James Buchanan is a native of England, where he was born in 1870, a son of George and Susan (Wilson) Buchanan, who came to America when he was but four months old, locating in London, Canada. There were eleven children in the family, the four now living besides James being Frank, who is a sailor; George, a farmer at Elton, Mich., Mary, married and living at Erie, Penn., and Annie, at home with her parents, who reside at Sand Beach, Michigan.
James Buchanan obtained his education at London, Canada. He began the practical work of life January 4, 1883, in the lumber regions of Michigan, where he not only passed that winter but several succeeding ones, and the springs following driving the logs that were taken out. During the summer of 1883 he was fireman on tugs on the Sauble river. The summer of 1884 he went as deckhand on the steambarge Burlington for one trip, and then became her watchman for the rest of that season. In 1885 he was watchman and wheelsman respectively of the steambarge Maine, and in 1886, from July on, he was at home on the farm. In 1887 he wheeled the steamer Birckhead out of Buffalo, and during 1888 he was similarly engaged on the steamer Aurora, passing the following winter in the Pennsylvania woods and oil country. For the season of 1889 he was wheelsman of the steambarge Oneida, having for her consorts the Horld and Peck. One evening in the month of October, about six o'clock, the fleet left Buffalo coal-laden for Fort William. The wind being south, they coasted along that shore of the lake, but on nearing Erie the wind came around to the north and stirred up such a big sea that they started for the north shore. The wind then shifted to the northwest and blew a gale. The Peck was making such bad weather that at five o'clock the next morning she showed a torch of distress, and at the same time the Oneida was leaking freely and had her pumps at work. At daylight the latter let go her tow-line to the Horld, rounded, and rescued the crew of the Peck just before she sank, twenty miles northwest of Erie, Penn., a total loss. The Oneida succeeded in regaining the tow-line of the Horld, proceeding on her way, and later closed the season at Buffalo. In trying to get inside the breakwater at Buffalo on her last trip, in a big sea, she broke her rudder and wrecked her stern so much that she sank at the dock in the Erie basin. She was raised, but sank again at the dry dock; was afterward repaired, and later, in 1894, was burned off northeast Pennsylvania and became a total loss.
During the season of 1890 Mr. Buchanan was wheelsman of the Maine until September and then of the Alfred P. Wright until the close of navigation. In 1891 he was wheels- man of the steambarge Jim Sherriff until August and for the rest of the season of the R.P. Fitzgerald. In 1892 he was wheelsman of the steambarge Aurora and in 1893 of the steambarge Missoula, having in tow the whaleback No. 103. In the month of May, while in the Straits in a fog on one of her trips, the Missoula checked down, and probably because of the carelessness of the crew of the whaleback, the latter ran into the stern of the barge, knocking her rudder out of place, tearing out her stern generally, and making her way nearly into the engine room, the barge meanwhile going on the reef at Cheboygan light. She was repaired at Duncan City, and while there received a new rudder from Cleveland; obtained more repairs at Chicago, and then proceeded to Erie, where Mr. Buchanan left her to act as wheelsman of the iron steamer Republic for the remainder of the season. In 1894 he was second mate of the Nyanza, owned by McBrier, of Erie, Penn., of which he was also shipkeeper during the following winter at Chicago. In 1895 he made the first trip of the season as second mate of the Nyanza to Erie, and then left her to engage in the grocery business at that city, continuing to carry on same until September 17, of that year, when he sold out. In 1896 he was second mate of the Emily P. Weed until August, mate the rest of the season, and kept ship on her during the winter of 1896-97. The season of 1897 he was mate of the Savonia (late Emily P. Weed) with Capt. D.S. McDonald, under whom he has already held this berth for five seasons.
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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.