Captain Lawrence G. Nelson
Captain Lawrence G. Nelson, manager and steward of the passenger steamer Mabel Bradshaw, holds a British Admiralty certificate as master, and has passed much of his marine life on salt water. He was born in Napa, Cal., October 1, 1859, a son of John Raymond and Martha (Murphy) Nelson, the former a native of Hull, England, the latter of Londonderry, Ireland. The father was a noted master of ocean-going passenger steamers and full-rigged ships, among which were the Queen, Atlantic, John O'Gaunt, barkentine Maroawilla, and many others, some of them plying in the East India trade. In 1849, during the gold excitement, he went to California, remaining there with his family twelve years, and upon his return to England retired with a comfortable competency. He died April 20, 1874; the mother is still living in Coppington.
Lawrence G. Nelson spent his boyhood in England, and when he reached the age of twelve years beame an apprentice on the ship John O'Gaunt, of Liverpool, serving three years, and transferring from her to the John Gedie for two years. He then returned to the United States, and while in New York City attended a school of navigation for six months; he still carries his sextant, but finds no practical use for it on the lakes. In 1875 he shipped as seaman in the barkentine Oldroyd, of Dublin, with Captain Murphy, and later joined the Truro, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, making a round trip to the West Indies. He was next in the fore-and-aft schooner W. A. Richmond, in the coasting trade, and then for four years sailed in the Rio packet boat Ada Bonni, and in the Black Eagle and Grey Eagle to South American ports, in the coffee trade. At Callao he joined the full-rigged ship Ceylon, and was in South American waters during the war between Chili and Peru, his boat putting in at Lima where, upon going ashore, he was "Shanghaied" by the Wasgars. He made his escape after two weeks although wounded in the leg by a bullet and claiming English protection was not further molested. In 1879 Captain Nelson joined the United States navy, shipping out of Callao as seaman in the frigate Pensacola, the flag ship of the fleet on the Pacific ocean, and while he was in her he visited every port on the Pacific coast. When she reached San Francisco she went out of commission, and as the Captain's time had expired, he was transferred to the receiving ship at that port and given his honorable discharge.
Returning to Liverpool, Captain Nelson, in 1883, applied for and received a master's certificate, being appointed captain of the brigantine Jessie Salpiden, trading to Mediterranean ports, which he commanded two years. In 1884 he took passage in one of the White Star line steamers for New York, thence journeying the lakes, when he shipped in the Christina Nelson as steward. The Nelson went ashore and became a wreck off Bailey's Harbor, on Lake Michigan, and our subject, being a strong swimmer, reached the shore and built a large fire to light up the surroundings for the rest of the crew, all of whom were saved. The readers of the Chicago papers at that time may remember the episode of Steward Nelson saving the galley cat, which jumped upon his shoulders as he let himself into the water and held her vantage until he landed. The next year he shipped as steward in the schooner Jessie L. Boyce, holding that berth until 1888, when he was appointed steward in the steamer Huron City, finishing the season in the J. C. Sint. In the same year he purchased a hotel in Michigan City, which he conducted for two years, although he continued to sail, shipping the following season in the steamer Oneida with Capt. George Pardee, and then for a season as steward in the schooner Stafford. The ensuing winter he entered the Northwestern College to learn dentistry, in which he continued as student and practitioner for four winters. Captain Nelson was steward in the passenger steamer Saugatuck three seasons, and after leaving her joined the passenger steamer City of Holland in the same capacity. In 1894 he purchased a hotel in Pentwater, Mich., which he carried on until it was destroyed by fire in the fall of 1897. The same year he was made steward of the steamer Mabel Bradshaw, plying between White Lake, Pentwater and Chicago, and in 1898 was appointed to the composite office which he now holds - manager and steward on that boat. For several winters he has been steward of the crew stationed at the city water works intake to prevent the ice from choking off the supply of water; is also assistant bookkeeper, and is a member of the Civil Service of the city of 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.