Early Perils, Etc. -- Danger Points On Lake Erie -- Proposed Double Track On Lake Huron -- Recent Wrecks -- Navigation Rules -- Period Of Navigation -- Opening At The Straits Of Mackinac; At The St .Mary's River; At Buffalo; And Through The Welland Canal -- Marine Post Office At Detroit -- Towing Sail Vessels Through The Rivers -- Harbor Tugs, Etc.
Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
A mack'rel sky and mares' tails
Sometimes we ship a sea,
A rainbow towards night,
Rainbow at night,
Rainbow in morning,
Oft-times I have seen a tall ship glide by against the tide as if drawn by some invisible towline with a hundred strong arms pulling it. Her sails hung unfilled, her streamers were drooping, she had neither side wheel nor stern wheel; still she moved so stately, in serene triumph, as if with her own life. But I knew that on the other side of the ship hidden beneath the great hulk that swam so majestically, there was a little, toiling steam tug with a heart of fire and arms of iron, that was hugging it close and dragging it bravely on; and I knew that if the little steam tug untwined her arms and left the tall ship, it would wallow and roll about, and drift hither and thither, and go off with refluent tide, no man knows whither.
The navigation of the Great Lakes has been considered incidentally in many of the preceding chapters, and is also intimately connected with much of the history that follows this chapter. Navigation, in fact, is practically the whole of this history. It is purposed in this chapter merely to collect a few of the more notable facts and transformation scenes which have reference to the history of sailing upon the Great Lakes.
Before government improvements began there were many perils to navigation, now happily ended. Of harbors, there were none, and shifting sand bars closed the mouths of rivers. Channels and reefs were unmarked. Wreck was the common fate of the venturesome schooner or steamboat during the first half of the present century. The comparative loss to human life, to hull and to cargo, was much greater than now. It was largely this growing and tremendous loss which led to the inauguration of those many aids to navigation which the tide of human progress now demands. Harbors were built, sand bars removed, channels cut through intermediate waterways, lighthouses erected to guide and direct, lifesaving stations established to succor in time of tempest and danger, weather signals created to warn of coming storms, danger points carefully and thoroughly marked by buoys.
In the early days of lake navigation there were but few conveniences for repairing vessels. There were no dry docks nor railroads. To caulk a vessel's bottom or to repair below the water line, she had to be hove down, and to have a thorough repair she had to be placed on ways and hauled out of the water. Harbors were not to be found, except in the shape and form that nature herself had provided. There were no charts, no land marks, nor lighthouses. The lead was about the only guide the sailor had. The blue pigeon was kept constantly on the wing in a dark night, or in making a port, or in dangerous waters. Besides all this the ground tackling was quite inferior to what is now in use. Toward the latter part of the seasons, when freezing weather was present, it was no easy matter to handle the big hemp cable while riding out a gale on a lee shore. When the cable would freeze almost as soon as it was drawn out of the water, it was next to impossible to bend it round the windlass.
The vessels built in those days were much inferior to those built at the present day, both in size and model. And sailing on the lakes was much more dangerous. Not only have vessels been improved in their sea- going qualities, but the harbors have been made more commodious and safer in every way, and lighthouses have been erected wherever necessary all round the lakes. In addition to all this the lifesaving service has been established and brought to a high state of perfection and usefulness. Modern methods have been perhaps as fully applied to every phase of lake navigation as to any feature of civilized life upon the land.
The early difficulties of navigation on Lake St. Clair were thus described by a writer 40 years ago:
"Another very important work to the navigation of the lakes is the deepening of the channel in Lake St. Clair, a shallow sheet of water some twenty miles in length, through which all the trade of the Upper Lakes is obliged to pass. At the mouth of the river, which connects this lake with Huron, there is a delta of mud flats, with numerous channels, which in their deepest parts have not more than ten feet of water, and would be utterly impassible were not the bottom of a soft and yielding mud, which permits the passage of vessels through it under the impulse of steam or a strong wind."
