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
Growth Of Traffic On Lake Ontario, 1831 - Traffic Between Buffalo And Port Robinson - Steamer Ohio Comes Out - The Superior Goes Over The Falls - Other Events Of 1831 - Blackhawk's War, And Cholera, 1832 -Wreck Of The Ogden - Troubles Of The Schooner Supply - Evergreen From Green Bay - Old Hulks At Kingston, Etc. - Some New Vessels - First Lightship At Head Of Mackinaw Straits - Other Events Of 1832 - A Remarkable Deliverance - New Vessels - Other Events Of 1833 - Trip Of The Illinois To Chicago, 1834 - First Steamer On St. Joseph River -Some New Vessels - Other Events Of 1834 - Terrific Storm Of November, 1835 - Other Events Of 1835 - Loss Of The Steamboat Delaware, 1836 -Launch Of The Canadian Rebellion, 1837 - Niagara Falls Runs Dry -Other Events Of 1837 - The Canadian Rebellion Of 1838 - Steamer Sir Robert Peel Plundered And Burned - The Affair At Prescott - Burning Of The Steamer George Washington - The Terrific Storm Of November, 1838 -Other Events Of 1838 - Indignities To The Crew Of The Girard - Seizure Of The Weeks - Attempt To Burn The Great Britain - Loss Of The Neptune And Victor - Some Fast Runs - Other Events Of 1839 - Steamer General Harrison Built, 1840 - First Suspension Bridge Over Niagara - Other Events Of 1840.
On January 28, 1831, an Act of the Legislature was passed, constit-uting Joseph Denison and his associates a corporate body under the name of The Ontario and St. Lawrence Steamboat Company, with a capital of $100,000 and limited to May 1, 1850. The owners of the Martha Ogden and the Ontario, theretofore engaged in navigating the lake and river, were entitled to the amount of the appraised value of those boats, and the affairs of the company were required to be managed by fifteen directors. The stockholders were jointly and severally liable for the contracts of the company, and persons having demands against the corporation might sue any stockholder or director for the recovery of the same. The place of business of the company was to be fixed at Oswego and its transactions were limited solely to Lake Ontario and the river St. Lawrence. The company built at Ogdensburg the steamer United States, which for size and amount of accommodation far exceeded any boat that had previously been run by an American on Lake Ontario. She was launched in November, 1831, and came out on her first trip July 1, 1832, under command of Elias Trowbridge. Her dimensions were as follows: length, 142 feet, beam 26 feet, and she was 55 feet wide over all. Her depth of hold was 10 feet. Her engines were low pressure, with a 40-inch cylinder and 8 feet stroke. Her cost was $50,000.
Traffic between Buffalo and Port Robinson. - For several years considerable traffic was carried on between Buffalo and Port Robinson via Chippewa, commencing in 1831, by steamboats. Of those thus early employed were the Perseverance, sailed by Capt. Sam Vary; the Victory, Capt. John Hibbard; Caroline, Capt. James Ballantine; Emerald, Captain Van Allen; and Clifton, Captain Willoughby. The construction of a railroad on either side of the Niagara river in later years, made it no longer a paying business, when it was discontinued.
Steamer Ohio Comes Out. - In 1831 the steamer Ohio, 187 tons, built at Sandusky, was added to the Buffalo and Detroit line, and was commanded by Capt. W. Cahoon. The Thompson also came over to the majority. The Peacock was withdrawn from this line, and was trans-ferred to a shorter route between Buffalo and Erie.
Superior Goes Over the Falls. - A rather unusual event transpired in September, 1831, by the fitting out and sending over Niagara Falls of an old hulk called the Superior, which had served well her time on the lakes. A large concourse of people were attracted from all parts. She struck an island a short distance above the precipice and there remained for one month, when high water floated her.
Other Events of 1831. - March: Congress appropriated $25,412 for Buffalo harbor improvements.
April: Schooner Henry Clay, in command of Captain Brown, driven ashore at Maumee bay; schooner Prescott driven from her moorings, and foundered at the mouth of York bay; schooners George the Fourth, Lady Colborne and Lady Hillier driven ashore at York bay; steamboat Wm. Peacock driven from the wharf at Erie, and went ashore. May: Navigation opened at Buffalo by the schooner Gen. Cass departing in command of Captain Whitaker.
June: Steamboat Sheldon Thompson damaged by collision with the steam-boat Ohio, near Ashtabula.
July: Schooner Henry Clay, bound from Oswego to Cleveland, capsized near Port Dalhousie; several lives lost. October: Sloop Olive Branch, bound for Ashtabula, wrecked at the mouth of Grand river; crew saved; valuable cargo lost; schooner Marshall, of Conneaut, wrecked on Lake Erie.
December 31: Two thousand, four hundred arrivals and departures at Buffalo during the season.
Blackhawk's War, and Cholera. - The year 1832 was notable in lake history for the transportation of troops to Chicago to quell Blackhawk's war, and for the simultaneous and destructive breaking out of cholera. In 1832 the first steamboat visited Chicago. There were few traces of civilization after passing the Straits of Mackinac, not a single village, town or city being in the whole distance. Four steamers, the Henry Clay, Superior, Sheldon Thompson and William Penn, were chartered by the United States Government for the purpose of transporting troops, provisions, etc., to Chicago during the Black Hawk war; but owing to the fearful ravages made by the breaking out of the Asiatic cholera among the troops and crews on board, two of these boats, the Henry Clay and the Superior, were compelled to abandon their voyage, proceeding no farther than Fort Gratiot. On the Henry Clay nothing like discipline could be maintained. As soon as the steamer came to the dock each man sprang on shore, hoping to escape from a scene so terrifying and appalling. Some fled to the woods, some to the fields, while others lay down in the streets, and under the covert of the river bank, where most of them died, unwept and alone.
