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CAPTAIN GEORGE McLEOD easily ranks as the first wrecking master on the lakes. He was born May 1, 1836, at New London, Prince Edward Island, a son of JOHN and KATHARINE (McKAY) McLEOD. John McLEOD, his father, was born about 1794, and followed farming as an occupation, dying at the age of seventy-six; he was a son of KENNETH McLEOD, who with two friends came from Scotland in 1805 and settled on Prince Edward Island, on land granted them on the north side of the island by the British government for over a score of years of service in the army. KENNETH McLEOD passed the rest of his days on this land, and died at the ripe old age of ninety-five years. KATHARINE (McKAY) McLEOD was born in 1801, and died in April, 1879.

GEORGE McLEOD remained at home until he was fourteen years of age, in the meantime receiving a common-school education. He then chose a seafaring life and shipped on the schooner Ornament, which hailed from New London. Next year he shipped on the schooner Mariner, for England, returning to Halifax on the ship Humber, and in the fall of the same year he went to Boston and shipped in the new ship Jacob Badger. The vessel went to New Orleans for cotton, which she landed at Liverpool, and took railroad iron for Calcutta, which voyage he made in 1855, returning in 1856. In 1856 he shipped from London to New York on the passenger boat West Point.

In July, 1856, CAPTAIN McLEOD came to the lakes. He sailed in the schooner Huntress, and afterward in the William Treat, during that season, and the next season he was mate of the schooner R. G. Winslow. For the next three seasons he was mate of the Oriole, and during the season of 1861 and 1862 he was master of the schooner Plover, acting in the same capacity on the bark De Soto for two seasons following. In 1865 he was master of the Flying Mist, and for the next five seasons of the St. Lawrence. In 1871 he became master of the bark Northwest, which he left some time in the season of 1874, to take position in the insurance office of W. M. Egan at Chicago, remaining through 1875; he returned to sailing the next season as master of the schooner Red, White & Blue, and as she laid up in mid-season he finished in the Alice B. Norris. He was master of the Lucerne in 1877, and of the schooner Porter during the next two seasons.

This closed CAPTAIN McLEOD'S long career afloat. The twenty-five years of almost unbroken marine service had fitted him for a more marked success in special occupation in the same line ashore. In the fall of 1879 he engaged as wrecking master for Smith & Davis, now Smith, Davis & Co., of Buffalo, which position he still holds. The work was specially suited to him. There is no record of it, but he has traversed the chain of lakes from the day of his appointment for the purpose of releasing from the shore vessels that had stranded. At a moment's notice he must go on a journey of perhaps one thousand miles overland to meet a wrecking tug sent out in answer to a telegram from a nearer port to save time and expense. If this unfortunate vessel is far from railroad communication, the trip is concluded by wagon or on board a tug obtained at the nearest port. Bad weather or other circumstances are deemed of the slightest account, the order always being to get the vessel afloat as soon as possible. CAPTAIN McLEOD has saved more than one hundred vessels this way. A complete record of his operations would go far toward giving a partial list of losses on the lakes since 1877. A brief mention of some of them will have to suffice. In 1888 he raised the barge William Crosthwaite, coal laden, from the bottom of the Sault river at the Sailors' encampment, and the next season the steamer Francis Hinton, from Pilot island at the entrance of Green bay. The same season the steamer Plymouth went high and dry on Washington island, in Green bay, but with three tugs. CAPTAIN McLEOD succeed in floating her, the neatest pulling match, he says, that he ever saw, for he could walk all about the vessel before he began to work on her. In 1890 the steamer Viking went ashore at Eagle river. Lake Superior, having been caught in a thick fog, and she was also released by CAPTAIN McLEOD. That year he also saved, among others, the steamer Nevada, from Pilot island, the S. C. Reynolds from the north shore of Lake Erie after she had been beached on account of getting afire, the Canadian schooner Gulnair from the shore near Alpena, and the steamer Rube Richards from Starve Island reef in Lake Erie. Among the successful wrecking feats of 1891 were the release of the steamer Hiawatha from near Detour, Lake Huron, leaving her consort, the Mmnehaha, to be wintered there ashore and be floated next spring, the Canadian schooner Sligo, from the north shore of Lake Huron, the steamer Susan E. Peck (now the Lewiston) from the Sault river, and the John B. Lyon from Point Pelee, Lake Erie. The Peck had sunk in a collision with the barge G. W. Adams, in tow of the Aurora, and blocked the passage of Lake Superior for several days.

Among the notable expeditions of 1892 was the one in which CAPTAIN McLEOD saved the Canadian schooner S. J. Luff from the rocks of the Georgian Bay and took her to Collingwood; he also released the steamer Russia from Rondeau Point, Lake Erie, the steamer John B. Lyon from near Sand Beach, and later on the H. D. Coffinberry near the same point; the Coffinberry had rolled so terribly in the gale that her boilers had shifted.

There is a long list for the stormy season of 1893. The Captain saved the steamer Pridgeon from the south shore of Lake Erie, near Geneva, Ohio, the Norwalk, with a cargo of $100,000 worth of copper, from the Canadian shore of Lake Erie, near Buffalo, the N. K. Fairbank from Point Iroquois, Lake Superior, the S. E. Peck from the Bar Point, Lake Erie, the Colonial and Hecla from Lake Ontario shores, the Burlington from Sand Beach and the C. B. Lockwood from Lime Kiln Crossing in the Detroit river. The Lockwood had been sunk in collision with the E. A. Nicholson and was one of the worst wrecks that had ever been floated. Among the stranded vessels floated in 1894 by CAPTAIN McLEOD were the steamer R. Mills from the Straits of Mackinac, where she had been sunk by the Jewett, the S. C. Baldwin from the St. Clair river, and the Monteagle from near Chicago. Two bad collisions made work for 1895. The Canadian steamer Jack, in the midst of a remarkable career of accidents, sank the steamer Norman in Lake Huron, never to be raised, and went down herself in waters shallow enough for CAPTAIN McLEOD to raise her. The steamer R. L. Fryer was sunk in the Sault river in a collision with the steamer Corsica, her whole forward part being laid open; it was a feat of submarine engineering to raise her, but CAPTAIN McLEOD accomplished the job in comparatively short time. The steamer P. P. Pratt from Lake Huron, near the Sault river, the schooner S. J. Tilden from lower Lake Huron, and the Michigan from near Chicago, where the other consort of the J. E. Owen, the E. A. Nicholson, was lost, were also raised the same season. In 1896 the William Chisholm was raised in the St. Clair lake after being sunk in collision with the Oceanica, also the steamer Samoa from the St. Lawrence river, and the Monteagle from near Kingston. In the fall of 1898 he took the schooner Aberdeen off the beach at Grand Haven, and took her to Milwaukee. In about 1879 or '80, CAPTAIN McLEOD was put on the committee for compiling the Inland Lloyds Registers, and has been upon that committee ever since.

CAPTAIN McLEOD is an honorary member of the Shipmasters Association; member of Erie Lodge, Buffalo Chapter, Keystone Council, Lake Erie Commandery, and a 32nd-degree Mason, of what is called Buffalo Consistory; he has always taken quite an interest in Masonry, and is one of the leaders. In politics he is a stanch Republican.

Source: "History of The Great Lakes," Vol. II, J. H. Beers & Co., Chicago - 1899
pages 252-256





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