Captain William Firby
Captain William Firby, commander of the Landsdowne, is a shipmaster well known in Detroit and vicinity, having been employed upon boats in that region for many years, during which time he has come in contact with a large number of lakefaring men, among whom he has many warm friends.
Captain Firby was born October 11, 1846, at Windsor, Ont., and at that place and neighboring towns he has made his residence the greater part of his life. He attended the Detroit schools until his fourteenth year, when he began the life of a sailor, in 1860 shipping on the Gem as Wheelsman, in which position he remained part of a season. The following year he went on the Mohawk Chief in the same capacity, and he also served as wheelsman upon the L. L. Lyon for two seasons, after which he took command of the propeller Belle Stockton, owned by himself and father. He sailed this boat until August, 1865, when she was burned at Bear Creek, and then went on the steamer Canada, continuing with her until she went ashore in the fall. In the spring he came out in the Windsor, which was burned in April, the Captain thus suffering shipwreck and fire three times within nine months. He then began tugging on the Detroit river, engaging in that business until 1870, when he was given command of the steambarge Minnie, for the Peninsular Iron Company. In 1871 he acted as mate on the ferry Hope, and then held the same berth on the Victoria for three years, spending the season of 1875 on the D. R. Van Allen, and the two following seasons on the George L. Dunlap and Dove, running between Bay City and Alpena in the Mail line. He spent one season as mate upon the St. Paul, running between Cleveland and Mackinaw, and afterward went on the Saginaw Valley as mate for one year, in 1881 becoming mate on the Sanilac with Capt. Angus E. Keith. His next employment was with the Detroit, Belle Isle & Windsor Ferry Co., and he served several years on the Sappho and Excelsior, and three years on the Ariel, running between Detroit and Walkerville. In the spring of 1890 the Captain went on the Great Western, of the Grand Trunk line, on which he remained in command until May 1, 1892, when he accepted the position of master on the Landsdowne, which he still retains.
On January 20, 1870, Captain Firby was married to Miss Mary Church, of Philadelphia, who is a daughter of Capt. Henry Church, formerly a salt-water sailor. They have four children; Henry William, who is in the grocery business in Detroit; Lydia F., who is married to W. G. Trafton and resides in San Jose, Cal.; and Elizabeth and Thomas, who still reside at home. Captain Firby belongs to the Select Knights of Canada, holding membership with Beaver Lodge at Windsor.
Return to Home Port
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.