On the Sheldon Thompson, commanded by Capt. A. Walker, with General Scott aboard, 88 deaths occurred from the pestilence. Not one officer of the army nor any officer of the boat was attacked with such violence as to result in death, though nearly one-fourth of the crew fell a prey to the disease while on the passage from Detroit to Buffalo.
The Thompson reached Chicago, July 10, 1832, also the Asiatic cholera. At that time there was a fleet of vessels at anchor in the offing. Some eight days after the arrival of the Sheldon Thompson, the William Penn appeared in Chicago harbor, with troops and supplies.
The first visitation of cholera to this country made its appearance in 1832, first at Quebec, June 11, on which date 34 deaths occurred, principally among emigrants just landed; many had died on the passage. Its next appearance was in New York City, Albany and Buffalo the forepart of July, and it gradually worked westward.
The steamboat Henry Clay, on her arrival in Cleveland had five deaths on board, and the steamer Superior two deaths. The schooner Benjamin Rush also arrived with three dead on board, and like instances were not unfrequent on the lakes.
Wreck of the Ogden. - The Martha Ogden, built at Sacket's Harbor, in 1819, was wrecked at Stony Point November 12, 1832. William Vaughan was her Captain. She left Oswego for Sacket's Harbor, but having sprung a leak, her fires were put out, and her sails spread, but the wind, which in the afternoon was southwest, veered to west-northwest, then to the northwest, and finally to the north, and pre-vented her from doubling Stony Point. Both anchors were thrown in eight and a half fathoms of water, and they held her fast from 4 P.M. to 11 P.M., when they were successfully parted, and she soon struck and bilged in ten feet of water. The crew consisted of six hands, and there were 22 passengers on board. With much peril a man succeeded in reaching the shore, eight rods distant, aroused the inhabitants, built fires, and in the morning a line was passed to the shore, and the whole company on board was safely drawn ashore in a three-bushel basket rigged upon a line with a Dutch harness. Captain Vaughan was the last man to leave the vessel, which went to pieces during the day. She was owned by S. and L. Denison, of Sacket's Harbor, and she was wrecked at Nutting's bay, on the coast of Henderson.
Troubles of the Schooner Supply. - The schooner Supply, Captain Campbell, owned by the mission at Mackinac, was wrecked in the month of November, this year, by getting ashore on a bar at or near Gorse island, where she bilged and sunk. Her cargo, consisting of supplies, was saved, except 150 barrels of salt. A short time prior to her loss she was driven ashore on the Canada side of Lake Huron, and was with difficulty rescued. She had on board a quantity of furs, which were saved in a damaged condition. The cause of her troubles, which were several that season, was attributed to the inefficiency of the crew, who had but little or no experience.
Evergreen from Green Bay. - Steamers visiting the upper lakes during this period of navigation, and more especially Green Bay, would, on the return voyage, arrived decked out with evergreen, tied to flag-staff, masthead and bowsprit, as an indication of the far-off regions they had visited.
Old Hulks at Kingston, Etc. - In 1832 there were yet several hulls of vessels at Kingston that had been begun during the war of 1812, but never completed, on account of the closing of the war. One 74-gun ship was sold for L26, and some time later, during the same year, a heavy rainstorm accompanied by thunder and lightning occurred, and split the St. Lawrence down the center; the props giving way, she broke into a thousand pieces and fell to the ground in heaps of ruins. This year there were built three new Canadian steamers: the John By, of 100 tons, at Kingston; the William IV, of 450 tons, at Gananoque; and the Transit, of 350 tons, at Oakville, the latter having at first been named the Constitution.
Some New Vessels. - On Lake Ontario the new steamer Great Britain (Canadian) was commissioned, commanded by Capt. Joseph Whitney and plied between Prescott and Niagara, calling at way landings and occasionally at Oswego. She had two low-pressure, walking-beam engines of 90-horse power each. The steamer Canada, Capt. Hugh Richardson, was also plying in Canadian waters during that period and previously, but was finally wrecked near Oswego by going ashore and breaking up. On the American side, beside others previously noted, the steamer United States commenced plying in July, 1832, commanded by Capt. Elias Trowbridge. She had two beam engines, 40-inch cylinders, 8 foot stroke, with boilers on the guards.
The First Lightship. - Located at the head of Mackinaw Straits, was the Louis McLean, of 60 tons, built at Detroit in 1932. She served as a beacon to warn vessels of the dangers of Waugoschance.
During this year there were a hundred vessels navigating Lake Erie and westward with a total of 2,740 tons.
Other Events of 1832. - Navigation opened April 11 at Erie, by departure of schooner Mary of Milan, Capt. Z. Phillips, Detroit. Schooner Buffalo, 161 tons burden, launched at Huron, Ohio. Navigation opened April 27, at Buffalo, by schooner Gov. Cass, cleared for Sandusky. Schooner Atlanta, 100 tons burden, launched at Fairport; owned by Geauga Iron Company and H. Phelps. May: Schooner John Q. Adams, Capt. B. Stanard, capsized off Grand river; crew rescued by schooner Comet. Schooner Guerierre capsized at the mouth of the Detroit river; five lives lost.
July: Steamboat Pennsylvania, launched at Erie; owned and built by Col. Charles M. Reed; largest boat on the lakes. Schooner Jesse Smith, of Oswego, filled and sunk in the Niagara river, near Black Rock. September: Steamboat General Brady launched at Detroit; intended to ply on the Detroit river. Schooner Elisha Whittlesey, Capt. William Hecox, capsized and sunk off Salem, Ohio; eight passengers and two of the crew drowned; captain and remaining members of the crew rescued by the schooner Huron, Captain Perkins.
