Chapter 35
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


The Canadian Rebellion (Continued). -- Immediately after the destruction of the Caroline, in December, 1837, a meeting was held at Buffalo, at which speakers denounced the outrage, and on January 3, 1838, the grand jury at Lockport, N. Y., indicted Sir Allan N. McNab and his companions for what they called "the Schlosser murder," viz: Sir Allan Napier McNab, speaker of the House of Assembly: John Mosier, formerly captain of the steamer Niagara: Thomas McCormack, and others making an attack on the Caroline. Martin Van Buren, President of the United States, made a demand for redress "for the destruction of property and the assassination of citizens of the United States on the soil of New York at Schlosser's."

Meanwhile General Thomas Jefferson Sutherland went to the upper end of Lake Erie with the view of invading Canada across the Detroit river, and Colonel Worth went up the lake on the steamer Robert Fulton to prevent such a movement. But Colonel Worth's expedition could get no further than Erie, because cold weather came on and the lake became frozen over.

On February 12, 1838, there was a meeting of citizens in Buffalo presided over by Dyre Tillinghast, which asked Congress "that there be a redress for the Caroline massacre." On April 15, 1838, a Mr. Dawson, of Niagara, was arrested in Youngstown, and a warrant issued by Justice Race, upon which Mr. Dawson was committed to Lockport jail for trial.

On the other hand, at the annual meeting of St. George's Society the flag of the Caroline hung as a trophy behind the chair of the president, and the officers of the government present applauded. Captain Marryat, the novelist, proposed as a volunteer toast the following: "Captain Drew and his brave comrades, who cut out the Caroline," which toast was received with great applause.

Steamer Sir Robert Peel Plundered and Burned. -- In retaliation for the burning of the Caroline, on the night of May 29 - 30, the British steamer Sir Robert Peel was plundered and burned at Well's island. She was built at Brockville, at a cost of $44,000, and first came out in June, 1837. She was 160 feet long and 30 feet beam, and was commanded by John B. Armstrong. She was on her way from Prescott to Toronto, carrying nineteen passengers, and had left Prescott in the evening, which was dark and rainy. She arrived at McDonell's wharf on the south side of Well's island at midnight for the purpose of taking on wood. The passengers were asleep in the cabin, and the crew had been engaged about two hours in taking wood, when a company of 22 men, disguised with paint as savages, and armed with muskets and bayonets, rushed on board, yelling and shouting "Remember the Caroline!" They soon drove the passengers and crew on shore, allowing but a hasty opportunity for them to remove a small portion of their baggage. Toward morning having cast off the boat into the stream to the dist- ance of about 30 rods they set her on fire.

The scene of confusion and alarm, which was caused by this midnight attack, can be imagined. Some of the passengers fled on shore in their night clothes, a considerable portion of their baggage being lost. After the boat was fired in several places, the party, including Thomas Scott (a surgeon who had remained to dress a wound), got into two long boats and steered for Abel's island, four miles from Well's island, where they arrived about sunrise. Dr. Scott stated that there were 22 persons besides himself and the wounded man in the two boats. These brigands were known to each other by such fictitious names as Tecumseh, Sir William Wallace, Judge Lynch, Captain Crocket, Nelson, Captain Crocker, Bolivar, and Admiral Benbo. Several thousand dollars in one package, and also smaller sums, were taken from the boat, together with various articles of clothing. The only house in the vicinity of the wharf was the woodman's shanty. Here the passengers found shelter until 5 o'clock in the morning, when the Oneida, Captain Smith, came down on her regular trip and found the passengers in their distressed situation and took them on board, carrying them to Kingston.

It was said to have been the intention of the captors of the Peel to capture the steamer Great Britain, the next day, and to cruise in these two steamers on the lake, transporting troops and supplies to the "patriot" bands. The acknowledged leader of these infamous outlaws was William Johnston, better known then as "Bill" Johnston, who, since the war with Great Britain, had been known on the lakes as a fanatical enemy of Canada, and who was, at a moment's notice, ready for any broil that would afford him an opportunity for mischief and injuries he claimed to have received from that government. He was born at Three Rivers, L. C., February 1, 1782, and from 1784 to 1812 lived at Kingston, where he was engaged as a grocer, and at the outbreak of the war was connected with a military company. He was seized on a charge of insubordination and lodged in jail, from which he escaped and fled to the American side. He acted as a spy, and on one occasion robbed the British mail, containing important official dispatches, which he safely conveyed to the military commandant at Sacket's Harbor.

