Table of Contents

Title Page
1 Introductory
2 Geological
3 Poetry of the Lakes
4 Description
5 The Aborigines
6 French Discovery and occupation
7 Story of La Salle and the Griffin
8 Struggle for Possession
9 Under English Rule
10 Beginnings of Lake Commerce
11 War of 1812
12 War of 1812, Continued
13 War of 1812, Concluded
14 Growth of Traffic
Commerce Through St. Mary's Canals
15 Early Navigation on Lake Superior
16 The Convention of 1847
17 A Half Century Ago
18 Lake Canals
19 Lake Canals, Concluded
20 Harbors
21 Lighthouses
22 Life Saving Service
23 Development of Lake Vessels
24 The Lake Carriers
25 The Sailor
26 Navigation
27 Lumber Traffic
28 Grain Traffic
29 Coal Traffic
30 Iron Ore and Iron Industries
31 Miscellaneous
33 CHRONOLOGY.The Beginnings
33 After the War of 1812
34 1821-1830
35 1831-1840
36 1841-1850
37 1851-1860
38 1861-1870
39 1871-1880
40 1881-1890
41 1891-1898
42 List of Lake Vessels
Table of Illustrations

International Fishery Relations -- Fish Culture -- Work of State Fish Commission -- The Fish Industry in Canadian Waters -- Aids to Navigation in the Province of Ontario -- Canadian Department of Marine And Fisheries -- Reciprocity Treaty -- International Fishery Relations -- Meteorological Observations.


UNDER the treaty of 1783 American fishermen enjoyed the liberty of fishing in the territorial waters of the British colonies; but in the treaty of 1818 this liberty was

surrendered by the United States. A subsequent treaty restored the privilege for the period of ten years.

The President of the United States, in 1885, recommended to Congress the appointment of a joint commission for the settlement of the entire fishery question. This recommendation was not favorably entertained by the committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate of the United States, which committee reported April 14, 1886, that "in the opinion of the Senate the appointment of a commission in which the governments of the United States and Great Britain shall be represented, charged with the consideration and settlement of the fishing rights of the two governments, on the coasts of the United States and British North America, ought not to be provided for by Congress." This report was agreed to by a vote of 35 to 10.

The Canadian Government then had no recourse but to fall back on its rights secured by the convention of 1818, and steps were taken immediately to equip a fishery protection force; but the convention of 1818 did not provide for the protection of fishing interests on the Great Lakes.

For some time there was in force a fishery regulation fixing the close season for Whitefish and salmon trout in Ontario from November 1 to November 10; but this short time was found inadequate to the full protection of the fish during the spawning season. An Order-in-Council was therefore issued, April 20, 1885, establishing the whole month of November as a close time.

As to the closed seasons it may be further stated that an Order-in-Council was passed May 16, 1879, fixing the close season for pickerel, bass and maskinonge, which was found defective, and a new regulation was passed in 1885, making the close time for pickerel from April 15 to May 15, and for bass and maskinonge from April 15 to June 15.

Fish Culture. -- According to the best information obtainable the credit for the discovery of fish culture must be given to Stephen Ludwig Jacobi, of Hohenhausen, in Westphalia, who, as early as 1748, carried on successfully experiments in breeding salmon and trout, and in 1771, George III granted to Jacobi a life pension. Upon the estate of Jacobi, by him and by his sons the artificial propagation of fish was carried on as a branch of agriculture, from 1741 to 1825.

In 1850 the French Government established at Huningen the first fish-breeding station, which marks the beginning of public fish culture. The art was introduced into the United States in 1853 and into Canada about 1863.

The first successful attempt to rear Whitefish in America by artificial means was made by Samuel Wilmot at Newcastle, Ont., in 1867; large numbers were hatched out, and the young fry were reared in ponds until many of them weighed a pound and upward. Many fish culturists in the United States soon after entered into the business of breeding whitefish.

All the experiments were carried on by the use of pure spring water, as the medium in which the ova were hatched out; but notwithstanding the success met with in the use of this element Mr. Wilmot was impressed with the conviction that original river water should be used in rearing fish artificially, because the fish preferred to deposit their eggs in this kind of water. And as the Detroit river was the great natural spawning ground of Whitefish, and the Petite Cote fisheries upon it were a point where a great number of Whitefish were usually found during the spawning season, Mr. Wilmot selected that point as the proper place upon which to erect an extensive government establishment for the artificial propagation of Whitefish.

The building erected was a large, commodious one, somewhat after the Gothic style of architecture. It was 90 x 32 feet in size, the first floor being adapted to fish-breeding purposes, and the second floor to dwelling apartments and store rooms.