November: Schooner Andrew, owned by Captain Belden, of Cleveland, stranded near Buffalo. Canadian schooner Lord Nelson ashore at Dunkirk. Schooner Supply ashore at Goose island, near Detroit. 12, steamboat Martha Ogden, Captain Vaughn, wrecked at Stony Point; crew and passengers saved; boat owned by L. and S. Denison. Steamboat New York launched at Black Rock. Schooner Governor Cass aground near Detroit river.
December: Schooner Caroline capsized between the Ducks and Galoe islands; crew saved.
A Remarkable Deliverance. - Capt. W. Jones, of Cleveland, in 1878 related the following wonderful deliverance in 1833 of a passenger from a wrecked schooner New Connecticut, and the facts were then remembered and vouched by a number of the older vessel men. Said Captain Jones:
"In the autumn of 1833 Capt. Gilman Appleby, of Conneaut, Ohio, was captain and part owner of the schooner New Connecticut. A steamboat was then being built at Conneaut (the North American), of which Captain Appleby had charge and was for many years her master. An aunt of his then residing at Black Rock, below Buffalo, was visiting a brother at Erie. The lady went to Conneaut in company with a nephew to visit a brother there. After remaining there some time she became exceedingly anxious to get home. Captain Appleby, who was busy with the steamboat, endeavored to dissuade her from taking the home journey until he should be going out with his vessel, when he would take her home. His efforts, however, in that direction were unavailing, and he had her taken on board the schooner to go to Buffalo in charge of the crew. Everything passed off quietly until after the vessel passed Erie, when a sudden squall struck her and roller her over on her side. She nearly filled with water, but continued to float. The crew, lowering the vessel's yawl, jumped in and pulled for the shore, leaving the woman in the cabin, as they supposed, drowned. The party landed at or near Portland, Chautauqua Co., N.Y., and made their was as best they could to Conneaut.
"Three days after the accident Captain Wilkins, of the steamboat William Peacock, in coming down from Detroit, was besought by Captain Appleby to board the wreck if he saw it, and if possible get the body of his aunt out of the cabin and convey it to Buffalo. Captain Wilkins discovered the disabled vessel drifting down the lake, and, after coming alongside, Capt. Wm. Henton (then first mate of the Peacock) boarded the wreck and made search. The schooner lay upon her side, and, to all appearances, was full of water. A pole was employed, and it was supposed every part of the cabin was touched, and as no object in the shape of a human body was reached, the conclusion was, that the body had floated out of the cabin into the lake; hence further search was given up. Two days afterward Captain Appleby came down with a vessel with facilities to right the schooner and tow her into the nearest port.
”When the vessel had nearly reached a level position, the woman walked through the water and came up the stairs to the deck. She was caught by Captain Appleby and supported, while her son, who was present, wept and the sailors screamed. Five days and nights had she been in the water, a portion of the time up to her armpits. She could not lie down, and what sleep she obtained was while standing. All the food she had was a solitary cracker and an onion, which floated on the water. She stated that after the vessel capsized, and was abandoned by the crew, she found herself alone in water waist deep. The cabin door was open, but the water was two feet above it, and the sea made constant changes in her position. While Captain Wilkins stopped, she could hear the boarding party talk, and walk on the vessel, and although she used her voice to the utmost to attract attention she could not make them hear. She saw the pole thrust into the cabin door by Captain Henton, and asked if she should hold on it and be pulled out, but no answer came.
“This event occurred 45 years ago,” continued Captain Jones, “and I never heard of a parallel case, either on the lake or other waters, and her salvation from drowning may be regarded as little less than a miracle.”
New Vessels. — The new steamer Uncle Sam commenced plying between Detroit and Buffalo, calling at intermediate landings, early in the spring of 1833, commanded by Capt. L. Stiles. She was 280 tons burden, low pressure, with walking-beam engine.
In 1833, the steamer Britannia, of 200 tons, was built at Kingston, Canada, and launched, as were also the Cobourg, of 500 tons, the Kingston, and the Brockville, each being named after the place at which she was built.
Some Events of 1833. — The first steamer that arrived at Saginaw is said to have been the Governor Marcy, of 161 tons, commanded by Capt. R.G. Mackenzie. She went upon a regular route to that port about 1837. In March, 1833, a revenue cutter of 62 tons was landed at Erie, and the Collector gave it the name of Lewis McLane, but the Secretary changed it to Erie.
Other Events of 1833. — April: Navigation open at Cleveland April 7. Congress appropriates $31,700 for the improvement of Buffalo harbor. July: Schooner John Q. Adams, Capt. B. Stanard, struck by lightning near Fort Gratiot; three lives lost. September: Schooner New Connecticut capsized on Lake Erie and sunk; one life lost.
October: Steamboat George Washington, Captain Walker, wrecked near Long Point; loss about $60,000; no insurance. Steamboat Governor Marcy launched at Black Rock. Schooner Utica, of Detroit, capsized near Erie, and drifted ashore at Elk creek. Schooner Alert, Captain Randall, ashore near Buffalo. Schooner Eagle, Captain Wilkinson, aground at Buffalo. Schooner Louisa Jenkins, Capt. Royal Pember, wrecked at Point Albino. Schooner America, Captain Foster, lost deck-load during a storm on Lake Erie; 17, schooners Young Amaranth, Bolivar and Recovery damaged during the storm on Lake Erie. Oswego packet ashore near Point Frederick. Schooner John C. Spencer launched at Buffalo.
November: Steamboat General Porter launched at Black Rock. Steamboat Oswego launched at Oswego.
December: 2,975 arrivals and departures at Buffalo during the season.
