From Manuscript Records Of Captain Augustus Walker.1
As early as 1816 a few enterprising men residing in Northern Ohio obtained a charter from the Legislature of that State under which a Company was formed and a sum of $8,000 was subscribed. William Latimer, Abraham [illegible], Seymour Austin and Ely Bond were the active men engaged in the enterprise. Painesville, Ohio, is entitled to the credit of making the first experiment in harbor improvements on the lakes, at the mouth of the Grand River, Ohio. In the spring of 1819 they began operations on the east side of that river, and drove two tiers of piles about 40 rods in length, set five feet apart, and filled them up with brush, timber and a few stones. In February, 1820, a severe freshet at the breaking up of the ice carried away some 15 rods of the work. Nothing more was done until 1821, when the piles were extended about 30 rods farther. The funds raised by the company proving totally inadequate to accomplish the object, the work was relinquished to the General Government, which made an appropriation of $1,000 and the next year another small appropriation. In 1827 the Government assumed the construction of the harbor, under the direction of its own agents and from that period forward until the work was suffered to fall into decay Grand River has been one of the best artificial harbors on the coast of the lakes.
The second experiment was made by citizens of Buffalo who commenced the construction of a pier in 1820. . . . Application was made by the citizens of Buffalo praying the Legislature for a survey of Buffalo Creek; an act was passed April 10, 1818, authorizing a survey and directing the Supervisors of the County of Niagara to pay $3 a day to the surveyor and to assess the amount to the county. . . . 2
Buffalo and Black Rock were not the only rival towns in the lake region; the same feeling of rivalry existed between Huron and Sandusky villages. It originated as early as the time when there were but seven steamboats upon the lakes--1826--from the fact that none of the boats could be prevailed upon to touch at Huron but would go to Sandusky bay, often carrying large numbers of passengers past their destination at Huron, subjecting them to the inconvenience of finding their way back over 10 miles by land conveyance. The captains claimed that it was unsafe to run down into Huron bay but the real reason was that it would detain them an hour or so on their trip. This state of things so incensed those residing at Huron, Milan, Norwalk, Vermilion and other towns in the neighborhood of Huron that they determined to have a steamboat of their own.
Knowing something of the extent of the injuries they had been subjected to, as I had during those years been doing business with my schooner at that port and was familiar with the harbor, I proposed to join them in building a steamer. This resulted in the construction of the steamer Sheldon Thompson. I left my schooner Lady of the Lake for one trip and took passage on the steamboat Superior for Sandusky. This was the first time I had ever traveled on a steam-vessel. I left the steamer at that port, hired a horse and buggy and made my way to Milan. The next day a public meeting was called which brought together the merchants, farmers and mechanics, all of whom subscribed stock to the amount of $10,150, in $50 shares, some to pay in labor, some in pork, flour, etc., others in merchandise at cost prices. Four yoke of oxen and chains were to be furnished by the farmers; others were to deliver timber at so much per foot. This $10,150 was the whole capital stock decided upon, though the boat cost some $16,000. There was not a very large amount of money used in her building as the commodities furnished by her stockholders were most that were required. The engine and boilers were furnished by stockholders, which were the same that were used by the steamer Enterprise previous to running the high-pressure engine.
Such was the spirit manifested by these public-spirited men that for many years thereafter Huron had its own representative steamer and also became famed for its ship-building. A number of steamers were built at Huron under the title and name of The Huron Mechanics' Association.
Soon after it was known that the Grand River harbor had been improved, other places along the coast began similar work by driving piles and in a few years almost every creek and river on Lake Erie was greatly benefited by this process of piling. Among them were the Cattaraugus, Conneaut and Ashtabula creeks, Cuyahoga, Black, Vermilion and Huron rivers,Port Clinton and the River Raisin, all begun before 1823.
About 1835 or '36 another class of harbors was introduced on Lake Michigan, by driving piles some six or eight feet apart in two rows 10 or 12 feet distant, with cross ties over the tops of the piles and some eight feet above the water, on which the planking rested. These piers extended 1,200 to 1,500 feet into the lake or until they reached 12 feet of depth. They served well to land goods on, but were unstable moorings for vessels in rough weather. These piers were run out into the lake at many points along the coast where there were no creeks or rivers. This class of harbors was first constructed by Horatio Stevens at Milwaukee, and for many years, until the harbors at Milwaukee and Chicago were completed, it was the only kind of harbors on that coast. Mr. Stevens for many years was identified with our steam marine, and at one time owner of the steamboat Milwaukee.
I first came to the lakes in May, 1817, when I was 17 years old, led only by my desire to become a sailor. The aggregate population of Buffalo and Black Rock did not exceed 1,000, but the spirit of rivalry was even then active among the few men engaged in commerce, and was kept alive through the public journals of that time. This was a source of great amusement to those who knew but little of the natural advantages of the two localities. The trade of the lakes was limited; there were but 19 American merchant vessels on Lake Erie; these vessels with few exceptions plied from the harbor of Black Rock, which was then in its natural state, no artificial structures having been built. Niagara River was the only accessible harbor at this end of the lake and was sought by all mariners in rough weather, who often had to bear up and run back hundreds of miles. Especially in the fall was it the only safe retreat or shelter from wild storms. Buffalo Creek was then a sluggish stream, at times easily forded at its mouth and often in summer entirely barred up with sand by the action of surf from the bay. It would soon break out again, winding its way along the beach a half mile or more north of its present confluence with the lake.
In 1816, '17 and '18 Sill, Thompson & Co. were the only forwarding house at Black Rock. The principals of the firm were Nathaniel Sill and Captain Sheldon Thompson. Subsequently the firm assumed the title of Thompson & Co.,James L. Barton being the junior partner in the concern. Still later and for many years, the firm was known as Coit, Kimberly & Co.; afterwards Kimberly, Pease & Co.,John Pease being one of the firm; at present, Pease & Trobridge. These several firms, for the last 47 years, have been known among the most prominent business establishments at this port, and for many years contributed their full share to the development of our lake commerce and were for some time largely interested in the trade of the Erie Canal.
In those same years--1816, '17 and '18--there was but one forwarding house on Buffalo Creek--the firm of Townsend & Coit. The Hon. Charles Townsend and George Coit were partners in this firm for many years, until the death of Judge Townsend. This firm, I am informed, was the first that forwarded any articles of merchandise westward from Buffalo in a regular order of shipment, by bill of lading.
A few years later, Mr. John Scott commenced a forwarding business upon the creek, near Main Street. Subsequently the firm assumed the name of Scott & Barker--the late Jacob A. Barker being the junior partner. Afterwards the firms were Barker & Holt; Hunter, Palmer & Co.;Holt & Ensign, and at present Charles Ensign. Previous to the opening of our present harbor all goods and merchandise that came to this point to be shipped westward, were taken in scows or lighters, alongside, and loaded on board vessels at anchor in the bay, where they generally came to in three fathoms. Any nearer approach to the shore was considered unsafe, as the anchorage in less water was known to be bad holding-ground, rendering vessels liable to drag on shore before getting under way. Most vessels upon the lakes at that day were dull sailers; some of them could hardly claw off shore under canvas.
