John B. Souter
The subject of this sketch has always had a sort of a natural inclination for mechanics, and has substantially been an engineer all his life. He had no schooling whatever, and he has had to battle against poverty and ill-fortune from the time he was very young. He learned his trade by taking advantage of opportunities to observe and study machinery while on short trips with friends who were engineers on sailing crafts on the lakes, before he was old enough to commence the work of his practical life. He began as fireman on the Franklin, a small harbor tug, upon which he worked a couple of months, and then became an engineer, engaging in that capacity continuously on Buffalo harbor tugs for a period of thirty-six years, and he is now the third oldest tug man about Buffalo harbor, David Hazen being the oldest and Eli Schriver next. In 1883 he was made master and pilot, and since that time has alternated as master and engineer of various tugs and excursion boats in the harbor and on Niagara river. In 1885 he bought an interest in the tug Oneida, but sold it at the end of that season, the following season purchasing the tug J. F. Behn, of which he has been master and owner continuously until the present time, until 1897 when she was abandoned, and in 1897 he built the Queen. Mr. Souter has been master, engineer, and owner of tugs and excursion boats in and about Buffalo harbor for about thirty-six years, as above related. In addition to his many misfortunes resulting more from his unfavorable environment in his early life than from any lack of energy and pluck, for he has plenty of both, he lost his left arm about thirty years ago, while engineer of the tug Daniel Boone, later known as the Post Boy, and owned by Eli Schriver. The sleeve of his flannel shirt was caught in and suddenly drawn with his arm into the machinery, both being cut off about half-way between the shoulder and elbow. This accident has been the means of preventing him from filling important positions in the line of his trade as engineer, though he could always obtain a position on a harbor tug. When Robert Learmonth, chief engineer of the Anchor line, was local inspector of engineers in 1882, he withheld Mr. Souter's engineer's papers for thirty days, holding that Mr. Souter was not competent because of the loss of his arm; but the latter finally gained his point and resumed his former occupation. He became a member of the I. O. O. F. about 1892, of the K. of P. in the same year, and was a charter member of the Buffalo Harbor Tug Pilots Association, of which he was also the first treasurer.
Mr. Souter was married at Buffalo, in 1871, to Miss Kittie Columbus, a daughter of Alexis Columbus, now 108 years of age, of whom mention is made elsewhere. They have three children, viz.: Eli R., a marine engineer by trade, born in 1871; Clara, born in 1873, wife of Albert Rebadow, employed as a store-keeper for the firm of Dwyer & Huntington, stone dealers near Rockwood, Penn.; and Robert Fulton, born in December, 1890. This young gentleman was the hero of a liberty pole and flag raising event which took place under the auspices of his father on the 4th of July, 1894, on the Terrance in Buffalo. The old pole owned by the city had been struck by lighting, and Mr. Souter, at his own expense, raised another in its place; his son Robert raised a United States flag upon it that the father had made in New York City for that sole purpose. The young man has lately been made the owner of an admiral's uniform in miniature, which well becomes him, and he is recognized by the Grand Army all over the country. Mr. Souter had two uncles who served their time on the lakes as fireman and deck hands, and would undoubtedly have made their way up in their chosen occupation had they not enlisted in the Civil War, in which they lost their lives. As an evidence of his patriotism it may be mentioned that Mr. Souter sent bales upon bales of lint to the army at his own expense for the use of the wounded. It was in 1862 or '63 that he lost his arm, and had it not been for this he would have been in the service. He is one of the self-made men of the harbor men of Buffalo.
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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.