Captain John Connor
Captain John Connor, a mariner of wide experience on both the Atlantic ocean and the Great Lakes, but now living in Chicago retired from seafaring life, was born about the year 1835 under the British flag, on board a vessel on the Atlantic coast. He is a son of John and Mary (Harwood) Connor, the father of a native of Nova Scotia, the mother of England. Their home was in Nova Scotia, and they both died there.
Our subject was reared and educated in Cornwallis, Kings county, Nova Scotia, and when a youth, in the year 1853, commenced the life of a sailor, shipping "before the mast" on the Clermont, a small trading vessel engaged in the coasting trade between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. With her he remained two seasons, and then shipped on another coaster, the Bloomer, as ordinary seaman, sailing on her until 1856, in that year becoming mate and sailing master of the Montezuma, plying between Beverly, Mass., and Boston. Returning then to New Brunswick, he there passed the rest of the season of 1856, in the following year (1857) sailing from New Brunswick on the ship Nictaux to Liverpool with a load of deal, thence sailing to Quebec. During the season of 1858 he was on the schooner William Henry Prentice, (Captain Leach) of Granville, Nova Scotia, until October of the same year, after which until the following December he sailed as mate of the Robert McAfee from New Brunswick; then went on the coaster Tigress, also of Nova Scotia (Capt. Mark Shaw), finishing the winter on her. Next season he went to New York City, thence voyaged on the same vessel to Cardenas, Cuba, with merchandise; returning to New York with a cargo of hides, the trip being made in twenty-six days.
Our subject then engaged in the coasting trade until 1861, in which year he shipped as mate of the Harvest Queen (Capt. Walter Grimes, of Cornwallis, N.S.), also in the coasting trade, and remained on her until March 18, 1862, on the 20th of which month he shipped as second mate on the Onward, a packet sailing from Cornwallis, N.S., to New York. From the latter city he proceeded to Oswego, N.Y., and in May, 1862, he shipped from that port on the Crevola (Capt. John McKenny, of Buffalo, and owned in Detroit), touching at all ports between Toledo and Ogdenburg. This vessel he left October 18, 1862, and then shipped as mate on the schooner Lucy Orchard, laying her up at Oswego December 9, same year.
On April 8, 1863, Captain Connor shipped before the mast on the schooner Nicaragua (Capt. Rube Johnson), bound for Oswego from Chicago, but left her September 28, same year, and October 9 went as second mate on the A.G. Morsey (Capt. Thomas McDonald) in the same trade, the season ending December 12, 1863; April 20, 1864, he shipped as second mate of the schooner Bermuda (also Capt. Thomas McDonald) from Oswego to Chicago, leaving her, however, August 20, following, by permission of owners, and then went as mate of the schooner Monteagle (Capt. Ross Stearns) in the same trade, laying her up at Chicago. In the fall of same year was mate of the Eli Bates (Capt. John Davison) until the close of the season. In 1865 he sailed the bark Geraldine as captain, from Chicago to Buffalo, and all intermediate points; in 1866 was master of the Samuel J. Hawley (owned by William Stewart, of Detroit), plying between Ogdensburg and Chicago, and laid her up in Detroit; in 1867-68 he sailed the Theodore Perry (same owner), in same trade, and laid her up in Racine, Wis.; in 1869-70 sailed the schooner Dane (owned in Oswego) in the same trade.
In 1871 Captain Connor brought out the Gilbert Mollison (E. & O. Mitchell, of Oswego, owners) at Oswego, and sailed her as master in the same trade. In 1872 he superintended the building of the schooner John R. Noyes (same owners), of Algonac, Mich., brought her out and sailed her that season, and laid her up in Oswego. In 1873 he brought out the schooner Isaac G. Jenkins, which was also built at Algonac (same owners), sailed her that season, and in November loaded her at Milwaukee for the port of Oswego.
