Captain Selah Dustin
During his lifetime Capt. Selah Dustin was perhaps as well known a figure as any man in the city of Detroit, where he made his home, when not sailing on the lakes, for a period of more than fifty years. He was born in Claremont, N. H., in 1817, and when nineteen years of age he left home making his way to Detroit.
He soon found employment with Captain Atwood as wheelsman, and at the end of three seasons was promoted to the captaincy of the steamer Swan. This vessel he left in 1847, having purchased an interest in the John Owen, a boat running between Detroit and Toledo, touching at Monroe. There being no railroad competition at this time the boat did a prosperous business, and a good deal of money was made out of it. A few years later Captain Dustin secured a controlling interest in the Dart, a really excellent boat, which he placed on the Toledo route and kept there until the building of the Detroit, Monroe & Toledo railroad, when, in 1854, she was placed on the up-river route, making trips between Detroit and Port Huron and stopping, as do the steamers of today, at all way ports. For two years the Dart had no opposition, and literally coined money for her owners; but in 1856 Capt. E. B. Ward, seeing how profitable the business was, put a boat on the route and, therefore, began a steamboat war of rates that is still remembered by the older heads along the river. The rates of fare to Port Huron was reduced to twenty- five cents by Captain Dustin. Ward met the cut and provided a band for amusement of his patrons. Dustin then made the rate twenty-five cents for the round trip and hired a band, too. And thus the fight was kept up until the fare was cut on both boats to ten cents for the round trip and meals thrown in. Captain Dustin made a gamy fight, but Captain Ward had the longest purse, although Dustin was said to be worth $50,000 when the fight opened. His resources were eventually so badly crippled that with a hope of arresting the impending failure he organized a stock company among the merchants of the small towns along the St. Clair river. This turned out to be only a temporary relief, and he finally retired from the contest with only a small portion of his original fortune left. This money he invested, in 1873, in a small vessel which he operated in the peach trade between St. Joseph and Chicago for one season, the boat being burned in midlake early in the second season. Her loss completed Captain Dustin's financial ruin, and his connection with the lakes ceased. He died in St. Mary's Hospital in Detroit August 13, 1888 at the age of seventy-one, after an illness of about four weeks.
Captain Dustin was married, in 1858, at Claremont, N. H. to Miss Frances R. Ashley, by whom he had four children: Edward A., of the firm of Ashley & Dustin; Oliver S., a member of the same firm; and Katherine A. and Rosamond L., who are teachers in the Detroit Public Schools.
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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.