Captain Peter Peterson
Captain Peter Peterson, master of the schooner Emily B. Maxwell has been a seafaring man all his life, having obtained an extensive experience on both salt and fresh water. His father followed the same avocation, and was a native of a country that has been noted for its hardy sailors.
Captain Peterson was born in Sweden in 1866, the son of Mons and Engar (Jenson) Peterson, both natives of Sweden. Mons Peterson was in early life a fisherman and later commanded a coaster on the shores of Sweden, remaining a shipmaster until his death in 1894; his widow still resides in Sweden. Our subject was a boy of fifteen when he went before the mast, sailing from the port of Cimbrishamn, Sweden, along the coasts of the Baltic and North seas, and England. After three years on the seas young Peterson, in 1884, came to Chicago, and here he continued the life of a mariner, begun in his native land. He shipped in that year on the schooner Radical, and by degrees worked steadily up until he became master of the Radical, remaining on that boat seven years in various capacities. For two seasons he was shipmaster of the schooner Mystic. In 1894 he was appointed master of the schooner Emily B. Maxwell, and has ever since held that command. The Maxwell is owned by Mrs. J.P. Mullin, of Chicago, and has been in commission since 1880.
During the season of 1896 Captain Peterson met with a collision in the Straits of Mackinac. The Maxwell was struck by the schooner Col. Ellsworth and damaged slightly. The Maxwell at the time was loaded with stone, and aboard was the family of the master, and Captain Peterson was at first considerable alarmed on that account, but soon learned that the Ellsworth was the greater sufferer of the two and she soon sank. Captain Peterson rescued the crew and took them ashore. The Maxwell is a three-mast schooner, and is one of the finest models on the lakes as one of the fastest of her class. During the summer of 1897 Captain Peterson made one of the fastest trips on record. He took a cargo of corn from Chicago to Sarnia, Can., and unloaded her, then loaded her with cedar at Alpena and returned to Chicago in nine and one-half days.
Captain Peterson seems destined to experience eventful trips on the Maxwell, all of them to his credit. In the fall of 1897, the boat was chartered by a Chicago man to go Collingwood for a cargo of lumber, but insisted that he himself be given the command. The owner consented, and Captain Peterson accompanied the new master as mate. On arriving in Collingwood, the captain of the vessel showed himself in his true light by passing himself off as the owner of the vessel and securing several hundred dollars on false pretenses - giving the ship's papers as security - and left for other places. Mate Peterson cleverly outwitted the Canadian firm, after the owners had wired him to take charge of the vessel, secured clearance papers, and under cover of night sought American waters, landing at Alpena, Mich., where he told his story to the customs house officers. He was assured he had acted wisely and well, and the owner of the Maxwell was congratulated on having a skipper so true to his trust. Captain Peterson is regarded as one of the efficient and representative ship masters of the Great 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.