Great Lakes Maritime History
History of the Great Lakes
Vol. 1 by J.B. Mansfield
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Published Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co. 1899
Vol. 1 of History of the Great Lakes
French Voyageurs - Fur Traders - Moore's Canadian Boat Song - An Early American Sailor - An Independent Canadian Skipper - An Intrepid Lake Erie Captain - Early Steamboat Masters - Scandinavians - The Early Navigators on Lake Superior - John Maynard, The Hero of the Ocean Queen -Opposition to Non-Navigators Having a Command - How the American Sailor "Goes" - A Romantic Marine Elopement - The Typical Jack has Vanished -Crew of a Line Freighter - Philosophy of a Tug-Boat Hand - "De Look and See" - Pilot Duties - Opportunities for Advancement - Ho! For the Straits - Seamen's Wages - The Western Seamen's Friend Society - The Floating Bethel - Marine Hospitals - Ship Masters Association - Masters and Pilots of Steam Vessels - Marine Engineers Beneficial Association.
Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. - Maxim.
The good seaman is known in bad weather. A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner. - Dutch Proverb.
While the hollow oak our palace is, our heritage the sea.
- Allan Cunningham.
The best pilots have need of mariners, besides sails, anchor and other tackle. - Ben Jonson.
The winds and waves are always on the side of the ables navigators.
I was never on the dull, tame shore, But I loved the great sea more and more. - Proctor.I love the sailor; his eventful life -
His generous spirit - his contempt of danger,
His firmness in the gale, the wreck, and strife. - Colton.
How cheery are the mariners -
Those lovers of the sea;
Their hearts are like its yeasty waves,
As bounding and as free. - Park Benjamin.
I'm on the sea! I'm on the sea!
I am where I would ever be,
With the blue above and the blue below,
And silence wheresoe'er I go. - Proctor.
A strong nor-wester's blowin' Bill!
Hark! Don't ye hear it roar now?
Lord help 'em, how I pities them
Unhappy folks on shore now.
- The Sailors Consolation
From the days of the French Voyageurs down to the present time the sailors of the Great Lakes have always been an interesting and picturesque type of men, varying with the changing conditions under which they sailed, but ever wearing the badge of courage and fidelity, and every displaying the sturdy character that is demanded of their eventful vocations. The sailor of today is unlike the sailor of 50 years ago, because navigation has been revolutionized during that period. Much more is he unlike the first white man, who tempted these unknown seas, and who only skirted cautiously the extended shores of the Great Lakes.
The first white sailors on the lakes were engaged almost exclusively in the fur trade. They were canoemen, and sailed from one end of the lakes to the other.
"A wild looking set were these rangers of the woods and waters," says Hubbard in his "Memorials of a Half Century." "Their weirdness was often enhanced by the dash of Indian blood. Picturesque, too, they were in their red flannel or leather shirts, and cloth caps of some gray color, finished to a point, which hung over on one side with a depending tassel. They had a genuine love for this occupation, and muscles that seemed never to tire at the paddle and oar. From dawn to sunset, with only a short interval, and sometimes no midday rest, they would ply these implements, causing the canoe or barge to fly through the water like a thing of life; but often contending against high-winds and gaining but little progress in a day's rowing. But how sweet was the rest, when a favoring breeze sprung up, enabling the little craft to carry sail. Then in came the oars, down lopped each, and in a few minutes all were in the enjoyment of a sound snooze. The morning and evening meal consisted, almost universally, and from choice, of bouillon, a soup made from beans, peas or hulled corn, with a piece of pork boiled in it, and hard bread, or sea biscuit. To the Northern voyageurs rations were generally served out of one quart of hulled corn and half a pint of bear's grease or oil, this being the daily and only food."
Plain Fare of the Fur Traders. - Henry, the English trader, thus describes the food of the Canadian voyageurs: "The village of L'Abre Croche supplies the maize, or Indian corn, with which the canoes are victualled. This species of grain is prepared for use by boiling it in a strong lye, after which the husk may be easily removed; and it is next mashed and dried. In this state it is soft and friable, like rice. The allowance, for each man on the voyage, is a quart a day; and a bushel, with two pounds of prepared fat, is reckoned to be a month's subsistence. No other allowance is made, of any kind; not even of salt; and bread is never thought of. The men, nevertheless, are healthy and capable of performing their heavy labor. This mode of victualling is essential to the trade, which being pursued at great distances, and in vessels so small as canoes, will not admit of the use of other food. If the men were to be supplied with bread and pork, the canoes could not carry a sufficiency for six months; and the ordinary duration of the voyage is not less than fourteen. The difficulty which belong to an attempt to reconcile any other men than Canadians to this fare, seems to secure to them, and their employers, the monopoly of the fur trade.
"After supper, pipes were lighted and, seated on logs or squatted around the campfires, they chatted until bed-time. This came early and required little preparation. To wrap a blanket around the person, placing coat or shoe-packs beneath the head, and a little greasy pillow - the only bed that was carried - constituted the whole ceremony; and speedy and sound was the sleep, beneath the watchful stars. The labor of the oar was relieved by songs, to which each stroke kept time, with added vigor. The poet Moore has well caught the spirit of the voyaguers' melodious chant in his "Boat-song upon the St. Lawrence." But to appreciate its wild sweetness one should listen to the melody, as it wings its way over the waters softened by distance, yet every measured cadence falling distinct upon the air. These songs, usually half ballad or ditty, and love, of course, the main theme, express the natural feelings of a people, little governed by the restraints of civilization." Moore's Canadian boat song is supposed to be sung by those voyageurs, who go to the Grand Portage by the Ottawa river. It is as follows:
A CANADIAN BOAT SONG,
Faintly as tolls the evening chime,
Our voices keep tune and our oars keep time,
Soon as the woods on the shore look dim,
We'll at St. Ann's our parting hymn,
Row, brothers, row, the stream runs fast,
The Rapids are near, and the daylight's past!
Why should we yet our sail unfurl?
There is not a breath the blue wave to curl!
