Captain Gabriel Gunderson
The Captain is a native of Norway, whose rugged sons have manned so many of lake craft with natural-born mariners. Born near the village of Farsonin in 1831, he is a son of S.T. and Anna M. Gunderson. His early education was such as the schools of his native land then afforded. It ended when he attained the age of sixteen, and he then began the practical education upon the seas, the beginning of a career that was to last for many long years, and to close with honor and credit to himself. The first nautical experience of Captain Gunderson was obtained in coasting vessels along the shores of his native land. At the age of sixteen he went to sea, but a year later came to America, locating first at Milwaukee, as his future home. In the fall of 1848 he came to Chicago by stage, as there was then no rail communication between the two cities, and Chicago has ever since claimed him as a resident. Immediately upon his arrival in the new land the young sailor sought and secured employment upon the lakes. For a time he was on a small vessel, but he closed the season of 1848 as a sailor aboard the schooner Whig.
In 1849 he went on the schooner Industry for a short time, and then shipped aboard the Honest John, owned by Charles Meyers. The following year, 1850, he sailed the Mary Hilliard, owned by Charles Walker, Capt. Jack Naper being master. The same year he went aboard the brig General Worth out of Cleveland, and later in the same season sailed on the ship Merchant, Capt. Arthur Atkins, master. During the year 1851 he sailed on the brig Venice, the captain and mate of which were subsequently drowned from another vessel, which capsized while entering the harbor of Grand Haven. The next venture of Captain Gunderson was under Captain Hammer on the brig Hoosier owned by John Reed, a lumberman. Captain Hammer was subsequently drowned while on passage to the old country, the vessel going to the bottom. In 1855 Captain Gunderson, then twenty-four years of age, purchased an interest in the schooner Arabella, of which he became master. In 1861 he bought the Pilot, built in Ashtabula, and commanded her for two seasons. In 1863 he sold the Pilot and then purchased the Montauk, which he sailed as master until 1882. On November 24 of that year she was lost off the Manitou during a heavy snowstorm, ran aground with dragged anchor and went to pieces, a total wreck. At the time his son was aboard. Through the admirable seamanship displayed by Captain Gunderson the entire crew was saved, not a man perishing. The loss of his ship proved to be the end of Captain Gunderson's active life upon the lakes. He had previously made investments in Chicago property, and these he now manages. He has been eminently successful in life, and is one of the best known old-time vesselmen of the city. His friends in marine circles are as many as his acquaintances.
Captain Gunderson was married at Chicago in March, 1853, to Miss Mary Johnson. His children are G.M. Gunderson, of Chicago, and Mrs. Lena Decker, also of Chicago. The Captain is a member of Covenant Lodge No. 526, F. & A.M., of Washington Chapter No. 43, and of Chicago Commandery No. 19. He was formerly a member of Union Lodge No. 19, I.O.O.F., joining over thirty years ago. In politics he is a Republican. He is well preserved mentally and physically, and now lives in the easy retirement which is the boon of his business career. His cool judgment in the face of danger, his fertility of resource, his bravery, and skill never deserted him. No life was ever lost aboard a vessel while he was in command, and the same sagacious judgment has been evinced in his business affairs. Combined as these indispensable traits are with the courtesy of a gentleman in the personality of Captain Gundersen[sic], there is found one of the oldest living lake masters, a fitting representative of the school of long ago, yet one who has ever since kept abreast with the advancements of recent years, and who most happily combines with the progress of the present the memories, the deeds and the spirit of his younger days upon the lakes.
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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.