Captain John Dean Sullivan
Captain John Dean Sullivan was born at Cape Vincent, N.Y., August 14, 1825. At this place he lived only a short time, however, when the family moved to Point Peninsula, and later to Sacket's Harbor, in the public and private schools of which places he received his education. In September, 1837, he came to Detroit, remaining there for some time, removing thence to Windsor, his present home.
At an early age he had a desire for the marine life to which he has since devoted his time and attention. When only twelve years old he went on a small vessel called the Swan, running from Point Peninsula to Sacket's Harbor. Soon after this time he entered a grocery store in Windsor and there remained during the "Patriot war," after which he again resumed marine work. He shipped on the brig John Dougall before the mast, and after a part of a season in that position returned to Point Peninsula and worked in Asa Wilcox's shipyard for some time. In the fall of the same year, however, he was in charge of the schooner Eclipse for a short time, and in the spring went on the schooner Asa Wilcox before the mast, and spent the season in that position. For two seasons he remained on shore, and then bought some land near Point Pelee, where he spent the winter, coming to Amherstburg in the spring of 1843, from where he shipped on the schooner Mariner, of Kingston, as able seaman. This vessel was engaged in taking the troops along the Canadian coast to their different destinations after the close of the rebellion in Canada. After leaving this vessel he returned to Sacket's Harbor and went on the schooner Cambridge, on which he remained one year, and in the fall entered the employ of J. W. Strong, of Monroe, Mich., who was engaged in dredging the channels to the lake. Upon the steamer General McComb as wheelsman, running between Detroit and Toledo, he was employed a short time. In the following year he sailed on the schooner Mohawk, Michael Dousman and Chapman as able seaman. Upon the brig Crispin he shipped as seaman; in the same year he became second mate; in 1847 took a position of mate, and was put in command the same season. The same year the Northwest Insurance Company sent him to Lake Huron to repair the brig Orleans and return her to her owners. In 1848 he sailed the brig Crispin, and in 1849 sailed the schooner Alvin Clark, both of Detroit. In 1850 kept a grocery and provision store in Detroit. In 1851 he was sent to Kingston by the insurance company to repair the brig Orleans, after which he sailed her for one season, and then sold her in Milwaukee. In the fall of 1851 he went to Cleveland as coal purchaser, and the following season took command of the schooner Alvin Clark, which he retained two years, and during that time brought the first locomotive running on the Great Western railroad of Canada, from Buffalo, N.Y. In 1854 he went on the brig Mohegan, which was engaged in carrying the first stone to build the Sault Ste. Marie canal. During the same season he spent some time on the brig Portland, and in 1855 bought an interest in the propeller Hercules, which he sailed for several years. Upon this boat, in 1850, he was engaged in carrying freight across the Detroit river. The same year he had a contract to carry the stone used in building the Grand Trunk railroad branch between Detroit and Port Huron.
In 1857 he did the ferrying work for the Great Western railroad. In 1858 he was in command of the steamer Gore, towing. The year after, in Detroit, he was given the position of stock agent for the Great Western railroad. In the winter of 1860 he took charge of the side-wheel steamer Transit, and remained until 1864, when he went on the steamer Union for two years. He looked after the repairs of this boat and building of the steamer Great Western, going upon the latter January 1, 1867, where he remained as master until 1871. He was then appointed superintendent of ferries and looked after the building of the steamer Saginaw in 1872; the Transit in 1873, and the Michigan in 1874. In this position he remained until 1881, when he was appointed superintendent of the D. B. I. & W. Ferry Co., a position he held until 1884. He then went to the steamer Lansdowne, a ferry operated by the Grand Trunk Railroad Company, and there acted as master until July 1, 1896.
Captain Sullivan has had a very wide experience in all marine affairs on the Great Lakes, and has a thorough knowledge of that work in its several departments. He now holds a certificate of the old Board of Lake Underwriters of Buffalo, dated 1856, and signed by Helphinstein, Daffins, Dorr and others; also the International Underwriters Certificate of 1859, presented to him by the board of underwriters before the licensed certificate for masters and engineers granted on the lakes. He is now the efficient agent for the following well-known English and Scotch insurance companies: The London Guarantee & Accident Co.; The Standard Life Assurance Company of Edinburgh, Scotland, and The Caledonian Insurance Company of Edinburgh Fire Risks. On December 22, 1847, Captain Sullivan was married to Miss Charlotte E. Westaway, a sister of John A. Westaway, who is at present superintendent of mechanical works of the Michigan Central ferry department. Five children have been born to them: Caroline Elizabeth, who was married to J. A. Johnston (deceased), and afterward married to Alex. Gillean, of London, Ont.; Mary A. (deceased), who was married to D. T. Smith, of Windsor (also deceased); J. William, who is a marine engineer; Charles A., who also spent several years of his life in this occupation; and Addie D. (deceased), who was married to A. Gillean, of London, Ontario.
Return to Home Port
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.