But when the wind blows off the shore,
Oh! Sweetly we'll rest our weary oar.
Blow, breezes, blow, the stream runs fast.
The rapids are near, and the daylight's past.
Utawas' tide! This trembling moon
Shall see us float over thy surges soon.
Saint of this green Isle! Hear our prayers,
Oh! Grant us cool heavens and favoring airs.
Blow, breezes, blow, the stream runs fast.
The Rapids are near, and the daylight's past.
"I wrote these words" says Thomas Moore, "to an air, which our boat-man sung to us frequently. The wind was so unfavorable that they were obliged to row all the way, and we were five days in descending the river from Kingston to Montreal, exposed to an intense sun during the day, and at night forced to take shelter from the dews in any miserable hut upon the banks that would receive us. But the magnificent scenery of the St. Lawrence replays all these difficulties.
"Our voyageurs had good voices, and sung perfectly in tune together. The original words of the air, to which I adapted these stanzas, appeared to be a long incoherent story, of which I could understand but little.
"I ventured to harmonize the air, and have published it. Without that charm which associated gives to every little memorial of scenes or feelings that are past, the melody may perhaps be thought common and trifling; but I remember when we have entered, at sunset, upon one of these beautiful lakes, into which the St. Lawrence so grandly and unexpectedly opens, I have heard this simple air with a pleasure which the finest compositions of the first masters have never given me; and now there is not a note of it which does not recall to my memory the dip of our oars in the St. Lawrence, the flight of our boat down the Rapids, and all those new and fanciful impressions to which my heart was alive during the whole of this very interesting voyage.
Describing the passage of a canoe through the breakers at the mouth of Twin river, Lake Superior, a writer in 1823 says: "Nothing can exceed the skill of these voyageurs in places of difficulty. The steersman, his eye on the motion of the waters, and the relation the canoe bears, at each moment of time, to the surge, give the word, and the paddles are applied with redoubled energy, and before a breaker reaches the canoe, she is past it, or, by retarding her movements, it rolls over and sinks before it reaches her.
"One of the more prominent traits of the voyageur's character," writes Charles Lauman from Lake Superior in 1847, "is his cheerfulness. Gay and mirthful by nature and habit - patient and enduring at labor -seeking neither ease or wealth - and, though fond of his family, it is his custom to let the morrow take care of itself, while he will endeavor to improve the present hour as he thinks proper. He belongs to a race, which is entirely distinct from all others on the globe. It is a singular fact, that when most troubled, or when enduring the severest hardships, they will joke, laugh, and sing their uncouth songs - the majority of which are extemporaneous, appropriate to the occasion, and generally of a rude and licentious character."
But with the conquest of the Great Lakes by England, and the subs-equent independence of the American colonies, and the colonization of the region of the Great Lakes, the voyageurs faded away, and a new type of seaman appeared on the scene. They were sturdy, restless Americans, who migrated from the Atlantic seashore. A brief sketch of one of these pioneers is here presented:
An Early American Sailor: Uncle Davy Johnson, of Cleveland, when 94 years old related to a correspondent of the New York Tribune about 1884 some of his early experiences on the Great Lakes, which he sailed for 50 years. He said: "When I was a chunk of a youngster I was apprenticed to a cooper at Bridgeport, Conn., and for five years I hammered away with adze and driver, and hauled a draw knife for just what I put in me and on me. We used to think that western New York State or western Pennsylvania was away out west. In 1809 I put a 32-pound bundle on my back and started on foot to Buffalo. I made the journey to Albany, N.Y., about 320 miles in 16 days. That journey was nothing remarkable, as I had three dollars in money and a bundle of food. Many a poor fellow started on the same journey with nothing but an axe. When I arrived at Buffalo, I found a very small town. Cleveland, Sandusky and Erie were ports of entry. There were only two lighthouses on the lakes, one at Buffalo, first one built, and the other at Erie. Buffalo was then called Fort Erie and was a struggling little town till the war of 1812 gave it a start.
"My first trip as sailor was made from Buffalo to Erie, which was then considered quite a trip. From Buffalo to Detroit was looked upon as a long voyage, and a vessel of 32 tons burden was considered the largest sailing on the lakes. In 1813 I was one of a crew of four, Capt. Dick O'Neil in command, that left Buffalo in the sloop Commencement, with a cargo of whiskey for Erie. While beating along the shore the English frigate Charlotte bore down upon us and captured us. Two boat-loads of red coats boarded our vessels and took us prisoners. We were immediately paroled, and a small vessel placed at our disposal to reach shore. We disliked to leave the sloop and whiskey at their mercy, and asked to be allowed to remain in the vicinity of the vessel, and were told by the British commander that if it was any consolation to us we could do so. We thereupon concocted a scheme to get the guard drunk and run the vessel ashore. This scheme was found out, and we were packed in a boat and rowed ashore, with orders not to return. After Perry's victory the owners of the Commencement were indemnified. I saw Commodore Perry often at Erie. In 1813 I settled in Cleveland. It was then a little, poverty-stricken huddle of not more than a dozen or fifteen houses. The first vessel I sailed as captain was the Perseverance, in 1816. The first trip I made in her was from Maumee to Mackinaw with a cargo of beer for Vance and Meeker. Vance was afterward governor of Ohio. From that time I sailed the lakes for 50 years."
An Independent Canadian Skipper. - In the autumn of 1826, in one of the occasional gales of Lake Erie, a Canadian steamer, named the Dauntless, of Walpole, ran into Buffalo harbor for safety. The marshal of the district was notified to arrest the captain for some misdemeanor. He went on board the vessel to take the captain into custody. The skipper said he had some orders to give to his men before he left. He went up the rigging masthead; he then gave orders to his men, and the close-reefed job and the double-reefed foresail were hoisted in sailor style, the lines were cast off right in the teeth of that fiercely blowing gale of 40 miles an hour. The vessel gracefully careened on her side and headed for the lake. The marshal, not being a sailor, gladly gave twenty-five dollars to be landed on the breakwater of the harbor, and the wily skipper held his course for the British possessions.