This business of lightering was mostly monopolized by Winthrop Fox, he having the only facilities for that purpose. His charges would seem rather exorbitant at the present day for such services. Mr. Fox was among the first settlers of Buffalo, and a brother to Carlton W. Fox, who many years since embarked with a company of Indians to Europe for the purpose of exhibiting them as a matter of speculation, but which, so far as I am informed, was a sad failure, the result of which is known to many of the older inhabitants of our city, as well as to some of the Senecas and other tribes who are relatives of those natives that went upon that expedition.3
Ship-building, in 1817, was almost in its infancy. The only persons engaged in this important branch, as master builders, were Capt. Asa Stanard and Benjamin Bidwell. They were doing business, on a small scale, at Black Rock. As early as 1812, while our late Captain Bidwell was yet an apprentice, old Capt. Stanard had established a shipyard on Scajaquada Creek. Subsequently (after the death of Capt. Stanard), the firm was known by the name of Bidwell & Davidson; and some years later (after the demise of Capt. Davidson), as Bidwell & Carrick, who established a shipyard and dry-dock at this port. Since that time the firm was known as Bidwell & Banta, the late Jacob W. Banta being one of the principals. The name of Jacob W. Banta deserves more than a passing comment. Few men in modern times have shown more talent and taste in naval science than he. He was apprenticed quite young, schooled and educated under the instruction of Henry Eckford of the City of New York, of the firm of Eckford & Westervelt, who was known to rank among the best naval architects of his time. Mr. Banta possessed genius of a high order, which was manifested in his models of those two splendid steamers, the Western Metropolis and City of Buffalo.
When I first arrived at Black Rock, May 5, 1817, I found five sail vessels laid up in that harbor, where they had been moored the previous winter--the schooners Michigan, Erie and Ranger, the sloop Hannah, and the brig Union. The Union, Erie and the sloop Hannah were hauled into the mouth of Scajaquada Creek. These vessels had just begun fitting out for the season. The ice from the lake was slowly passing down the Niagara in large quantities, and did not entirely disappear until nearly the first of June. These vessels, to my inexperienced eye, looked very formidable. Indeed, they were the largest water craft I had ever seen. Their size, together with the sight of Lake Eric for the first time, made a singular impression upon my young mind. The Michigan was 132 tons burden, the largest American merchant vessel afloat upon the lakes. The Erie was 77 tons; the Hannah 48 and 73-95ths tons measurement; the Union 104 tons, and the schooner Ranger, a small affair, only 28 tons--custom-house measurement. The Michigan, Erie and sloop Hannah were built at Black Rock in 1816. The sloop Hannah is the first vessel that appears on the Custom House register at this port, under date of August, 1816. She was owned by Charles Townsend, George Coit and Captain Oliver Coit of Buffalo. Her first Commander, Captain Coit, was a thorough seaman, educated in the school of ocean discipline, some of which he brought with him to the lakes, and in a large degree insisted upon its due observance, which seemed rather a trying ordeal to fresh-water sailors, making some of them at times quite refractory.
The schooner Michigan was built by a shipwright named Sneeden, who came on from the East for that purpose. This vessel was a double topsail schooner, resembling in most particulars the down-easters that ply upon the Atlantic coast at the present day. She was owned by Sill, Thompson & Co.; and Capt. James Rough, who took command of her the first and second season. Subsequently, for a number of years she was under the command of Capt. Walter Norton.
After 11 years of successful service upon the lakes, the Michigan was bought by parties as a speculation, and under the direction of Capt. Rough, was fitted out with a variety of living animals on board and sent over the Falls of Niagara. Among the number of animals was a full-grown Arabian camel, one elk, a variety of dogs, one bear and a number of swan, geese and hawks, who were left to roam about on deck, until the gallant craft made her last and fearful plunge over the precipice into the abyss below. This scene attracted a large concourse of spectators, estimated from 50,000 to 100,000 persons, who gathered from far and near. Capt. Levi Allen of this city was one of the ship's crew who assisted in this novel enterprise, and had it not been for him and others of the crew, old Capt. Rough, in his zeal to have everything rightly adjusted before leaving his favorite ship, would have been drawn, with all hands, over the falls. The crew, with the utmost exertion, rowed the yawl on shore, some distance below the mouth of Chippewa Creek on the Canada side, just above the first cataract, to the great relief of the multitude who witnessed this almost miraculous escape.
Capt. Rough was one of the early settlers of Black Rock, a Scotchman by birth and possessing those strong national characteristics and ruling passions that tend to the accumulation of wealth. He was bred to the sea, and in most particulars was a fair specimen of an old tar--arbitrary and commanding on shipboard, at times as rough as the element he inhabited, though affable, courteous and gentlemanly in his intercourse with the world. When on shore he seemed almost transformed into another being. Some few years prior to his death, he was supposed by many to be very poor, laboring under many pecuniary embarrassments. It was ascertained, however, after his demise, that he had some $30,000 or $40,000 of ready money in the bank at Chippewa and $4,000 in a bank at Pittsburgh, besides a large landed estate in Black Rock. He died at Black Rock and was buried in the old cemetery, with a quaint and concise device placed upon his tombstone by his friend, Major Donald Fraser, then a resident of Black Rock.4 It reads as follows:
Here lies the body of CAPTAIN JAMES ROUGH,
The schooner Erie was built by Stanard & Bidwell in 1816 and was owned by Sill, Thompson & Co. and Captain M. T. Miller, who commanded her the first and second seasons. At that day she was considered a fine model, having a large amount of dead-rise to her floor. She was acknowledged by all to be the fastest sailer upon the lakes, especially in beating to windward. She was what seamen call a wet craft and with all her good sea qualities was a very uncomfortable ship to sail in. This I can testify to, having sailed upon her one season as a hand before the mast. Vessels of the lake at that day were built without bulwarks and consequently when hauled upon the wind the spray made a free breach over the deck. The brig Union was owned by Jonathan Sidway and commanded by Captain James Beard. As this was the first vessel that I embarked on as a sailor I may be permitted to dwell on some of her peculiarities. She was modeled, built, owned and commanded by a man named Martin, who had been a house carpenter. She was partially built on Put-in-Bay Island, launched and towed to the mouth of Grand River, Ohio, in 1813. It is difficult to give any adequate idea of her construction. Her proportions were unlike those of any other craft then or since on the lakes. She had some good points, one of them her great breadth of beam; that, together with her flat bottom, with but little dead-rise to her floor, enabled her to carry a much larger cargo than other vessels of her tonnage, and when light she could sail safely in all kinds of weather without ballast. The manner of her planking was peculiar. Her garboard-streak followed up the main stem, butting underneath the wales instead of ending against the stem of the ship. Each succeeding streak of plank was gradually tapered or beveled at the forward end, so that the last streak was brought to a wedge-like point terminating some 20 feet from her bows. She was originally schooner-rigged, with two old-fashioned slip-keels. Her lower masts were buttonwood; the bowsprit and jib-boom of the same timber, both made in one spar; her decks were of red cedar and but very little iron was used in her build, she being mostly fastened with wooden trunnels. She was employed at the close of the war by the United States Government as a transport. In 1815 she was sunk in Scajaquada Creek, but was subsequently raised by Stanard & Bidwell and rebuilt into a hermaphrodite brig--removing the slip-keels and substituting a standing one in their stead. By this general overhauling she was made to look much like a sea-going vessel, and when under way, with all her canvas, upper and lower studding sails set to the breeze, her appearance was really quite imposing. In 1816, '17 and '18 she was under the command of Capt. James Beard, the father of the artist, Wm. H. Beard, of this city.
