Captain George L. Graser
Captain George L. Graser has the reputation of being one of the most careful navi- gators on the Great Lakes. He is of German extraction, being a son of Valentine and Anna Grace Graser, both of whom were natives of Germany. Valentine Graser was a cutter by trade. He reared quite a family of children, four of whom are now living besides the subject of this sketch, viz: William, who was a superintendent in the Buffalo post office seven years, but later engaged in the hardware business; Valentine, a cigarmaker; Jacob, a harnessmaker; and Hattie, wife of Mr. McBodie, a resident of Chicago.
Captain Graser was born at Buffalo in 1848, and attended Public School No. 12. He began sailing in the fall of 1862, as waiter in the steamer Plymouth, in which he remained about three seasons, in 1865 entering the service of the propeller Buffalo as watchman, but was compelled to leave her before the close of the season because of illness. During the following season he was watchman and lookout respectively on the Potomac, and the succeeding season he wheeled the Roanoke. The next two seasons he wheeled the old Empire State, and for the three following seasons he was second mate, respectively, of the Empire State, Potomac and Mohawk, and then again mate of the Potomac, His next service was a second mate of the Waverly two seasons, then mate of the Jay Gould part of a season, and second of the Starrucca for the remainder. He then was mate of the Avon half a season, being transferred from that berth to master's berth in the Jay Gould, which he filled for a season and a half. About that time Captain Graser left the lake service for a couple of seasons, during which he was stevedore for the Lake Superior Transportation Company one year, and for the Anchor line for a like period. Returning to his former line of work, he obtained mate's berth in the steamer Arizona for part of a season, from which he was transferred to the same position in the Delaware, remaining on her until the last trip of the season, which he made in the steamer Susquehanna. For the season of 1887 Captain Graser was master of the Arizona until November 17, when she burned inside the breakwater at Marquette, Mich. Her cargo consisted of 800 barrels of oil, 100 tanks of acid, 1,400 boxes of tar paper, matches, some candles, turpentine, canned goods and a deckload of wheelbarrows. She took fire about five miles out, and had just time enough to get into the harbor before the fire gained such headway that the crew were compelled to jump for their lives. The conflagration was so brilliant that the people of Marquette called the steamer the "Wild Arizona." She burned to the water's edge, but was subsequently rebuilt and made over into a steambarge.
During the following five seasons Captain Graser was master of the steamer Gordon Campbell, and in 1893 he became master of the steamer Cayuga, which was sunk in a fog about two miles below Skillagalee light May 10, 1895, coming in collision with the steamer Joseph S. Hurd, a lumber barge. The Cayuga was loaded with flour, and went down in 101 feet of water; her crew was picked up by the steamer Manola and taken to Mackinaw. Captain Graser finished that season as master of the propeller Chili for a couple of trips. During the season of 1896, until August, he was master of the excursion steamer Nellie, out of Buffalo harbor, for the remainder of that season was mate of the Chili, and has been in that position ever since. Captain Graser has been ten seasons with the Union line, ten with the Western Transit line, and nine with the Anchor line and was always a favorite with his employers. He has been a member of the Ship Masters Association about eight years, and of Local Harbor No. 41, of the American Association of Masters and Pilots, since its organization.
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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.