The Steamer General Harrison was built at Perrysburg, Ohio, in 1840, during the height of the Presidential campaign of that year. Her first trip to Buffalo was heralded long in advance, and when she was sighted the long wharf began to fill with enthusiastic partisans of the old hero, after whom she was named. Several hundreds were soon assembled to greet the steamer and her passengers, who like those on the wharf were composed mostly of Whigs. A miniature log cabin was hoisted to the foretop, while a live raccoon was perched upon the crosstree. As the General Harrison touched the wharf the multitude broke out singing:
I've been a loco foco these dozen long years,
Spending my money for rum and strong beers.
But now will lay by my money in store,
Resolved for to play the loco foco no more.
First Suspension Bridge over Niagara. - In 1840 Charles Ellet erected the first suspension bridge over the chasm below Niagara Falls. He began by offering a prize of $5 to the person who would first get a string across the rapids, and soon afterward hundreds of kites were in the air. Before night a boy landed his kite on the Canadian side, and secured the reward. To this cord was attached a wire cable, seven-eights of an inch in diameter. From this cable was suspended a wire basket with room for two persons to be seated. The basket was attached to an endless rope worked by a windlass on either side.
A Fire at Kingston, April 18, destroyed the steamer Cataraqui, the schooner Dora Nelson, and an immense quantity of stores, including 10,000 barrels of flour, pork and other produce, the fire being supposed to have originated from sparks thrown out of the smoke stack of the American steamer Telegraph.
Other Events of 1840. -- The Michigan Central railroad ran cars as far west as Ann Arbor, two trains daily and the United States mail passed from Detroit to Chicago in 48 hours. In August, the steamboat Erie, Captain Titus, exploded on the Detroit river, killing six of her crew. In 1840 there were 48 steamers on the lakes of various sizes, from 150 to 750 tons, and costing in their construction $2,200,000. Navigation opened at Buffalo, April 24, the steamer Chesapeake, Capt. D. Howe, arriving at that date. The Erie canal opened April 20. The steamer Star, Capt. Cliff Belden, arrived at Detroit March 8, first boat. The Straits of Mackinaw opened April 16, the steamer Chesapeake being the first boat through. March: Navigation open between Detroit and Cleveland. March 7: steamer Missouri launched at Vermillion, 700 tons. April 16: Fifty-four vessels lying at Gravelly Bay waiting for a passage through the ice. May Schooners: Memee, Drift and Victory damaged during a storm on Lake Michigan; steamer Champlain ashore near St. Joseph; crew rescued by the schooner Minerva Smith; steamer Gov. Mason totally wrecked at the mouth of the Muskegon river. August: Schooner Iowa sunk by collision with the Erie near Dunkirk. September: Schooner Atlantic, bound from Sandusky to Buffalo, run down by steamer Buffalo near Cleveland; schooner owned by Captain Scoville, who was in command; crew escaped with difficulty. October: Severe storm on Lake Erie October 3; steamers Michigan and Vermilion ashore near Buffalo; schooners Bancroft and Martha Freme damaged on Lake Erie; schooners Lexington and James King stranded below Buffalo; during the storm near Buffalo, the schooners Commodore, Florida, Bucknor, Tippecanoe, Ruggles, Alps and Mitchell, brig North Carolina, and steamer Fulton sustain injuries; schooner Wyandot damaged on Lake Erie; the S.B. Chautaque damaged near Dunkirk; on account of the storm, there were 113 vessels for shelter at Buffalo, the greatest number ever there at one time; steamer Constellation disabled near Point du Chien; taken in tow by the steamer Huron; steamer Chesapeake damaged by a whirlwind on Lake Erie, near Ashtabula; schooner Celeste ashore at Barcelona. November: Schooner Major Oliver ashore below Grand River; steamer Rochester damaged on Lake Erie by the detachment of one of her tiller- chains; schooner Wm. Cayley, 140 tons, launched at Chippewa; steamer Traveller sustains injuries during a gale on Lake Ontario.
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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.