Captain John Hanson


Portrait And Biographical Record Of Northern Michigan
Containing Portraits And Biographical Sketches Of Prominent
And Representative Citizens
Record Publishing Co., 1895

Capt. John Hanson. During his service upon the high seas, covering a period of seventeen years, Captain Hanson visited almost every country in the world, and, in his varied experiences, suffered all the horrors of storm, fire and shipwreck. Could all his adventures be told, a large and interesting volume might be compiled, the record of which would be as thrilling as a work of fiction. At present he resides at manistee, and holds the position of Captain of the life-saving station at this point, which was established in 1879.

The Captain was born in Wisby, Gottland, Sweden, December 27, 1855. His parents were farmers, and much of his boyhood was passed upon a farm. On leaving home he became a sailor on a Swedish sailing-vessel, and served a term of seven years, during which time he was employed on seven vessels, German, Swedish, Spanish and English, his service being first as ordinary, and later as able, seaman. Among the ports which he visited during this time were those of London, Falmouth and Hull, England; Calais, in France; Hamburg, Germany; Riga, Russia; Rio Janeiro and Peru, South America; the ports of New Zealand; Rangoon, East Indies; Calcutta, India; and San Francisco, U.S.A.

At the age of twenty-one years, our subject returned to his old home, and for three years attended a navigation school at Wisby, after which he passed a Government examination as Master. The examination was conducted by the commander of a man-of-war, Victor A.F. Clint, and he was awarded a diploma from the Government, showing his fitness to become captain of any vessel. After four days at home, he started out as second mate on an English steamboat. Six months later this was run down by another steamer, and sank in seventeen fathoms of water, less than three miles distant from the place where struck. The sailors jumped aboard the other steamer, and, not being able to look up money or valuables, our subject lost $400 that he had in his berth. Landing at Grimsby fourteen days later, he shipped in a full-rigged vessel from Liverpool for Bombay, East India, his service being as second mate.

After a voyage of four months and twenty-one days, and when near the island of Ceylon, the vessel took fire and burned to the water's edge. Into three life-boats the crew were hurried, and the captain taking five with him, and the first and second mates ten each. The latter reached shore at the town of Allapee, after six days and seven nights on the water. For thirty hours they had not tasted water, and four of the ten men died of thirst. On reaching land, they were kindly cared for by the harbor master, who, with the assistance of a doctor, did everything possible to relieve the sufferings of the survivors. At first coffee and bread were given them, a little each half-hour, until they revived sufficiently to permit them to eat heartily. On recovery they were sent to Bombay, where they were joined by the captain and mate and balance of the crew.

At Bombay our subject was transferred to a steamer bound for liverpool via the Suez Canal. He shipped to Fernando de Peau on a sailing-vessel, spending two years on this voyage in the capacity of first mate. The captain of the "Grippin," as the ship was called, died and was buried at sea soon after leaving the island, and our subject succeeded to the post of captain. He brought the ship to Pembroke Dock, England, and thence to Sweden, having served thirteen months as captain. Afterward he made another voyage on this ship to France, and thence shipped for New York as mate on a Swedish vessel. From the latter place he went to Antwerp, then returned to New York in a Nova Scotia vessel. His next position was as mate on the "Garnet," between the West Indies and New York, in 1885. During the thirteen months thus spent he made five trips to the West Indies.

Afterward our subject became mate on a three masted schooner, which, three months after his connection with it, encountered a severe storm off Boston. All the sails were blown away, and the sailors, nearly frozen, were finally rescued, their boat being towed into the harbor at Gloucester, Mass., and from there to Portsmouth, N.H. Going from there to New Haven, Conn., he took a schooner for Baltimore, where he remained two weeks. He then became captain of a schooner trading in fruit between Baltimore and the West Indies. After having made four trips, he returned to Boston on a brigantine as mate, with which he remained six months, voyaging between the latter city and the West Indies.

Life Saving Station & Inner Lighthouse

Life Saving Station & Inner Lighthouse 1910

In 1887 the Captain retired from ocean life and came to Manistee, where his brother was one of the crew at the life-saving station. Capt. Henry Finch, who was then in command, asked him to remain as one of the crew, which he did. November 26, 1887, he was united in marriage to Miss Emma Hjilm, of this city. They have four children, three sons and one daughter. He remained as a member of the station until April 29, 1889, when he was promoted to captain, the former captain having been transferred. He has since served in that capacity, having a force of seven assistants, and three of the best boats made for the purpose, as well as appliances for life saving. He and his wife are members of the Swedish Lutheran Church, and he is also a member of Lodge No. 228, A.F. & A.M., of Manistee, and a member of the Royal Arcanum.

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