Trip of the Illinois, to Chicago. — In the winter of 1833-34 Augustus Pickering, of Sacket’s Harbor, N.Y., built a schooner as large as could be gotten through the Welland canal — length 80 feet. It was called the Illinois, and sailed from Sacket’s Harbor May 12, 1834, with 104 passengers, George L. Dickinson and his young wife, of Muskegon, Mich., being among the number. The cargo consisted of the household goods and farming implements of the passengers. The Illinois arrived off the mouth of the Chicago river about June 14, but it could neither land nor enter the “harbor,” for there was no harbor, only a formidable bar across the mouth of the river. There were no docks, no lights, no tugs, and the passengers and light goods were put ashore by means of the vessel's yawls, the heavier goods going by raft, as the weather would permit.
After the cargo of the little schooner had been discharged, the people told Captain Pickering that, as he had been gallant enought to name his vessel after their State, they wished to acknowledge the compliment in some fitting manner, and proposed to take his schooner over the bar, which showed but four feet of water. After due con-sultation, the idea was decided to be feasible. Accordingly her anchors were carried out, a purchase rope to windlass and with vigorous shouting, rolling of the schooner's booms, and heaving at the windlass, the deed was done, and the Illinois floated proudly in the port of Chicago, the first vessel of its size that ever graced the harbor.
With regard to the Illinois, W.B. Camp says: "I remember seeing her equipped with farming and household effects from the deck to masthead. Wagon wheels were so locked to shrouds that men could climb to topmast on them. Captain Pickering was so highly esteemed that our pioneers felt secure and in the hands of a capable navigator and watchful guardian, who could be trusted to lead them to their new homes, not yet made. We repeat now a reminiscence of that period. A very 'perlite' young gentleman had visited the outgoing vessel, and gave to a lady his descripton of the animated and picturesque scene, as follows: 'I have just seen Captain Pickering on board the Illynoize. The cabing is full of wimming, the rigging full of waggings, and the Capting says they are going out immediately.'
"Pickering was a terrible man, embued with a spirit of adventure and enterprise that charged his whole nature. His next vessel, called the Niagara, was much larger than the Illinois. This he built with a rounding stern, to better fit the locks. She, too, was loaded with passengers for the West. When his vessel reached the Welland canal, he discovered that the locks would not receive her, she being about one inch too wide amidships. He agreed with his brother-in-law, Winslow, that it was feasible to take that much from her sides, and began the work. Neither rest nor sleep came with the mortification of this event, till death came by his own choice, and before his vessel made her successful exit from the canal."
First Steamer on St. Joseph River. - A steamer commenced in 1834 on the St. Joseph river, created quite a sensation on her first trip. The banks of the river were, in many places, crowded with spectators, whose loud acclamations manifested the joy they experienced in wit-nessing the first attempt to introduce a steamboat on that beautiful river. She was called the Matilda Barney, and on her first trip had upward of a hundred passengers aboard, besides 10 or 12 tons of merch-andise. Her draught of water was 13 inches. Another steamer was soon after placed on the route, and property along the river was much en-hanced in value.
Season Opens at Mackinaw. - "About 8 o'clock this morning," writes Schoolcraft, at Michilimackinac, under date of March 14, 1834, "a vessel from Detroit dropped anchor in the harbor, causing all hearts to be gay at the termination of our wintry exclusion from the world. It proved to be the Commodore Lawrence, of Huron, Ohio, on a trip to Green Bay. Our last vessel left the harbor December 18." Under date of April 17 he adds: "The schooners Lawrence, White Pigeon and President left the harbor this morning on their way to various ports on Lake Michigan, and we are once more united to the commercial world on the great chain of lakes above and below us. The Lawrence entered the harbor March 14, and has waited 32 days for the harbor to open."
Some New Vessels. - The Mazeppa, 130 tons, high pressure, was built at Buffalo, in 1834, and the Little Western, of 60 tons, high pressure, at Chatham, in the same year, both for the Detroit and Chatham route. The Sandusky, of 377 tons, low presure, was also built that year at Sandusky and completed at Buffalo.
The Jack Downing, built at Carthage, in 1834, by Paul Boynton, was drawn over to Sacket’s Harbor on wheels. She was afterward used as a ferry boat. The steamer Victory, a small high pressure vessel, came out new this year and plied between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, commanded by Capt. John Hebard, who was also engineer. The steamboat Thomas Jefferson, 428 tons, low pressure, was built at Erie, and finished at Buffalo. The Michigan, built for O. Newberry, came out new this season, and made a grand excursion tour of 2,000 miles, visiting Mackinac, Green Bay, and all other ports on either shore of Lake Michigan; she was absent from Detroit 13 days.
The steamer Oswego was built at Oswego by William Young, ship carpenter. On her first trip in May, 1834, she was driven ashore some three or four miles west of Oswego, in a snow storm, while in command of Captain Macy. She was got off, but proved a failure. Her engines were taken out and placed in the new steamer St. Lawrence. The steamer Black Hawk was built at Clayton, N.Y., and not long after her name was changed to Dolphin.
Other Events of 1834. — The Steamboat Association that year was composed of 18 boats, costing $600,000, seven new ones having been added. Three trips were made to Chicago, and two to Green Bay. Navigation opened at Buffalo, April 6. The first clearance at Detroit was on February 15. The aggregate tonnage at Detroit in 1834 was 4,009 tons. Arrangements were perfected in 1834 by proprietors of steamboats, whereby one steamboat a week visited Chicago. The steamer Uncle Sam was the first to lead off. The steamer Pioneer was taken from Lake Erie to Chicago, to ply between that port and St. Joseph, beside four or five sail vessels that were employed carrying passengers and freight.
July: Steamboat New York damaged by bursting her steampipes near Erie. Schooner Lady of the Lake foundered on Lake Erie; several lives lost. Steamboat Pioneer wrecked at the mouth of St. Joseph river; crew and passengers rescued by the schooner Marengo, Captain Dingley. August: Steamboat Daniel Webster damaged by breaking of machinery on Lake Erie.
September: Schooner Nancy Douseman arrives at Buffalo with a cargo of furs valued at $265,000.