For some years before 1870 the attention of the governments of Canada and the United States had been directed to the diminution in the quantity of fish in the waters bordering on both countries, as in Lake Erie and Lake Huron. In 1872 the observation was made in the report to the minister of marine and fisheries that while within Canadian jurisdiction established rules controlled the dates and methods of fishing, there were practically no restrictions on the other side, and it was suggested that the States of Michigan and Ohio, New York and Vermont should unite with Canada to prevent, if possible, the destruction of the fish industry.

But in 1873 it became evident that the the Federal and State governments were co-operating to prevent the destruction of the fish industry, and to restore it where partially destroyed.

In 1875 the Dominion had in practical operation seven establishments devoted to the artificial propagation of fish. These establishments were at Newcastle, Gaspe, Restigouche, Miramichi, Sandwich, Tadousac and Bedford, the latter being on the Sackville river near Halifax.

The trade in fish varies largely. The lake fisheries are a source of considerable wealth. In Sandusky bay, Maumee river, Monroe bay, Detroit river, St. Clair lake and river, and Lake Huron from Port Huron to Port Aux Barques, in Au Sable river, in Thunder bay, including Sugar island, in Saginaw bay and river, in Tawas bay, between Thunder bay and Mackinac, including Hammond's bay, in and about Mackinac, at Beaver island, between the Detour and the Sault, along the western shore of Lake Michigan and Green bay, at Presque Isle, and in Lake Superior numerous bays and islands, are the principal fish grounds of the Great Lakes. In value they are second only to the cod fisheries of the Atlantic coast, and in 1865 the amount of the catch was 100,000 barrels, valued at about $800,000.

It was only through the scientific work of the State fish commission that the utter extinction of Whitefish has been prevented; but although that commission made heroic efforts to make good the decimation continuously carried on, yet they could not keep pace with the destruction caused by reckless fishing. Nearly 3,000 miles of nets are in use in the commercial fisheries of Michigan, and nearly 5,000 men are employed, taking from the several fisheries of the State 35,000,000 pounds of fish, which has a market value of more than $1,000,000.

The State fish commission has done much good work since its organization. Previous to that time few of the streams in the lower peninsula furnished any brook trout below a line running from Petoskey to Saginaw; while now in this peninsula there are considerably more than 1,000 streams distributed through 56 counties which have been stocked by the commission, and in these streams this most valuable of all game fishes may be found in great abundance.

The laws of Ohio with reference to the preservation and propagation of fish appear to be not much better, if any, than those of Michigan. The great difficulty at the present time is with the gill net. A bill was introduced into the Ohio Legislature and passed, which was intended to prohibit gill net fishing in Lake Erie except where the water is 50 feet deep or more; but the word "except" is not now in the statute, and hence fishermen are at liberty to employ gill nets anywhere in the lake. The effect of the error was for a time demoralization in the fish market and competition from Pennsylvania and New York. Besides this a law passed by the Ohio Legislature in the winter of 1895 -- 96 stipulated that twenty-five cents should be paid into the State treasury for every ton of fish caught; but it was stated that fishermen from outside the State ignore the law, at the same time disposing of their fish in the markets of Ohio. But the great necessity is the enactment of a law prohibiting fishing with gill nets, and stringent laws governing the propagation and preservation of fish in Lake Erie.

Even down to 1897 certain wholesale fish dealers in Cleveland, Ohio, were greatly incensed at the needless and wanton slaughter of small fish, the majority of fish sold in the market being smaller than allowed by law, and yet the law was not being enforced.

By the fishermen and dealers all along the southern shores of Lake Erie from Erie to Toledo the work of the various commissions above mentioned was believed to be of great value to the fish industry, and was hence highly approved.

Even down to 1895 unrestricted fishing was still permitted on the American side of the Great Lakes. Still the efforts of the Canadian Department of Marine and Fisheries to improve the fishing industry by means of certain restrictions upon the fishermen and by enforcing the closed seasons, met with approval. But the enforcement of the regulations affected both Canadian and American fishermen, and with the wanton destruction of fish on the American side of the boundary line there was an increasing tendency to poaching by Americans in Canadian waters. These encroachments made it necessary to maintain an expensive patrol system, leading to the punishment of the guilty parties according to law.

