Captain James Gibson
Captain James Gibson, the well known vessel master, was born at Port Williams, in the south of Scotland, May 1, 1834, and there he attended a parish school. He came of a family noted in marine circles, being a distant relative of Sir John Ross, the Arctic explorer. His father, Peter Gibson, was the owner of several coasting and fishing vessels in Scotland. All the male members of the family were mariners, his brother Robert for many years commanding one of the mail steamers running from Liverpool to the Isle of Man. His brother William is harbor-master at Port William, Scotland.
Captain Gibson located at Cleveland in 1853, and assisted in the survey of part of the head of Lake Erie, under Captain Stansbury. In the winter of 1853-54 he helped to build the railroad across Sandusky bay, and in the latter season he shipped as wheelsman on the Queen of the Lakes under Captain Smith, and served in that capacity until the fall, when he was made second mate, which berth he filled until the close of the season of 1855. In 1856 he was second mate of the Potomac, and in 1857 was mate of the schooner George D. Dowsman, of Cleveland, afterward an ocean vessel. In 1858 he was second mate of the Kenosha until she was laid up, remaining aboard, however, as shipkeeper, and receiving $15 per month for his services. That fall he was mate of the Forest Queen with Captain Fields. In 1859 he was second mate of the Susquehanna; in 1860, mate of the Eliza Logan, except the latter part of the season, when he was mate of the old propeller Buffalo. In 1861 he became mate of the propeller Mohawk, with Captain Pheatt, and remained on her three seasons.
In 1864 Captain Gibson first became master. The fore part of that season he was on the Neptune, of the Western Transportation Company, and on the Acme the latter part. Beginning with 1865 he commanded the Mohawk five consecutive seasons. It was during the summer of 1865 that the steamer Meteor collided with the Pewabic near Thunder bay, drowning about 150 people. The Mohawk was at the scene of disaster shortly after its occurrence, and Captain Gibson took on board the Mohawk about one hundred people, and also the remains of Mrs. Weller, of Lexington, Ky., and carried them to Detroit. J.T, Whitting, of Detroit, presented to Captain Gibson one of the Pewabic's life preservers that had been on one of the saved persons. In 1870 Captain Gibson was transferred to the propeller Fountain City, and sailed her thirteen consecutive seasons, at the conclusion of which period he was transferred to the Idaho, and Capt. Donald Gillies, his son-in-law, filled the vacated berth. For three years, commencing with 1884, he held the position of inspector of hulls for the Ninth district. In 1887 he was master of the Saginaw Valley, and in 1888 of the Lackawanna. The following year he took command of the propeller America, built by the Drake Syndicate, and sailed her for seven seasons. During 1896 he was master of the steamer Brazil, and in 1897 of the steamer Chili. The Captain is the seventy-third member of the Ship Masters Association.
At Fond du Lac, Wis., June 27, 1857, Captain Gibson was married to Miss Lydia M. Stephens, of Schoharie county, N.Y. Her father, Perry C. Stephens, was a veteran of the war of 1812, and her grandfathers were soldiers of the Revolutionary war. The Captain and his wife have four children living: Mary E., wife of Capt. Donald Gillies, of the lake service; Susan Pheatt, wife of Elmer E. Summey, of Buffalo; J. Robert, master of the steamer America; and Isabella A., wife of Lawrence H. Gardner, of East Aurora, N.Y. The residence of the Captain is at No. 692 Prospect street, Buffalo, New York.
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.