Captain George Francis Babcock
Captain George Francis Babcock is the only original keeper appointed by the United States Government to the life-saving service on the lakes in the Ninth District, when the Cox bill providing for a paid life-saving service first became a law, and he had been for years previous to that in command of a volunteer life-saving crew. He is a man in every way qualified to fulfill the hazardous and oftentimes dangerous duties of his calling. He is stationed at Fairport, Ohio, a locality often subject to the fiercest tempests, and visited by any of the ore and coal carriers, a combination which requires him to be ever on the alert.
The Captain was born in Fairport, December 20, 1845, and is a son of Joseph and Mary Ann (Allen) Babcock. Previous to the construction of the railroad in Fairport, his father kept a grocery and supply store near the docks, and supplied the emigrants (who, on their way west on the steamer, usually put in at that port) with provisions, etc., and carried on quite a lucrative trade. The mother was born in Pennsylvania, and was of Scotch descent. The grandparents on the paternal side were Daniel and Thankful Babcock, and located at Painesville among the earliest pioneers. They purchased and cleared up a large tract of land. During the war of 1812 great ill feeling existed between the whites and Indians, and several massacres occurred on the island contiguous to Fairport. Daniel Babcock owned a small boat which he used for fishing, and on one occasion when an Indian outbreak was threatened, he conveyed many of the islanders to Cleveland. Many of those who could not thus get passage were killed by the Indians.
Captain Babcock, the subject of this article, acquired such education as the public schools afforded in his boyhood days, working meanwhile on his father's farm, which consisted of three hundred acres. It was in 1863 that he began sailing, his first berth being in the little schooner Vermont as boy, making but one round trip that season. The next spring he shipped in the brig Sultan, but left her in July to help his father get in the harvest, expecting to rejoin her before she sailed again. When he reached Cleveland she had sailed, which was perhaps fortunate for him, as the brig was lost that trip with all hands except Lee Speers, the mate, who afterward became captain in Alva Bradley's employ. In the spring of 1865 Captain Babcock shipped in the schooner E. C. Roberts with Captain Andrews, closing the season in the scow Marion Dixon. The other vessels in which he sailed were the schooners Industry, Frankie Wilcox, Algerine, J. C. Hills, Indianola, of which he was second mate, the Colorado and H. A. Lamars, of which he was mate. He then started in the fishing business out of Fairport, in which he succeeded in losing the money invested, and again went sailing.
In 1871 Captain Babcock was appointed assistant to the government light keeper at Fairport harbor, holding that position seven years. He then purchased two boats and again essayed the fishing business, which continued fairly profitable. In 1876 the life saving station was built at Fairport and Capt. D. P. Dobbins tendered him the office of keeper, thus making him keeper of both the lighthouse and life saving station, operating the latter with a volunteer crew for some time. During the twenty-two years that the Captain has been employed in the life saving service, he and his crew have been instru- mental in rescuing over three hundred people on vessels he has gone out to relieve with his crew. The values of vessels, which are too numerous to name in this article, if computed would reach over $3,000,000. One on occasion when the Captain was obliged to make four trips in order to get the perishing crew he broke one of his feet, and it required the utmost fortitude to continue the good work. The Captain keeps a record of all events occurring about his station with the utmost exactitude, and makes a neat daily report in typewriting to the Superintendent of the District.
Captain Babcock was wedded to Miss Alice Warren, of Fairport (but a native of Roxton Falls, Canada), on February 2, 1875. The wife's father and three brothers took an honorable part in the Civil War. She died June 10, 1894. The children born to this union were: Eva, David J., Seth W. (who was drowned when six years old), and George F. Captain Babcock has spent the best years of his life in the cause of humanity, and as he has done his work well it is safe to say that he has a clear conscience.
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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.