In 1896 the number of vessels and boats and their value, etc., belonging to the Province of Ontario were as follows: For the Lake Superior division -- vessels, 11; tonnage, 230; value, $20,700; boats, 87; value, $14,000; gill nets, fathoms, 199,900; value, $32,150; total value of fish caught, $206,151. For the whole of Lake Huron -- vessels, 43; tons, 727; value, $133,200; boats, 442; value, $49,685; gill nets, fathoms, 1,584,770; value, $187,040; pound nets, 85; value, $23,090; hoop nets, 45; value, $475; total value of fish caught, $699,730.60. For Lake St. Clair -- boats, 71; value, $1,850; seines, fathoms, 3,450; value, $3,490; pound nets, 4; value, $700; hoop nets, 19, value, $330; total value of fish caught, $20,879.40. For the whole of Lake Erie -- vessels, 19; tonnage, 566; value, $56,900; boats, 239; value, $20,185; gill nets, fathoms, 55,850; value, $9,230; seines, fathoms, 4,400; value, $1,535; pound nets, 204; value, $78,280; value of fish taken in the lake, $303,086.20. For the whole of Lake Ontario -- vessels, 4; tonnage, 133; value, $10,800; boats, 306; value, $2,825; gill nets, fathoms, 173,225; value, $20,165; seines, 1,650; value, $1,195; pound nets, 3; value, $1,000; hoop nets, 267; value, $5,640; value of fish caught in this lake, $137,529.60.

The total value of the fish caught during 1896 in the lakes was $1,367,376.


The report of the Canadian Department of Marine and Fisheries for 1897 shows that in that year there were the following aids to navigation in the Province of Ontario: light stations, 184; lights, 235; lightships 3; fog whistles, 2; fog horns, 11; fog bells, 3; bell buoys, 5; gas buoys 2. Besides the above there are four pairs of range lights on the Detroit and St. Clair rivers, maintained by American vessel owners, and 12 wharf lights, maintained by municipalities or corporations.

Gas buoys were in 1896 placed to mark Pelee passage in Lake Erie, and gave great satisfaction to mariners.

Between Point Colborne and Long Point in 1897 some very dangerous and little known shoals and banks were chartered by the Canadian hydrographic surveyor.

The annual expenditures of the Marine Department of Canada increased from $371,071 in 1868 to $867,773 in 1897. The largest annual expenditure was $1,029,901 in 1885. The smallest, $360,900, in 1869. Only a small proportion of this is applied to the Great Lakes.


An Act was passed by the Canadian Legislature in 1868, establishing the Department of Marine and Fisheries. The duties of this department extend to the following subjects: 1. Seacoast and inland fisheries. 2. Trinity houses and trinity ports, pilots and pilotage, and decayed pilots funds. 3. Beacons, buoys, lights and lighthouses. 4. Harbors, ports, piers and wharves, steamers and vessels belonging to the government, except vessels of war. 5. Harbor commissioners and harbor masters. 6. Classification of vessels and the granting of certificates to masters and mates. 7. Shipping masters and shipping officers. 8. Inspection of steamboats and ports of steamboat inspection. 9. Inquiries into the causes of shipwrecks. 10. The establishment and management of seamen's hospitals.

An Act was also approved the same year in regard to lighthouses and lights, which had been previously acquired by the government, which Act placed all such lighthouses and lights, and beacons and buoys under the control and management of the Minister of Marine and Fisheries.

Another Act provided that the governor might appoint fishery officers. The Minister of Marine and Fisheries was authorized to issue leases and licenses for fisheries situated and carried on where the exclusive right of fishing did not exist; but leases or licenses for any term exceeding nine years were to be issued only under authority of an order of the governor in council.

Vacant public property might be used by any subject of Her Majesty, such as by law was common and accessory to public rights of fishery and navigation for the purpose of landing, salting, curing and drying fish, and such subject might cut wood thereon for such purpose; and no other person should occupy the same property or site unless it had been abandoned by the original occupant for one year. This same law also provided that salmon should not be fished for, caught or killed between May 1 and July 31, in the Province of Ontario or Quebec, and in the river Restigouche; but the proviso was added that it should not be unlawful to fish for, catch or kill salmon with a rod and line in the manner known as fly-surface-fishing, between the 3Oth day of April and the 31st day of August in the Province of Ontario or Quebec. The meshes of nets used for capturing salmon were required to be at least five inches in extension.

This department manages the marine police force, and such vessels as are equipped and commissioned for the purpose of protecting the valuable in-shore fisheries, and as the vessels engaged in this service require constant care and supervision.

In 1872 there were managed by the department 251 lighthouses. There was also a lightship at Colchester reef in Lake Erie, which was maintained principally by private subscriptions from owners and masters of vessels.

