Captain Peter Peterson
Something of the old Viking blood must flow in the veins of this hardy son of Norway, who is known all around the Great Lakes as an able and fearless seaman. His long career as a captain on various vessels has been marked by unusual sucess, as he has never met with a collision or other serious accident; while his enterprise and energy have also been shown in the building and equipment of some of the finest and fastest boats on the lakes.
He was born February 10, 1835, in Hardinger, Norway, and is the third who, as eldest son in his generation, has held the name of Peter. Grandsire Peter Peterson was a farmer by occupation, and Peter Peterson, the father, carried on the shoemaker's trade in connection with the management of a farm. The latter married Miss Boletta Halverson, and had the following children: Peter, our subject; Thomas, a blacksmith at Green Bay, Wis.; Haver, a shipbuilder at the same place, who makes a specialty of constructing cabins; Ole, a prosperous farmer on the old homestead in Norway; Lars, deceased, who was a baker by occupation; Boletta, now Mrs. Anderson, of Chicago, and Elizabeth, who resides in Iowa.
Captain Peterson (the junior Peter) attended the public schools of his native place during boyhood, and although his opportunites were not of the best he managed to secure a good practical education to which his subsequent reading has added. As a boy he showed a love for the water, and he gained some excellent experience in the fishing boats at his home; while later he secured employment on larger vessels engaged in the coasting trade, and spent two or three years in that work. In 1853 he came to America, landing in New York and on July 20th of that year he arrived at Chicago, where he shipped before the mast on the brig St. Louis for the remainder of the season. In the following spring he shipped for three months on the schooner Wyoming, under Captain Sullivan. Later he was employed on various boats, including the schooner Yeagree; the schooner Trowbridge; the Kitty Grant; the Josephine Lawrence, in which he spent some time before the mast; the Eleanor, under Captain Henderson, and the bark America, under Capt. Owen Davis, in which he spent three seasons, being promoted during the last year to the post of second mate. In 1862 he formed a partnership with Mr. Wilson and Mr. Gunderson assuming the position of captain. In the fall they sold the vessel, and our subject, with Captain Gunderson and Lambert Nau, built the schooner Mary Nau, which they ran during the summer of 1863, with our subject as captain. During the next season Captain Gunderson had charge, and in 1865 Captain Peterson again took the post of captain. The vessel, was engaged in the lumber trade, and proved a successful investment; but in the fall of 1865 our subject sold his interest to Lars Olsen. He then built the Libbie Nau in partnership with Lambert Nau, taking a one-third interest, and for five years following he ran this vessel in the grain and lumber trade. In 1872 he and his partner built the schooner City of Green Bay, without disposing of the Libbie Nau, however, and during that season Captain Peterson had charge of the new boat. In 1873 they built the Anna M. Peterson, one of the largest schooners then on the lakes, and one which became known throughout shipping circles as remarkable swift. From 1874 to 1884 Captain Peterson sailed this boat, but on the death of his partner the vessel was sold in connection with the settlement of the estate. He then bought the schooner F. A. George, of the Union Steamboat Company, in partnership with Frederick Hurlbut, of Green Bay, each taking a one-half interest, and after sailing her for five years the Captain sold out and spent a season on shore. In 1890 he and Captain Albright purchased the steamer T. S. Christie from A. L. Thompson, of Detroit, Mich., Captain Peterson taking a two-thirds interest and his partner the remainder, and since that date he has sailed this boat every season.
The Captain is popular socially, and in addition to his membership in the Ship Masonic fraternity, in which he has reached the Knight Templar's degree. In 1860 he was married at Green Bay, to Miss Joanna Van Denboomen, who was born in Outricht, Holland, and came to this country with her parents when nine years old. Captain and Mrs. Peterson have ten children, a family of which any parent might well be proud: William, the eldest, residing at Hammond, Ind.; Cornelius E. a locomotive engineer, lives at Green Bay; Peter J. is foreman of the Chicago & North Western round house at Chicago; Louis L., a locomotive engineer; George W. and Harold M., students; and the daughters are: Joanna B., Christine B., Ida., and Annie Marie, all residing at home.
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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.