George Washington Jones
George Washington Jones, one of the best known of the earlier lake shipbuilders, was the third son of Augustus Jones, and inherited his father's skill, possessing great ingenuity in the science of vessel construction. He invented and used many of the era-marking improvements which contributed so largely to the development of the lake marine. At the age of ten he accompanied his maternal uncle, Enoch Murdock, to the Western Reserve of Ohio, joining his father at Black River, now Lorain, Ohio, where the latter had established a shipyard. On reaching the Hudson river it was found to be frozen, and in order to cross the ice they sold the ox-team and rigged a sleigh with sails, which was propelled by wind. The remainder of the journey was made by horse and wagon, and the travelers at length reached their new home in the forest of Ohio, two months after their departure from New England. For several winters following, Mr. Jones attended a country school, walking three miles through the woods, morning and night. The educational advantages offered by the schools of those early days were very limited, but he made the most of them, and largely through his own efforts became a well-informed man of sound judgment.
When his school life was ended Mr. Jones was placed in charge of the home farm, as his father and brothers were engaged in ship building at various places on the lakes. It was intended that he should remain a farmer, not only because it was necessary that one of the family should be with the mother, but because the father felt that one of his sons should follow some other occupation. Washington secretly resented the idea that he was less fit than his brothers for shipbuilding, and entreated his father to give him the desired instruction, but to no purpose. About this time a traveling draughtsman came to Black River, and the determined young man went promptly to see him. In return for instruction he offered the gentleman the little money he had and a pair of new boots - his most precious possession. Arrangements were made, and for several months following all his leisure hours were spent in acquiring a knowledge of planning and draughting vessels. Not long afterward a boat was to be built at Conneaut. The father and sons were busy, and there seemed to be no one to care for the new enterprise. Washington regarded this as his opportunity, and asked to be allowed to superintend the work. His father's astonishment knew no bounds, and he was asked what he knew about shipbuilding. He replied that he could build the boat and, no other course being open, a reluctant consent was given. The amateur shipbuilder started for the scene of his first effort full of hope and determination. Many predicted a failure, as his methods were new and often original. The result was a success, the steamer North America came together in fine shape, and Washington Jones was acknowledged a master builder at the age of twenty-one.
After the death of the father the sons separated, each choosing a lake city as his home. The exact number of vessels built by George Washington Jones is not known. Among them were the following: Steamer North America, built at Conneaut in 1833; steamer Constitution, 1837; schooner John Jacob Astor, 112 tons, 1835; brig Ramsey Crooks, 1836; schooner Algonquin; George Watson, 1841; steamer Empire, 1844; propeller Phoenix, 1845; steamer Hendrick Hudson, 1846; steamer Buckeye State, 1852; schooner W.F. Allen, 1853; Jersey City, 1854 or '55; schooners Tracy J. Brunson, Belle Walbridge, Gertrude and Kyle Spangler, dates unknown; schooner Wing of the Morning and propeller Dick Tinto, 1854; schooner Drake, 1855; L.J. Farwell, G.D. Norris and W.S. Scott, 1856; Levi Rawson, 1861; William Jones and bark Franz Sigel, 1862; schooner P.S. Marsh, 1867; and steam barge Nahant, 1873. Several of these were built at Black River under the firm name of William Jones & Co. The bark Phoenix, a pioneer packet between Chicago and Buffalo, was built and commanded by Capt. George Washington Jones. The John Jacob Astor was built for the Hudson Bay Fur Company, and was the first American vessel on Lake Superior, taking the place of the Indian bateaux in carrying supplies to the traders. The frames for this boat were made at Black River, and carried by boat to Sault Ste. Marie, whence they were portaged over to the shores of Lake Superior, where she was completed and launched. On her first voyage Stannard rock was discovered by the captain and named in his honor. A great lighthouse now stands on that rock. The steamer Empire was built in Cleveland in 1844, and was the first steamer in the United States to carry over 1,000 tons, being 200 tons larger than any on salt or fresh water. Her exact measurement was 1,136 tons and she made the trip from Buffalo to Cleveland in twelve hours and twenty- five minutes. She was magnificently equipped and was veritably a floating palace. She was the first boat ever launched sidewise, and to her was first applied the arch (the invention of the builder) and afterward universally adopted. The Eureka was fitted out by Mr. Jones in 1848 to take the famous "forty-niners" around the Horn to California in search of gold. The barge Nahant was the last built by him in 1873, and soon afterward he transferred his marine property from sail to steam vessels. To Captain Jones is given the credit as instigator of the steamer Onoko, the forerunner of the great fleets of steel steamers which now ply the lakes.
Captain Jones married Miss Sarah R. Tenney, of Orwell, Vermont, and all of the five children born to them are living. He passed to his rest October 9, 1894, at the age of eighty-two years, after a well-spent life. Mrs. Jones, with other members of the family, still resides at the old home-stead, No. 326 Pearl street, Cleveland, Ohio.
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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.