November: Steamboat Chas. Townsend launched at Buffalo, owned by Townsend, Coit & Co., Schooner Prince Eugene wrecked near the mouth of St. Joseph river.
December: Steamboat Kingston sunk on Lake Ontario.
Terrific Storm of November, 1835. — The season of 1835, wound up with one of the most terrific gales that ever visited the lake region, and, in proportion to the number of vessels employed, caused a greater destruction of life and property than ever before. It occurred November 11. The wind was west-southwest and, it is said, announced its approach like the sound of an immense train of cars. At Buffalo the creek rose to a height of 20 feet, floating steamers and vessels into some of the main streets, crushing canal boats under bridges, while on the west side of the harbor dwellings were swept away and the occupants drowned.
A vessel called the Free Trader, with 13 passengers on board beside the crew, took her departure from Fort Burwell, Canada, for Cleveland, and was struck by the gale and twice capsized, righting each time. After the storm she was discovered drifting off Dunkirk, and was taken into that port with one sailor still alive and clinging to the tiller. Among the passengers was Mr. Richardson, owner of the cargo.
The schooner Comet, of Buffalo, left Madison dock, below Fairport, with fifteen tons of iron and five tons of ashes. The crew consisted of six sailors, and there was one passenger. She is supposed to have foundered off Dunkirk as two topmasts were afterward seen in that locality, and several articles, recognized as belonging to them, floated ashore.
The steamboat North America was driven on the beach at Erie. She was commanded by Capt. G. Appleby. The steamers Sandusky, Henry Clay and Sheldon Thompson were floated on the bank in Buffalo harbor and seriously damaged. The North America, prior to going ashore, had let go her anchors and attempted to ride out the gale at Erie, but the wind, increasing in its fury, soon parted her cables, while the passengers and crew gave themselves up as lost, but it was suggested to scuttle the boat to prevent her jumping over the pier, and to this action the salvation of the boat may be ascribed. The schooner Two Brothers was landed on top of the Buffalo pier and became a total loss.
Vessels which were outside, as soon as the cyclone set in, tried to reach the nearest port, and when forced to Buffalo, on entering the harbor an immense amount of damage was done, as the creek at that time was crowded with vessels. Boats were run into and sunk, while the whole extent of the loss of life ranged far into the hundreds. Among the schooners ashore at Buffalo were the Tecumseh and the Col. Benton. The flood was the highest known since 1816 and the most destructive. Wharves and piers at various lake ports were demolished, and scarcely a vestige left. At Portland harbor two persons were drowned from the pier on account of the sudden approach of high water. The schooner Godolphin, freighted with salt, was wrecked at Fairport and crew lost.
The schooner Lagrange, a fine vessel, commanded by Captain Chanchois, with a full cargo of merchandise from Buffalo for Detroit, was capsized near Point Pelee and sunk about seven miles from shore. All perished except a man and boy, who were taken off the mast next morning, nearly frozen to death. The vessel was never recovered.
The storm on Lake Ontario was very severe, and the casualties large. On that lake the schooner Robert Bruce, which left Kingston, Canada, for some port up the Bay of Quinte, in ballast, was wrecked and all on board were lost. The wreck, after the storm, drifted ashore on Henderson Point, and the coat of a passenger, Elias Everett, was found hanging to a nail, and his wallet, containing $719, was recovered. The schooner Medora, owned in Oswego, from up the lake, laden with wheat and walnuts, went ashore at the mouth of Big Sandy creek, and all hands were lost.
Among the vessels lost on Lake Michigan during that storm were the schooners Chance, Bridget, Sloan and Delaware. On the Chance seven lives were lost; on the Bridget, 16; on the Sloan, six. The Bridget was wrecked near St. Joseph.
Schoolcraft bears testimony to the skill of the old-time captain during this storm. He embarked November 2, 1835, at Mackinac for Detroit, "on board a schooner under command of an experienced navi-gator (Captain Ward) just on the eve, unknown to us, of a great tempest, which rendered that season memorable in the history of wrecks on the Great Lakes. We had scarcely well cleared the lighthouse, when the wind increased to a gale. We soon went on furiously. Sails were reefed and every preparation made to keep on our way, but the wind did not admit of it. The captain made every effort to hug the shore, and finally came to anchor in great peril, under the highlands of Sauble. Here we pitched terribly, and were momently in peril of being cast on shore. In the effort to work the ship, one of the men fell from the bowsprit, passed under the vessel and was lost. It was thought that our poor little craft must go to the bottom, but owing to the skill of the old lake mariner we eventually triumphed. He never faltered in the darkest exigency. For a day and night he struggled against the elements, and finally entered the strait at Fort Gratiot, and he brought us safely into the port of our destination."
Other Events of 1835 – On July 21, 1835, at a meeting of the directors of the Grand River Navigation Company, it was ordered that the first steamboat of not less than 15-horse power that should ply on the Grand river from Dunnville to the head of navigation when opened, should be allowed to pass toll free through the locks of this canal as long as she should ply thereon. The steamboat Commodore Perry exploded twice at Buffalo and on Lake Erie, killing six persons. Business gradually increased, emigration continued to assume a lively aspect, moving to the Far West, while sail vessels as well as steamers carried a fair share of that class of travelers. Five steamers were added to the lake tonnage.
January: Steamboat Daniel Webster damaged by fire to the extent of $8,000, at Buffalo; owned by Pratt, Taylor & Co.
March: Steamboat General Porter sunk at Black Rock.
April: Navigation opened between Detroit and Cleveland. April 1: schooner Agnes Barton launched at Buffalo, 110 tons burden, owned by J. L. Barton: schooner La Porte launched at Buffalo, 150 tons burden, owned by A. Eaton: steamboat Susquehannah launched at Oswego: steamboat Great Britain driven ashore near Toronto during a storm. June: Steamer Wm. Peacock ashore during a severe gale near Dunkirk: steamboat Commodore Perry disabled by explosion of steam pipes near Buffalo.