The division of this department having charge of the lighthouse above Montreal extended from the lighthouse at Lachine on Lake St. Louis to the lighthouse at St. Ignace on Lake Superior, and at that time included 75 lighthouses and four lightships, besides the one at Colchester. And in addition to the lights managed by the department there was quite a number of harbor lights maintained by the municipal authorities.

The total number of light stations, lightships, and fog alarm stations in the Dominion, June 30, 1895, was 632, and the lights shown were 768 in number. The number of steam whistles and fog horns was 81. In the Province of Ontario the number of lighthouses, lightbeacons, and lightships maintained by the Dominion Government was 224, located at 182 different stations. There were two fog whistles, 11 steam fog horns, and three fog bells, all located at light stations, and four bell buoys.

In addition to the lights, etc., above mentioned, there were also the following aids to navigation in Ontario: Two lights on swing bridges; a system of lights on Murray canal maintained by the Department of Railways and Canals; four pairs of range lights in the Detroit and St. Clair rivers, maintained by American vessel owners; thirteen wharf lights maintained by the municipalities to which the wharves belonged, and two range lights established at Pine Tree harbor, on the west coast of North Bruce.

For the accommodation of the car ferry boats, running the entire year between Port Dover and Conneaut, a second light was established at Port Dover in June, 1897, which in range with the light on the outer end of the west breakwater pier leads to the railway wharf through the best channel.

To increase the safety of large and fast steamers entering Georgian Bay a lighthouse and fog bell was, in 1897, established on the north-easternmost point of Flower Pot island.


The Reciprocity Treaty between the United States and Great Britain was signed June 5, 1854, by Lord Elgin on the part of the United Kingdom and by William L. Marcy, Secretary of State of the United States under President Pierce. This treaty was negotiated by Lord Elgin, and it went into operation by proclamation of the President of the United States, on March 16, 1855. It consisted of seven articles, the first two relating to the fisheries, the third to reciprocal trade, and the fourth to the navigation of the St. Lawrence, the fifth to the duration and abrogation of the treaty, the sixth to the extension of its provisions to Newfoundland, and the seventh to the ratification of the treaty itself.

Article three enumerated the articles which might pass from one country to the other without the payment of any duty, such as grain, animals of all kinds, fruits, fish, peltry, eggs, stone, marble, timber, lumber, &c., and the fourth provided that the citizens and inhabitants of the United States should have the right to navigate the river St. Lawrence and the canals of Canada as fully and as freely as the subjects of Her Britannic Majesty, the British Government retaining the right to suspend this article on giving due notice.

Lord Elgin had been at work ever since 1849 to bring about this treaty. Previously it was feared that the tariff of the United States upon imports from Canada was the cause of that feeling in the breasts of Canadians in favor of annexation to the United States. It was in part to counteract this desire that the treaty was procured.

During the operation of the treaty, commerce between the two countries was very largely increased. The increase in the total trade during the decade from 1851 to 1861 was $31,701,755, and the increase during the first year of the treaty was $22,142,050.

The object of Canada in granting to the citizens of the United States, in the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854, the privilege of navigating the St. Lawrence river and her canals on the same terms as this privilege was granted to the people of Canada was partly to enlarge the carrying trade of the Provinces, by diverting as large a part of it as possible from American canals and railroads to her own canals and railroads. While American vessels were permitted to navigate the canals of Canada on the same terms as Canadian vessels, yet to American vessels there was no part of the tolls refunded, while to Canadian vessels a considerable portion of the tonnage duties were refunded, in some cases as high as ninety per cent. So that the net result was largely favorable to Canadian vessels. In further aid of this movement the tolls on the St. Lawrence canals were abolished in 1860 and reduced on the Welland canal, but this did not have the effect desired.

The effect of the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 upon Canada was very great. It caused first the federation of the Provinces, and second the building of the Intercolonial railroad. Then the dispatch of commissioners to the West India islands and to the countries of South America to promote the extension of direct trade with them, and next came the enlargement of the canals of the lakes and of the St. Lawrence river, the construction of the Bay Verte canal to connect the Bay of Fundy with the St. Lawrence river, the subsidizing of ocean and river steamships and the promotion of ship building and the fishery interests.

The following statements show that there was much more of the commerce that passed eastward through the Welland canal destined to American ports than was destined to Canadian ports: In 1861, to Canadian ports, 217,892 tons; American ports, 427,521 tons; in 1862, to Canadian ports, 285,192 tons, and to American ports, 471,521 tons; in 1863, to Canadian ports, 298,436 tons, and to American ports, 441,862 tons.