I take pleasure in speaking of Capt. James Beard, who was then a man about 55 years of age. In after years I knew him intimately. He was a fair specimen of an old-fashioned gentleman, kind and genial in his nature and from his extensive voyages upon the ocean, visiting many portions of the globe, had acquired a thorough knowledge of the geography of the world, although at the same time but poorly versed in the science of human nature. He, like many others, from the integrity of his own heart was slow to learn that mankind was not always to be trusted. He could hardly believe that most men talked and acted from motives of policy or interest. Capt. Beard was truly a gentleman, and in the broadest sense a true sailor. He was a resident of Black Rock when I came to the country, and remained there for some years, until he removed with his family to Ohio.
The majority of commanders, as well as seamen, when I came to the lakes, were from the seaboard. Most of them not only brought with them their peculiar ideas of rigid, arbitrary discipline practiced upon the ocean, but most of the masters adopted the same style and mode of living among their crews. To give some idea how men before the mast fared upon the lakes at that day, I will note that their food, as a general thing, was salt pork and beef, hard bread or sea-biscuit, potatoes, beans or peas; no tea, coffee, sugar, milk, butter or cheese were furnished by the owners. Each seaman and boy was allowed 12 shillings per month to buy such small stores. In addition to this all on board were, according to custom, allowed one half pint of whiskey, as rations, dealt out by the mate each day. As I happened to have a stronger appetite for sleep than for whiskey I could always find some one of the old tars that would stand my anchor-watch in port for the privilege of drinking my half pint of grog, added to his own. These and some other antiquated customs gradually gave way before the march of progress as the number of fresh-water masters and seamen multiplied upon the lakes.
And as Capt. Beard was my first captain, I may be allowed to give some account of the incidents connected with that pioneer voyage. We sailed from the port of Black Rock one of the last days of May, bound for Cleveland, Ohio, or rather we were towed up the rapids (by what the sailors called a "horn breeze"), having 12 yoke of oxen to enable her to ascend. The current opposite the ferry was some nine knots and continued some distance above and below that point. Previous to the erection of Black Rock pier the average current up as far as the main reef was about seven knots. The day previous to our sailing, the Captain's family and some friends came and took dinner on board, a common custom in those days before leaving on a voyage, and especially was this custom observed when a vessel cleared for a distant port like Detroit or Mackinaw.
Nothing worthy of note occurred on the passage up. The wind was light and fair most of the distance. We came to anchor the second day off the town, there being no harbor accessible at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River for any craft drawing over three feet of water. The yawl was soon lowered and sent on shore with the captain, a few passengers, and her owner, Mr. Sidway, who acted as a sort of supercargo. In the course of the afternoon a lighter came alongside, laden with some 30 barrels of pork, which were hoisted on board and stuck into the hold. The lighter returned to the shore. During the night the wind came on to blow from the eastward, and continued to increase until it blew a gale. We rode with both anchors ahead that night and the following day, in the meantime the mate taking the precaution to have her canvas reefed and in readiness to get under way in case the cables parted.
About 12 o'clock the second night, the best hawser cable parted and the other anchor began to drag on shore, leaving no other alternative but to bend a buoy to the cable, slip, make sail and stand out to sea, shaping our course to the islands. We came to in Put-in-Bay harbor, with a small kedge anchor bent to the hawser, which was sufficient to bring her up in that most natural land-locked haven so much frequented in former years. Previous to the construction of artificial harbors along the coast, most vessels sought this safe retreat in rough weather. After our arrival, in clearing up the decks, it was found that the old buttonwood mainmast was sprung in the partners, and by starting the wedges we discovered it was much decayed. This difficulty was obviated for the time being by substituting a longer set of wedges, extending some three feet above deck and passing down the mast about the same distance in the hold, and wrapping cordage tightly round. In that manner the mast was strongly fished, which enabled her to carry sail with safety. The next day the wind changed to the south'ard, and in the course of the day and night following, we came back to our old anchorage, got our anchors, by sweeping for the one attached to the parted cable, took on board a full cargo of pork, and with the last lighter load, Mr. Sidway came on board, having been left on shore with the captain during our trip to the island. When getting under way from Cleveland, it was generally supposed by the crew that we were bound directly to Black Rock, but we found our destination was Long Point, Canada West. We lay there, beating off and on from the main land, for nearly two weeks, much of the time at anchor, waiting a favorable opportunity to get the cargo on shore in small boats and scows that came alongside at night, whenever the brig stood in near the coast. At length the cargo, some 700 or 800 barrels, was all disposed of.
I do not wish to say that this landing cargo in the night was smuggling, as I am quite sure I never saw one barrel landed on the Canadian shore. It was enough that I knew the voyage to me was rather a rough one; a reality which began to make me think there was not quite as much novelty in sailing as I had been led to believe from all the flattering stories I had heard of the pleasure of sailing upon the Great Lakes. It was quite another thing from what I had found in earlier youth in the sport of sailing over the smooth surface of Oneida and Onondaga lakes.
We arrived off Buffalo, came to anchor outside, after having been absent nearly four weeks. The next day, the brig was to sail to Fort Erie for the purpose of taking on board a cargo of salt, an article bearing a much higher price than at the present day. I thought on the whole I had experienced about as much of lake life and forecastle fare as I cared to see; in addition I had suffered terribly from seasickness and was a little homesick withal. I asked for my wages, having shipped only for the trip, the same as the balance of the crew, except the officers, who were shipped for the season. I received the amount due, having been on board seven weeks, including the time of fitting out.