An Intrepid Lake Erie Captain. - In a recent number of the Marine Record, C.G. Calkins, now of Berkeley, Cal., related some early reminiscences on Lake Erie. The sterling qualities of the old-time lake captains are shown following incident: "October, 1833, I was a passenger on the schooner Minerva, Captain Siles, from Buffalo. There had been a hard blow, and the wind was still heavy down the lake. We were not making much progress, and the captain decided to anchor inside Long Point. The anchor was hardly down when a boat came off shore to the vessel, and in it were the famous Captain Walker, the equally famous "Walker's Mary," and a man and wife, passengers on Walker's fine steamboat Washington, which had gone ashore and to pieces outside of the Point. Only one passenger was lost; the rest, about 40, had started to walk toward Buffalo.
"Captain Walker insisted on being taken to Erie, and forthwith. So we were again on the open lake, with night and a violent storm to encounter. Captain Walker kept the deck all night, and showed himself a good sailor in heavy weather. I was in ignorance some of the time as to whether we were already half way to the bottom, and did not care if it was so.
If Captain Walker had not exercised his seamanship and muscular qualities, we should, no doubt, have gone down. All the canvas the wind could snatch was torn to shreds, but Walker was lively and saved most of it. If he had not been aboard we were lost with no chance in our favor, but if he had not been on board we should not have been here, but safely swinging to anchor behind the Point. In the morning we made Dunkirk, and Walker and the others, including the hatless passengers, proceeded to Erie by stage."
Early Steamboat Masters. – The successful navigation of the lakes by the early steamboats promoted western travel and immigration and led to the construction of the small fleet of steam vessels placed in commission from 1825 to 1830. With this fleet was inaugurated that magnificent boom, "steamboating on the Great Lakes," which continued until that majestic autocrat of the rail, the locomotive, relegated to inactivity the passenger steamboat on Lake Erie during the decade of the fifties. This illustrious boom was at its zenith during the decade of the forties, developing a large and magnificent fleet of passenger steamers, luxurious in appointments, officered by skilled lake navigators, distinguished for their affability, picturesque in ruffled shirts, and otherwise exquisite attire.
There was no dearth of patronage, including fair women and brave men; there were bands of music galore, and a holiday air from the opening to the close of navigation.
"The captains of the early and ‘magnificent' steamers," says one writer, "were quite a distinct class of citizens. They were recruited mostly from the ranks of the successful masters of sailing vessels. The lake captain, as he walked his deck, was a man not readily approached. * * * In the village graveyards that line the shores of these inland seas, lie many of the men to whom were entrusted the comfort and safety of the great number of persons, who, in those early days, sought in the then far west a home for themselves and their children. As one who knew something of the lives of these men, and of the hardships and perils to which they were exposed, and of the responsibilities that rested upon them as captains, engineers and officers of the early steamboats on the lakes, the writer desires to testify to their many good qualities, and to say that as a class they were rarely excelled in the conscientious performance of their duties. Often unlearned as to the courtesies of life, or in the refinements of social usages, they had in them the stuff of which heroes are made, and when occasions required, as it often did, they displayed an unselfish heroism, which, more widely known, would have brought to them the recognition and fame they well deserved but rarely received."
Among the early settlers of Wisconsin were large numbers of Scandinavians, descendants of the old northern sea kings. They had inherited a taste for the water, and proved as hardy and adventurous in their new homes as their ancestors did on the North sea, for thousands of these Danes, Swedes and Norwegians sailed the lakes for many years. Some of them bought land in the wilds of Wisconsin, and followed the lakes until the savings from their wages had paid for their homes. Others continued to sail through choice, and made efficient crews for the fleets of sail a generation or two ago.
"The early navigators of Lake Superior," says Charles H. Keep, in his "Internal Commecer(sic) of the United States," "are entitled to credit for the great skill manifested in successfully navigating its unknown waters, unaided by any reliable charts, lighthouses, or other governmental aids to navigation. It may be truthfully said they builded better than they knew, for they in connection with the early explorers and the successful investors and seekers for mineral wealth on the shores of Lake Superior, first gave birth to the thought that that lake might be made a part of one of the great highways of commerce between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They traversed unknown and unexplored waters with a success that was worthy of the enterprise, energy, watchfulness, care, and skill manifested in their vocation, for, as we now recall, there was but one fatal catastrophe occurring among them, from the opening of navigation on Lake Superior in 1844 to the opening of the canal in 1855. This was the loss of the schooner Merchant, commanded by Captain Brown, sailing from Sault Ste. Marie for Copper Harbor and other ports in the season of 1847. Neither she nor any of her crew or passengers were ever heard from."
The changes of masters of sail vessels in the early forties were of rare occurrence, and many grave derelictions which would not be tolerated now were seemingly overlooked. But, though independent, the old-time sailor was usually fearless and faithful.
The loss of the Ocean Queen, says an old newspaper, evoked the following poem from the pen of Kate Weaver. The disaster is not located, but the verse no doubt typefies the bravery and devotion to duty of the sailor of the Great Lakes.
Twas on Lake Erie's broad expanse,
One bright midsummer day,
The gallant steamer Ocean Queen
Swept proudly on her way.
Bright faces clustered on the deck,
Or, leaning o'er the side,
Watched carelessly the feathery foam,
That flecked the rippling tide.
Ah! who beneath that cloudless sky,
That smiling bends serene,
Could dream that danger, awful, vast,
Impended o'er the scene –
Could dream that ere an hour had sped,
That frame of sturdy oak
Would sink beneath the lake's blue waves,
Blackened with fire and smoke?
A seaman sought the captain's side,
A moment whispered low,
The captain's swarthy face grew pale,
He hurried down below.
Alas! too late! Though quick and sharp
And clear his orders came,
No human efforts could avail
To quench the insidious flame.
The bad news quickly reached the deck,
It sped from lip to lip,
And ghastly faces everywhere
Looked from the doomed ship.
