John Smith, a popular and skillful marine engineer sailing out of the port of Cleveland, was born in 1829, at Glasgow, Scotland, a son of Thomas and Jane Smith. He is, perhaps, one of the oldest engineers in service on the lakes. The vigorous and enduring constitution so often assigned to the Scot is his, and his stock of vitality and energy doubtless emanates from a system or principle in his youth and followed closely during the many years of his life. He has secured for himself many warm friends, and has made but few enemies.
He attended the public schools of his native city four years, after which he went into one of the many shops in Glasgow to learn the machinist's trade, applying his attention more especially to engineering, and in the meantime attending a night school. After having served the usual apprenticeship he secured a lucrative position as engineer in one of the large manufacturing establishments of Glasgow, still continuing his attendance at the night school, until finally he was requested by the tutor to take charge of the senior class, which request he reluctantly complied with, thus continuing his night studies and duties as teacher for eight months. He then opened a class on his own account, and his school was well attended until 1862, when he closed it. He continued his occupation as engineer in Glasgow up to April 9, 1863, when he removed with his family to Canada, locating in Montreal. He there entered the employ of Mr. Gardner, a machinist of much note at that time. After remaining in the shop a short time, he shipped as chief engineer of the tug steamer Minerva. In the spring of 1864 he took charge of the machinery of the side-wheel mail steamer Express (this steamer was destroyed by fire in Alexandria Bay in 1865). In the spring of 1865 Mr. Smith took the steamer Arctic, owned by O'Shea & McNorton, two years. In 1867 he was transferred by the same firm to Ottawa to fit out and run a blast furnace, where he remained eighteen months, when the company went out of business. Still remaining in the employ of O'Shea & McNorton, he was transferred to the side-wheel passenger ferry Fairy. In 1868 he was sent by the firm to Brazil, Ind., at the request of Mr. Henry Chisholm for a competent engineer to take charge of all the machinery of two blast furnaces, a rolling mill, five coal banks, and all necessary pumps. Here he remained four years, when he went to Niles to take charge of the Andrews mill as master mechanic. On July 17, 1874, he went to Cleveland and shipped as engineer of the steamer City of Sandusky, plying between Cleveland and Port Stanley and making three round trips per week, till the fall of 1875. In the spring of the following year he took the steamer Roanoke, plying between Buffalo and Chicago, remaining one year; in 1877, the yacht Rosalind; in 1878, the side-wheel steamer Saginaw on the old route between Cleveland and Port Stanley. In 1879 he entered the employ of the National Flouring Mills in Cleveland as engineer, where he remained six years. In the spring of 1886 he returned to marine engineering, and was appointed chief of the steamer George T. Hope, which berth he held for five seasons, leaving it to take the machinery of the steel steamer Northern Queen, which he brought out new, then transferring to the Caledonia, after which he brought out the Italia, new, for the same line. In 1891 he shipped as chief on the C. W. Elphicke. In 1896 he took out the George N. Orr, which he laid up at Chicago at the close of the season. His first Canadian license was taken out in 1863, and his first United States license in 1874.
John Smith is a Mason of the Chapter and Council, also a prominent Odd Fellow, and is an ardent worker in the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, in which he has filled the chair for three years consecutively.
On June 21, 1851, Mr. Smith was married to Miss Catherine McClure, of Glasgow, Scotland, and after her death, he, on March 7, 1873, was married to Miss Agnes Mair, also of Glasgow. They have a large family of grown sons and daughters. The family residence is at No. 100 Tracey street, Cleveland, a new brick building which Mr. Smith erected between the time of laying up his boat and sailing the following spring. It is well filled with all the comforts and luxuries of home-life.
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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.