Small events sometimes change the whole tenor of a man's life; my next experience may seem to sustain that theory. After leaving the brig (which I confess was with some reluctance), I remained two days in Buffalo and finally determined to retrace my steps homeward, by the way of Black Rock, Lewiston and Oswego, the same route by which I came but eight weeks before. I commenced my journey at four o'clock in the afternoon, taking a short cut from my boarding house, located near Main Street, where Spaulding's Exchange now stands ; there was but one dwelling below that which stood in the angle just where Dodsworth's clothing store now stands. It was occupied as a small grocery kept by Daniel Barto. I followed a sort of foot-path or trail along the brow of the hill (now the Terrace), across lots and intersecting Niagara Street somewhere near where Prince's melodeon factory now stands.5 Just above was a double log house occupied by old Uncle Caskey, as he was called by all who knew him. The region was then an open common with a few forest trees standing here and there among the scattered underwood. I sat down by the wayside to rest a little, as my baggage though scanty began to feel rather heavy. While sitting thus my attention was attracted to a pile of clippings or refuse which had been deposited from a tinshop in a hollow near by. I went to the spot and boy-like spent a half-hour or more in turning over the fancifully cut spirals and other fragments. Thus I occupied myself until I fell asleep. When I awoke the sun was setting and the thought occurred to me that the day was too far gone for me to reach Black Rock before dark. So I changed my purpose and returned to my former boarding house, kept by old Father Mahoney, but with my mind still intent on leaving for home the next morning. But when morning came I began to falter as to the propriety of going home. I resolved once more to try a sailor's fortune, and before night I had shipped on board the schooner Ranger, which had found her way into Buffalo Creek, she drawing but three feet of water when her lea-boards were up.
This small vessel was commanded by a Captain Levi Patterson, owned by Mr. Tinker, a merchant at Westfield; a Mr. Hawley of Fredonia, and a gentleman residing in Buffalo, whose name I do not remember. She plied between this port and Portland Harbor, touching at Silver Creek and Dunkirk. She was wrecked at Portland Harbor that fall. From that time to the present I have been more or less interested and associated with our lake commerce, which fact may be more or less due to the little circumstance of falling asleep on my way out of town, some 46 years ago.
From 1817 to 1820 sail vessels greatly increased in numbers, though not in size. These vessels varied from 18 to 65 tons burden, mostly built with slip-keels, differing somewhat from the present style of centerboards. Each creek, river and port along the coast had its representative vessels. Among them were the schooner Fire Fly and sloop Livonia, of Cattaraugus; Fayett's Packet, of Silver Creek; Dunkirk Packet, of Dunkirk; Erie Packet, of Presqu' Ile, Pa.;Salem Packet, of Conneaut, Ohio; the General Jackson, of Superior; Zephyr and Traveller, of Ashtabula; Widow's Son, Grand River; Neptune, American Eagle, Fairplay and Aurora, of Cleveland (the Aurora was subsequently owned by Judge Samuel Wilkeson and Sheldon Chapin, of Buffalo); schooner Dread, of Black Rock; William and Ranger, of Vermilion River; the schooner William was owned in 1821 and '22 by Reuben B. Heacock, Horace Griffin and Benjamin Fowler, then residents of Buffalo. The port of Huron, O., was represented by a small schooner of the same name; there were also the schooner Wolf, of Sandusky; the Maumee Packet, of Maumee, and the schooner Tiger, of Detroit. The majority of commanders of these vessels have passed away. Capt. Levi Johnson, of Cleveland ; Capt. Warren Dingly, Capt. Perkins, of Chautauqua County, and Capt. Joseph and John Napier, are all that are now living of the early pioneer captains.6
The schooner Red Jacket--called after the celebrated Indian chief of that name--was built at Black Rock in 1820, owned by Sill, Thompson & Co. and Reynolds Gillet (her first commander). This was the last sail craft built by Stanard & Bidwell at Black Rock. This vessel was designed and well adapted to the Sault Ste. Marie trade, as there was at that time but five feet of water on St. Clair and Lake George flats. She was employed the first season by the United States Government in the boundary survey of Lake Huron, having on board a party of topographical engineers, among whom were Maj. Donald Fraser and our fellow-citizen, William A. Bird, who was employed as astronomical engineer.7 This vessel, from her peculiar construction and proportions, so unlike any other upon the lake, deserves a brief description. Her length on deck was 70 feet; breadth of beam, 17 feet; depth of hold, 4 feet 11 inches--measuring 53 tons. She was what is called a periauger, carrying immense leaboards, fan-shaped, and so arranged on the sides of the vessel, that they could be hoisted or lowered away, as the case might be. One only being in the water at a time, these leaboards enabled her to pass through shoal water, and were necessarily elevated on entering port, when they extended several feet above the main rail, giving the ship a novel and somewhat unnatural appearance. The Red Jacket was the first merchant vessel built upon the lakes, with bulwarks. Previous to her time vessels were built with open rail and stanchions. There was a necessity in this vessel having bulwarks, as she had but little side above the water when loaded. Since her time, the plan of boarding up to the rail has become a universal practice in building sail and steam vessels. In 1822 I became interested in the Red Jacket, and commanded her for seven successive years.
In 1823 the first chain cables were introduced upon the lakes by S. Thompson & Co. The schooners Michigan, Erie, Red Jacket and sloop Hannah were provided with that kind of cable, rather as an experiment at first, but they soon came into general use.
About the year 1824 or '25, there was a marked improvement in the models and general construction of sail vessels, creating a new era in ship-building; much of which was due to the taste and skill of Capt. Fairbanks Church, and Captain Augustus Jones, who came from the East and established shipyards at the mouth of Black River and Huron, Ohio, where they continued business for many years. Their vessels, as a general thing, were far in advance of those previously built--both for sailing and carrying heavier burden for their tonnage, and drawing much less water than those previously introduced. They bore a greater proportion of beam to the length of keel, and less depth in the hold, and being very broad on the transom, were enabled to carry sail as long as their canvas held together, which sometimes is very important when jammed upon a lea shore. There was a peculiar grace in the set of those vessels. In that particular these builders excelled. Their vessels had a sort of swan-like appearance upon the water, that attracted attention, while at the same time they were simple in their rig--mostly fore-and-aft schooners, though in after years they built and put afloat quite a large number of brigs and steamboats. Capt. Jones was the most successful so far as sail vessels were concerned. His style of sparring vessels, cut and proportion of sails, etc., was quite different from any other before introduced upon the lakes. The foremast was stepped further forward, the mainmast further aft, giving greater spread to the foresail, which is an important item when hauled upon the wind. Capt. Jones's vessels were always known in the distance by their masts being wider apart, as well as their great length of gaffs, both fore and aft, a distinguishing feature which characterized them from other vessels of that day.
I have been thus minute for the purpose of contrasting the sail craft of my youth with those of the present day-showing what changes and improvements we have lived to witness upon these inland seas. A few years later, almost all the ports between this and Detroit built and owned a representative steamboat.