James L. Barton, a gentleman long connected with the lake commerce, thus wrote some years ago upon this subject to the Hon. Robert McClelland, then chairman of the house committee on commerce:
"These difficulties are vastly increased from the almost impassible condition of the flats in Lake St. Clair. Here steamboats and vessels are daily compelled in all weather to lie fast aground and shift their cargoes, passengers and baggage in lighters, exposing life, health and property to great hazard, and then by extraordinary heaving and hauling are enabled to get over. Indeed, so bad has this passage become that one of the largest steamboats, after lying two or three days on these flats, everything taken from her into lighters, was unable, with the powerful aid of steam and everything else she could bring into service, to pass over; she was obliged to give her freight and passengers to a smaller boat, abandon the trip and return to Buffalo. Other vessels have been compelled not only to take out all their cargoes, but even their chains and anchors have been stripped from them before they could get over. To meet this difficulty as far as possible, the commercial men around these lakes have imposed a tax upon their shipping, to dredge out and deepen the channel through these flats."
A few sailing craft still "go it alone." Steam propellers with their tows of one, two and often three schooners, do a large propor- tion of the carrying, particularly in the lumber trade. Of late a tendency has developed to enlarge and perfect this system of towing. A heavy shipper in Cleveland maintains that it takes a steamer and consort but three days longer to make the round trip than a steamer alone; that the crew of a schooner is very small as compared to that of a steamer, and that the coal used in increased power to tow is no more than what would be used for the high speed of a steamer alone. The steam whalebacks often have tows of three steamless and sailess whalebacks. They carry enormous cargoes of coarse freights. The question of tows or no tows is not yet definitely settled, many changing conditions enter into the problem.
Danger Points on Lake Erie. -- Many vessels, large and small, are lost each year on the Great Lakes. Our maps show the points of greatest danger in Lake Erie. The wreck map is based upon the annual charts issued by the Weather Bureau, and shows the location of the wrecks in Lakes Erie and St. Clair. The period covered is long enough to provide a basis for correct deductions.
The most dangerous place in Lake Erie is in the neighborhood of Point Pelee, near the western extremity of the lake. Off the point lies, like a satellite, Point Pelee island; between the two is a shoal. Point, shoal and island cause many wrecks each year. Long Point comes next in respect of danger. Its location, as a long spit of land running out nearly half way across the lake, is what constitutes its chief peril. The water is deep enough around it, but the point lies in the way of vessels an obliges them to take a roundabout course.
The deepening of the channels, and the consequent increase in the size of the boats, have had much to do with the number of wrecks off Point Pelee. The captains of the big boats are finding shoals that the little vessels passed over in safety. This new peril is a recent development - an event of the last few years.
One of the greatest sources of danger, in lake navigation, is the number of vessels, all traveling the same road. They are all running up and down the lakes, on parallel lines. Collision constitutes one of the chief causes of loss upon the Great Lakes.
Navigation Rules. -- The following aids to memory, written by Thomas Gray, have been reprinted by the Bureau of Navigation:
TWO STEAMERS MEETING END ON OR NEARLY END ON.
TWO STEAMERS PASSING.
TWO STEAMSHIPS CROSSING. THIS IS THE REAL POSITION OF DANGER. THERE IS NOTHING FOR
IT BUT GOOD LOOK-OUT, CAUTION AND JUDGMENT.
ALL SHIPS MUST KEEP A GOOD LOOK-OUT, AND STEAMSHIPS MUST STOP AND GO ASTERN, IF NECESSARY.
Period of Navigation. -- The general navigation of the lakes opens with the opening of the Straits of Mackinac. These straits open on the average about the 20th day of April. The close of navigation is largely influenced by the practices of the insurance companies. The following table shows the dates of the opening of the Straits of Mackinac since 1854:
The following table shows the opening and closing of St. Mary's Falls canal since its completion in 1855:
The opening and closing days of canal navigation at Buffalo since 1850, together with the opening of lake navigation, are shown in the following table:
The dates of the opening and closing of Welland canal since 1866 have been as follows:
Marine Post Office at Detroit. -- The project of a marine postal delivery in connection with the Detroit post office was advocated for several years before the system was finally put in operation, the advantageous position of Detroit river, through which all vessels must pass in going to and from the upper and lower lakes being repeatedly pointed out. Its establishment was ordered June 19, 1895.