In the case of the tonnage passing westward the disproportion was during those same three years, much greater: In 1861, to Canadian ports, 10,185 tons, to American ports, 116,240 tons; in 1862, to Canadian ports, 14,908 tons, and to American ports, 171,673 tons; in 1863, to Canadian ports, 67,478 tons, and to American ports, 323,244 tons.

During these three years a very small portion of the commerce passing through the Welland canal found its way through the St. Lawrence canals. Following are the statistics showing the tonnage passing up and down through these canals: In 1861, 16,537 tons; in 1862, 22,691 tons, and in 1863, 22,118.

Such considerations as these were used in the United States to secure the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854, and, together with other considerations, finally secured their object, soon after the close of the war of the Rebellion.


In 1870 it was proposed to establish in the United States a system of meteorological observations and telegraph signals between the lake ports at opening of navigation. The number of disasters in 1868 and 1869 largely exceeded the average, and loudly called for a system of this kind, which had been in existence in England and France for some time. The practical operation of weather signals had been observed with great care, and it was believed that much property and many lives had been saved. Under this system the direction of storms was noted, the laws of the winds were becoming known, atmospheric pressure was being recorded, and storms, fine weather, etc., were being predicted with considerable success. Useful maps were publicly shown that had on the height of the barometer, the direction and force of the wind, etc., which were gradually increasing in usefulness, and rising in the appreciation of the people.

By 1874 the Weather Bureau had become an institution of the land, and great reliance was placed on the predictions of "Old Probabilities." The growth of the system had been steady, and its reports of the state of the atmosphere were usually correct.

Until late in the decade of the sixties there was no organized government system of taking meteorological observations and tabulating them for publication in Canada. In 1869 Professor Kingston called the attention of the Hon. Peter Mitchell, Minister of Marine and Fisheries, to the subject, suggesting to him the advisability of taking the steps necessary to obtain from the observatories under his department and the lighthouses at distant stations, such as Sable island, St. Paul's island, Belle Isle, and other exposed places, on the seaboard as well as on the lakes, a record at stated times of the state of the weather, rain, etc., and to have those records forwarded to him for the purpose of inaugurating a system of meteorological observation, and of rendering the data thus obtained of service to men of science and of the sea. On the recommendation of Hon. Peter Mitchell, Parliament voted $5,000 for the purpose indicated, and the necessary instruments, records and forms were distributed to the stations suggested as proper ones by Professor Kingston.

Early in June, 1871, Professor Kingston, with the sanction of the Hon. Peter Mitchell, Minister of Marine and Fisheries, opened correspondence with the Weather Bureau at Washington, D. C., offering to procure the transmission of weather intelligence from various stations in the Provinces in exchange for similar intelligence to be sent to Canada by the department at Washington. This offer was cordially met, and at length arrangements having been made, was acted upon by both departments.

In 1875 there were 36 stations to which storm warnings were sent, from Toronto, whenever it was thought necessary to send out such warnings. What was meant by a storm warning was this: The publication of an opinion that shortly after a time specified or implied a storm would probably occur in some portion of a certain region within a radius of 100 miles of the port warned. In 1875 80 per cent, of the predictions of storms were verified by the occurrence of storms as predicted.

Since September, 1894, in addition to the original weather forecasts a bulletin has been telegraphed each morning at 10:15 o'clock, to harbor masters and other suitable persons, at the principal ports on the Great Lakes, and in the Maritime Provinces, these bulletins containing a forecast of the force and direction of the wind for the next 36 hours, and also at times when it was thought advisable a general statement of the probable movement of storms. These bulletins have since been posted up at Port Arthur, Sault Ste. Marie, Collingwood, Owen Sound, Sarnia, Amherstburg, Port Colborne, Port Dalhousie, Hamilton, Toronto, Kingston, and in numerous places in the Maritime Provinces. They are recognized as of great use to navigators, preventing them often from going out of port in immediate advance of a storm.

The year 1876 marked a new era in the meteorological service in Canada, for previous to this time no daily forecasts had been issued, the service depending as stated above on the signal office at Washington for all storm warnings. Early in 1876 arrangements were made with the chief signal officer at Washington, by which a considerable number of telegraphic reports were handed three times each day to an agent of the Toronto office at Buffalo, New York, and telegraphed by this agent to Toronto. Later in the year, after an interview with the chief signal officer at Washington, arrangements were completed by which additional reports were furnished daily, and forwarded direct from New York. Daily forecasts of the weather, based on these reports, together with those from stations in Canada were issued by the Toronto office, and also storm warnings when considered necessary.


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Volume II

Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.