Previous to the opening of Buffalo harbor in 1820, the majority of sail vessels, as well as the steamer Walk-in-the-Water, went to Black Rock, and were obliged to be towed up the rapids, unless so fortunate as to catch a strong northwardly wind to bring them up under canvas, a rare thing in summer, requiring at least a 10-knot breeze to stem the current. This towing process was a regular business, employing from eight to 14 yoke of oxen. The sailors commonly called this towing the "horn breeze." This enterprise was almost always superintended by Capt. Sheldon Thompson, it being an operation that required much care and good judgment, both in the management of this long team as well as the manner of securing the hawser to the masthead, and the necessary number of boats that served to buoy up the hawser between the ship and the shore, as well as their relative position. These boats (some dozen in number) were built expressly for that purpose. They were placed about 50 feet apart; the hawsers used were from 200 to 300 fathoms long, as it was necessary to shear-board out into the stream, while passing Brace's ferry, a shoal place at that point. Two sizes were required, a six-inch line for towing large vessels, and a four-inch for small ones. As a general thing these vessels were towed nearly up to the mouth of our present harbor, and when the tow line was cast off from the vessel it required no small amount of labor to haul on shore and coil away in boats that length of cordage and get it back again to Black Rock--a fact to which, I suppose, our worthy and respected citizen, Sheldon Pease, can bear testimony. He, then a mere boy some 15 or 16 years of age, was known as the head teamster, and from these years of experience in this laborious enterprise, became proficient in that, as well as other branches of industry connected with our lake trade.
Captain Thompson, in early life, had some considerable experience at sea, which gave him a pretty thorough acquaintance with most matters connected with nautical life. He was one of that class of self-made men that could work with head and hands, if need be; always industrious, frugal, and temperate in those habits of life which did not fail to ensure a competency.
From 1822 to 1836 I was interested in sail and steam vessels, in which the firm of S. Thompson & Co. were concerned, and acted as their agent and consignee. My first steamer bore the name of my friend, Sheldon Thompson.
From 1817 to the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, most sail craft were obliged to lay up during two months or more in summer for the want of sufficient up-freight to keep them in commission, down cargoes at that date being very limited, confined mostly to a few furs and peltries, a small quantity of Indian sugar and white fish, the only exports, from the West. Most of the merchandise from New York, bound westward, was transported by Durham boats, or batteaux, up the Mohawk River, through the Utica and Rome Canal, down Wood Creek, across the Oneida Lake, down the Oneida, Seneca and Oswego rivers, round the portage at Oswego falls, thence across Lake Ontario to Lewiston, up Lewiston heights by portage, round Niagara Falls, with the slow process of teams to Schlosser's landing (then called Fort Schlosser), then taken in batteaux or Durham boats to Black Rock harbor. Capt. James Sloan,Capt. Stevens, Capt. Philip H. Weishnan and Capt. Charles monopolized the boating business on the Niagara River between Schlosser and Black Rock, which at that day was an important branch of trade, being connected with Porter, Barton & Co., who had at that time a charter granted by the State Legislature, giving them the exclusive privilege of all the transit of merchandise, salt, etc., round the falls, for some 19 years, which had not expired when the Erie Canal was opened. Some merchandise, however, found its transit from Albany to the lakes, by the tardy way of wagons drawn by six or eight-horse teams to this port. Vessels were often detained one or two weeks after they commenced taking in their lading waiting the arrival of those teams for sufficient goods to complete their cargo. In the meantime they could, as a general thing, learn by the arrival of the stage coach that came daily with the mail (unless prevented by bad roads), what time they passed the freight wagons and the time those big teams might be expected to arrive at Buffalo or Black Rock. Those slow, but formidable establishments were commonly called Pennsylvania teams. The tires of their wagon wheels were some 10 to 12 inches wide, serving a two-fold purpose--preventing them from falling into the deep ruts made by narrow tires, and keeping them from smashing the highway as they passed along. This exempted that class of vehicles from toll-gate fees, etc., which were quite an item in those days when turnpike gates were so frequent.
But when the Erie Canal between Buffalo and the Hudson River was opened through valley and mountain, connecting the great chain of lakes with the ocean, a new impulse was given to our city and trade. As the terminus of this great thoroughfare was first at Black Rock Dam it stirred anew the spirit of rivalry that had existed for years between the business men of Black Rock and Buffalo, a feeling which did not abate in the least until the canal was finally completed to its conjunction with Buffalo Creek. About this time most of the business men residing at Black-Rock moved and established themselves in this city. Among the number were Capt. Sheldon Thompson, James L. Barton, John L. Kimberly, James McKnight, Phineas Brintnal, John D. Harty, Capt. Levi Allen, Archibald Allen, Stearns & Cutter, Judge McPherson, Lester Bran, Capt. William T. Pease, Henry Daw, John Pease, Joseph Barton, Doctor Bliss and others, most of whom were residents of Black Rock from 1817 to 1820 and '21. In 1827 I changed my residence from Black Rock to Buffalo, and in 1830 removed to Huron, Ohio, where my first efforts at steamboat building and sailing commenced. I resided there until 1842, at which time I returned with my family to this city. During the 12 years of my residence in Ohio I established and carried on a shipyard for the purpose of building my own boats, and during that period designed and built a number of steamers, and was otherwise interested in the forwarding and commission business under the firm name of Wickam, Walker & Co.
Among the principal business men residing at Buffalo in 1817 to 1820 were Reuben B. Heacock and Horace Griffin of the firm of Heacock & Griffin ; also Grosvenor & Heacock,George Burt, Burt & Goodrich, John Lay of the firm of Hart & Lay; E. D. Efner, William Bryant, Joshua Gillet, Benjamin Fowler, a Mr. Badger, and a Mr. Lazalere, "a jeweler. These gentlemen were the largest, in fact, almost the only merchants at that day in the city. All these merchants, if I remember rightly, were located on the west side of Main Street, scattered along from the corner on the Terrace where Joshua Gillet kept what was then called a wholesale liquor store in the old stone building which afterwards was owned by Jonathan Sidway, extending up to the corner where the Erie County Savings Bank is now located,8 though Burt & Goodrich's store stood much farther up street. By the rapid advance in the price of real estate in these localities, the fortunes of these men, greatly increased, and especially was Mr. Sidway's estate augmented. Stephen Clark at that time owned and kept an inn near the present locality of the Commercial buildings, and nearly opposite where Glenny's crockery store now stands was a small tenement occupied by Mr. Asaph Bemis, as a bakery. Mr. Landon was then an innkeeper in the village, where the present Mansion House is located. Mr. Pomeroy, better known at that time by the Indian name of Old Tauwah, kept a good-sized inn on the corner of Seneca and Main streets, where Brown's building now stands. Old Uncle Reese, as he was called, the oldest blacksmith in town, had his shop located near the present custom house [Washington and Seneca streets].
On the west corner of Seneca and Main stood a temporary dwelling, occupied by Oliver Newberry as a grocery store. His trade was largely with the natives, as they were the most numerous at that day. There was quite a traffic in pelts and furs which Mr. Newberry, in a great degree, monopolized. Mr. Newberry was eccentric. He invariably wore an Indian blanket coat in winter. He was what was commonly called a self-made man, relying entirely upon his own good judgment in all matters of business ; prompt and highly honorable in all his dealings. His memory seemed almost to preclude the necessity of keeping anything like a regular set of books. About the year 1824 or '25 Mr. Newberry located in Detroit, and from that period became identified with our lake marine, while at the same time he entered more largely into the fur and fish trade, generally furnishing freights for his own vessels, and for the last 35 years of his life was largely interested in the general commerce of the lakes. He built and put afloat quite a fleet of sail and steam vessels. He had a peculiar fancy for the names of his sail vessels, calling most of them after something connected with the history of Napoleon Bonaparte. Among them were the schooners Marengo, Napoleon, Marshal Ney, Austerlitz and Lodi. Others of his sail craft were the brig Manhattan and schooner Pilot. The Manhattan was one of the most finished brigs of her time; she was wrecked the second season in a snow storm on Point Abino. His steamers were the Michigan (the first and second), the Illinois (the first and second), the Oliver Newberry and the Nile. Mr. Newberry in earlier years was interested as a stockholder in many steamers besides his own. Some three or four were built under my supervision in which he was interested and was their agent and consignee at Detroit.
