Schoolcraft's Trip. -- Henry R. Schoolcraft took passage on the Walk- in-the-Water in 1820 while on his trip up the lakes. "On the sixth of May" he writes, "I embarked on board the steam boat, which left Black Rock at 9 o'clock in the morning, and reached Detroit on the eighth at 12 o'clock at night. We were favored with clear weather, and a part of the time with a fair wind. The boat is large, uniting in its construction a great degree of strength, convenience and elegance, and is propelled by a powerful and well-cast engine, on the Fultonian plan, and one of the best pieces of workmanship of the original foundry (McQueen's, New York). The accomodations of the boat are all that could be wished, and nothing occurred to interrupt the delight which a passage at this season affords. The distance is computed at 300 miles; the time we employed in the voyage was sixty-two hours, which gives an average rate of traveling of five miles per hour. The first two miles after leaving Black Rock, a very heavy rapid is encountered, in ascending which the assistance of oxen is required. In passing through Lake Erie the boat touches at the town of Erie, in Pennsylvania, at the mouth of Grande river and at the towns of Cleve- land and Portland, in Ohio, the latter situated on Sandusky bay."
"While detained at Bois Blanc," writes Schoolcraft, "a vessel bound for Michilimackinac passed up through the narrow strait which separ- ates the island from the main shore. It is interesting to contemplate the progress of commerce through regions which at no remote period were only traversed in bark canoes."
The Governor Cass Expedition. - In 1820 General Cass, under the authority of the Secretary of War, directed an exploring expedition of Lake Superior and crossed over to the Mississippi. This expedition had among its principal objects that of investigating the northwest- ern copper mines, and was accompanied by H. R. Schoolcraft, in the capacity of mineralogist and geologist. His observations are recorded in his "Narrative Journal of Travels from Detroit northwest, etc.," from which the following account is condensed:
Schoolcraft, from Grosse Point, was a member of a party of 38 persons, all embarked in three canoes. It included, besides himself, Gov. Lewis Cass, of Michigan Territory, his staff and officers numbering seven, ten Canadian voyageurs, seven United States soldiers, ten Indians, an interpreter and a guide. Only enough provisions were taken to serve the party to the island of Michilimackinac, to which place the stores, arms, Indian goods and other principal outfits had been sent by vessels in order to facilitate their passage through Lake Huron. The three canoes were moved wholly with paddles, but a sail provided to each, as well as a small standard, bearing the arms of the United States. Each canoe had also a tent or marque and an oil cloth, together with the necessary gum, bark and apparatus for mending canoes. "From Port Huron," says Schoolcraft, "it is necess- ary, in order to strike the mouth of St. Clair river and to save a tedious voyage round the shore, to traverse across a large bay, or arm of the lake, but before we had reached half the distance the wind arose and continued to blow with such violence that with every exertion little headway could be made, while the waves were fre- quently breaking across our canoes, which rendered it necessary for one man to be continually employed in bailing out the water. On the fourth day from Detroit, or May 26, 1820, Fort Gratiot, at the foot of Lake Huron, was reached. In ascending St. Clair river nine vessels, detained by head winds, were passed. They were laden with merchandise, military stores and troops for Michilimackinac, Green Bay and Chicago. They also passed a number of Indian canoes, in each of which were generally one family with their blankets, guns, fishing apparatus and dogs.
In order to cross Saginaw bay with safety in a canoe, says Schoolcraft, it is necessary to pass up the eastern shore from Point aux Barques to Point aux Cheves, a distance of 18 miles. Here, if the lake be calm, the voyageur crosses by a stretch of 20 miles to the opposite shore, with the advantage of landing on the island of Shawangunk, should a storm overtake him in the center of the bay, which is frequently the case. On gaining the opposite shore, it is necessary to pass down the bay about the same distance that was formerly ascended, before the open lake is again reached. The entire crossing can easily be performed in one day if the weather is favorable, but this does not always happen, and the fatal accidents that have formerly befallen those who were too venturesome have operated as a severe caution to voyageurs and canoe travelers of the present day, so that it is difficult to induce the former to attempt it, unless the weather be perfectly clear and the bay calm.