Upon learning of the outrage of the burning of the Sir Robert Peel, Governor Marcy immediately hastened to the county of Jefferson, and on June 4 offered a reward of $500 for William Johnston, $250 each for David McLeod, Samuel C. Frey, and Robert Smith, alleged to have been concerned in the destruction of the vessel, and $100 each for others who might be convicted of the offense, and, in a letter to the Secretary of War of the United States, he invited the co-operation of the government with that of Canada in pursuing the offenders.

On June 2, the Earl of Durham, captain-general of the British mili- tary force in Canada, issued from Quebec a proclamation offering a reward of $1,000 for the conviction of any person actually engaged in or directly aiding or abetting this outrage. His Excellency, Lieut.- Col. Sir John Colborne, arrived at Brockville, on the 5th of June, to direct any measures that might be deemed necessary to take.

Several arrests were made, all being charged with having taken part in this affair. On June 23, the trial of these prisoners began at Watertown with that of William Anderson, who was indicted for arson on six counts. This trial was conducted before John P. Cushman, one of the circuit judges, Calvin McKnight, Benjamin Wright and others, and excited extraordinary interest. When the case was submitted to the jury they, after a deliberation of two hours, brought in a verdict of not guilty.

Soon after the news of the burning of the Sir Robert Peel reached Washington, Major-General Macomb was sent to Sacket's Harbor to take such measures as he might deem necessary and proper. On June 20, General Macomb sent word to Sir John Colborne, or the officer in command at Kingston, inviting his cooperation in a search among the Thousand Islands for the persons who had plundered and burned the Peel. About one week afterward Colonel Dundas, of the British army, commandant at Kingston, and Captain Sandom, of the Royal Navy, crossed over to hold an interview, which interview resulted in an agreement for a joint effort to be made July 2 to arrest the parties. After a search of several days their retreat was discovered, but in attempting to capture them, all but two escaped, the gang consisting at the time of eight men, of whom Johnston was one.

The Affair at Prescott. - On the 11th of November the steamer United States touched at Sacket's Harbor, having on board 150 male passengers, who carried with them but little baggage. At Sacket's Harbor they were joined by 20 or 30 more, and at Cape Vincent 10 or 11 more got on board. A little below Millen's Bay the United Stated overtook the Charlotte, of Oswego, and the Charlotte, of Toronto, two schooners which had left Oswego on the 10th, while the United States was in port. Taking them both in tow and proceeding down the river, all with plenty of munitions of war on board, and all destined for Prescott, the battle of Windmill Point followed. Many "patriot" prisoners were taken by the British, and they were conveyed to Fort Henry, at Kingston, where they were tried by court martial, which began its session November 26, 1838. The rule adopted by this court was to execute all the officers that were known to be such, try and sentence the rest, reprieve the minors and punish the remainder by banishment to the penal colony at Van Dieman's Land.

The court was induced to mitigate somewhat the rigor of their original intentions, possibly by the feeling which had arisen in the United States with regard to the expedition. Meetings were held in various parts of the country, at which prominent men made speeches declaratory of their permanent opposition to all acts of violence, and expressing the friendship they felt for Great Britain and Canada, with whom they desired to live at peace. The grand jury of Jefferson county, at its December term, published a short manifesto deprecating the continuance of secret associations, and a public meeting was held December 18, 1838, to promote peace and harmony on the frontier. At this meeting a series of resolutions was adopted, in which the sentiment of the people was declared to be strongly in favor of peace and friendship, and which called upon the inhabitants of the American side of the line to exert themselves to the utmost in their power to prevent all hostile invasion of the Province of Canada.

Delegations were also sent from various places on the American side to Kingston to secure, if possible, some mitigation of the fate of the prisoners. Ten of the convicted prisoners were hanged; 18 were released; 58 were pardoned; 60 were transported; 4 turned Queen's evidence; 3 were acquitted, and the fate of 10 was not ascertained.

On April 8, 1839, the British steamer Commodore Barrie, under orders from Col. A. McDonell, sheriff of Midland District, U.C., arrived at Sacket's Harbor with 22 prisoners, pardoned by the lieutenant-governor. On the 27th of April, 37 more prisoners arrived at Sacket's Harbor.

