Captain Peter Peterson
Captain Peter Peterson, master and half owner of the large fore-and-aft schooner Winnie Wing, is one of the oldest and best known captains plying on the Great Lakes, having braved many of the worst storms since his career as captain, thus showing his ability and skill in handling a vessel. He has prospered in his calling, which he followed from boyhood, and which was in a way inherited from his forefathers.
Captain Peterson was born in a small town of Fredericka, Denmark, in the year 1839, being one of four sons born to Peter and Cairn Nelson. Peter Nelson was a fisherman, and followed that occupation in Denmark through life. His son, Peter, in early life, turned his attention to sailing, and at the age of fifteen went before the mast, sailing from Denmark on coast vessels plying the Baltic Sea, in which capacity he served seven years. In the winter of 1861 he took passage at Hamburg, Germany, on the ship John Bertram, and set sail for New York. From there he went to Chicago, arriving in March, and at once began his career as sailor on the lakes, sailing before the mast on the schooner O. Hayden for about one-half the season; he then shipped on the Metropolis for the balance of the year. During the season of 1862 he was on the schooner Three Bells, and in 1863 on the schooner Manitou, Walrus and Marcon. In 1864 he went to New York, where he took passage on the steamer Morning Star, going to Havana, New Orleans and back to New York. Later he returned to Chicago, and in 1865 sailed on the schooner Triumph, which was lost at the North pier during the early part of the season. He then shipped on the schooner Planet, and in the fall of that year made a visit to his old home in Denmark, crossing the ocean on the steamer Allemania. Returning in 1868 he sailed on the schooner Sonora as mate, and in the same capacity for a part of the season of 1867. In 1868 he was mate of the schooner Beloit; 1869 he sailed on the Minnie Corlett as master, remaining with her until 1872, when he purchased an interest in the Winnie Wing, which he still sails. For more than a quarter of a century he has been in command of this vessel, a record that would be difficult to surpass. The Winnie Wing was formerly engaged in the grain trade, but is now mostly carrying lumber. He also owns half interest in the schooner Apprentice Boy, in partnership with Capt. John Peil, purchasing it about 1889. In 1868 Captain Peterson was married to Miss Anna Miller, and to them five girls (all of whom are dead) and two boys were born. Peter, the eldest son, is married and resides in Chicago, his occupation being that of a bookkeeper; Thomas J. is following in the footsteps of his father, and has for the past four years sailed as mate of the Winnie Wing.
In 1879 the Captain's wife died, after a protracted illness of several years, and two years later he married his second wife, Miss Bertha Rathke, a native of Germany. Two children blessed this union, but died while yet in their infancy.
In the winter of 1896-97 Captain and Mrs. Peterson visited their old homes in Denmark and Germany, respectively, and passed a couple of months among their old friends and acquaintances very pleasantly.
The Captain is in every sense of the word a self-made man, and has now for thirty-seven years sailed out of Chicago. He has the record of towing more spars across the lake than did any of his contemporaries. Besides his interests in vessel property, he owns a three-story brick store and a residence on Clifton avenue and a three-story brick flat on Garfield avenue, Chicago.
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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.