Captain John G. Betke
Captain John G. Betke, an ocean navigator in the fullest sense of the term, with a skipper's certificate at the age of twenty-two, was born at Cappeln, Schleswig-Holstein, in 1858. He attended the common schools of his native place until fifteen years of age, and then shipped at Flensborg, on the schooner Louisa, as boy, for ten months, after which he sailed on the schooner Lydia as ordinary seaman, remaining one year.
Returning to Flensborg he shipped on the German steamer Quatur as ordinary seaman. The Quatur loaded coal at Cardiff for Port Said, and after discharging, she took on 1,000 pilgrims bound to the shrine of Mecca, on the Red Sea, to worship. The voyage then extended to Hong Kong, China, where part of the cargo was taken aboard, being filled out at Singapore and Bankok with sugar; the steamer then sailed for London. The time passed on this steamer was about one year. He left her on arrival at London, and shipped as able seaman on the bark Hausa out of Hamburg with a general cargo for Hong Kong, where she discharged cargo and loaded rice, going to Bankok for sugar to finish cargo, after which she cleared for London. He then went over to Bremen and shipped on the bark Atlanta, bound for New York with a cargo of merchandise, carrying coal oil back to Bremen, the voyage occupying three months. In 1878 Mr. Betke enlisted in the German navy, and was assigned to the battleship Hansa, then under orders to sail for Valparaiso, to release the merchant steamer Loxus, which had been seized by the Peruvians, they being at war with Chili at the time, and holding that the Loxus was trying to run their blockade with contraband goods. He served in the navy two years, being discharged in 1880. He then returned to the German port of Flensborg, where he attended navigation school, and by close and diligent application to his studies he learned navigation thoroughly in one year and received a skipper's certificate of competency. He then found berth as able seaman on the British ship Glad Tidings, out of Hamburg for Baltimore, the passage occupying two months. Arriving at Baltimore he was appointed mate of the schooner George Washington, in the coasting trade, occupying one year. His next berth was in the schooner George Adams, as mate, out of Bath, Maine, for Galveston, Texas, three months passing while in the schooner, after which he shipped as mate at Galveston on the schooner Whitehead, bound for Boston, remaining on her one year. He then purchased the schooner Lydia, which he sailed one year in the coasting trade between Galveston, Sabine Pass, Corpus Christi, Indianola and ports on Lake Charles, the Brazos river and the Gulf of Mexico. He was then taken down with fever and transferred his command to a skipper named Smith, who lost her at Morgan City bay in the fall of 1885.
On his recovery Captain Betke entered the United States life saving service at Aransas Pass, in the Eighteenth district, as surfman, and took part in all the rescues during the two years he remained. He made a good record as a life saver. In the spring of 1887 he came upon the lakes and shipped out of Toledo, Ohio, before the mast in the schooner Rival, remaining one year, which was followed by one year on the schooner Fayette Brown. He was then appointed mate on the schooner David Wagstaff one season; mate of the George W. Warner one season; mate of the Thomas P. Sheldon one season; mate of the whaleback 105 one season; then master of the barges Walton and Little Jake, ice boats, in the employ of the Forest City Ice Company, plying between Cleveland and Put-in-Bay with ice and general cargoes. He has been with the company six years. Captain Betke is a member of the I. O. O. F.
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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.