In this connection I must not omit to speak of General Charles M. Reed. Though not a resident of Buffalo it gives me pleasure to associate his name with the leading men who have been the means in years past of promoting the business of the lakes. His fleet of sail and steam vessels, the majority of which have been built and managed at this port, together with his large amount of real estate in our city, entitle him to more than a passing notice. Mr. Reed has been identified with the lake marine almost from its infancy. Few men have contributed more liberally in creating facilities for the development of the Western States. From the first organization of the different steamboat lines his boats (with a few exceptions) always ranked among the first class. The names of his steamers were the William Peacock and Pennsylvania (these two boats commanded by our late fellow-townsman, Captain John Fleeharty); the Thomas Jefferson, commanded by Capt. Thomas Wilkins, one of our veteran sailors ; the James Madison, first commanded by Capt. R. C. Bristol, afterwards, and for many years, under the charge of Capt. McFadden, who was drowned some years since near the mouth of Green Bay, Lake Michigan; the Buffalo, commanded by Capt. Levi Allen; the Erie, commanded by Capt. J. F. Titus; the Missouri, under the command of Capt. Wilkins; the Niagara, Capt. W. T. Pease, and others; the Keystone State, Capt. Stone and Capt. Richards; the Queen City, named in honor of our city, was commanded by Capt. J. F. Titus, who after a period of 30 years sailing some of our best boats, was drowned in attempting to land passengers in a yawl boat on the coast of Lake Michigan, some years since. The steamer Buffalo was in part owned by Jacob A. Barker and Capt. Levi Allen. She was the fastest boat upon the lakes, in her time, until the steamer Cleveland came out; she was considered to be somewhat faster.
The Hollisters, William, the eldest, and his brothers, John, James, Joseph, Robert, George and Frank, are among the many men who have contributed their full share in years past to developing the resources of the West, and from an early date became interested in the commerce of the lakes. They have built and owned a large fleet of sail and steam vessels, among them the steamer Anthony Wayne, more commonly called Mad Anthony. She came out under the command of Capt. Amos Pratt. The steamer St. Louis and propeller Princeton were built by these gentlemen, and if I remember rightly, brought under the command of Capt. Pratt. The St. Louis was subsequently commanded by Capt. George Floyd. They also built the propeller Samson. She was commanded by Capt. Richard E. Robertson. The propeller Hercules was under the command of Capt. Frederick Wheeler.
In 1817, as before stated, there were but 19 merchant vessels upon the lakes above the falls. Only eight of these vessels were over 50 tons burden. In 1818 the number had increased to 28, with an aggregate of 1,586 tons, including the steamboat Walk-in-the-Water, which came out that year. The number of seamen then employed on board these vessels did not exceed 180 all told. The English at that time had a few vessels in commission upon the lakes, not to exceed six in number, all small craft, except the brig Wellington of 165 tons, which was considered a large craft. She was owned by the British Northwest Fur Company, and commanded by Capt. Mclntosh, a Scotchman. This brig, when under way, presented a fine appearance. She was the only craft of that rig upon the lakes at that time.
In 1832 the number of our vessels had increased to 47, including nine steamboats, with an aggregate of 7,000 tons. The whole number of steamers then afloat, did not exceed in measurement the tonnage of our present steamer City of Buffalo, all combined amounting to 2,026 tons. Yet these steamers were of sufficient capacity to do all the passenger business through the lake at that time. In fact there was an excess of boats, as the steamer Superior was laid up a portion of that season for want of sufficient traffic to keep her in commission. She was laid up under a charter from the other boats in the line for the sum of $2500, but was fitted out for the purpose of making one trip in July to Chicago in the service of the United States Government, during the Black Hawk War of that year.
From that period ship-building greatly increased, as immigration began to pour into the Western States--Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. In 1854 the tonnage was 132,000; in 1858 it had increased to 404,301, the aggregate of 1,194 sail and steam vessels giving employment to some 12,000 mariners; and at the present time, 1863, the number has increased to 1,643 steamers and sail vessels, with an aggregate of 413,026 tons, giving employment to some 16,000 mariners.
No steamboat had visited Chicago prior to 1832. In that year, four boats were chartered by the United States Government for the transport of troops, provisions and munitions of war to that port: The Henry Clay, under the command of Capt. Walter Norton; the William Penn, commanded by Capt. John F. Wight; the Sheldon Thompson, under my charge, and the Superior, under the command of Capt. William T. Pease. These steamers received $5,500 each for their services, besides the amount charged for board of the officers belonging to the regiment.
The Henry Clay and Sheldon Thompson sailed from Buffalo on the morning of the 2d of July, 1832, laden with officers, troops and their equipments. The William Penn and Superior sailed a few days later, laden mostly with provisions, stores, etc., for the army. But owing to the sudden breaking out of the Asiatic cholera, two of these boats, the Henry Clay and Superior, were compelled to abandon their voyage, proceeding no farther than Fort Gratiot, the head of St. Clair River.
The Henry Clay arrived at Detroit a few hours in advance of the Thompson, and while lying at the deck two deaths occurred on board from the cholera. This created such alarm that the authorities of the city prevailed upon the captain to leave the dock. On my arrival at Detroit, I found she lay at anchor near the foot of Hog Island, some two miles above the city. Up to that time no signs of cholera had appeared on board my boat. After remaining a short time at the wharf, taking on board fuel, stores, etc., for the trip we got under way and went alongside the Henry Clay. At this time Gen. Scott, who was in command of this expedition, came on board my boat, accompanied by his staff and a number of volunteer officers and cadets, numbering some 40, including Gen. North and Col. Cummings, having been passengers thus far on board the Henry Clay. One company of some 50 soldiers, under Col. Twiggs, also came on board from the Clay.
Leaving her at anchor, we sailed, touching at Fort Gratiot, where we landed the same 50 troops and their baggage, which had entirely overloaded our little steamer; we then proceeded on the voyage. The next day the Clay arrived in the St. Clair River. The disease had become so violent and alarming on board of her that nothing like discipline could be observed. Everything in the way of subordination ceased. As soon as she came to the clock, each man sprang on shore, hoping to escape from a scene so terrifying and appalling; some fled to the fields, some to the woods, while others lay down in the streets and under the covert of the river banks, where most of them died, unwept and alone.
