A Craze for Lake Craft. - Grain freight rates throughout the season were the best ever recorded, wheat ruling at the commencement, from Chicago to Buffalo at 12 cents, and gradually advancing to 23 cents, while other commodities were proportionately high. As a consequence there was a good demand for all classes of floating craft, which amounted to a craze. Many mortgaged their homesteads to secure a timberhead of anything afloat. During the season 11 side-wheel steamers, 24 propellers, 33 tugs, 16 barks, 15 brigs and 158 schooners changed ownership, some at fabulous prices. There were 71 new vessels commissioned during the season, as follows: Twelve side-wheel steamers with a total of 8,043 tons; six propellers, 6,900 tons; six tugs, 420 tons; 19 barques, 1,006 tons; and 48 schooners, 14,170 tons, making a grand total of 35,539 tons.
High Speed Enjoined. - Owing to the high freights prevailing during the season of 1866, vessel masters were enjoined to make all possible dispatch in getting around with their respective craft, and these orders were carried out with a uniformity never previously recorded. There was seldom an arrival in any port, in case any thing speedy had been accomplished, that was not set forth in nearly all the papers.
Tugs Engaged in Towing. - There were 23 tugs engaged in towing through the rivers and lakes, proceeding down on Lake Erie to Point Pelee, and on Lake Huron, a distance of about 60 miles, to Sand Beach.
Fenian Invasion of Canada. - Early on the morning of June 1, 1866, the City of Toronto left her moorings in Toronto, for Port Colborne, having on board a regiment of volunteers who were suddenly called to arms for the purpose of defending the Province against an invasion from United States territory by the Fenians. On June 5, 120 sailors from H. M. S. Aurora arrived in Toronto by Grand Trunk railway from Quebec. A portion of them took possession of the steamer Magnet, which by order of the Canadian Government was being fitted up as an armed cruiser. The gunboat Heron, intended for service on Lake Ontario, arrived from the East. She was a trim little craft, and carried two 112-pound Armstrong guns. She was stationed at Port Dalhousie. Other movements on the lakes were made about this time, but as the invasion was soon quelled and put an end to, quiet was very speedily restored.
Other Events of 1866. - March: Navigation opened March 2, between Detroit and Malden, when the propeller Clara commenced plying. Steamer May Queen commenced to ply on Green bay, and burned at Milwaukee after 13 years service. April: Heavy northeast gale, April 23, and much damage done to shipping. Steamer Windsor burned at Detroit, and 30 lives lost. May: A tug association was formed at Detroit; schooner Argo goes to pieces near Chicago; schooner Wings of the Wind sunk by collision with bark Baldwin near Chicago; heavy northwest gale, May 26, with much damage to shipping. June: Schooner Ellen M. Baxter departed from Toledo for Boston, Mass., June 4, with a cargo of walnut; bark Thermutis arrived at Detroit from Liverpool with merchandise; bark Wiralite arrives at Detroit from Liverpool with merchandise; bark Jennie P. King was wrecked on Long Point, Lake Erie, and 14 lives lost; the United States revenue steamers W. P. Fessenden and Commodore Perry had a trial of speed from Cleveland to Detroit, and the former arrived 45 minutes ahead; the United States revenue steamers W. P. Fessenden and John Sherman exchanged names at Detroit; scow A. Howes capsizes on Lake Erie; terrific storm on Lake Erie; schooner Alice Grover wrecked off Cleveland, one life lost; bark Arabian sunk on Lake Erie, four lives lost; propeller Cuyahoga sunk at Sarnia; brig C. P. Williams sunk in Cleveland; brig Sarah C. Walbridge wrecked at Euclid Creek, Lake Erie; schooner Rosina ashore at Madison, Lake Erie; schooner Josephine capsized off Fairport; schooner J. M. Lee lost near Buffalo; tug Red Jacket explodes and sinks at Chicago; propeller Cleveland sunk by collision off Bar Point. July: The schooner Saranac, Captain