Captain Martin A. Gunderson
Captain Martin A. Gunderson is a worthy representative of that highly respected and honored class of Chicago's citizens, whose lives have been mostly spent upon the lakes. He was born in Norway, in 1835, a son of Gunder T. and Mary Ann Gunderson, also natives of the same country. The father was a seafaring man in early life, but after his emigration to America, August 14, 1848, he located in Milwaukee, and only engaged in sailing, until fall, being wheelsman on the steamer Champion. He then removed to Chicago, and turned his attention to lathing. He died in that city, December, 1886, having survived his wife for several years, her death having occurred in the same city in 1870.
In 1849, at the age of fourteen years, Captain Gunderson, the subject of this review, commenced sailing before the mast on the schooner E. Mint, plying between Chicago and Holland, Mich.; he having on the 18th of November of the previous year become a resident of Chicago. He remained on this vessel for one season, and for a part of the next, she being lost in 1850. The Captain's next berth was on the schooner Bolivar, engaged in the lumber trade between Chicago and Grand River, now Grand Haven, the master of this boat being Capt. Ole Oleson, who died of cholera, in 1851, at the mouth of the Kalamazoo harbor, and was buried there. For a part of the following season our subject was on the schooner Ark, engaged in the lumber trade to Michigan points, and owned and sailed by Captain Clawson and Thomas Sims, of Chicago. During the season of 1852 and a part of 1853 he was on the small schooner Petrel, commanded by Capt. Samuel Randolph, carrying Governor Marshall and other government officers to Manistee, Mich., who were engaged in looking after government lands, especially timber lands. He closed the season of 1853 on the schooner Mary E. Hilliard, plying between Chicago and Buffalo in the grain trade, Captain Naper being in command.
In 1854 he was on the bark Orleans, employed in the lumber trade, and the schooner Merchant; and during a part of the season of 1855 was on the schooner General Wert, now the Raber, engaged in the grain trade; then joined the schooner Abigail, in the lumber trade. At that time they had to cart the wheat and load their own vessel, hand to hand. On leaving the General Wert, Captain Gunderson sailed on the bark Morgan, in the grain trade between Chicago and Buffalo, but finished the season on the schooner Paulina, running in the interest of the Muskegon lumber trade. In 1855 was on the schooner Liberty with Capt. John Miller, of Racine, and the following year he and his brother, G. Gunderson bought the schooner Arabella, plying in the lumber trade between Chicago and Muskegon. In 1857 they purchased the schooner Pilot, engaged in the wood trade on the west shore of Lake Michigan, and in 1858 our subject went to Michigan City, where he engaged in fishing for part of that season. During the rest of the season of 1858 and the season of 1859 he sailed the schooner Orion, which was owned by Edward Sackett, and in 1860 sailed the Pilot as captain and mate, and for a part of the season of 1861 was mate of the schooner Attica, belonging to Captain Sims. In 1862 he bought the scow Hercules used in the Lake Michigan and Green Bay trade, and after sailing her one season bought the George Steele, on which he took a load of grain to Kingston, N.Y. In 1864 he engaged in the grain trade between Chicago and Oswego, N.Y., but the following year sold her to Andrew McGraw, and purchased the schooner Telegraph, which he sailed for the rest of that season. On selling her he bought the schooner E. Scoville, of Milwaukee, which he sailed one season, selling her in the fall, after which he purchased the schooner Contest, which he sailed for three successive seasons. She was lost in a snowstorm off Point Pelee island, Lake Erie, in 1873.
In 1874 he bought the schooner Carrier, which he used in the Lake Superior iron trade until selling her in 1894. He also owned the schooners Racine and T.Y. Avery, but sold the former in 1888, and the latter in 1896. He was actively engaged in marine affairs until 1896, giving special attention to lake traffic. He was harbor master under Mayor Washburne's and Mayor Swift's administration, but is now practically living retired after a long and useful career, though he still gives some attention to the real-estate business. In addition to a fine three-story flat building, in which he makes his home, he owns a number of buildings in Chicago, which he rents. Fraternally, he is a member of the Chicago Vessel Owners Association.
In 1855, in Chicago, Captain Gunderson was married to Miss Amelia M. Gunderson, and of the eight children born to them, seven are now living, namely: Matilda Getsena, wife of Soren M. Peterson; George A., a lake captain; Josephine; Henrietta, wife of Viggo Olson; Minnie Jane; Arthur M. and Emma Mae.
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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.