The details of the introduction of this service were worked out by Postmaster John J. Enright, of Detroit. The report of the service for the year 1896, which began April 16 and ended December 16, was as follows: Receipts of letters at post office -- 137,798; telegrams, 181; specials, 48; registers, 59; total pieces, 138,086. Receipts from boats -- Letters. 37,303; telegrams, 442; specials, 19; total, 37,764. Total receipts from both sources -- Letters, 175,101; telegrams, 623; specials, 67; registers, 59; grand total, 175,850 pieces.
Mail was delivered to passing boats during the season as follows: Letters -- April, 1,600; May, 13,994; June, 19,876; July, 21,639; August, 19,549; September, 17,865; October, 17,693; November, 16,772; December, 2,085; total, 131,073. Telegrams, 181; specials, 48; registers, 59; total mail delivered, 131,361 pieces. Mail forwarded, 3,776; mail returned, 2,949; total 6,725 pieces.
During the season the number of vessel passages at Detroit was as follows: Day, 11,215; night 8,172; total 19,387; average number of pieces handled for each vessel, 9; stamps sold at station during season of 1896, $175.30.
As affording a comparison showing the growth of the service over the first year the following figures are given: Mail received from main office and boats from June 19 to December 16, 1895, 46,994 pieces. Mail received from main office and boats from April 16 to December 16, 1896, 175,850 pieces, an increase over 1895 of 128,856 pieces.
The Detroit service is the only marine post office in the world, where every branch of the post office department of the government is carried on precisely as though the work was done on land. The mail for passing boats, many of them being the fast freight liners plying between Buffalo and Duluth, is handled by the carriers in row boats, the latter being towed out into the track of the vessels by a fast steam launch. By means of the launch the carriers are enabled to hail every passing boat, no matter how fast she may be going, and hence the service brings the humblest employe as well as the officers of a boat into communication with those ashore.
The business of the marine post office at Detroit in 1898 was more than 100 per cent greater than that of 1897. In that year there were handled approximately 240,000 pieces of mail on the river. For 1898 to November 20, with three or four weeks of navigation still to hear from, the figures were 487,300. The business is increasing so that a second small steam vessel will undoubtedly be required for the service before another season is at an end.
The service of what is known as river tugs was inaugurated in 1845 by the sidewheel steamer Romeo, of 180 tons. She was followed by the Tecumseh, the Little Erie, the Telegraph No. 2, and the propeller Odd Fellow, in 1848. In 1868 32 tugs were employed in transferring vessels through rivers from Lake Erie to Lake Huron.
Towing Sail Vessels Through the River. -- Before the practice of towing sail vessels through Detroit river from Amherstburg to Port Huron became general some thirty years ago, the marine scenes at Detroit were unequalled for picturesqueness. "A stiff northerly wind, blowing continuously for two or three days, making progress up-river against wind and current impracticable for sailing vessels," says Henry A. Griffin in the "Engineering Magazine," "not infrequently caused the gathering of a fleet of 100 or 200 white-winged craft at the head of Lake Erie. Then at the first impulse of a favoring breeze they would up-sails and away all together, crowding the channel of the Detroit river to its full capacity. There would be stately brigs and two- and three-masted schooners, interspersed with the ' musquito fleet' -- the stone and lime and wood carriers of the river routes -- taking the wind out of each other's sails so that the best sailors had little advantage in the race. The whole mass, compact and beautiful, and reaching for miles, moved slowly forward with the wind, but against the tide, creating a marine picture of vivid interest, never to be forgotten. But the exigencies of traffic began to require quicker time and larger hulls. Towing through from Lake Erie to Lake Huron became practically universal, so that the lake-carriers were no longer assembled in great fleets by adverse winds, but passed up and down the rivers regardless of the force or directions of the breezes, and wrecked and decaying said vessels were replaced by great steam barges with consorts in tow. There are many fine sailing craft still on the lakes, and occasionally a new one is launched, but by far the greater part of new tonnage is propelled by steam, and the day of the sailing vessel on the lakes is rapidly passing.
The towing of vessels to and from harbors and their various intricacies has long been an important branch of lake navigation. At every lake port of any prominence tugs are now used, the number employed varying from one to 30 or 40.
