Heritage \ Writings \

Great Lakes captain from West Bay City (born in Detroit).

Courtesy of the "Links to the Past" website. (Feb. 2007)

History of the Great Lakes, Vol. 2 by J.B. Mansfield
Published Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co. 1899.


Captain Vincent Gerard, a master mariner whose first experience on the Great Lakes dates back to 1850, was born March 30, 1838, in Detroit, Mich., to which city his parents, Alexander and Mary (Sweeney) Gerard, removed in about 1835. They were both natives of Montreal, Canada, and the father was of French descent. Alexander Gerard, who was an old-time sailor, owned the sloop Salina, on which Vincent sailed two years as boy with his father and uncle until the vessel was wrecked. He then sailed in sand scows until 1856, when he shipped before the mast in the schooner Kenosha, closing that season in the George Steel with Capt. C. Barker. In the spring of 1857 Captain Gerard joined the scow Hannah Salina, going with her to Chicago, where she was sold, and having been made master of her by the new owner he sailed her until the close of 1858. After a year as mate on a vessel he was appointed master of the Northern Light, plying as a steam ferry between Hancock and Houghton, and later sailed in various vessels in different capacities until 1870, when he was appointed mate in the tug Stranger. In 1871 he was mate of the tug Satellite; in 1872, mate of the lake tug Champion; in 1873, mate of the I.U. Masters; and in 1874, master of the tug Resolute, the following two seasons serving as mate of the Douglas and Uranus, respectively. In 1877 he joined the steamer Inter Ocean as mate, and the next year was appointed master of the J.W. Bennett, sailing her two seasons, after which he became master of the Nat Stickney. In 1881 he was mate of the steamer Middlesex; 1882-83, mate and pilot of the steamer Michigan; 1884, mate and pilot of the steamer Missouri; 1885, mate of the J.P. Donaldson; 1886, mate and pilot of the Passaic; and the following seasons master of the Carkin, Stickney and Cram.

In the spring of 1889 Captain Gerard entered the employ of the Bay City Dredge Company, with which he remained seven years, during that time acting as master of the tugs Edgar Haight, G.R. Hand and Fashion. In 1896 he went to Copper Harbor and took command of the tug Silver Spray. His next boat was the lake tug Gladiator, of which he was mate and pilot three months, after which he took the tug G.R. Hand to Tawas and operated her out of that port. In the spring of 1898 he came out as master of the tug Fashion, transferring, however, as pilot to the tug Industry, of which C.J. King is master. With her he went to Duluth, where she engaged in towing the vessels of James Davidson, who owns her. Captain Gerard has twenty-eight issues of master's papers, covering all the lakes from Ogdensburg to Chicago and Duluth. He has been instrumental in saving several lives, on one occasion jumping overboard in the Saginaw river to rescue a boy, and again in the Detroit river, below Mamajuda light. While master of the Salina he picked up the crew of a water-logged vessel in Lake Michigan, twenty-five miles from Chicago.

Captain Gerard was first married in August, 1861, to Miss Nettie Cowles, daughter of John Cowles, of Batavia, N.Y., and after her death he was married, on August 10, 1886, to Miss Mary Lenzal, daughter of Constant Lenzal, of New Baltimore, Mich. The family residence is at No. 301 Mosher street, West Bay City, Mich. Socially the Captain is a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen and of the United States Benevolent Association.

Additional Notes.

    1861 - Michigan Marriages: Houghton.

  • On May 8, 1861, Vincent Girard, b. 1837, married Netty Cowans, b. 1846.

    1885 - Michigan Marriages: West Bay City, Bay.

  • On Aug. 8, 1885, Vincent Gerard, age 47, b. Mich., married Mary Nellet Lonzell age 38, b. Mich., witnesses were Minard and Mary Passanon.

    1894 - Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Gerard, Vincent - b. 1838.
  • Mary, wife - b. 1849.
  • Nellit, Charles, step-son - b. 1876.
Related Pages/Notes

Related Pages:
None at this time.
People Referenced
Barker, C. Capt.
Cowles, John (f-inlaw)
Cowles, Nettie (1 wife)
Davidson, James Capt.
Gerard, Alexander (father)
Gerard, Vincent (subject)
King, C.J. Capt.
Lenzal, Constant (f-inlaw)
Lenzal, Mary (2 wife)
Nellet, Charles (step-son)
Sweeney, Mary (mother)
Subjects Referenced
Ancient Order United Workmen
Batavia, NY
Bay City Dredge Co.
Chicago, IL
Copper Harbor, MI
Detroit, MI
Detroit river
Duluth, MN
French descent
Lake Michigan
Mamajuda light
Montreal, Canada
New Baltimore, MI
Saginaw river
Tawas, MI
U.S. Benev. Assoc.
West Bay City, MI
Champion, tug
Edgar Haight, tug
Fashion, tug
George Steel
Gladiator, tug
G.R. Hand, tug
Hannah Salina
Industry, tug
J.P. Donaldson
J.w. Bennett
Inner Ocean
I.U. Masters
Knosha, schooner
Michigan, steamer
Middlesex, steamer
Missouri, steamer
Nat Stickney
Northern Light, ferry
Resolute, tug
Salina, sloop
Satellite, tug
Silver Spray, tug
Stranger, tug
Internet References
[Links to the Past]
Online book, "History of the Great Lakes," Vols. 1 & 2, by J.B. Mansfield.
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.