September: Steamboat Commodore Perry disabled by bursting her boiler near Detroit, taken in tow by steamboat Daniel Webster; five lives lost: steamboat Michigan stranded at mouth of Detroit river, released; sloop Express, Capt. Wm. Cornwall, wrecked at Dunkirk during a severe gale.
November: Steamboat Columbus, Captain Walker, ashore near Erie: steamboat Daniel Webster damaged by collision with piers at Grand River.
Loss of the Steamboat Delaware. – Lake casualties in 1836 were less numerous than during the previous season. The most important loss was that of the steamboat Delaware. The Delaware was owned by Capt. George J. King, who had purchased her a short time previous to the wreck. She was lost on Lake Michigan in June, during a violent storm. The Delaware took her departure from St. Joseph for Chicago, was caught in the storm, sprung a leak, and was driven ashore about 10 o'clock at night, eight miles from where she cleared, and soon became a total wreck. The passengers and crew were all saved. The ship Milwaukee was out in the same storm, but arrived at Chicago with the loss of her foretop-gallant-mast. The Owanungah, a three-masted schooner, and the first on the lakes, in the same gale slipped her cable, about 30 miles from Chicago, went ashore and bilged. She was commanded by Capt. Augustus Todd, and had on board a full cargo of merchandise. She was released, however, and was in service many years afterward. The schooner Agnes Barton lost her foremast, and the schooner Sea Serpent was driven ashore at Michigan City, but subsequently got off. The steamer Colonel Crocket was lost in a gale at St. Joseph, and the steamer Don Quixote in a gale on Lake Huron. The steamboat W. F. P. Taylor took fire near the mouth of Cataraugus creek, Lake Erie, and was partially destroyed, but afterward rebuilt.
Launch of the Manhattan. – There was launched at Detroit, August 20, the brig Manhattan, the largest square-rigged vessel then on the lakes. A description of this launch, occurring over sixty years ago, may not be uninteresting. A newpaper account is as follows: At 10 o'clock in the morning of August 20, 1836, a large number of people gathered at the shipyard of Oliver Newberry, of Detroit, to witness the launching of the brig Manhattan, the largest square-rigged vessel on the lakes. At the appointed time the steamboat Michigan, on her return trip from Chicago, hove in sight, loaded with passengers and a fine band of music, which gave additional life to the scene. A pause was made to give her time to come in and take her place for the witnessing of the spectacle, after which strains of lively music proceeded from her decks. About half-past 10 o'clock the blocks were knocked away, and the noble brig descended to her destined element amid the shouts of hundreds of citizens. The morning was pleasant, and the large number of people, the playing about of numerous small craft upon the river, the lying at anchor of sister schooners crowded to the mast-heads with spectators, the arrival of the Michigan at the timely moment, all blended, making the appearance one of heartiest cheer. When newly launched the Manhattan was pronounced by all connoiseurs in the art of shipbuilding to be the best in point of model and strength ever committed to the western waters. Her length of keel was 93 feet, depth of hold 12 feet and breadth of beam 28 feet.
A Trip to Chicago. – A Chicago pioneer, J. M. Hannahs, describing a trip to Chicago in 1836, said: "At Buffalo we went on board the steam-boat Oliver Newberry for Detroit. Steamboats in those days only ran through to Chicago about once in three weeks. At Detroit we took passage on the schooner Edward Bancroft, which proceeded to Black River, now Port Huron, and there loaded with lumber for Chicago. On the Canada side of the river above Detroit were many windmills, and above Lake St. Clair, on the same side, for many miles were little log houses of uniform construction, which were built by the British Government for their Indian friends. From Port Huron we ran through stormy Lake Huron and anchored at Mackinaw. On the high bluffs stood the fort, manned by soldiers, and there were various missionary stations, and hundreds of Indians having a fleet of beautiful bark canoes, which, together with the wild scenery on the island beyond the fort, were objects of great interest. Those bark canoes were an important part of navigation in those days on the Great Lakes. From Mackinaw through the straits to the eastern shore of the territory of Wisconsin we coasted along for hundreds of miles in full view of the dark, uninhabited, and forbidding forests of that now great State, until we came within about 100 miles of Chicago, where we found ourselves scudding before a northeast gale with a heavy sea, which pursued us into Chicago; or, rather, to the bar at the end of the piers, which were then under construction, and where we stuck fast. We were nineteen days on the passage to Chicago."
West of Lake Erie, in 1836, there were but two collectors' districts – Detroit and Mackinac – but the coasting trade was principally connected with the former.
Other Events of 1836. – April: The pier at Black Rock severely damaged by floating ice: 15, navigation opened at Buffalo: brig Illinois sustains injuries on Lake Erie: steamer Oliver Newberry leaves Cleveland for Detroit April 13, thus opening navigation on Lake Erie: Welland canal opened April 22, and Oswego harbor clear of ice: schooner Chicago launched at Grand Island Company's shipyard, at White Haven, 140 tons burden.
May: schooner James G. King launched at Dunkirk. Owned by Col. W. Smith and built by Captain Jones, of Black River, 170 tons burden: intended expressly for trade on the upper lakes, and first commanded by Capt. C. Stillman, schooner Julia Palmer launched at Buffalo: dimensions: 100 ft. x 26-1/2 ft. x 10 ft., and 300 tons burden. Owned by Col. Alanson Palmer, and first commanded by Capt. Robert Wagstaff. Ship Milwaukee launched at Grand Island: 300 tons burden: built for Chicago and Buffalo trade: first commanded by Captain Dickinson. Steamer United States ashore near Erie. Steamer William Penn ashore below Erie. Sloop Clarissa launched at Chicago: first vessel built at that port.
