Captain John Decatur Peterson
Captain John Decatur Peterson is a steamboat master who has the esteem of all lake mariners. He is a man of good purpose and of strict integrity, and who has by close application to his duties attained to the command of one of the good steamboats on the lakes, the J. C. Lockwood. It has been the pleasure of the writer of this article to have known Captain Peterson for a number of years, and he can say with truth that no more skillful or seamanlike master ever stepped aboard a steamboat.
Captain Peterson is a son of Capt. John and Ann (Lee) Peterson, and was born February 26, 1841, at Black River, Ohio. His father was for a long time master of lake vessels, among which were the schooners Rambler, Monson, Eclipse, Tartar, Wild Rover, Live Yankee, Eveline Bates, and David Provost, part of which he owned. Captain Peterson's mother was a sister of Capt. Seth Lee, whose name will be found many times by the close readers of this history.
Capt. John Decatur Peterson attended the public schools in Huron, and the business college at Cleveland two winters, after he commenced sailing. He began his lake-faring career at the age of fifteen years, and when fifteen years of age he shipped on his father's boat, the Wild Rover. In the spring of 1858 he shipped on the Eveline Bates, and the following season (1859) was appointed second mate. The schooner was chartered to take a cargo of oak plank from New Baltimore, Mich., to Liverpool. She made good weather of this voyage and after eighteen days out she arrived at Liverpool, and was then sent to the Cardinas, Cuba, with merchandise, which she discharged and went light to New Orleans. At this time freights were dull, and she laid in New Orleans four weeks. She returned to the lakes in 1861.
In the spring of 1860 Captain Peterson was appointed mate of the schooner Surprise, with Capt. Hugh Morrison, and remained on her a full season. In 1861 he was made mate of the schooner Cape Horn, and the following season mate on the schooner Eveline Bates, which his father sailed. In the spring of 1863 he was appointed master of the schooner Wings of Morning, and in 1864-65 master of the schooner George D. Dousman; in 1866 master of the bark DeSoto; in 1867 master of the schooner Charles Wall; 1868, master of the schooner King Fisher; 1869 master of the Charles Wall; 1870, master of the schooner David Stewart, in which he continued until the close of the season of 1880.
In the spring of 1881 Captain Peterson was appointed master of the steamer Columbia (the construction of which he had superintended), plying between Buffalo, Chicago and Duluth. On July 27, 1889, he took command of the new steamer J. C. Lockwood, which had also been built under his supervision, and has sailed her up to the present writing, giving satisfaction to all parties. In both the Columbia and the Lockwood the Captain owns a large interest. Captain Peterson was in the employ of Mr. J. C. Lockwood for twenty-seven years, and has always been considered one of the most reliable masters. Mr. Lockwood died in the fall of 1892, and in the spring of 1893 Captain Peterson was made manager of the steamer J. C. Lockwood. Two years later she was sold to F. B. Case, of Norwalk, Ohio, and one year later, 1896, she was sold to George W. Brown, but by reason of his residence in New York City, Mr. Brown was unable to give the steamer the attention required; he still retained Captain Peterson as his manager, which position he has held since 1893. This shows a confidence of which Captain Peterson may well feel proud.
He is a member of the Ship Masters Association and carries Pennant No. 329. He is also a Chapter Mason (since 1866), and is a charter member of Marks Lodge of Master Masons, of Huron, Ohio. His Chapter is No. 72, Sandusky, Ohio.
In 1862 Captain Peterson was united by marriage to Miss Eulalia C. Benschoter, of Huron. The children born to this union are Carlin E., William D., Eva R., Bessie A., Jennie B., Hiram H., and Walter. The family homestead is in Huron, 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.