and afterward shipped out of Boston on the Gov. Hibbard, to Havana, in the West Indies trade, with a cargo of ice and Yankee notions, returning with tobacco and sugar to New York. On June 1, 1861, he enlisted as able seaman in the naval service of the U.S. Government, and was placed aboard the receiving ship North Carolina, commanded by Captain Mead. He was soon after promoted to be master's mate, which berth he filled five months, until transferred to the frigate Wabash as able seaman, remaining on her seven months, on the expedition to Port Royal. In 1863 he took a draft of men for the naval service to Cairo, Ill., and was there appointed to the gunboat Fawn, filling the berth of master's mate on her until the close of the war, about which time he was appointed acting ensign of the Fawn by Admiral Porter. He received an honorable discharge from the navy October 21, 1865.
The steamers of which Captain Condon has been master or mate are many, and include the propellers Detroit, Princeton, St. Louis, Fintry, Bucephalus, Saginaw, Nile, Merchant, Boscobel, Pacific, Arctic, Atlantic, Potomac, Chicago, Backus and Mendota; he was also master of several steambarges, and for one season of the tug Ward, in the Government employ at Frankfort, Mich. The Captain had several narrow escapes from death, but not as many as might be supposed, considering the length of time he sailed. He was mate of the propeller Fintry when her boiler blew out off Port Stanley, Lake Erie, on which occasion nine lives were lost. He was master of the tug Eclipse on a trip from Buffalo to Chicago, at the completion of which her boiler blew out at the docks of the latter port, the engineer, fireman and a deckhand being killed. While a passenger on the propeller Coburn, owned by Ward, of Detroit, on a trip down, and about eight hours out of Detour, she foundered in a heavy sea, being overladen. She was loaded with copper and silver ore, and went down a total wreck. Many of the passengers were so frightened that they refused to make any attempt to be saved, but nineteen of the crew and pass- engers took to the boats and were picked up by the schooners Gaskin and Chandler J. Wells, and safely landed at Detroit. During the closing years of his sailing Captain Condon was upon the steamers John B. Lyon, Oceanica and James Fisk, Jr. He retired permanently from the lake service in 1890.
Captain Condon was married at Buffalo to Abigail W. Langley, in a church that stood where the old post office building now is. They had four children, of whom Katherine, the only one now living, is the wife of Charles Girard, a resident of Buffalo. The home of the Condons is at No. 19 Lowell place, Buffalo.
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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.