"Is there no hope – no chance of life?"
A hundred lips implore;
"But one," the captain made reply,
"To run the ship ashore."
A sailor, whose heroic soul
That hour should yet reveal –
By name John Maynard, Eastern born –
Stood calmly at the wheel.
"Head her south-east!" the captain shouts,
Above the smothered roar,
"Head her south-east without delay!
Make for the nearest shore!"
No terror pales the helmsman's cheek,
Or clouds his dauntless eye,
As in a sailor's measured tone
His voice responds "Aye, Aye!"
Three hundred souls – the steamer's freight –
Crowd forward, wild with fear,
While at the stern the dreadful flames,
Above the deck appear.
John Maynard watched the nearing flames,
But still, with steady hand,
He grasped the wheel, and steadfastly
He steered the ship to land.
"John Maynard," with an anxious voice,
The captain cries once more,
"Stand by the wheel five minutes yet,
And we will reach the shore!"
Through flames and smoke that dauntless heart
Responded firmly, still
Unawed, though face to face with death,
"With good God's help I will."
The flames approach with giant strides,
They scorch his hands and brow,
One arm disabled seeks his side,
Ah, he is conquered now!
But no, his teeth are firmly set,
He crushes down the pain,
His knee upon the stanchion pressed,
He guides the ship again.
One moment yet! one moment yet!
Brave heart thy task is o’er!
The pebbles grate beneath the keel,
The steamer touches shore,
Three hundred grateful voices rise
In praise to God, that He
Hath saved them from the fearful fire,
And the ingulfing sea.
But where is he, that helmsman bold?
The captain saw him reel—
His nerveless hands released their task,
He sank beside the wheel.
The wave received his lifeless corpse,
Blackened with smoke and fire,
God rest him! Hero never he
A nobler funeral pyre!
Opposition to Non-Navigators Having a Command. - In earlier navi-gation of the Great Lakes, that is prior to about 1852, when they passed under national jurisdiction, there was a class of lake navigators, who were self-reliant and jealous of innovation or intrusion on their professional domain by landsmen assuming a command, by virtue of ownership. The first case in point was that of the steam-boat Constitution, about the year 1843. This vessel was owned by Mahlon Kingman, and for two seasons past had been commanded by Capt. Gilman Appleby, who for a serious offense, was relieved of his command. Then Amasa Kingman, son of the owner, who had sailed as clerk of the boat, but who was not a navigator, was placed in command, with Capt. Bob Wagstaff as first officer and sailing master. Owing to the popularity of the owner and his son among lake men, and also that of Bob Wagstaff, this innovation was overlooked, but it was not approved of, and the general sentiment was, “Don’t let it happen again.”
Another instance of the kind was that in connection with the steam-boat Wisconsin, which came out prior to 1840, under command of Capt. Henry Randall, with William Pincheon, second officer. She was a tub built boat, having a wide beam, much disproportionate to her length. About 1843 she changed ownership, and was re-built, being materially lengthened in the process. A man named William Chard was her control-ling owner. Mr. Chard had been a captain on the Erie canal, had prospered and had become manager of a canal transportation line, but had no experience on the lakes. However he assumed command of the re-built boat with the orthography of her name changed to “Wiskonsan.” Then the trouble began. The idea of a canal-boat captain in command of a prominent lake steamboat was an innovation not to be condoned, and the shipmasters in general put burrs on the coat tails of Captain Chard. One of the most indignant of these shipmasters was Capt. Fred Wheeler, then sailing the propeller Hercules. Captain Fred procured a lengthy tin horn, and set of whiffletrees , and when meeting the “Wisconsan” outside in command of Captain Chard, he would send the whiffletrees to the foretop of the Hercules and sound the tin horn, the loud-mouthed emblem of canal navigation, from the foremost head. One season’s command sufficed for Captain Chard. The tin horn and the whiffletrees were too much for him.
How the American Sailor "Goes!" — Silas Farmer, in his history of Detroit, gives this instance of recklessness during the palmy days: “some times high prices for transportation tempted the owners of boats to start them on their trips earlier than prudence justified. On one occasion, in the spring of 1851, as the ice had gone out of the Detroit river, and the upper end of Lake Erie was reported clear, the owner of a steamboat gave notice that she would sail the next day. As the lower part of the lake was covered with floating ice, there was much discussion with regard to the safety of the proceeding; and the boat started out from a dock which was thronged with spectators, who expressed much anxiety concerning her safety. The next day towards evening, the well-known Joseph Campau met A.B. Wood, the manager of the Telegraph Company, near the Campau residence, and said, ‘Does ye hear anything from de boat — de boat went out yesterday mor’n’ “Oh yes, she has just reached Erie. She got into the ice and floundered about, tearing her paddle wheels to pieces, but she is in Erie harbor all safe.’ ‘Well,’ said Mr. Campau, ‘I to’t so. Now, when de Inglishmon he want to go anywhere, he set down and tink how he get dar, and de Frenchmon, he want to go, and he stop and tink how he get dar; but de American, de Yankee, he want to go, and be-gar, he go. He go heaven, he go hell, he go anyhow.’”
A Romantic Marine Elopement. — Sailing on the Great Lakes was not without its romance during the palmy days of 1840. An affair of the heart occurred in March, 1838, which at that time occasioned wide comment and lead to a famous trial at Pittsburg, Pa. It immediately concerned Capt. Richard C. Bristol, who was afterwards a vessel owner, but at the time was sailing the James Madison, one of the first steamers of the regular line between Buffalo and Chicago. The captain was, early in 1838, the accepted suitor of Miss Josephine Hamot, the lovely daughter of a wealthy Frenchman, a resident of Erie, Pa. On the eve of his wedding, Captain Bristol was rudely forbidden communication with his intended by the stern and unrelenting parent, and a little later he learned, much to his distress, that the young lady was to be married to a Mr. Walker, an old roommate of his. Stories prejudicial to the character of Captain Bristol had been related to the old gentlemen. The repulsed suitor, smarting under the wrongs that had been done his good name, in vain sought a reconciliation with the family of his once affianced bride. The young lady’s affections clung to her first love, and, when the latter planned on the evening of the last ball of the season a romantic elopement, she gave acquiescence. A coach, a word and a rapid drive, and the pair and a few friends were aboard the James Madison at an early hour in the morning.
