Captain George Gutcher
Captain George Gutcher, a saltwater sailor who has visited foreign ports in all latitudes, but at this time with the Independent Ferry line plying between Duluth and Superior, was born August 3, 1849, in South Parish, South Ronaldsha, Orkney Islands, Scotland. He is a son of James and Catherine (Taylor) Gutcher, both of whom were also natives of the Orkney Islands. The father occupied a farm of seventy-five acres, was in the employ of the Northern Lighthouse Company for twenty-five years, and became general manager of his district, having charge of the boats of the company plying between the islands. The father died on July 25, 1858, and the mother on March 27, 1867.
Capt. George Gutcher attended the academy at South Parish until fifteen years of age, and leaving home April 9, 1864, shipped in the schooner Reaper for Leith, Scotland. His next berth was on the bark Malcom, of Newcastle, making a voyage to Copenhagen, going thence to Wendon on the Baltic Sea and returning to South Shields, the voyage occupying four months and twenty-two days. He then joined the brig Earl of Aberdeen, as ordinary seaman, on a voyage to Cronstadt, Russia, returning to Hull and Grimsby on the Humber. His next berth was on the brig Narvoa, trading to ports in the Gulf of Finland, until fall, when he went to North Shields, with Captain Ashton, in the Baltic Sea trade. The brig was stranded on this voyage on the Island of Gutland, but was released and proceeded on her voyage to Narva Bay on the Gulf of Finland, returning to London, England, Captain Gutcher receiving an able seaman's discharge from Captain Ashton. He then shipped in the brig Dorothy, of Blyth, bound for Alexandria in the Mediterranean Sea, and other ports in Egypt. He then returned to London, England, and shipped again, making two round trips in the coal trade on steamer Useful, of Sunderland.
Between London and South Shields, February 12, 1867, he joined the steamship Prince Consort, on a voyage to Kirkwall, the capital town of the Orkney Islands, arriving there on the 21st. He then went to the Island of Ronaldsha, and to his home in South Parish. On March 2, 1867, he took passage on the steamer Margaret for the Shetlands Islands, to see the town of Gutcher, at Gutchers bay, returning to his home March 14, 1867. He remained there until March 25, when he joined the steamship Queen on a voyage to Glasgow. On April 6, 1867, he shipped on steamship Hibernia on a voyage to New York, which was accompanied with great danger, the vessel being caught in a hurricane on April 14, and was almost given up for lost; but she weathered the storm and arrived in New York April 22. He reached Buffalo April 25, 1867.
Captain Gutcher then saw his first service on the lakes. He shipped April 29, 1867, on the schooner Rush, of Buffalo, and transferred to the bark Forest King in November, and closed that season on the schooner Amazon. In the spring of 1868 he came out in the schooner Henry Fitzburg, and closed the season as mate on the schooner Snowdrop. In the spring of 1869 he came out in the schooner John Pugsley as mate, in July transferred to the Bay Queen in the same capacity, and in November joined the schooner Henry Fitzburg for last trip, which was one of great peril. She lost her foresail on Lake Ontario, sprung a leak on Lake Erie, went to Buffalo for repairs, and then to Chicago, losing all her sails in a snowstorm on Lake Michigan; lay to anchor near Pine river eight days and eleven hours, and was towed to Chicago, closing that season.
Captain Gutcher finished his education in the winter of 1867 and 1868, also studied the charts of the Great Lakes under a navigator of the lakes and ocean. In the spring of 1870 he joined the schooner David Sharp as mate, but in July transferred to the Bay Queen in the same capacity, taking command of her on the last trip. The next year he was appointed master of the schooner Belle, which was followed by a season as master of the Laura Emma. In 1873 Captain Gutcher purchased the schooner Belle, and sailed her three seasons, doing a general trading business on his own account, doing well. He then sold her to a Mr. Goldring, and joined the schooner David Sharp as mate. In 1876 he bought the Laura Emma and sailed her three seasons, after which he became master of the Union. In the meantime Captain Gutcher had opened a general grocery store and bakery at Victoria, Ontario, which he conducted successfully until March 11, 1879, when he sold out.
In January, 1880, Captain Gutcher moved his family to Amherstburg, and was appointed master of the schooner Union, closing the season, and December 25, 1880, bought a general grocery store and bakery from James Burreman, of Amherstburg. In the spring of 1881, he was appointed mate of the schooner Prince Alexander, was wrecked at Leamington, in Pigeon bay, Lake Erie, April 25, and was left by himself to the mercy of the waves, tied to the tow post for five hours and forty-five minutes, and was then taken off by a fishing boat from the shore, after hundreds of waves had passed over him. On July 16, 1881, he was appointed mate of the bark Monitor, closing the season. Returning to Amherstburg, December 17, he sold his store and bakery to George S. Moonmystare.
In the spring of 1882 (April 13) he was appointed mate of the schooner Amaranth, and on May 15 moved his family to East Saginaw where he entered the employ of the E.R. Phinny Salt Works, closing the season. In 1883 he was appointed foreman of Steavens & LaDues salt block, where he remained four years. On April 25, 1886, he was appointed mate of the Marine City for two seasons. On March 9, 1888, he started in general painting business on his own account in West Bay City, where he remained until, April 12, 1892, he sold out, and on April 19, 1892, was appointed mate of the schooner Crowarth, closing the season. During the 1893-94 he worked at painting in the shipyards of Capt. James Davidson and F.W. Wheeler & Co., until July 6, 1895, when he joined the steamship Rappahannock on her maiden trip with Capt. James Davidson bound for Duluth, Minn. It was then that Captain Gutcher entered the employ of the Independent Ferryboat line, closing that season. On April 26, 1896, he was appointed master of the schooner Wissahickon, and fitted her out all ready for sea, but resigned for reasons best known to himself, and she foundered in Lake Erie, July 9, the captain, cook and one man being lost. In the meantime Captain Gutcher went to Saginaw to see about the loss of his property by fire, with no insurance - a heavy loss for himself and family. On March 29, 1897, Captain Gutcher again engaged with the Independent Ferryboat line, plying between Duluth and West Superior, which was followed by a season, and at this time he is engaged for the season of 1899.
Socially, Captain Gutcher is a Master Mason, a member of Erie Lodge No. 149. March 18, 1874, he was united in marriage to Miss Cythera Adelaide, eldest daughter of Francis Marr, of Port Dover, Ontario. The children born to this union are Daisy C., Bertha L., Isabelle, George Francis, and James William. Mrs. Gutcher died January 21, 1885. The Captain now makes his home in Duluth. In the meantime he is about closing a bargain on some land near Mahtowa, Carlton Co., Minn., where he will retire when old age overtakes him.
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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.