There were no cases of cholera causing death on board my boat until we passed the Manitou Islands in Lake Michigan, though we left three sick soldiers and two of the ship's crew on Mackinaw Island, with sufficient means placed in the hand of our agent, Michael Dowsman, to defray their expenses. Three of the five died before we returned to that port. The first person who died on board, expired about four o'clock in the afternoon on the fifth day out, some 30 hours before reaching Chicago. As soon as it was ascertained by the surgeon that life was extinct, the body was wrapped closely in a blanket, with weights secured by lashings of small cordage around the ankles, knees, waist and neck, and then committed, with but little ceremony, to the deep. This unpleasant, though imperative duty, was performed by the orderly sergeant, whose name was Davis, with a few privates detailed for that purpose. In like manner 12 others, including this same noble sergeant, who sickened and died in a few hours, were also thrown overboard before the rest of the troops were landed at Chicago.
The sudden death of this veteran sergeant and his committal to a watery grave, caused a deep sensation on board among the soldiers and crew, which I will not here attempt to describe. The effect produced upon Gen. Scott and the officers was too visible to be misunderstood, for the dead soldier had been a valuable man, and evidently a favorite among the officers and soldiers of the regiment. He had been attached to the service for some 16 years, and at his death was about 40 years of age. His whole demeanor was marked by the true characteristics of a soldier--brave, generous and considerate in the discharge of duty.
None of the officers of the army was attacked by the disease, while on board my boat, with such violence as to result in death, or any of the officers belonging to the boat, though nearly one fourth of the crew sickened and died on a subsequent passage from Detroit to Buffalo.
We arrived in Chicago, or rather came to anchor outside, on the evening of the 8th of July, 1832, being six days and over making the passage. The yawl boat was immediately lowered and sent on shore with Gen. Scott and a number of the volunteer officers who accompanied him on his expedition against the hostile tribes, who, with Black Hawk, had committed many depredations (though, perhaps, not without some provocation) ; compelling the whites to abandon their homes in the country and flee to Chicago, taking refuge in the fort for the time being. Before landing the troops next morning we were under the painful necessity of committing three more to the deep who died during the night, making in all 16 who were thus buried. These three were anchored to the bottom in three fathoms, the water being so clear that their forms could be plainly seen from our decks. This unwelcome sight so worked upon the superstitious fears of some of the crew, that I deemed it prudent to change anchorage. In the course of the day and night following, 18 others died and were interred on a rise of ground not far from the lighthouse (a spot where now stands a block of spacious buildings). The earth that was removed to cover one, made a grave to receive the next that died. All were buried without coffins or shrouds, except their blankets, which served as a winding-sheet, and there left without sign of remembrance or a stone to mark their resting-place.
During the four days we remained at Chicago, 54 more died, making an aggregate of 88. The scenes of horror occasioned by this singular disease, then so little known to medical science, it would be difficult to describe. Death in any form, even in its mildest aspect, is an unpleasant spectacle to behold, much more when we witness a disease preying upon the vitals, tearing the strong man asunder, relaxing and contracting the muscles and tendons, and drinking up the life's blood, causing the glassy and ghastly eye-balls to sink with horrid glare deep within their sockets--a hideous sight to contemplate.
On approaching Chicago we had found a number of sail vessels at anchor in the offing. As soon as it was ascertained that cholera was on board no time was lost in communicating from one vessel to another the intelligence, which induced them to weigh anchor at once and stand out to sea, hoping to escape the pestilence. In the morning some of these vessels were nearly lost in the distance, though in the course of the day most of them returned and re-anchored near by, in hailing distance. Among this fleet were vessels belonging to Owen Newberry, Degarma Jones of Detroit and Merwin & Giddings of Cleveland, Ohio. These vessels were employed in transporting provisions and stores for the Government to Chicago, and made a larger fleet than had ever been seen at that point before. The whole population of Chicago at that period, aside from a company of troops stationed there, did not exceed 45 or 50 souls. But few traces of civilization could be seen, after passing the Straits of Mackinaw. Nothing like lighthouses, or beacon lights, artificial harbors, and but few natural ones were in existence; no piers, wood or coal yards were established, and not a single village, town or city in the whole distance. Chicago then had but five buildings, three of which were log tenements ; one of them, without a roof, was used as a stable; and two small frame dwelling houses, besides the lighthouse and barracks, better known as Fort Dearborn, which was evacuated for the accommodation of the sick troops. Major Whistler and Capt. Johnson of the army, and many others with their families, took shelter wherever they could--some in tents, others under boards placed obliquely across fences.
All the mattresses and bedding belonging to my boat, except sufficient for the crew, were taken by order of Gen. Scott for the use of the sick, the General giving his draft for the purchase of new bedding. This was not only a deed of mercy to the sufferers, but a matter of favor to me in procuring a fresh outfit, so necessary after that disastrous voyage.
There was no harbor accessible to any craft drawing more than two feet of water, barely sufficient to admit the batteau in which the troops were landed. This batteau was towed by the Thompson from Mackinaw for that purpose and to aid in landing provisions from the sail vessels then in port.
But little could be seen where Chicago now stands, besides the broad expanse of prairie, with its gentle, undulated surface, covered with grass and variegated flowers, stretching out far in the distance resembling a great carpet interwoven with green, purple and gold; in one direction bounded only by the horizon, with no intervening woodland to obstruct the vision. The view, in looking through the spy-glass from the upper deck of our steamer, while laying in the offing, was most picturesque, presenting a landscape interspersed with small groves of underwood. The Chicago River, a mere creek, was fordable at its mouth, while it wended its way along the beach, flowing into the lake some distance south of its present junction. The provisions and stores brought by the sail vessels were landed on the beach, near the mouth of the river. I remained four days after landing the troops, procuring fuel for the homeward voyage. The only means of obtaining anything for fuel was to purchase the roofless log building, that, together with the rail fence enclosing a field of some three acres near by, was sufficient to enable us to reach Mackinaw. Being drawn to the beach and prepared for use, it was boated on board by the crew, which operation occupied the most of four days to accomplish.
After getting the fuel on board I was detained some six hours, waiting the arrival of a gentleman named Harmon, for whom I had dispatched a messenger, he residing some-eight miles back in the country. At length he arrived and engaged to accompany me as far as Detroit and act as physician, having some knowledge in preparing medicines, being a druggist. During the delay in waiting for this doctor, the crew became uneasy to get under way, and leave behind them the scene so fraught with horror. They had become almost mutinous. As soon as orders were given to get under way, the celerity with which the yawl was hoisted to the stern, was wonderful to see. With a will and a spirit of wild joy, accompanied by a hearty song of "Yo heave ho," they hove at the windlass; they seemed almost frantic with joy when the steamboat's anchor came in sight and her prow turned homeward.