The moorings were slipped and the steamer glided through the tortuous channels of the bay, and out into the lake, but heavy ice fields barred the way toward the New York ports, where marriage licenses were not required.
It was resolved to head the steamer up the lake, and so she steamed her way through great masses of floating ice, and at daybreak lay off Ashtabula, short of fuel and with the small crew exhausted from their excessive labor. After a hurried consultation it was resolved to land at Ashtabula, take on a fresh supply of fuel, and if there were legal obstacles to a speedy marriage to steer for Detroit.
Captain Bristol went up to the town to see how the land lay, and in his absence a large steamer was observed in the offing, black with people and evidently bent on mischief. It was the Jefferson, sister ship of the Madison, both owned by Col. Seth Reed, of Erie. Captain Bristol had dispatched a boy to Jefferson, the county seat, for a marriage license. When he saw the pursuing steamer he resolved to take Miss Hamot ashore, and to direct his crew to put off up the lake, and thus deceive the “Jefferson party.” This would give him time to procure his license and be married. The bride went ashore, but before the Madison got away the Jefferson was under her stern, and Captain Dobbins of the revenue cutter ordered the ship to return to Erie under penalty of seizure, as she had no ship’s papers aboard. The pursuers had spoiled the romantic elopement. They had observed the landing of Miss Hamot, and followed her to the hotel, where by dint of much persuasion they induced her to return with them to Erie.
Excitement ran high at that little city, and the people arrayed themselves on opposite sides. Some of the officers of the Madison were arrested. Captain Bristol was charged with criminal abduction, and committed to prison at Pittsburg for trial. His trial proved a farce, and the courtroom during its progress was the scene of great interest and merriment. Captain Bristol was triumphantly acquitted, the United States court holding that it had no jurisdiction. The captain soon after married, and under the patronage of his good friend, Gen. Charles M. Reed, of Erie, became later a wealthy and successful grain dealer of Chicago, where he has been identified with various marine interests.
The Typical Jack Has Vanished. – What was written a few years ago by William L. Alden in reference to the ocean sailor may apply in a measure to the lake sailor also. He says: "The sailor is not yet totally extinct, and it may be safely prophesied that he never will be. To say, as is often said, that there are no longer any sailors, is to assert a broad general principle, which, like other general principles, is partly true and partly false. There exists what we might call a domesticated breed of sailors, such as the quartermasters, who steer our steamships, and the occasional veterans who are found among the crews of our men-of-war. The typical Jack of the pre-propeller age – the ‘Jacketarian' and the able seamen of the clipper-ship fleet – has, however, utterly vanished. He was essentially a wild man. Civilization, in its most condensed expression, the steam engine, has driven him from the ocean."
In the Cabin of a Liner. – Describing in "Harper's Magazine" a trip on the steamer Columbia, in 1872, Constance Fenimore Woolson thus referred to the evening festivities: "The tables had been rolled away, and the colored waiters, with their guitars and banjos, formed a vocal and instrumental band.
‘Old Huron's long, old Huron's wide,
De engine keep de time; Leabe de ladies on de side,
And balance in a line,'
sang these lake minstrels in their melodious voices. The floor was crowded with dancers, all formality was laid aside, strangers danced with strangers, and even that relic of the past, the slow waltz, had its devotees. A Virginia reel brought us close upon Sunday morning, and we all retired."Crew of a Line Freighter. – A writer in the "Midland Magazine" recently described the crew of a lake-line freighter, and the following is his description somewhat
abridged: "The crews consist of a captain or master, a mate, second mate, two wheelmen, two lookouts, two watchmen, an engineer and assistant engineer, three oilers, three firemen, cook, second cook, porter, and five deck hands or ‘jacks of all trades,' in all 25 men.
"The captain of a line-freighter renders full value for the salary he receives. I have met but one who claimed to be entirely satisfied, and I suspect that he mistook me for a new officer of the company. Captains generally will stoutly maintain that a sailor's life is a dog's life, and that they would never allow a son of theirs to go on the water. Still, some of them wax fat and jolly.
"The captain of an ocean steamer has the same amount of detail port work and ship routine to perform as has the lake navigator; but his ports are fewer and his runs are so much longer that in fair weather he has an easy time of it. Not so the lake mariner. He is making one port and sometimes two ports a day. He has long stretches of rivers with narrow channels, and perhaps a hundred vessels to meet and pass, during which time he is on the bridge in fair weather and foul. He takes his vessel into and out of every port. He has to see to and prepare his manifests, his clearings and other custom-house rigamarole; look after his freight bills and attend to the constant loading and unloading at every port. He must see that this is done scientifically, so as to keep an even keel.
"A salt-water captain, who is majestically piloted into his dock at New York, there to remain until it is time for him to be borne out in the same manner for his return trip, has little idea of the tribulations of his lake brother, who must poke around in perhaps a dozen different docks, pass 20 drawbridges and dispute the right of way with as many if not twice that number of vessels. His harbor cares are so numerous and weighty that I have known of devoted husbands, whose ships have been at their home port for days at a time twice a month, but who could not get home more than once in an entire season - I said that they are devoted husbands, too!
"Another delicate task is threading the narrow channels in the St. Clair and St. Mary's rivers. These are much-buoyed and lighted, yet a hundred or two hundred feet and even three hundred of ‘roadway' for a vessel measuring forty feet wide, having wind and current to contend with, and meeting others of similar width, is not what might be termed comfortable driving.
"In dense fogs and stormy weather this ‘guiding genius of the deep' frequently puts in twenty-four to thirty hours steady watch. The latter end of the season, October and November, when for weeks continuously ‘the mad winds blow and the billows roar,' is the time when one can best judge of the responsibilities, cares and physical strain on a lake mariner.