June 17: Schooner John Richards, owned by Sears & Ruden, capsized and sunk in attempting to enter Buffalo during a severe gale. Schooner Hudson launched at Oswego, 125 tons burden. Schooner Toledo launched at Buffalo, 220 tons burden.
July: Schooner Young Lion, in command of F. T. Moran, wrecked and sunk near Erie.
August: Steamer Sheldon Thompson severely damaged by collison with the steamer Monroe on Lake Erie. Keel of steamboat Buffalo laid by John Carrick, of Buffalo. Schooner Philadelphia, 120 tons burden, launched at Erie. Schooner President, bound from Buffalo to Cleveland, capsized during a gale: four lives lost. Schooner White Pigeon, in command of Captain Newhall, capsized and sunk near St. Clair Flats: no lives lost.
September: Steamboat Daniel Webster disabled on Lake Erie, and towed to Cleveland for repairs. Steamboat Commodore Perry, in command of Captain Wilkison, damaged by collison with the steamboat Uncle Sam near Sandusky. Steamboat Gen. Porter sunk at Dunkirk by collision with a rock.
October: Schooner Florida wrecked near Black Rock during a storm. Schooner North America capsized on Lake Erie during a severe storm. December: Steam packet James Madison launched at Erie: 700 tons: built by Captain Richards, and owned by Col. C. M. Reed: built for trade between Buffalo and the upper lakes. Ship Milwaukee ashore near the entrance of Sandusky bay. Schooner Texas ashore near Cedar Point.
The Canadian Rebellion broke out toward the latter part of 1837. It was a result of dissatisfaction among the people of Canada with the British Government. This discontent was not confined to the people of Upper Canada, but what existed in the Lower Province was quickly suppressed. It was a time of great excitement, and false rumors rapidly spread. There was then no telegraph in the country to circulate either falsehood or truth, and the latter was slower even than now in overtaking the former.
The "patriots" collected their forces on Navy island, about two miles above Niagara Falls, and from their headquarters issued proclamations which caused prompt action on the part of the Canadian Government. A call for 2,500 troops was issued by Governor Sir Francis Bond Head, for the purpose of putting down the Rebellion. The rebels were led by William Lyon Mackenzie, an ex-member of the Provincial Parliament, who after an unsuccessful outbreak a short distance north of Toronto, had fled to Buffalo dressed in woman's clothes. In Buffalo, in December, 1837, meetings were held, at which addresses were made by him and by Thomas Jefferson Sunderland, and others, all calculated to awaken sympathy for the "patriots" on the island. They had collected on Navy island, because of the convenience of access to the landing of Schlosser, or Schlosser's dock, as it was called. On this island there were assembled from 300 to 400 men, a considerable portion of whom were Americans. Their commander was Gen. Rensselaer Van Rensselaer, a son of Solomon Van Rensselaer, who was wounded at Queenston Heights.
In response to the call of Sir Francis Head the 2,500 men assembled on the banks of Niagara river near the mouth of Chippewa creek, opposite Navy island. In Buffalo the United States marshal appointed 30 deputies to prevent violations of the neutrality laws. The winter was an unusually mild one, and the steamer Caroline, belonging to William Wells, of Buffalo, went down to Navy island and ran back and forth between that island and Schlosser's dock, carrying men and supplies. The steamer Caroline had been built in Charleston, S. C., in 1822, of live oak, and was of about 45 tons burden. She had made two trips, and had tied up at the dock for the night, during which a force of Canadians cut her out, set her on fire and sent her over Niagara Falls. The trips of the Caroline had been watched by the British from their camp near the mouth of Chippewa creek, and Col. Allan McNab determined to cut off this method of supplying the "patriots" on Navy island. It was an extremely hazardous undertaking, owing to the fact that Schlosser's dock was so near the Falls that almost any mishap might precipitate the expedition itself over, instead of the steamer Caroline. Captain Drew, however, obtained permission from Colonel McNab to organize an expedition for the purpose of destroying the Caroline, and secured a company of young men to form it. In all seven boats were manned. This expedition proceeded up the river a short distance before crossing, and after passing the middle of the stream they were given orders as to the disposition of the Caroline. Two of the boats lost their way, but the other five kept together and pulled up to the wharf at Schlosser's.
The sentry on the deck of the Caroline challenged the approaching party, but received no reply, either to his first or to his second challenge, hence he fired upon them and then ran ashore. By the noise of the shots the people on board the steamer and those on shore were aroused from their slumbers, a brief battle ensued, in which Amos Durfee, an American, fell to the ground shot through the brain. The attacking party secured possession of the Caroline, took her out into the middle of the river, set her on fire and sent her over the Falls, after making sure there was no one on board. Ablaze as she was, she attracted great attention, lighting up both sides of the river, and presenting a scene never to be forgotten by those who witnessed it. As she went down to her final plunge she was a most fascinating sight. The steamer Caroline had been added to the tonnage of Lake Ontario in 1824, and in various records of her history there is a wide difference as to her origin. Her birthright is claimed both at Kingston and Ogdensburg. She was built, however (as already related), at Charleston, S. C., of Norway pine, copper fastened. She came to Buffalo in 1835, and commenced running between that port and Port Robinson, on the Welland canal via Chippewa, commanded by Capt. James Ballentine. She was 46 tons burden, low pressure, with cross-head engine. At the commencement of the Canadian rebellion in December, 1837, she was chartered to transport supplies from Buffalo and Navy island, some three miles above Niagara Falls, which was the head-quarters of the Canadian refugees.
Niagara Falls Runs Dry. – A circumstance occurred on the opening of navigation in 1837, that, so far as is known, never before took place. The Niagara river, between Fort Erie and Buffalo, was so wedged in with ice that the waters of the lake in consequence rose several feet, while the Niagara river fell so low that numerous rocks and islands, before invisible, made their appearance. The water of Chippewa creek were also lowered several feet.
