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Capt. John Orloff Woolson (1826-1908)
Born in Vermont, raised in Painesville, OH, moved to Bay City in 1864.

Biography. - Added Oct., 2010.

History of Bay County, Michigan - Gansser, 1905.


Capt. John O. Woolson, a prominent and well-known vesselman of Bay City, where he has resided since the spring of 1864, was born in Tumbridge Township, Orange County, Vt., April 15, 1826. He is a son of Asa and Mary (White) Woolson, both of whom are of English descent, their ancestors having moved into the woods of New Hampshire seven or eight generations ago. The father was a clothier, but died when our subject was only two years old, and four years afterward the remaining members of the family removed to Painesville, Lake County, Ohio.

The educational advantages offered our subject, were very limited, and when quite young he became self-support, and for many years was master of either sailing or steam vessels on the lakes. In 1864 he came to Bay City and engaged in the steam tug business with N. B. Bradley as partner. In 1868 he added the grocery business on Water Street. In 1875 he sold his tug interests and bought vessel property in connection with the grocery business, until about 1881, when he turned his whole attention to vessel property, and has since owned quite a fleet.

The Bradley Transportation Company was incorporated January, 1891, with a capital stock of $144,000, and the following officers: John O. Woolson, President; F. W. Bradley, Vice-President; and C. H. Bradley, Secretary. The company owns the steamer “Charles H. Bradley,” a large steam barge 215 feet overall, 35 foot beam and 15 foot depth. The consort, The “Brightie” is 180 foot overall, 35 foot beam, and 13 foot hold, carries thirty-five thousand bushels of grain, eight hundred thousand feet of lumber or twelve hundred tons of ore. Another vessel which they own, “Mary Woolson,” is a schooner 190 feet overall, 36 foot beam, 14 foot hold, and carries forty-eight thousand bushels of wheat or fourteen hundred tons of ore.

Capt. Woolson now devotes his whole attention to the vessel business. Previous to the organization of the Bradley Transportation Company he owned several large lumber vessels, among which were the schooners “Gebhard” and “Yankee,” and in 1887 he built the schooner “Mary Woolson.” Mr. Woolson is one of the stockholders in the First National Bank, and also had an interest init when incorporated as the Bay City National Bank. He erected his residence at No. 302 Bowery Street, and has lived on the same site since his first advent in Bay City.

He has served his fellow-citizens in the capacity of Supervisor of the Fourth Ward, and is also a member of the Bay City Lodge, No. 129, F. & A. M. After weighing the merits of political questions he identified himself with the Republican party, to which he adheres.

December 27, 1846, Capt. Woolson was married to Miss Lovisa E. Davis, of Painesville, Ohio, and they had one child, Francis who died in 1878. The Captain was afterward married, July 13, 1857, to Miss Betsey M. Ingraham, and of the union two children were born: Fred H. now of Port Huron; and Mary, who is at home. The third marriage of Capt. Woolson, was with Miss Josephine H. Webster, of Paineville, Ohio, and occurred May 1, 1891. Frances C. Woolson, the only child of the first marriage, married Miss Lovina Wilson, of this city, and by her he had two children, Maude and Minnie.

Capt. Woolson has been active in the vessel business for a longer period of time than any other citizen of Bay City. He has established his position without any help whatever, starting out as a poor sailor boy, and by energy, perseverance and ability has worked himself to the front. Such a life, so full of success and happiness, should be honorably mentioned in a work of this character, and receive the respect of all his acquaintances.

Additional Notes.

    1873 – Directory: Bay City, Mich.

  • Woolson, J. O. & Co. - grocers, Water bet 13th and 14th.

    1880 – Census: Bay City, Mich.

  • Woolson, John O. - b. 1826 Vt.
  • Betsey, wife – b.
  • Fred H, son – b. 1858 Ohio
  • Mary, g-daughter – b. 1864 Ohio
  • Maude E., g-daughter – b. 1877 Mich.

    1886 – Directory: Bay City, Mich.

  • Woolson, Fred H. - vessel captain, bds 302 Bowery.
  • Woolson, John O. - vessel owner, res 302 Bowery.

    1888 – Great Lakes Maritime History.

  • Schooner “Mary Woolson” launched at James Davidson's shipyard in West Bay City, named after J.O. Woolson's daughter. The schooner sunk on July 18, 1922 in collision on Georgian Bay.

    1892 – Michigan Marriages: West Bay City.

  • Date: Jan. 6, 1892.
  • Groom: Franz Sigel Tear - of Painsville, OH, b. 1853 Ohio, sailor, son of John Tear & Elizabeth Brooks.
  • Bride: Mary Woolson – of Bay City, MI, b. 1865 Ohio, daughter of John O. Woolson & Betsey Ingraham.
  • Official: J. S. Holmes, Bapt. Minister.
  • Witnesses: F.H. Woolson (Port Huron) & Capt. J.O. Woolson (Bay City).

    1900 – Census: West Bay City, Mich. (Garfield St.)

  • Woolson, John – b. Apr. 1826, Vt.
  • Josephine H. - b. Jan.1838, Ohio.

    Sargent Genealogy: Family of Asa Woolson & Mary White.

  • Woolson, John - b. Jan 18, 1819 d. 1819.
    Woolson, Orteff E. - b. abt 1823, d. VT.
    Woolson, John Orloff - b. Apr. 13, 1826, d. aft. Jun 11, 1900.

    Woolson Deaths: Bay County Genealogy Society of Mich.

  • Elm Lawn Cemetery, Bay City, Mich.
    - Woolson, Betsey M., d. Dec. 1, 1908.
    - Woolson, Charlotte E.,d. Nov. 17, 1949.
    - Woolson, Fred H., d. Jul. 1, 1915.
    - Woolson, John O., d. Apr. 18, 1908
    - Woolson, Mary W., d. Dec. 1, 1908.
    - Woolson, Maude E., d. Dec. 1, 1908.
    - Woolson, Sarah, d. Dec. 1, 1908.
Related Pages/Notes

Capt. J.O. Woolson.

Related Pages:
Bradley, Nathan B.
Loud, George A.
People Referenced
Bradley, C.H.
Bradley, F.W.
Bradley, Nathan B.
Brooks, Elizabeth
Davidson, James
Davis, Lovisa E (1-wife)
Holmes, J.S.
Ingraham, Betsey M. (2-wife)
Tear, Franz S.
Tear, John
Webster, Josephine H (3-wife)
White, Mary (mother)
Wilson, Lovina
Woolson, Asa (father)
Woolson, Charlotte E.
Woolson, Frances C. (son)
Woolson, Fred H. (son)
Woolson, John (bro)
Woolson, John O. (subject)
Woolson, Mary (dau)
Woolson, Maude E. (g-dau)
Woolson, Minnie (g-dau)
Woolson, Orteff E. (bro)
Woolson, Sarah
Subjects Referenced
Bay City, MI
Bay City National Bank
Bradley Trans. Co.
Elm Lawn Cemetery
First National Bank
Georgian Bay
J.O. Woolson & Co.
Lake Co., OH
New Hampshire
Orange Co., VI
Painesville, OH
Port Huron, MI
Tumbridge Twp., VT
West Bay City, MI
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.