Among the principal tug companies now doing business on the Great Lakes are the following:
The Dunham Towing and Wrecking Company, of Chicago, represents a business which is nearly half a century old. This company was incorporated in December, 1884, but it is controlled and almost wholly owned by Capt. J. S. Dunham, its president, who has been actively engaged in towing since 1862.
Captain Dunham came to Chicago in 1854 from Troy, N. Y., as engineer of the tug A. B. Ward, a vessel which is still afloat. Those were the happiest days of his life. He had worked his way up to the position of engineer on the Ward, and felt that life was a success. In 1857 he became a part owner of two tugs, and took them to New Orleans via the Illinois canal. He returned in the spring of 1862 with the tug Little Giant, built in Philadelphia. This tug was taken in 1863 by the United States Government for service in the South. Captain Dunham, however, purchased another and continued the towing business at Chicago. There were about a half dozen tugs in operation here when he came. The number steadily increased until in about fifteen years it reached 40. These tugs were owned by individuals, who held from one to a half dozen or more each. The towing fleet of Captain Dunham had in 1884 increased to eight, when he incorporated the company with $100,000 capital. It was about that time that individual ownership of tugs was succeeded by incorporated. Of the four then established, the Dunham Towing & Wrecking Company is the sole survivor. The Chicago Towing Company and the Vessel Owners Towing Company retired from business about two years ago.
The Dunham Towing & Wrecking Company has increased its capital stock to $200,000, and now owns and operates at Chicago the following 14 tugs: T. T. Mor-ford, Perfection, O. B. Green, Mollie Spencer, Jas. McGordon, Mosher, G. W. Gardner, J. H. Hackley, Chicago, Robert Tar-rant, L. B. Johnson, Protection, W. L. Ewing and A. Miller. The present officers of the company are Capt. J. S. Dunham, president and treasurer; R. J. Dunham, secretary; Capt. J. R. Sinclair, superintendent; Capt. Thomas Johnson, chief engineer and wrecking master. The same stockholders own the four tugs of the Haus-ler & Lutz Towing & Dock Company at South Chicago, namely: The T. C. Lutz, M. G. Hausler, Chas. Hulladay and C. W. Elphicke. The number of tugs now in service at Chicago is less than 15 years ago, but they are of much greater capacity, and tow vessels of much larger tonnage, so that the actual business has steadily increased. Besides being engaged in towing, the company conducts a wrecking business, owning, a full complement of wrecking appliances. It also operates a vessel repair department. Several years ago the company started machine, blacksmith and carpenter shops at the foot of North Market street, for the purpose of making its own repairs, but since then the business has steadily grown.
The only other towing business at Chicago is conducted by Barry Bros., who have been so engaged for about six years, and whose fleet now consists of 10 tugs.
The Hand and Johnson Tug Line, Buffalo, was established in 1871 by Capt. George R. Hand and others, the company that year putting in the tug G. W. Gardner, which Captain Hand had owned for some years. In addition to the G. W. Gardner they built the tugs Compound, James, Ash, C. W. Jones, and George R. Hand, and continued as at first organized until the death of Captain Hand in 1884. At this time Capt. John Johnson became manager of the line, and Mrs. Hand gradually sold off her deceased husband's interests in the several tugs. For about eight years Captain Johnson was managing owner of most of the tugs and manager of the entire line.
In 1892 the company was incorporated with a capital of $50,000. The first board of directors were as follows: James Ash, Capt. John Johnson, A. C. Adams, Charles Beatty, Daniel Mahoney, Thomas Mellen, Thomas Levett and Lewis Laudenslager. The first officers of the company were as follows: James Ash, president; Capt. John Johnson, manager; A. C. Adams, secretary and treasurer; George W. Johnson, assistant bookkeeper, and Lewis Laudenslager, superintendent. These officers have retained their positions ever since.
From time to time the company has sold tugs and built new ones, until at the present time it owns the following: Cascade, Robert H. Hebard, Townsend Davis, Conneaut, W. I. Babcock, Grace L. Dan-forth, James Byers, and the Erastus Day of Conneaut. The latter is commanded by Capt. Austin Hand, a nephew of Capt. George R. Hand, founder of the line. All of the above tugs, with the exception of the James Byers, are equipped with steam-steering apparatus. In 1895 this company sold the John Johnson to other parties, so that at the present time they own but seven tugs.