Wraight, arrived at Detroit from Liverpool en route to Chicago. Brig Vidar arrived at Detroit from Norway, en route for Chicago. The schooner Coquette foundered with all hands on Lake Michigan. Propeller City of Buffalo, formerly a side-wheel boat, was burned at Buffalo after nine years' service. Bark Jacques de Molay, Capt. D. M. Tucker, arrived at Detroit from Liverpool with merchandise. Schooner Oliver Culver collides with the schooner Clayton Belle, of Clayton. Schooner Wild Rover sunk off Brockville. Schooner Dan Marble sunk on St. Clair river. August: Schooner Nonpareil ashore at Middle island, Lake Huron, and abandoned. Scow Lone Star a total wreck on the shore of Lake Erie, near Conneaut. Bark Etowah arrived at Detroit from Liverpool with merchan- dise. Schooner Ringgold, a wrecking vessel, arrived at Detroit from Pawgasset, Mass. Schooner Saranac departed from Detroit for Liverpool with 450 tons of iron ore from Bruce mines. British gunboat Britomarte arrived at Windsor, Ontario, from Liverpool. Bark Jacques de Molay left Detroit for Liverpool with a cargo of copper. Schooner Geo. C. Drew went to pieces at Charity islands, Saginaw bay. September: Schooner Junias, of Oswego, sunk at Long Point, Ontario. October: Schooner George Goble damaged by collision with the Wm. Crosswright at the Flats. Revenue cutter John A. Dix ashore on Lake Superior. A heavy northwest gale of three days' duration on all the lakes began Oct. 22, resulting in much damage to shipping and great loss of life. The schooner Alma with all hands foundered in Lake Erie. Propeller Trader exploded on Lake Huron and three persons were killed. Propeller Mary Stewart, 442 tons, was wrecked at Grand Haven. November: Schooner Darien lost on Lake Erie; several members of the crew perished. Propeller F. W. Backus, 289 tons, was burned at Racine, Wis., after 20 years' service. Schooner Mary Ballard, Capt. John Coyne, foundered in Lake Ontario and nine lives were lost. Propeller Mary total wreck on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Scow N. G. lost in Pigeon bay, during a storm. Propeller Lac La Belle collides with the steamer Milwaukee near the Flats, resulting in the sinking of the former; two lives lost. Barges Experiment and Sheridan lost on Lake Huron. December 9: Schooner Gary Owen sunk with all hands near Port Colborne; 26, Tug T. W. Notter sunk in Cleveland.
Other casualties of the season were as follows: Steamer Forest Queen dismantled and made a barge; steamer Planet dismantled at Manitowoc; steamer R. R. Elliott dismantled at Detroit; steamer Ranger lost near Port Stanley, Lake Erie; steamer Clifton dismantled at Owen Sound; propeller City of Buffalo burned at Buffalo; tug O'Brien exploded in Niagara river; bark Ocean Wave wrecked in Green bay; bark Great West wrecked on Racine reef; bark John Sweeney wrecked at Muskegon; brig E. W. Cross wrecked at Chicago; brig Alex. Mitchell lost in a gale on Lake Michigan; scow Pacific wrecked at Port Burwell; barge Ark wrecked on Lake Huron, and four lives lost. The following named vessels were all schooners. L. C. Butts, No. 1, wrecked at Forest bay, Lake Huron; Elm City burned at Erie; Thilena Mills wrecked below Cleveland, and three lives lost; Autocrat sunk by collision in Lake Michigan; America lost on Lake Michigan; Elmira lost on Lake Ontario; George C. Drew wrecked on Charity island, Lake Huron; Puritan wrecked on Buffalo breakwater; M. S. Scott wrecked at Racine; Hiawatha sunk by collision in Lake Michigan; Louisa wrecked at Big Sodus, Lake Ontario; Roanoke wrecked at Pentwater, Lake Michigan; Pioneer wrecked near Grand Haven, Lake Michigan; O. V. Brainard wrecked at Port Hope, Lake Ontario; Bay Queen wrecked at Port Colborne; Tom Wrong wrecked at Port Burwell.
There were 621 disasters on the lakes during the season of 1866. The losses on hull and cargo, however, were not definitely computed, although varying not far from $1,300,000; the loss of life was 175.
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Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.