Burning of the Steamer George Washington. - The new steamboat George Washington, in command of Captain Brown, took fire on her downward passage below Dunkirk about 2 o'clock Saturday morning, June 16, 1838. In spite of every exertion to save passengers and crew, over 30 persons were burned or drowned. The bulkhead between the boilers and gentlemen's cabin was in flames when the dreadful condition of the boat was discovered. The engine was stopped for the purpose of lowering the yawl, into which the frightened passengers quickly crowded. When ready to be let down, the fastenings at one end gave way and all occupants were precipitated into the lake. Much time was lost in rescuing the persons thus plunged into the water, detaining the only boat that could take them to land. The yawl was dispatched to shore as soon as possible, but did not return in time to take off a second load, though several persons were picked up, having struggled for a time on floating boxes and planks.

The North American was about 15 miles ahead of the Washington, and as soon as the flames were discovered, came back to her aid, but not in time to do more than pick up several persons struggling in the water; and to tow the burned hull to Silver Creek. The hull was scuttled and sunk at the wharf, nothing but the blackened timbers of the wheelhouse being visible. No property was saved from the boat. After stopping the engine to lower the yawl, the Washington became unmanageable and could not be got under way again. The tiller ropes parted and cut off all access to the engine.

Up to this time few serious accidents had only occurred in the navigation of Lake Erie by steam, and none to compare with this in destruction to human lives, although the lake was perfectly calm and everything pointed to a prosperous trip at the time of departure.

The fire is said to have caught from the boilers when the boat was about three miles from shore.

The Washington was wholly new, and was on her maiden trip, having been completed but three or four days. She was built at Ashtabula, and was valued at $40,000, being owned largely by M. Kingman, of Buffalo, and Mr. Hubbard, of Ashtabula.

Howe's Account. - The following account of the disaster appears in Howe's "History of Ohio:" The prosperity of Ashtabula received a severe shock in the loss of the steamer Washington, destroyed by fire on Lake Erie, off Silver Creek in June, 1838, by which misfortune about 40 lives lost. This boat was built at Ashtabula harbor, and most of her stock was owned by persons of moderate circumstances in this place. She was commanded by Capt. N.W. Brown. A passenger who was on board, a few days after, published the following account of this disastrous event: "The Washington left Cleveland on her passage down from Detroit, June 14th, at 8 A.M., proceeded on her way until Saturday, 2 o'clock A.M., when she arrived in the vicinity of Silver Creek, about 31 miles from Buffalo. The boat was discovered to be on fire, which proceeded from beneath the boilers. The passengers were alarmed, and aroused from their slumbers; such a scene of confusion and distress ensued as those only of my readers can imagine who have been in similar circumstances. Despair did not, however, completely possess the mass, until it became evident that the progress of the flames could not be arrested. From that moment the scene beggars description. Suffice it to say that numbers precipitated themselves from the burning mass into the water; some of them with a shriek of despair, and others sunk silently beneath the waves; others moment- arily more fortunate swam a short distance and were drowned; others still, on pieces of board and wood, arrived on the beach; yet some even of them sank into a watery grave. The small boat had by this time put off loaded with about 25 souls for the shore. Those arrived safe, picking up one or two by the way.

"The writer of this article was one of the number. Other small boats came to our assistance, which, together with the Washington's boat, saved perhaps a majority of the passengers on board. There is reason to believe that as many as forty perished. It is impossible to compute the precise number. Many remained on the boat until it was wrapped in one sheet of flame. Of these there is reason to believe that numbers perished in the conflagration; while others half burned precipitated themselves into the watery element, thus suffering the double agency of death by fire and water. Most of the crew were saved, the captain among the number, who, during the awful calamity, acted with the utmost decision and intrepidity. Indeed, no blame, so far as the writer has been informed, has been attached to any officer or hand on the boat. The utmost exertion was used to move her on to the shore, until it became necessary to stop the engine to let down the small boat, which having been done, the fire had progressed so far as to render it impossible to again start the machinery. I give a few particulars of the losses of the passengers. Mr. Shudds is the only survivor of his family of seven. A lady passenger lost three children, a sister and a mother. Mr. Michael Parker lost his wife and parents, sister and her child. But I will not further continue the cases of individual bereavement."

The Terrific Storm of November, 1838, was more severe and disastrous in its effects to the lake shipping than was ever before experienced. The entire lake coast presented a most melancholy appearance, and between Erie and Buffalo was literally strewn with wrecks, some 25 vessels going ashore with serious damage to cargo and hull, among them the schooners Agnes Barton and Toledo, with others belonging to Lake Ontario.

