Trenton, June. 7 - Trenton, a small village located seventeen miles south of Detroit, on the banks of the Detroit river, has been in times past one of the most important ship-building points on the Detroit river outside of Detroit, and many vessels that have gone into history as models of their kind have been constructed here.
The history of ship-building at Trenton commences in 1866, when Capt. A. A. Turner began his career as a ship-builder at this point, acquiring in a few years an enviable reputation as a shipbuilder, adding meanwhile increased importance to his position by a handsome fortune which was unfortunately swept away in the panicky times of 1873. This event stopped for a time all ship-building operations at Trenton until in the year 1883 the present well known shipbuilder, John Craig, made Trenton his home and revived the industry that was practically dead before.
Capt. Turner, during his ship-building career of eight years, constructed no less than thirty-six vessels ranging in value from $25,000 to $60,000. He built eighteen steam vessels, among them being the ill-fated Amazon, which was one of the largest and staunchest crafts on the great lakes. She measured 240 feet in length on the keel, 40 feet beam, and was 20 feet deep. He constructed five lumber barges for the Peshtigo lumber company; and the Chief Justice Waite, the Morning Star, and the tug A. A. Turner were also products of his yards. In the zenith of his manufacturing career Mr. Turner employed 350 men, paying them an average of $3,000 weekly in wages, having as high as five vessels in the stocks at one time. Those were the palmy days of Trenton. Buildings were erected on every hand, money was plentiful, and no one dared to predict at that time anything but continual prosperity for the lively little village. But as stated above, the panic of 1873 overtook Capt. Turner, rendering a blow from which he has never recovered. The value of the work turned out at his yards was in the neighborhood of $1,500,000.
In 1883 John Craig removed his shipyard from Gibraltar to Trenton. At Gibraltar, in conjunction with Mr. Linn, under the firm name of Linn & Craig, he conducted the business of building and repairing vessels from 1866 to the date of his removal to Trenton, the firm constructing during its time of existence the steam barges Redmond Prindiville, valued at $40,000 (lost on Tawas point in 1883); the Colin Campbell, $45,000; Annie L. Craig, $55,000 (afterwards rechristened the City of Winnipeg and in the year 1882 burned at the city of Duluth, Minn.); the Brunette, $40,000; Superior, $60,000, Ira H. Owen, $60,000; Alpena, $50,000; Alcona, $40,000; Escanaba, $65,000; Jesse Farwell, $80,000; Hiawatha, $100,000; schooners Hartford, $28,000, Minnehaha, $40,000; Shawnee, $40,000; Sandusky, $40,000; Jesse Linn, $40,000 and the R. B. Hayes, $25,000. Total valuation, $1,065,000. During his three years sojourn at TrentonMr. Craig has built the yacht Sigma (which Detroiters have heard so much about as the handsome property of Mr. Smith, but later still as the property of Mr. Reynolds, costing the sum of $45,000); the steamship Schoolcraft, $70,000; Rhoda Emily, steam barge, $40,000; James H. Prentiss, $40,000, launched last season, and the schooner Ashland, $45,000, launched two weeks since. This latter vessel on her first trip carried a total of 1,737 tons on 14 feet 6 inches of water, considered a marvelous feat. Total valuation of above, $240,000.
At present Mr. Craig has in the stocks what he claims to be the largest steam barge ever constructed on the Detroit river. It has 250 feet keel, 40 feet beam, and is 23 feet deep, the total cost of which will be $160,000. (16) Capt. Barney Wilds & Co. of Detroit, D. Whitney, Jr., being principal members of the company, will be owners of this handsome craft when she slips into her native element. The barge will not be finished until next year, as Mr. Craig has secured an extension of the contract, this action being taken principally on account of the unsettled state of labor. There are but twelve men at work on her out of a total of 120 men, whom Mr. Craig employed up to a few weeks since. Mr. Craig has no dry-dock, but instead one of the old marine railways, the workings of which were familiar to the past generation. The railway is sunk in the water and the vessel run on to it and secured, when the whole is hauled up an incline to terra firma by steam power, after which the caulking and repairs are conducted as conveniently as by any other system. Besides her ship-building, Trenton has nothing to boast of. There are no machine shops or manufactories of importance; imports and exports are merely nominal, being only sufficient to keep the small settlement supplied with the actual necessaries of life.
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