In 1893 the Grace L. Danforth, which was built in 1890, in trying to pull the steam barge Curtis off the rocks in Niagara river, was caught broadside in the swift current just above the rapids, tipped over and rolled her boiler out. In repairing her for further service a new boiler was put in; a new frame given her, new planking and a new deck, at a cost of something over $6,000, so that then she became practically a new tug.
Besides the tugs mentioned above this company owns a rotary steam pump for wrecking purposes, which they purchased in 1893, and which they have used on several occasions. They employ about 33 men and carry on a successful business.
The Owens Tug Line, Buffalo, was established by Capt. John Owens several years ago. Captain Owens lived as a boy upon several canals, driving the teams, working on various boats, and owning numerous boats, on canals in the Eastern Middle States. He went to Buffalo in 1877. On the Erie canal his first boat was the Samuel J. Tilden, his next the Walter O. Callaghan, and his third the Dr. R. V. Pierce. These three boats he afterward sold to other parties, and established a canal tug line in 1883, his first tug being the Lone Star. The next year he bought the George Donaldson, and in 1888 the E. D. Beach, a tug which had been in existence for about thirty years, and which is still in active service. In 1891 he bought the Robert Dunham, which had formerly been a ferry boat between North Tonawanda and Grand Island, and which he sold in 1893 to parties in Saginaw, Mich. Next he bought the Trenton, which came out in 1893. In 1896 he bought the E. E. Frost, which was built in Oswego in 1885, and which came to Buffalo in the spring of 1896. The Frost is his largest tug. The Owens Tug Line now consists of the following tugs: The Lone Star, the Trenton and the E. E. Frost. During the season of navigation they are engaged in towing on the Erie canal, in the harbor of Buffalo, on the foot of Lake Erie and up and down the Niagara river.
The Maytham Tug Line, Buffalo, was established in 1871, at which time Thomas, George and E. C. Maytham dissolved partnership with George R. Hand and founded their own line. Thomas Maytham made his first venture in marine business in 1862 when he purchased a one fourth interest in the tug G. W. Gardner, which he afterwards brought with him to Buffalo, from Cleveland. He made his first purchase of a sailing vessel in 1863, when he became one of the owners of the schooner Nonpareil, a canal vessel of about 300 tons. This vessel started light from Cleveland, where Captain Maytham was then living, for Escanaba for a cargo of ore, the freight on which was to be $4 per ton. Having taken on board the ore the Nonpareil sailed for Cleveland, but encountering a storm on Lake Huron went down and became a total loss. He next purchased an interest in the Lily Pratt, which was lost some years later in the Bay of Biscay. Captain Maytham subsequently owned interests in the following schooners: John Breden, which he purchased in 1875, and which is still afloat, engaged in the lumber trade between Buffalo and the upper lakes; American Giant, now a lighter at Windsor, Canada; Queen City, lost in a storm on Lake Michigan in 1894; L. W. Drake, built at Bay City, Mich., in 1881, which is still engaged in the lumber trade; C. O. D., which was lost in 1886; Seaton, lost about the same time; and in the Maxwell, now engaged in the lumber trade.
Captain Maytham was also interested in the following steamers: Araxes, lost on Lake Huron in 1888; Nevada, lost about the same time; Queen of the West, built in Bay City, Mich., in 1881, now engaged in carrying coal and iron ore; Oregon, built in West Bay City, Mich., in 1882, and now engaged in the coal and iron trade; New-burgh, lost in a snow storm on Long Point, Lake Erie, in 1890; Northerner, which was burned on Lake Superior in the fall of 1891; the Gilcher, which was lost on Lake Superior with all hands on board, eighteen in number. She was a sister ship to the Western Reserve, elsewhere mentioned as lost on Lake Superior in 1892; Waverly, still afloat; Mascot, a pleasure boat, lost by fire; R. A. Packer, built in West Bay City, Mich., and sold to the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company; The Periwinkle, formerly the Commodore Perry, built immediately after the close of the Civil war, lately converted into a pleasure boat, and now plying between Toledo and Detroit.
