Captain Joseph F. Smith
Captain Joseph F. Smith, who has been a vessel owner and master on the lakes for many years, was born in Dumfries, Scotland, January 18, 1847, and possesses many of the sturdy Scottish traits of thrift and industry. His parents were James and Jeanette (Larmont) Smith, whose marriage ceremony was performed in Dumfries. Grandfather Smith was a stockraiser in Galway, and Grandfather Larmont was a slave owner of Plymouth, Island of Tobago, where he died of yellow fever. After his death his wife returned to Scotland for the purpose of educating her children, leaving a valuable estate in Tobago, of which they were finally dispossessed in some mysterious way. Early in 1853 Captain Smith's parents decided to come to America, and went to Liverpool, taking passage out of that port in April, on the new full-rigged ship Clara Symes, of Quebec, Canada, and having good weather on the voyage. By boat they went up the St. Lawrence river to Hamilton, where they were supplied with teams to carry them to London, Ontario, making their home there for a time while the father worked at his trade as a ship carpenter. He also assisted in the construction of the Royal Exchange building in that town. In the meantime the mother and children were helpful, being enterprising and industrious, and soon paid for their homestead by engaging in the dairy business. Two years later they traded this property for 100 acres of land in the township of Nissouri [sic], on the river Thames, which they cleared and cultivated for some years. On selling this place they removed to the town of Huron, where another fine property was purchased and cleared up. It was in 1864 when the last farm was sold to Capt. John McKenzie, of the schooner Comet, that the father and son took passage on the Buffalo, under Captain McIntosh, for Chicago, followed by the rest of the family the next spring in the propeller Niagara. When off Bois Blanc island the Buffalo collided with a schooner and had a hole knocked in her starboard bow, through which she began to fill rapidly. The captain ran her ashore, and after some delay her seventy passengers were transferred to the propeller Antelope and taken to Chicago.
On reaching Chicago the father secured a contract for driving piles for docks from Ruch street to Clark street bridge, at which work Joseph helped. Before the completion of the contract, however, the son shipped on the propeller Montgomery as a deck hand, closing the season on the steamer Union.
During the season of 1865 Captain Smith gained experience as seaman in the D. O. Dickinson with Capt. Loudon; in the sloop Rowena with Captain J. McLean; in the schooner Dutton; brig Young America; schooner E. M. Peck; as wheelsman in the Fountain City with Capt. Welsh, closing the year in the steamer Barber as wheelsman. In the spring of 1866 the Captain and his brother James purchased the schooner Garibaldi, Joseph going as mate. He sold his interest to his father that fall and shipped in the Young America until the close of navigation. The next season he shipped in the schooner Traveler, closing the season in the scow L. Painter, before the mast with Capt. C.O. Inghram.
The Traveler was lost on Lake Michigan some years later with all hands. In 1868 he entered the employ of George Hannahs, at South Haven, Mich., and remained with him two seasons. In 1870 Captain Smith built the schooner O. Shaw, brought her out May 16, sailed her successfully two seasons then sold his interest. The next season (1871) he purchased an interest in the schooner Garibaldi, and went as master on her. Shortly after the great fire in Chicago he sailed her up the river in the wake of the schooner Ida Keith in tow of a tug, to above Lake street, the bridge at that crossing being burned. In the spring of 1872 he again entered the employ of Mr. Hannahs and shipped in the schooner Marvin Hanna, afterward in the scow South Haven, was soon advanced to the rank of mate, and that fall, when the captain retired, was appointed master. In the spring of 1879 Captain Smith bought the schooner Minnie Handy, and used her in the fruit trade on the east shore of Lake Michigan two seasons, after which he sold her and assumed command of his fathers schooner, the William Smith, one season. In 1882 he built the scow Charley J. Smith, brought her out new, and sailed her five seasons in the lumber and general merchandise trade. He sold her to H. W. Sweet, of South Haven, and the next season bought and sailed the schooner Lenn Higbee. In 1887, in partnership with D.R. McCrimman, he engaged in the grocery and lumber business, conducting that two years. In the fall of 1888 he sold the schooner Lenn Higbee to William Smith, and bought his partner's interest in the lumber business. In 1888 he built the schooner H.M. Avery, continued in the lumber business and that fall laid the keel of the steamer Myrtie M. Ross, taking Volney Ross as a partner. In the fall of 1890 he lengthened the steamer by twenty five feet, and has since sailed her in the lumber and fruit trade up to the present time, with the exception of the year 1897, when he purchased an interest in the passenger steamer City of Grand Rapids and sailed her. He bought his partner's interest in the Myrtie M. Ross, in 1896, and is now the sole owner. He is the founder of the Fruit Growers line, and made seventy-two trips in the fruit trade in 1896. He also founded the South Haven & Chicago line with the stock company of Grand Rapids, forming a stock company of which he was manager during 1897 and vice-president in 1898. The company was incorporated in Michigan and the stock holders are A.B. Richards, J.J. Coleman, W.G. Tait, A.W. Herman and Joseph F. Smith. Socially the Captain is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and of the Knights of the Maccabees.
In September, 1869, Captain Smith was married to Miss Margaret Swayles, of South Haven, Mich., and the children born to this union are: Annie, now the wife of A. W. Herman; Ida, wife of J.C. Williams; Frank, who was mate with his father when the Myrtie M. Ross was burned at the dock in South Haven, and who lost his life in his heroic efforts to extinguish the flames; and Clarence B., now wheelsman in the Myrtie M. Ross. For his second wife Captain Smith married Miss Alice, daughter of Robert Howard, of South Haven. Besides his vessel property, the Captain owns a beautiful home in South Haven.
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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.