At Presque Isle, three days later, the party carried their canoes and baggage across the portage, which is about 200 yards, over a low, sandy neck of land, connecting the peninsula with the mainland. By this portage they saved a voyage of six or eight miles around a point of land which projects into the lake.
The next day, the fourteenth from Detroit, they reached Mackinac. "Nothing can present a more picturesque or refreshing spectacle to the traveler, wearied with the lifeless monotony of a canoe voyage through Lake Huron," exclaims the traveler, "than the first sight of the island of Michilimackinac, which rises from the watery horizon in lofty bluffs, imprinting a rugged outline along the sky, and capped with two fortresses, on which the American standard is seen conspic- uously displayed. A compact town stretches along the narrow plain below the hills, and a beautiful harbor, checkered with Americana vessels at anchor, and Indian canoes rapidly shooting across the water in every direction," The distance from Detroit to Mackinac is computed at 300 miles by those who perform the route in vessels of a large size, but is about 360 miles when all the indentations of the shore are followed.
"During our detention here," says Schoolcraft, "vessels have been constantly entering or leaving the harbor, giving the town an appear- ance of bustle and business, which was not expected. This appearance of trade has, perhaps, recently assumed a partial activity by the concentration of a considerable military force on the frontier, which has furnished employment to a number of vessels in the transportation of troops, military stores and provisions."
The provisions and stores shipped from Detroit reached Mackinac several days later, and June 13 the party, now reinforced to 42, embarked for Sault Ste. Marie in four canoes, escorted by a detachment of 22 soldiers in a 12-oared barge, under command of Lieut, Pierce, for the Indians were reported to entertain a spirit of hostility to the United States, and might stop the passage through to Lake Superior.
Other Events of 1820 -- April 1: The Lake Erie Steamboat Company incorporated at Buffalo. April 5: Navigation open at Cleveland. May 6: Navigation open at Buffalo, by the Walk-in-the-Water bound for Detroit. August 4: Schooner Commodore Perry, bound from Sacket's Harbor, filled and sank off Putneyville; crew saved. Vessel recovered by the Lady of the Lake. September 4: Lighthouse at Galo island near Sacket's Harbor, lighted first time. October 11: Schooners Commodore Perry and Wolf driven ashore during a severe gale near Buffalo. Schooner Franklin, in command of Captain White, of Erie, and owned by Peter S. V. Hamot, with cargo valued at $3,500, sunk at Grand River; crew lost. Schooner Zephyr, in command of Captain Napier, wrecked; ten lives lost. October 26: Schooner Asp, in command of Captain Prossey, wrecked near the Salmon river, Lake Ontario; several lives lost. October 23: Schooner Lavantia, in command of Captain Stonburner, bound from Oswego to the Genesee river, wrecked off Little Sodus bay; crew saved; cargo lost. November 12: British schooner Owen, in command of Captain St. Clair, bound from Kingston to Niagara, ashore at Long Point, during severe snow storm; crew saved; cargo lost. November 26: Schooner Erie, bound from Black Rock to Detroit damaged, during a storm. November 11: Schooners American Eagle, William, and Washington driven ashore at Cleveland during a gale. During a heavy storm and fall of snow, the schooner Triumph went ashore at the head of the Genesee river, schooner Swallow ashore near Braddock's Point, schooner Minerva ashore near Oswego, the British Wellington ashore at the head of Lake Ontario. The Kingston Packet and the Cornet aground near the Niagara river. November 24: Schooner Eagle, in command of Captain Manchester, sunk off Long Point. November 28: Schooner Lady Prevost driven from her moorings at Fort Erie, and beached near Bird Island.
In 1820 the John Watkins, a Canadian schooner, was afloat, and the schooner Lady Sarah Maitland, named after one of the "fair women," mentioned by Lord Byron as being present at the celebrated ball, given at Brussels by the Duchess of Richmond, on the eve of the battle of Waterloo. In July, 1820, there was launched at York the sloop Richmond, 100 tons burden, which sailed between York and Niagara.
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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.