"Imagine yourself standing in a little coop, perhaps eight feet square, with no shelter other than a canvas fence chin-high, with a bleak, howling wind, and the snow, sleet and spray encasing you in a rigid frozen mold; there to be tossed up, down and sideways. You are unable to see a distance of over a hundred feet. You must keep head to the wind. You know your whereabouts by the blindest reckoning only. You have your vessel, many thousand dollars' worth of cargo, and perhaps passengers to think of. You realize that another vessel may crash into you at almost any moment or that something about your steering apparatus or running gear may give out at the wrong time, and I'll wager that you would go down upon your knees and implore Heaven to bear you safely back to your cosy(sic) library.
"Many of the minor cares about a steamer are shouldered by the first and second mates. The first mate is usually an elderly man. He attends to the hiring of deck-hands – a task which recurs at nearly every port and always at the end of a round trip; to the cleaning, painting and burnishing of the ship; keeping things in place and having an eye on the stores and supplies, besides being on six hours watches twice out of every twenty-four. He is the mouthpiece of the captain; transmits all his orders ‘aft' and looks after things generally.
"The second mate is usually young and ambitious (perhaps only lately promoted from the wheelhouse, and with his gaze steadily fixed upon the beacon light of a captaincy), he does everything the captain and mate impose upon him. He watches the other double six hours of the twenty-four; does the fine work about the boat; attends to everything aft when entering and leaving port; never sleeps and always looks pleasant – except to the deck hands.
"The wheelmen are to the lakes what the quartermasters are on salt water. Theirs is a tedious though not physically hard task, particularly on ships having steam steering gear which requires really but an infant's touch to turn the wheel. The wheelman is learning to be a pilot, receives orders to steer a certain course and must follow that to a dot – a most wearying job to stand there for six long hours looking for land marks and alternately watching that needle point that will wabble, and better had he never been born if, through drowsiness or other weakness of nature, he steers a quarter point off, or if in a channel he be too slow to obey instantly the order from above to ‘Port-a-little,' — ‘E-a-s-y,' ‘Nothing to starboard' or ‘S-t-e-a-d-y.' He keeps the ‘log,' noting every point passed, time, and direction of wind and steering course and rings the bells for the other watch to go on duty.
"The lookout's post is forward at night and in fogs where he peers ahead and informs the officers on watch that there is a white light ahead, or a red light on the port bow, or gives other seemingly useless information. At other times he scrubs, paints, washes, makes rope fenders and haughtily shows the lowly deck hands how to polish brass. The watchmen do mostly the same thing except that instead of looking out for lights ahead they tend lights and prowl around looking for possible fires within.
"The engineer, with his assistant, his oilers and his firemen form a department by themselves; they control the heart of the monster. The chief, though obedient in taking orders from the captain about maneuvering the ship, obeys instructions from headquarters only as to speed, consumption of coal and such matters, and is a good deal like a civil service government employe, under the captain but in a sense independent of him.
"The ship's crew generally stick to her for a season anyway. The deck hands pass the 25 or more tons of coal a day from the bankers to the fire room, shift freight, wash and polish everlastingly at the brass work, scrape spars and decks, remove from the latter the blisters of some 20 odd coats of paint, and apply a fresh coat. Though some stick and climb even to the bridge, most of them go on when particularly desirous of reaching some other port. There is an occasional fire drill when everyone makes a wild rush for his alloted position, some by the boats, some with the hose and others with axes. There is great commotion, and everyone seems satisfied that it was well done. "Jack has some fun aft of the enginehouse after supper. You hear some good jokes and considerable horse-laugh and play; and I suspect that there is often a quiet game in the kitchen galley where dimes and quarters change owners."
PHILOSOPHY OF A TUGBOAT HAND.
Down to the poorest paid stevedore, the sailor of the lakes is usually a happy individual, contented with his life and its pleasant associations. The poet of the Chicago Record has caught and expressed this spirit, in the "Philosophy of the Tugboat Hand," which is here reprinted:
"Yes, sir, home is where the heart is; which is words that I have read. In a book wrote by a party that I understand is dead; ‘Home, Sweet Home's' a tune I whistle often of these summer nights, When the smell rolls up the river follerin' the steamer lights.
"In the heart of ev'ry human is a feelin', kinder soft. Fer the bidin' place he's uset to, even if it's just a loft, An' a-settin' on the towpost when we're docked here, all alone, I feel sorry fer the man that has no place to call his own.
"With my pipe lit an' a-puffin', with the bridge lamps shinin' red, An' the black smoke hangin' heavy in the air just overhead, An' the garbage in the river bobbin' up an' down, you see There's a heap o' satisfaction to a homebody like me,
"Other men may have their millions an' their houses, big an' grand, But I ain't got any envy fer them people of the land; Twenty years I've bunked down forrard in the old Rebecca Nye – She has been my home an' will be, if I'm lucky, till I die.
"Home – yes, home is where the heart is, an' the old Rebecca's mine; I blowed up with her in ‘80, sunk with her in ‘89. Ev'ry plank an' rope an' rivet, ev'ry bolt head is a friend True an' firm an' tried an' trusted, on the which I can depend.
"Twenty years I've slept down forrard in the same familiar bunk. With exception of occasions when it happened I was drunk. With exception of occasions of a sorry kind when I Let the wicked city tempt me from the old Rebecca Nye.
"This is home – the greasy water an' the sulphur an' the smoke, An' the smell that comes a-floatin' up the river till you choke, An the tootin' o' the whistle, an' the crashin', splashing sound As the whizzin' old propeller swings some passin' boat around.
"This is home – the steward callin' like a voice out of the tomb, Tellin' us to come to supper down there aft the engine room. This is home – with us a-groanin' up the river, pullin' slow, An' as we go chasin' outside nosin' ‘round to find a tow.
"Let them kings who live in castles be as proudish as they please; Let them wade around in carpets that reach up to their knees. That an' such like things may be their idy of a home, but I Druther have my bunk down forrard in the old Rebecca Nye."