That same month the schooner Gilbert Mollison (Capt. Joel B. Turner), of which Captain Connor had been master, loaded at Chicago and left that port five hours before our subject sailed from Milwaukee with the Jenkins, and was lost with all hands in Lake Michigan, between the Foxes and the Manitou. After that trip Captain Connor tied up the Jenkins at Chicago December 13, 1873.
In 1874 our subject superintended the building at Algonac, Mich., of the Belle Mitchell (E. & O. Mitchell, owners), sailed her that year, and laid her up at Oswego September 1; then brought out the George M. Case, for Case & Conger, of Fulton, Oswego Co., N.Y., and sailed her during the balance of the season of 1875. That year the Isaac G. Jenkins (Capt. John Brown), of which Captain Connor had been master, was lost with all hands in Lake Ontario; also our subject's former vessel, the Belle Mitchell, was lost with all hands off Erie, Penn. In 1876 Captain Connor again sailed the George M. Case (for same parties), same trade, until the fall of 1878, and laid her up in Toronto, Canada. In 1886 she was lost in Lake Erie, only three of her crew being saved (at that time she was commanded by Capt. John Daly).
In 1879 Captain Connor sailed the schooner Kate Winslow, of Buffalo (owned by N.E. Winslow, of that city), and laid her up at Erie, Penn.; in 1880 he sailed the schooner Luzern (same owners), and laid her up in Cleveland, Ohio; on November 18, 1887, she was lost with all hands in Lake Superior, including her master, Capt. George Lloyd. In 1881 Captain Connor was master of the John Bigler, of Chicago (owned by George C. Finney, of that port), in the lumber trade on Lake Superior, between Gordon Island and Kingston, Ont., and laid her up at the end of that season in Chicago; in 1882 he was again on the Bigler, this time in the iron-ore trade from Escanaba, Mich., to Cleveland, Ohio. In 1883 he sailed the schooner Pelican (owned by R.K. Winslow), in the grain and ore trade, laying her up at Duluth; in 1884 he sailed the Richard Winslow (same owner), and also laid her up at Duluth (she was the biggest schooner afloat on the lakes at that time). In 1885 Captain Conner[sic] sailed the Niagara for James Corrigan, of Cleveland, and laid her up at Buffalo (in 1888 she was lost in Lake Superior with all hands together with her cargo of 1,565 tons of ore). In 1886 he again sailed the Richard Winslow, in the same trade, and laid her up at Chicago in 1887; in 1888 he a third time sailed her, and then laid her up at Cleveland.
In 1889-90 Captain Connor sailed the Thomas P. Sheldon, of Cleveland (Hale and others owners), in which vessel he owned an interest, and in the fall of that year laid her up at Sandusky; in 1891 he sailed a tug out of Toledo, and in 1892 sailed the schooner Brunette (Parmer & Co., of Cleveland, owners), in which he also had an interest, laying her up at Cleveland the fall of that year. During the following winter, from January 2 to February 26, 1893, he was on the Ann Arbor No. 1, between Frankfort, Mich., and Kewaunee, Wis., while during the regular season of that year he sailed the Nellie Redington (owned by Parmer & Co.), in general freight trade, and laid her up at Chicago at the close of the season, and then retired from seafaring life. In April, 1894, he purchased his present cigar and newspaper stand at No. 723 West Madison street, Chicago.
Captain Connor is a genial, warm-hearted man, popular wherever he is known, a typical sailor, and his career as such has proved him to be one of the most careful, judicious and successful shipmasters that ever sailed the Great lakes, and he never lost a vessel nor a life. From the above recital it will be seen that no less than seven of the vessels which he had at one time or other commanded - the Gilbert Mollison, Isaac G. Jenkins, Belle Mitchell, George B. Case, Luzern, Niagara and Pelican - became total losses. During the long period he commanded vessels on the lakes he was a member of the Shipmasters Association. In fraternal affiliations he is identified with Oswego Lodge No. 127, F. & A.M., and of Thatcher Chapter No. 101, R.A.M. of Cleveland, Ohio.
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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.