Upon the establishment of the Maytham Tug Line in Buffalo its success was immediate and rapid, and had so increased that in 1891 it was deemed advisable to form an incorporation. This was effected under the laws of New York, the capital of the company at the time being $35,000. The first officers of the company were as follows: Thomas Maytham, president; E. C. Maytham, superintendent; G. W. Maytham, secretary and treasurer; and E. H. Maytham, assistant superintendent. This line has had phenomenal success in its business, and now employs therein about $100,000. Its officers at the present time are: Capt. E. C. Maytham, president; G. W. Maytham, secretary and treasurer; Capt. Charles Maytham, superintendent, and E. C. Maytham, chief engineer.
During its existence this line has had built for it some 35 or 40 tugs, mostly by Grady & Marr, of Buffalo. These tugs have for the most part been sold, and may now be found in nearly every lake port, and also in Boston, New York and Baltimore, on the Atlantic coast. The last tug they have had built is the Acme. In the spring of 1895 they sold the Ingram to parties in Port Huron, and about the same time they sold the Excelsior, which is a larger tug than any now in Buffalo harbor, and which is owned by parties in Toledo, Ohio. The engine of the Excelsior is 24x28 inches in size.
The tugs owned by the Maytham Line at the present time are the following: Fabian, E. C. Maytham, Alpha, the only iron tug in Buffalo, S. W. Gee, O. W. Cheney and Acme. All these tugs have steam-steering apparatus except the Maytham, Alpha and Kelderhouse. All the lake tugs in the harbor of Buffalo, including those belonging to the Hand & Johnson Line as well as those belonging to the Maytham Line, are noted for their seaworthiness.
Besides the above described tugs this company owns an excursion line of steamers, as follows: The Niagara, the Union and the Hope, each of which has a capacity of about 600 passengers. These excursion boats run under the name of the International Line, and ply between Buffalo and Fort Erie.
The Maytham Tug Line also owns the steel steamers Thomas Maytham, Brazil and America; schooner H. W. Sage, which the company purchased as a wreck in 1890 at the straits of Mackinac, raised, repaired and placed in commission; the lighters Niagara and British Lion; and two Worthington wrecking pumps. The company employs 116 men in their various lines of business. Capt. E. H. Maytham also owns an interest in the steel steamer Chili.
The White Star Tug Line, Buffalo, was established in 1877 by the following gentlemen, each of whom was interested to a greater or less extent in various tugs previously: George M. Swan, M. R. Swan, Theodore E. Cowles, J. B. Blake and A. C. Vroman. These gentlemen united their individual interests in a co-partnership, thus forming the present line. At the present time the officers of this line are as follows: George M. Swan, superintendent; Joseph B. Blake, assistant superintendent; and Theodore C. Cowles, secretary and treasurer. The tugs owned at the present time are as follows: Adam Homer, Hudson, W. N. Peckham, F. A. Bird, Albany, Leo Lennox, Bill Morse, H. L. Fairchild, S. M. Sloan, Post Boy, Puritan and Ella B. The company also owns considerable interest in the canal business. Their tugs ply upon the Erie canal, to all points as far eastward as Albany and New York, in the harbor of Buffalo, on Lake Erie and up and down the Niagara river.
This line also has owned ever since their establishment three wrecking pumps and three lighters, which are brought into frequent requisition, and are of great value to the harbor of Buffalo.
The Vessel Owners Towing Association, of Chicago, was organized in 1871, nearly all the important owners of sailing craft taking stock in the enterprise. The original tugs composing the line were the Black Ball, Satisfaction, Rebel, James L. Higgie and Willie Brown, all constructed by Mr. Notter, of Buffalo, for the new company. The incorporators of the company were: Capts. James L. Higgie, who became manager; Thomas L. Parker, A. G. Van Shaak, Jesse Spaulding and H. Whitbeck. The tugs at their completion were received at Buffalo and taken to Chicago under the pilotage of Capt. Frank B. Higgie, and began doing a general towing business out of Chicago harbor. The capital stock was $60,000, and the company declared a dividend each year for fifteen years, sufficiently large to reimburse the original stockholders, and succeeded in correcting the evil owners of vessels complained of. In 1895 the company discontinued business and sold out the tugs.
Many other references to tug lines, some of them extended, appear elsewhere in this history.
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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.