The humorous phases of lake sailing are preserved in a number of dialect poems, which have appeared in the press from time to time. One of these, entitled "De Look an' See," was recently reprinted in the Marine Record. It is as follows:
A skow kom sailing down Lak St. Claire
Shingal an cord hood her deck load ware;
De win blew fresh an de win blew free,
An speed her way dat "Look an See."
Out she sail from de creek of de Bear,
Over de waters of Lak San Claire.
De win increase till he blew a gale,
De "Look and See" she reel her sail;
De water joomp rite o'er de boat
An way tree stick of cord hood flote;
>From gail to hurricain blow de wind,
Four bench of shingal flote behind.
De captain she can't stan dat no more,
All de profit gone from dat trip sure;
If all shingal an de cord hood go; de sheriff he seeze
An sell dat skow, den no more whiskey,
No more bread, no more cabin to cover de head.
So de mate she yell in de gail,
Batise stan by and let go dat sail;
Haul in de peek halyard when I luff de boat,
De peek haul in de halyard gon,
An under de gib day scoot along.
Dey reach de river, dey pass de lite,
Dare stopping place soon com in site;
De captain jomp rite roun and roun;
Parblue Batise, why doan you haul down?
Can't do it captain, de mate reply,
If you tink you can, you bess com try.
Trow in de hank so quick you can,
De Captain cry as he forward ran;
Trow in de hank, and we make tings snug,
Better do dat dan hire a tug.
But Captain, de hank ain't got no string on,
Never mind, trow her in, may stop her som.
Pilot Duties. – J. R. Oldham, in a recent article in "Cassier's Magazine," touches upon the different pilot duties of the lake masters. He says: "As to navigation on the lake region rivers, imagine a narrow waterway, say, with not more than 600 feet of channel, 15 feet deep, and picture two or three steamers, with or without barges in tow, going down the steam at ten or twelve miles an hour, when suddenly, at a bend in the river where a sharp turn of about 90 degrees has to be made, another steamer, or perhaps two, close together, with a string of tow barges, are encountered at the acute turn of the channel. I say, imagine being placed in the situation both day and night, and the steamerthat you have charge of being 50 per cent. larger than the average steamer passing the Suez canal. This is just the ordinary work of American lake captains, or it has been for many years. But now the speed in the "Soo" river is happily limited to nine miles an hour in narrow or shallow reaches, and its navigation is not quite so difficult or hazardous. A sailor who has never seen the "Soo" navigated would probably say that the turns the descending vessels frequently have to make in the face of such obstacles as I have endeavored to show, are more suitable for one of the picturesque Indians, who navigates the St. Mary's rapids with his facile canoe, than for a steel steamer, 435 feet in length and of 8,500 displacement, yet the task is generally accomplished with safety and precision."
To the charge, sometimes made, that lake masters are only pilots, the additional reply can now be made that many captains are thoroughly fitting themselves for all the duties of thorough seamanship. And for this progress the representative of the Navy Department on the Great Lakes by means of the hydrographic bureau is properly credited. A navigation school has been conducted at Chicago during the past two winters by Lieut. C. L. Wilson, the assistant hydrographer at the Chicago office, and many of the captains of this port have taken great interest in the opportunities thus afforded, and acquired the tech-nical nautical instruction, which is making them superior in seamanship to ocean navigators, for in addition to the training and ability of the latter they possess the knowledge and experience of piloting vessels through the most intricate and extensive system of channels to be found in the world.
It has been the assertion of the manager, who has in charge the newest and the largest fleet of ore freighters on the lakes, that he would attract to the service the best men on the lakes. This special effort to secure the most competent mariners, no doubt, has its basis in the fact that the best seamanship is the cheapest. The investments in this fleet are so large, the quick dispatch and careful sailing so essential to the full and complete success of the enterprise, that, simply as a business proposition, the question of efficient seamanship has received a new consideration. The result must be to directly or indirectly benefit all lake mariners. It is one of the plans of this management to induce the crews to remain aboard these vessels year after year, and to seek advancement by meritorious services. The quarters provided for the men have been made equal to those on a line freighter. The tendency will be to still farther improve the character and ability of the lake mariners.
Opportunity for Advancement, - There is abundant opportunity for the lake sailor to rise in the world, not only to the better positions in marine service, but in other honored vocations of life. Both the past and the present afford numerous examples of men, eminently successful, who have been schooled by a course of lake navigation. Ex-Congressman Jerry Simpson, of Kansas, was an ordinary lake sailor. In February, 1895, the Marine Review briefly noticed the career of many eminent marine men, who had in early life filled lowly positions on the lakes or elsewhere. Capt. James Davidson, of West Bay City, began life as a ferry boy at Buffalo. H.A. Hawgood, of Cleveland, was a marine engineer. James Corrigan, of Cleveland, sailed before the mast with Capt. William S. Mack and many others. Ex-Congressman W.J. White, the Cleveland millionaire, sold pop corn to grocers, and is credited with having done some sailing. W.C. Richardson and J.C. Gilchrist both saw the rough side of life aboard small vessels. Harvey Goulder sailed before the mast, and gained a practical knowledge of navigation which has proved of great value to him as an admiralty lawyer. Capt. George Bone, of Buffalo, was keeper of the Erie beacon lighthouse before the war. Capt. John W. Moore, of Cleveland, at a tender age shipped as cook on a scow for $5 a month. Capt. Frank Perew also sailed the lakes as a cook, shipping on a bluff, on a passing schooner that was without a cook. L.C. Hanna, of the firm of M.A. Hanna & Co., was a steamboat clerk, and John Pankhurst, Robert Wallace, Tom Coe, Thomas Fitzpatrick, and other shipbuilders and vessel owners were lake engineers. The list might be extended indefinitely. The biographies of prominent lake mariners teem with instances of self-made men.
