On discovering in 1863 that a French shipbuilder, with the connivance of Napoleon III., was constructing two formidable iron-clads and two corvettes for the use of the Confederacy, he devoted his energies to thwarting this scheme, and succeeded in preventing the delivery of all but one of these vessels to the Confederate agents.
His father, a shipbuilder of German descent (Koch),and his mother,a descendant of William Brewster, were natives of New York City, where the boy grew up, studying law in an office in 1842-1844, and working in a broker's office in 1844-1846, and where, under the influence of Charles G.
Elder Park (40 acres) presented to the burgh in 1885 contains a statue of John Elder (1824-1869), the pioneer shipbuilder, the husband of the donor.
A statue of Sir William Pearce (1833-1888), another well-known Govan shipbuilder, once M.P. for the burgh, stands at Govan Cross.
In 1877 the firm bought several steam ships from local shipbuilder William Gray.