Heritage \ Writings \

Peter C. Smith (1844 - ??)
Born in St. Clair Co., MI; Maritime captain, merchant in Bay City.

Maritime biography, courtesy of Links to the Past (2005).

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



Captain P.C. Smith has evidently the energetic Scotch blood of his paternal ancestors in his veins, which combined with the fine qualities of mind inherited from an American mother has made him very successful in his business life. Captain Smith was born in St. Clair county, Mich., May 1, 1844, son of Peter and Sarah (Cross) Smith. The father, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland, was a millwright by trade and constructed various mills in and about his native city. In 1842 he brought his family to the United States, locating in Clair county, Mich. In 1852 he went to West Bay City, where he built a mill which was operated under the firm name of Moore, Post & Smith, and in 1857 he removed his family to that place. Prior to that time his son P. C. Smith, had acquired a liberal education in the public schools of St. Clair, and he commenced to work in the mill with his father, continuing thus about four years, during which time he accumulated funds sufficient to start in life on his own account.

Captain Smith first purchased an interest in a steam ferry plying on the Saginaw river, and after sailing in her two years, sold out and applied for an received master's papers, purchasing the steamer Wave, which he sailed about six years, engaged in towing logs on the lakes and rivers. She was destroyed by fire in 1874, and he then stopped ashore and engaged in looking after the interests of the mill until the spring of 1877, when he purchased the tug Sol S. Rumage, which he sailed. The large lake tugs Ella Smith and Peter Smith next came into his line by purchase and these he sailed in the raft-towing business. The Peter Smith has an interesting history; she was built in Scotland in 1863 and put into the commission as a blockade runner by the Confederates during our Civil war, making a successful run into Wilmington, N. C., but was captured by one of the Union gunboats in an attempt to run the blockade with a cargo of cotton. In 1866 her name was changed to little Ada and she was transferred to the lakes and used as a lake survey steamer. After some service in her new waters the Government sold her to Capt. Peter Smith, the father of our subject, and her name was again changed to honor her new owner.

In the fall of 1887 Captain Smith entered into partnership with Capt. Benjamin Boutell, and the next spring they engaged actively in the raft-towing business, each enjoying an equal interest in the enterprise now known as the Saginaw Bay Towing Company, which has a fleet of eighteen of the finest tugs in any waters; this association has continued up to the present time. Captain Smith also owns individually the steamer Minnie E. Kelton and the schooners Allegheny and Active.

None but those conversant with the magnitude of the lumbering operations on the American lakes can comprehend the greatness of this enterprise, or the energy, force and daring necessary to conduct it successfully, as do Smith & Boutell. But his interests in this line claim only a portion of Captain Smith's time. In 1883 he established a general store and coal dock in West Bay City, in which branch he now has a large growing patronage and he is also largely interested in a match factory and a stave and heading mill at Goodwin, Mich., as well as numerous other industries.

As will be observed from the foregoing, Captain Smith ranks deservedly as one of the most enterprising and public-spirited citizens of West Bay City. Few men are more widely and favorably known through the Saginaw valley, for his integrity and character and courteous address have made him a prominent figure wherever the demands of business or calls of social life require his presence. While a strong partisan he is not an office seeker, and on the only occasions on which he has been before the public as a candidate he has had the rare pleasure of being nominated by both political parties, serving his constituents four years as trustee, and as alderman five years. He brought to the administration of municipal affairs that same determined will, sterling principle and shrewd appreciation of men and events which have so eminently characterized his conduct of private business matters, and he has rendered valuable service to West Bay City. The Captain is preeminently a successful man, and he has amassed considerable wealth in the conduct of extensive business interests to which he has always given his attention. Socially, he is a prominent thirty-second- degree Mason, a member of the Commandery, and a Noble of the Mystic Shrine.

In August, 1865, Captain Smith was united in marriage with Miss Sarah, daughter of Thomas and Nancy S. Orton, of New York State. They have one son, Capt. Charles O. Smith, who has always from boyhood been around the vessels owned by his father. He sailed the schooner yacht Hector two seasons, and in the spring of 1895 was appointed master of the schooner Allegheny, sailing her three successive seasons. In the spring of 1898 he applied for and received first-class pilot's papers, and has been assigned as mate to the steamer Traveler, of the Saginaw Bay Towing Company. The family residence is a handsome structure on Midland avenue, West Bay City, surrounded by spacious grounds.

Additional Notes.

    1900 - Census: West Bay City, Mich.
  • Smith, Peter C., b. May, 1844 Mich.
  • Sarah, wife, b. Sep., 1845 NY

    1880 - Census: West Bay City, Mich.

  • Smith, Peter C., b. 1843, Mich.
  • Sarah J., wife, b. NY
  • Charles O., son, age 6
Related Pages & Notes

Capt. P.C. Smith

1867 Great Lakes Map
(click to enlarge)

Related Pages:
Boutell, Benj. Capt.
Smith, Peter father
Burrington, Riley M.
{1867 Great Lakes Map}
People Referenced
Boutell, Benjamin Capt.
Cross, Sarah (mother)
Orton, Nancy S. Mrs.
Orton, Sarah (wife)
Orton, Thomas Capt.
Smith, Charles O. (son)
Smith, Peter (father)
Smith, Peter C.(subject)
Subjects Referenced
Bay City, MI
Civil War
Glasgow, Scotland
Goodwin, MI
Midland St., W.Bay City
Moore, Post & Smith Co.
Mystic Shrine
New York State
Saginaw Bay Towing Co.
Saginaw River
Saginaw Valley
St. Clair County, MI
Union gunboats
Allegheny, schooner
Active, schooner
Ella Smith, tug
Hector, yacht
Little Ada, steamer
Minnnie E. Kelton, steamer
Peter Smith, tug
Sol. S. Rumage, tug
Traveler, steamer
Waver, steamer

West Bay City
Wilmington, N.C.
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.