Head for the Straits! - The opening of navigation is a great event for the thousands of sailors who have been wintering at the various lake ports. A Chicago newspaper writer described, a few days before the fleet got away in the spring of 1897, the scenes of activity on the Chicago river, and throughout the marine circles in anticipation of the eventful opening. He said: "There is a little stretch of ice around the Straits of Mackinaw, a little more in Lake St. Clair, and some large floes in Lake Erie. This is now all that keeps the 600 vessels, which comprise the lake fleet, still snug in their winter quarters. The coming week crews will begin to gather. The machinery of the big steamers, taken apart last fall and scattered around the engine rooms so that water would not freeze in the pipes, will come together again. Sails will be pulled down from a hundred lofts. From numberless sailors' lodging houses will come forth the men who will sail the ships.
"Ever pleasant day the vanguard is already at work painting the sides or patching up the decks. Many craft, deep-laden with grain, are being moved down the river to be nearer the harbor entrance when the news comes the 'straits are open.'
"The solitary sentinel of the numberless vessels and cargoes which will be afloat the coming season now scans the expanse of ice at the straits from Lake Marine News station at Mackinaw City. To many thousands his reports on the 'condition of the ice' are more important than the latest news from the Mediterranean.
"A few steamers have been kept running all winter between Chicago and points along the Wisconsin shore. A big business has been done by car ferries across the lake from Milwaukee; but all this does not count with the mariners who are now getting ready for work. The only navigation they recognize is that which begins with the opening of the straits.
"Down along the river it is safe to call almost any man these days, who looks well fed, has a hale and hearty appearance, and who wears a big coat, 'Captain,' 'How are you, Captain? What kind of a winter have you had? What have you been doing?" This is a salutation one hears a dozen times in a block.
"California seems to have been attractive to many lake faring men the last winter. A score or more have been to Cripple Creek and succeeded in putting away the savings of last season into holes in the ground. Gold mines absorb more of the earning of lake navigators than any other class of men who depend on wages for support. Some the last winter have been up in British Columbia, and have invested there. Now they are coming back. Ship keepers are being paired off and let go until another winter comes around. Tales of fabulous wealth made in gold mines are relegated to the time for rest after a hard day's work in getting the ship into shape once more for service.
"It will be a great day for the keepers of the sailors' lodging-houses when navigation opens. The money of the average sailor disappeared long ago. He has had the same thing happen every winter since he can remember, and the fact that his money is gone, does not worry him in the least. The keeper of the lodging-house is not troubled by this little circumstance either, for he knows as soon as the 'boys' get to work this spring the winter bills will be paid. Year by year the number of real sailors grows less on the lakes. The musical 'heave-ho' is becoming the lost chord. Even on vessels which use sail an engine lifts the canvas.
"A long night of enforced idleness for a great army of stevedores and longshoremen is also showing the dawn of morning. There are said to be over 2,000 men who earn their living during the summer by loading and unloading merchandise from the liners. In the winter a great many of them are employed in cutting and stowing away ice. Such occupation, however, is beneath the notice of the men who unload coal and lumber, and they do not expect to do anything after the last vessel if unloaded until the next one comes the following spring.
"In the old times the first boat through the straits was a marked craft for the season, and its captain took front rank among his fellow navigators. It was nothing to go up to the straits and buck ice for a week in trying to get through in achieving that honor. But with the coming of corporations and consolidations of capital in large fleets, much of the early honor has gone. The managing owner directs his movements. The captain, once the proud commander free to sail when he deemed best, now awaits a telegram ordering him to go. The manager wots not of honor, but in coal bills he is an adept. Thus another romance has given way before the logic of double-entry bookkeeping."
Seamen's Wages vary considerably from year to year, for they are subject to the same influences that regulate other wages. Seamen's wages in 1818 were $15 per month; mates' wages from $25 to $30 per month; and captains' wages from $40 to $50 per month.
The wages of men in 1836 ranged as follows: The captain received from $600 to $1,000 for the entire season; the first mate from $36 to $40 per month; second mate, from $18 to $28 per month; steward, from $25 to $35 per month; engineer, from $50 to $90 per month; wheelsman, from $15 to $20 per month; fireman, $18 per month; sailors, $16 per month; first cook, $25 per month; second cook, $18 per month; third cook, $10 per month; and other hands from $10 to $15 per month.
The following table shows the rates of seaman's wages at different periods during the season of 1859. Vessels in the lake shore trade usually paying the highest wages given: April 1 to August 15, $12 to $14 per month; August 15 to October 1, $16 per month; October 1 to November 1, $18 to $20 per month; November 1, to the close of the season wages were from $1.00 to $1.50 per day. Seamen's wages during the fall of 1863 were $2.00 per day.
For the census of 1890 statistics were prepared showing the number of all employees constituting the ordinary crews of 1,072 reporting steamers on the Great Laes and St. Lawrence river, together with their average monthly wages. The statement is as follows:
Another statement shows the number of all employes constituting the ordinary crews of 758 reporting sailing vessels on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence river, together with their average monthly wages:
In recent years the Lake Carriers Association has from time to time established a schedule of wages, which has not been generally accepted. The custom has been to advance wages from $3 to $10 per month about October 15, and to also make a further advance in November if conditions justify it.
The following are the wages adopted by the executive committee of the association for 1898.
|Chief engineer||$105||$90.00||$60 to $75|
|First mates||$75||$65.00||$50 to $60|
|Helpers to cooks||$15||$12.00||0|
|Firemen||$30||$30.00||$25 to $30|
|Wheelsmen||$30||$30.00||$25 to $30|
|Lookouts||$30||$30.00||$25 to $30|
|First mates||$45||$30 to $40||0|
|Seamen||$30||$20 to $25||0|
NOTE: Firemen engaged in fitting out vessels are to be paid $1.25 per day.
In the division of classes, the first class on steamers is supposed to represent all steel freighters, excepting the older ones that have only compound engines; these latter are included in the second class with the larger wooden steamers. The third class is designed to cover small wooden steamers, such as are engaged in lumber trade. The point of tonnage where a line is to be drawn between first and second class in barges and sailing vessels is left to the owner.