Hiram Garretson was one of the pioneers of the Lake Superior shipping trade, who made his first appearance in the commercial life of the Great Lakes in 1852. He was the son of Quaker parents, and was born in York county, Penn., July 5, 1817. The family removed to New Lisbon, Columbiana county, Ohio, while he was very young. His father opened a general store in that place, and young Hiram attended the country schools, obtaining as good an education as was possible there. He then became a clerk in his father's store, where he remained until he was nineteen years of age. His commercial instincts were strong, and about this time he perceived the advantages of the trading life on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. This commerce was carried on at that time in rudely constructed boats that dropped down the rivers with cargoes consisting of a general assortment of needful commodities, stopping at each town or village and remaining as long as it is profitable to do so. As there were few stores along the route, this form of commerce prospered greatly. At the end of the trip, the boats were sold in New Orleans for what they would bring, and the owners returned to their homes to prepare for another voyage. Mr. Garretson continued in this venture for some time, after which he returned to New Lisbon and succeeded to his father's business there, remaining until 1851 when he disposed of his interests, and in 1852 he removed to Cleveland. He was accompanied by two fellow townsmen, Dr. Leonard Hanna and Robert Hanna, brothers, also residents of New Lisbon, and the three upon reaching Cleveland set out in business together, under the firm name of Hanna, Garretson & Co. They acted as forwarding commission merchants, shipping supplies of various kinds for the copper and iron mines in the Lake Superior regions, and bringing down the mass copper that was mined there to be shipped to the East for smelting. At the time they began business, there was but one vessel of importance in the Lake Superior trade, and against the advice of others they began the construction of a steamer for their own use. This vessel, the City of Superior, proved a complete success, but it was lost after a few trips. Nothing dismayed, the firm at once commenced another vessel, the Northern Light, which was in service for a long period.
On the death of Dr. Leonard Hanna, the firm was dissolved. Mr. Garretson withdrew and founded the house of H. Garretson & Co., on Water street, with a shipping house on the river. There he carried on business similar to that of the former establishment, having in time a line of fine steamers, running to the Lake Superior region. He was also agent for the Union Steamboat Company with vessels plying on Lake Erie, on which the mass copper was received from the Lake Superior region and reshipped to the East. He built up a very large business, which stood in the first rank at the close of the year 1867, in the amount of annual sales. In that year he sold out the business and organized the Cleveland Banking Company, which was opened for business, with Mr. Garretson as president, February 1, 1868, with a capital of $350,000. This became one of the most important financial institutions of the city. In 1869 the Cleveland Banking Company was merged in the Second National Bank, upon the reorganization of the latter. Mr. Garretson became cashier of the new institution, holding that position for five years, when he was elected president. He retained the latter office until his death, which occurred May 7, 1876. Mr. Garretson was interested in various enterprises during his long business career, and was one of the most prominent characters of his time in Cleveland. He took a keen interest in current events, and was patriotic and public spirited.
Mr. Garretson was twice married. He was first united with Miss Margaret K. Armstrong, whose death occurred in 1852. They had three children, of whom one son, Gen. George A. Garretson, is living. He is president of the National Bank of Commerce, which bank is the outgrowth of the old Second National Bank. Afterwards, Mr. Garretson was married to Mrs. Ellen M. Howe, by whom he had three children, a daughter, Ellen, now Mrs. J.H. Wade, being the only one living.
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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.