Captain John Coulter
Captain John Coulter, whose early life was one of the kind to develop a strong reliance upon his own resources, and render his mind clear and bright and quick in its appreciation, has attained to the front rank among the many really capable shipmasters on the lakes. He was born on Amherst island near Kingston, Ont., on February 14, 1839, and has been sailing on the lakes and ocean since 1854, as boy, master and owner, without the loss of a vessel, a man or a friend. He is a son of William and Bessie (Hatch) Coulter, both natives of County Down, near Belfast, Ireland. They came to America about the year 1830, locating on Amherst island, the father following the lakes as mate on small hookers engaged in Lake Ontario trade, his last berth being second mate on the schooner J. P. Kirtland, of which his son John was master. After leaving Amherst island the subject of this sketch attended the common schools until 1851, when they removed to a farm near Bowmanville, Durham Co., Ont., which gave employment to both father and son.
In the spring of 1854 it was decided that young Coulter should embrace a marine life, and, shipping as cook on the Canadian schooner Rachel, he put in his first season. During the winter the Rachel was rebuilt at Oakville, Ont., her name being changed to Two Brothers, and John Coulter again shipped on her, this time before the mast, with Capt. William McDonald, until September, when he transferred to the schooner Mary Frances, closing the season in the John Heseman, all Canadian bottoms. In the spring of 1856 he joined the schooner Theresa, of St. Catharines; leaving her in June, at Chicago, he shipped on the bark Colonel Kemp, in Sacket's Harbor, then the bark Sonora, closing the season on the schooner C. North which he laid up. That winter he worked in Quayle & Martin's shipyard, in Cleveland, until February, 1857, when he went to Milan to work for J. P. Gay & Co., until opening of navigation. He then shipped before the mast on the schooner Darien. That fall he went to New Orleans, where he passed the winter. Returning to the lakes in the spring of 1858, he was appointed mate of the Darien, and at the close of the season he went to New York and joined the full-rigged ship Maid of Orleans, engaged in the coasting trade between that port and New Orleans. The next year he served as mate on the schooner Jason Parker, until September, when he was appointed master of the schooner Darien.
It may be said here that it is a pleasure to follow the episodes in the life of Capt. John Coulter, as his memory is tenacious and methodical. In 1860 the Captain was appointed master of the brig schooner J. C. Fremont, capable of carrying 13,000 bushels of wheat, holding that office until July 1, when he was transferred to the schooner J. P. Kirtland and sailed her until the close of the following season. In the spring of 1862 Captain Coulter brought out the new schooner H. S. Walbridge, and sailed her with good business success three years. In 1865 he purchased an interest in the schooner Kate Hinchman and sailed her. The next spring he took command of the schooner Autonto, a clipper in which he owned an interest, and sailed her four seasons. Being engaged in this enterprise he purchased an interest in the bark Frank Morell, in 1870, and sailed her four seasons, with good business results. In the spring of 1874 the Captain purchased a half-interest in the schooner S. L. Watson, then new, built by J. M. Jones at Detroit, of which he was master fourteen successive seasons. During the season of 1888 he stoped ashore for a well earned rest, and the next spring came out as master and part owner of the steamer Louisiana, which he sailed until August 1895; and having become a stockholder in the Yale Transit Company, he took command and brought out the new, fine steel steamer Yale, a vessel of 3,453 tons register, which he sailed for some time.
Capt. John Coulter was wedded to Miss Fanny E. Washburn (now deceased), January 15, 1861. Two children were born to this union; William J., the only one living, is a soldier in the second United States Regiment of Volunteer Engineers, now at Manila, in the Philippines. Captain Coulter took as a second wife Miss Mary A., daughter of Charles and Nancy J. Eldridge, pioneers of Milan, Ohio. The marriage ceremony was performed on December 19, 1866. The children born to this union are Fannie, and Libbie E., now the wife of Stephen Lockwood, of Milan, and who has a son named John Lockwood in honor of his grandfather. The family homestead is in Milan.
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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.