Halvor Michelson, a leading vessel owner and prosperous businessman of Chicago, is a native of Norway, born at Mellis Stavanger, in 1838, a son of Gunder and Christiana (Walverg) Michelson, also natives of that country. The father was a sailor, going before the mast at the early age of nine years, and sailed from Norway to all the principal ports of the world, and was a vessel owner and captain for thirty years, and more before coming to the New World, in 1854. He took up his residence in Chicago, and sailed out of that port for some years. During the Civil War he enlisted in the Navy, and was assigned to the vessel Florida, where he served until hostilities ceased. Later in life he became paralyzed and died in Chicago, in 1894, aged eighty-five years, his wife passing away in the same city in 1897, at the age of eighty-nine years.
Mr. Michelson, whose name introduces this sketch, lived in Norway for the first sixteen years of his life, and while quite young sailed with his father, becoming a pilot boy, in 1853, on vessels out of Stavanger, Norway. The following year he accompanied his parents on their emigration to America, and in Chicago learned the trade of sailmaking, starting in that business for himself in 1861, his sail loft being located on South Water Street, and continued in this until it was destroyed in the great fire of October, 1871, with a loss of over $12,000. Undaunted by reverses he began life anew, and became interested in the business with other parties for a few years. In 1864 he became interested in vessel property, his first boats being the schooners Yankee Blade and the Maine, the former of which was lost in Green Bay, the latter off Milwaukee. In 1867 he built the Holmes and Michelson, and one year later the Cecelia, which was lost in White Fish Bay, Lake Michigan. In partnership with William Johnson he built the Lena Johnson, which they sold a few years later. He has owned interests in many other vessels, including the Ebenezer, which was lost in 1892, but which was later reclaimed and is now in commission. At one time he owned an interest in the schooner Barbarian, which he has since sold. His present fleet consists of six good vessels, which sail from the port of Chicago, engaged in the lumber trade. One of these is the scow Four Brothers, built by Charles Reitz, in 1880; another is the E. R. Blake, built in 1868, which he purchased of Mr. Blake, of Port Washington; and the Grace M. Filer, built in Chicago, in 1883, by Mr. Michelson, who also had the C. Michelson, a two-masted schooner built at White Hall, Mich., and brought out in 1868. He bought the George A. March in Chicago, a vessel built in Muskegon, Mich., in 1868, and the A. J. Morey, built at Miller's shipyard, Chicago, and purchased by Mr. Michelson, in 1895. He is a safe, conservative and reliable businessman, who has achieved success entirely through his own efforts, and has the respect and confidence of all with whom he comes in contact, either in business or in social life.
In 1863, in Chicago, Mr. Michelson was united in marriage with Miss Christina Johnson, a native of Norway, and a daughter of Christopher Johnson, one of the early pioneers of Chicago. Of the eleven children born to this union, seven are still living, namely: Gideon, now a shipmaster; Mrs. Ida Torsen, whose husband is an attorney, and was a member of the Board of Education of Chicago, in 1897; Walter, who is engaged in the drug business on the corner of Erie Street and Center Avenue; Herbert, a dentist of Chicago; Victor, an attendant at the Lewis Institute; Anna, a student in the high school; and Norman.
Although a stanch Republican in politics, Mr. Michelson usually votes independent of party ties on local matters. He was president of the Lake Carriers Association for three years, and vice-president for two years; and is connected with Mt. Olivet Scandinavian Cemetery Association, of which he has been president for the past four years. He is also a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen.
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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.