Captain James Drake
Captain James Drake is a descendant of a long-lived family, and is also one of the oldest masters on the Great Lakes. His father, Alexander Drake, who died in 1866, was a native of Ireland, and a carpenter and joiner by trade. His mother, Martha (Martin) Drake, died in 1870 at the advanced age of eighty-five years. There were nine children in the family - five sons and four daughters as follows: Jane, Mary Ann, Elizabeth, Martha, Alexander, John, Thomas, James and Samuel. Three sons, Thomas, John and James, became sailors. Thomas dying in the West Indies, and John at Toronto Bay, Ontario. Of the daughters, Elizabeth died at the age of forty, Martha at seventy-six, Jane at ninety and Mary Ann also at ninety.
Captain Drake was born November 27, 1825, at Donaghadee, Ireland, at which place he received his education. At an early age he began a seafaring life by serving an apprenticeship for a term of four years on the ocean bark Agitator, upon which he was also second mate two years and mate four years. In 1851 he came to Buffalo and in July of that year shipped on the propeller Ohio for the rest of the season. For the season of 1852 he was second mate of the propeller Saginaw, 1853 of the Mayflower, 1854-55-56 of the propeller Plymouth, brought out new in 1854. The following season he was given master's berth in the steamer Illinois, and in 1860 he was mate of the Missouri. During the latter season he was master of the tug Dragon which he took to New York City and sold to the United States Government. The following season he was master of the propeller Saginaw; 1862-63 of the Concord; 1864 of the Mayflower; 1865 of the Plymouth; 1866 master of the old propeller Buffalo part of the season. The following season, 1867, he was given master's berth in the propeller Oneida, in the passenger trade between Buffalo and Chicago, which he held eleven consecutive seasons and without any accidents of mishaps. The boats which he sailed or sailed upon were all the property of the Western Transportation Company.
In 1878 he was given command of the new propeller Buffalo, of [the] same line, which position he held for ten seasons. While on his steamer, in the year 1880, he rendered valuable service to the steamer John McGlidden, owned by Philip Minch. The Glidden took fire in her boiler room on her way down Lake Huron. It was discovered about 5:45 o'clock in the morning, and Captain Drake, who was on the up trip in the Buffalo, went to her, and with the aid of the hose and pumps of his boat succeeded in quenching the fire in about an hour. The timely assistance thus rendered saved the Glidden, as she was helpless at the time. Captain Trinter, of the Glidden, wrote the owners of the Buffalo on December 17, following, enquiring if they claimed damages for Captain Drake's aid, to which Captain Drake was directed to reply that they did not. But on the following Christmas Captain Drake received the sum of one hundred dollars from Captain Trinter as reward for the meritorious service rendered. His last service with the Western Transit Company, formerly the Western Transportation Company, by which he was employed for thirty-seven years, was during the season of 1888, when he was master of the steamer Wyoming. Captain Drake was one of the original stockholders of the Western Transit Company, and was the last to sell his stock when the New York Central Railroad Company became the purchaser. Since that time he has retired permanently from a long and successful career upon the Great Lakes. Captain Drake was a charter member of the Ship Masters Association, and still retains his membership.
In 1858 the Captain was married at Buffalo to Elizabeth Maybury, a daughter of George Maybury, of English descent, a Buffalo boat-builder, who came to Buffalo in 1845. They have had six children, five of whom are still living: Elizabeth, wife of Walter Voss, clerk of the Board of Trade; Martha M., wife of John W. Livers, a druggist doing business at Kaslo, British Columbia; Frank M., second mate of the propeller Chili with Captain Alexander Drake for the season of 1896; Spencer A., clerk in the drug store of his brother-in-law at Kaslo, British Columbia; and Kate D., at home. The family residence is at No. 305 Auburn avenue, Buffalo, New York.
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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.