The steamer New England, Captain Burnett, went ashore seven miles below Fairport. She had on board 1,500 barrels of flour and several tons of butter, of which she threw overboard 500 barrels of flour and six tons of butter. She was finally released with total damages of $10,000. The schooner Toledo, 130 tons burden, Captain Scoville, went ashore one mile below Fairport, and became a total loss. Her cargo consisted of dry goods, worth $150,000, of which a greater portion was saved, though badly damaged.

The schooner Benjamin Barton went ashore one mile below Conneaut, with a full cargo of merchandise for Chicago. She was 115 tons burden, and commanded by Capt. Augustus Heeler. She was a total loss, but most of her cargo was saved.

The brig Virginia, 115 tons, Captain Douglass, went ashore near Madison dock laden with merchandise; the damage was over $25,000; the vessel was finally released. The schooner Ralph Granger, 90 tons burden, Capt. D.H. Green, went ashore two miles from Fairport. She was got off with slight damage. The schooner Hiram, 60 tons burden, Captain McKinty, was beached between Madison dock and Ashtabula. The schooner Lodi, 50 tons burden, owned by Oliver Newberry, of Detroit, went ashore in the same locality, but finally got afloat. The schooner Cleveland, of Lake Ontario, went ashore near Ashtabula. The schooner Sandusky, 110 tons, Captain Davidson, went ashore near Erie, and was got off. The schooner Colonel Benton, cargo of dry goods, went ashore at Dunkirk, and was released without serious damage; the schooner Eagle, Captain Davidson, went ashore five miles below Erie, with no cargo, and became a total loss. The vessel was owned by the captain.

The schooner Lady of the Lake, Captain Shephard, of Vermilion, Ohio, went ashore near Buffalo, and went to pieces. She had a partial cargo of wheat and flour. She was owned by the captain, who, upon finding at Erie that she was leaking, transferred 1,500 bushels of wheat and 40 barrels of flour to another vessel. She was an old vessel and uninsured.

The brig Manhattan, at that period the noblest craft on the western waters, laden with merchandise, was beached near Point Albino, and became a total loss. She was bound for Chicago, sailed by Capt. John Stewart, and owned by O. Newberry, of Detroit. She was a full-rigged brig of splendid finish and design. The greater portion of her cargo was ruined. The schooner Saratoga went ashore near Conneaut.

Other Events of 1838. - January 6: Navigation opened at Sandusky by steamer Cincinnati. March: Steamer Osceola was launched at Grand Island; steamer James Allen launched at Chicago, built by Captain Case and engine manu- factured by William H. Stow. April: Steamers Buffalo and Commodore Perry collide near Erie; steamer New England aground in Detroit river; the General Brady aground in the River Raisin. May: Steamer Cleveland disabled on Lake Erie; steamers Cincinnati and Milwaukee collide near Cleveland; steamer Lawrence launched at Fairport, 300 tons. June: Schooner Reindeer capsized between Sandusky and Huron, crew rescued by steamer Sandusky; schooner M. Kingman capsized near the mouth of the Detroit river, crew rescued by the steamer Pennsylvania. July: Schooner Leander launched at the Peninsula, 130 tons; steamer Great Western launched at Huron, Ohio, 250 tons. August: Steamer Vermillion launched at Vermillion; schooner Black Hawk capsized off Chagrin, crew rescued by steamer Robert Fulton. September: Steamer Lexington disabled on Lake Erie near Buffalo; steamer W.F.P. Taylor ashore near Michigan City; steamer Erie aground between Buffalo and Black Rock. October: The schooner Citizen beached near Buffalo; brig Manhattan ashore at Point Albino; schooner Michigan ashore near Michigan City; schooners Buckner and Ottawa ashore on Lake Michigan. The steamers Perry and Rochester were damaged by collision near Dunkirk; steamer New England ashore near Fairport; schooners Toledo and Ralph Granger beached near Fairport; schooners Swan, Barton, Hiram and Sandusky ashore on Lake Erie; schooner Eagle ashore at Elk Creek. November: Schooner Saratoga ashore near Conneaut; schooner Robert Burns damaged by collision with schooner Bancroft at Ashtabula; schooner S.B. Ruggles ashore near Erie; schooner Shark wrecked near Fairport.


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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.