We had no cases of cholera on our passage to Detroit. On our arrival at Mackinaw we were not suffered to land. The agent sent a batteau alongside with some provisions and the surviving man of my crew, with orders to take on board fuel some few miles distant on Boisblanc Island. While laying there the William Penn passed up, laden with stores and a few troops for Chicago. On our arrival at Detroit the excitement had abated, so that we were allowed to. come alongside the dock. The physician returned across the country, after receiving the stipulated sum for his services, which was $200, besides stage fare. When we arrived at Buffalo, we found the excitement, as well as the disease, had subsided, after sweeping away a large number of our citizens.9
The Walk-in-the-Water, the pioneer steamboat above the Falls, was built at Black Rock in 1818, under the supervision of Noah Brown of the firm of Adam and Noah Brown, who were then the most celebrated naval architects in the city of New York, having had a varied experience in that line, erecting ships for the ocean and for our navy on Lakes Erie and Ontario during the War of 1812. Mr. Brown brought with him from New York a gang of 30 ship-carpenters, and a foreman named Landsbury, who had charge of the yard. The facility with which this boat was built was due in a great measure to the mechanics of Black Rock. Messrs. Stanard, Bidwell and Davidson, with all the carpenters in their employ, were engaged in the construction of that steamer. Her blacksmithing was mostly done by Henry Daw.
The Walk-in-the-Water was launched on Thursday, May 28, 1818. She was built sidewise to the river and launched in that way, which was rather novel at that time, but much practiced since, as it is found to be much cheaper and safer than the old way of launching stern foremost. She sailed on her first trip to Detroit, Sunday, Aug. 23, 1818, and from the account given in the Niagara Patriot of that time, she was hull down in less than two hours after the towline was cast off. She was never able to ascend the rapids with her own steam power. She was under the command of Capt. Job Fish, who came on from the seaboard for that purpose. Capt. John Davis, her first mate and pilot, was familiar with the navigation of the lakes. Capt. Fish was in command that and the following season, but from some cause was not very popular as a steamboat captain. In 1820 she was placed under the command of Capt. Jedediah Rogers from New York. Though his experience was limited as a sailor, he was in the broadest sense a gentleman, and his courteous manner made this boat quite popular with the traveling public.
This boat was first built by individual subscriptions by a few gentlemen residing at Albany, Troy and New York City. The manager, or agent, was J. B. Stuart, commonly called Sailor Stuart, a gentleman of fine address and good business qualities. In 1819 these gentlemen obtained a charter from the Legislature, enabling them to organize an association to be called the Lake Erie Steamboat Company, with a capital of $76,000, an amount which probably more than covered the original cost of that boat, but whether the investment was ever a profitable one, may be doubted, as the expense of running the boat was great, and the number of passengers few. Yet from the exorbitant prices charged for passage at that period, it might be inferred that large dividends were made by her owners. The cabin fare was first fixed at $8 from Buffalo to Erie, $12 to Grand River, $15 to Cleveland, $20 to Sandusky, including the lighterage from Cunningham's Island, which in those days was done in a sailboat, kept expressly for that purpose, as there was not sufficient water at all times to admit the steamer. The channel over the bar into Sandusky bay was scarcely six feet. The fare to Detroit was $24, steerage or deck passage in the same proportion. In 1820 the fare was reduced from Buffalo to Erie, to $5 ; to Grand River $7, to Cleveland $10, to Sandusky $13 and to Detroit $15. The mails were carried to the several ports by this boat, which, at that time, was considered an expeditious mode of transit.
In June, 1820, this boat made a trip to Mackinaw with United States troops. In August she made another trip to Mackinaw, an excursion of pleasure. The following year, 1821, she made a trip from Black Rock to Detroit, Mackinaw and Green Bay, having on board a detachment of troops under command of Major Watson. They arrived there after a short passage of eight days. She sailed from Black Rock the 28th of July, arrived at Green Bay the 5th of August, and returned to Black Rock on the 15th inst.
She was wrecked, Thursday, Nov. 1st, 1821, on the beach of the lake, near the south pier of our present harbor, after riding to anchor in the bay most of the previous night in one of those violent gales that often visited our lakes. She came on shore about five o'clock in the morning without any injury to passengers or their baggage. Capt. Wm. T. Miller, late of this city, was pilot on board at the time of the disaster.
She was about 150 feet in length, 28 feet breadth of beam and sufficiently deep in the hold to admit the main shaft to pass through her side some feet below the main deck. She was 338 80-95 tons custom house measurement. Her quarter, or poop deck, was raised five feet above the main deck, and through this bulkhead, or break, as it was called, was the companion door or entrance into the gentlemen's cabin, and immediately back of this was the ladies' cabin, divided by folding doors. The ladies' cabin was lighted by the stern windows, six in number, and by a narrow skylight, extending forward over the gentlemen's cabin. She had no upper deck; the lower or main deck served as a promenade, with an awning stretched over it and the quarter deck in fine weather. Her steerage accommodations were located forward below decks.
She was rigged with two spars for the purpose of carrying sail. These masts were so arranged with tackles as to be easily lowered away on deck whenever the wind blew adversely. Her machinery was of that denomination called a square or cross-head low-pressure engine, quite complicated in its parts, with ponderous fly-wheels and a superabundance of counterbalance weight, which, at that day, was considered indispensable to aid in carrying the engine over the dead center, or point when steam has no power upon the piston. Her main cylinder was 40 inches diameter, four feet stroke; her boiler was some 14 feet diameter, of the most simple construction, with two large direct flues, and four return flues, terminating in the chimney above the arch of the furnace. About one fourth of the boiler was necessarily above the main deck, with circular covering or deck over it. Her wheels were 15 feet in diameter and five feet length of bucket. She had no guards except round the paddle-boxes. The average speed of this boat in favorable weather was about six or seven miles per hour. When the wind was fresh ahead she made a harbor, or came to anchor outside. She was rather an imposing-looking craft, having a finely set figurehead (the bust of Perry), and upon the stern, or taffrail, were some beautiful decorations of heavy carved work, tastefully relieved by white, green and gold.
The engine of the Walk-in-the-Water, after she was wrecked, was placed on board the steamboat Superior, built at this city by the same company, and remained on board during her existence as a steamboat, then placed on the steamer Charles Townsend, commanded by Capt. Simon Fox; there used for many years. At this time, and for many years past, the main cylinder of that pioneer engine is now in daily use as a blowing cylinder in Shepard & Co.'s steam engine works in this city.
1. Died Feb. 6, 1865. What is here printed is but a portion of the material deposited by Capt. Walker with the Buffalo Historical Society in 1864. His records are particularly full as to the names of early vessel builders and owners, of early vessels, especially steamboats, with dates of their launching; with many pages of memoranda relating to the business-men of Buffalo and other lake ports in the first half of the nineteenth century.
4. For some account of Capt. Rough and his friend, Major Donald Fraser, see William Hodge's paper on Buffalo Cemeteries, Buffalo Historical Society Publications, Vol. I. The last two lines of the epitaph on Rough's tombstone are from Burns's epitaph on Gavin Hamilton.
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From the nineteenth century publications of the predecessor of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.