Other Events of 1837. – The steamer James Madison, Capt. R. C. Bristol, commenced plying between Buffalo and Chicago in 1837, and was the first boat to pass through Mackinaw straits on the opening of navigation that season.
January: Schooner John Hollister fast in the ice on Lake Erie and abandoned by the crew.
February: Steamer New England launched at Black Rock.
March: Steamer Tiskillwa sunk by collision with the steamer Wisconsin near the Illinois river: several lives lost.
May: Steamer Monroe ashore above Point Albino. Schooner Commodore Laurence damaged by lightning at Huron. Steamer New England damaged by collision with the piers at Buffalo.
June: Schooner Tom Lemen launched at Cleveland: 90 tons burden. Steamer Cleveland launched at Huron: 600 tons burden.
July: Steamers Niagara and Pennsylvania collide near Huron: 19, the Milwaukee launched at Grand island. Steam lighter The Badger launched at Milwaukee. Steamers New York and New England collide at Dunkirk. August: Steamer Buffalo launched at Buffalo Creek: 670 tons. Brig North Carolina capsized on Lake Michigan: several lives lost. Steamer Manhattan launched at Buffalo. Schooner Western Trader capsized and sunk off Cleveland. Schooner Adelaide launched at Ashtabula: 150 tons. Brig Rocky Mountains launched at Green Bay: 280 tons. The schooner Union, of Port Hope, totally wrecked, but none of her crew was lost. Schooner Henry Roop damaged by lightning at Ashtabula. Schooner Rainbow driven ashore and wrecked at Put-in-Bay island. Schooner Ceres sunk off Chagrin river.
September: Steamer Illinois launched at Detroit: 755 tons: the largest boat on the lakes. Schooner Tippecanoe ashore near Cleveland. October: Schooner E. Jenny ashore near Cleveland. Steamer Erie launched at Erie. Steamer Boynton wrecked at Kingston. Steamer Com. Barrie damaged during a storm on Lake Ontario. Steamer Utica ashore at Presque Isle. Schooner Massachusetts wrecked near the Niagara river.
November: Steamer Wisconsin launched at Conneaut. Schooner Toledo ashore at Gravelly bay. Schooners O. P. Starkey, Brandywine and Texas ashore at Buffalo.
The navigation of 1837 wound up with a very destructive gale, such as is rarely recorded, raging throughout the entire lake region. It came from west-southwest and at Buffalo much property and many lives were lost.
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 senti-ment 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.
Indignities to the Crew of the Girard. - The excitement consequent upon the Canadian rebellion of 1837 had not yet wholly subsided during the navigation of 1839, and vessels passing through the Welland canal from American ports were frequently subjected to annoyance from the militia stationed along that waterway. The schooner Stephen Girard, Capt. John C. Hugurin, left Oswego April 15, for Cleveland. She passed through unmolested to the last lock at Gravelly Bay. On her arrival there she was assailed by about 150 soldiers in uniform, under mounted officers. The ordered the captain to haul down the stars and stripes. The captain made no reply, when one of the officers ordered soldiers to cut the halyards, which order was obeyed, but in hauling the colors down they got foul in the cross-trees. The captain was then ordered to send one of his men aloft and haul down the flag. He obeyed. The sailor threw it on deck, and the master under command sent it ashore. He then attempted to get his vessel out of the lock, and when she was nearly through the officer ordered his men to shut the gates upon her, in which attempt they caught the small boat, hanging upon the davits, and stove it in. The captain succeeded in making sail, and after receiving a good pelting from stones got away. The soldiers manned a boat and followed the vessel, but did not overtake her. The flag was torn in strips, amid the yells of the soldiers. Subsequently a new flag was sent the master by the Canadian authorities to Cleveland, with a letter denouncing the outrage and deploring its occurrence. The officer and soldiers taking part in the affair were placed under arrest and a court of inquiry instituted. This letter of apology was signed by C. J. Baldwin, the colonel commanding the forces.
Seizure of the Weeks. – Another exciting episode was the seizure of the schooner G. S. Weeks, of Oswego, by the Canadian authorities at Brockville. The Weeks had merchandise for that port, and was seized immediately after discharging her freight, under pretext, it was said, of her having on board one piece of State ordnance for a company of State artillery at Ogdensburgh. As soon as informed of the seizure, Colonel Worth left Sacket's Harbor in the steamer Oneida for Brockville, with a company of United States troops on board. Colonel Young, the commander, at Brockville, demanded the surrender of the schooner to her owner, but the militia, who had possession, refused to give her up. Aid was sent for to Kingston, and two companies of the 83rd were dispatched to Brockville by steamboat. After the arrival of the troops from Kingston the schooner was surrendered to her officers, upon the formal demand of Colonel Worth.
Attempt to Burn the Great Britain. – On June 6, 1839, an attempt was made to burn the British steamer Great Britain, by conveying on board a trunk filled with explosive materials. The explosion designed occurred, but the flames caused thereby were soon extinguished. Lett and Defoe, two Canadian refugees, were arrested, charged with the outrage, confessed to the design of burning the vessel, with the hope of renewing the difficulty between the two governments. For a year or two afterward a steamer was kept in commission on the lake, and troops were stationed at Madison barracks, for some time after the boat went out of commission. However the troubles came to an end, and there has been no further difficulty between the United States and Canada.
Loss of the Neptune and Victor. – A distressing casualty was the loss of the brig Neptune, Capt. John Sims, of Cleveland, at Point au Sable, Lake Michigan, in November. Eleven passengers, comprising four families, were drowned. Five beside the captain reached shore, where they soon after perished. The captain had both feet badly frozen, one of which was subsequently amputated. His mate, John W. Webster, had both legs badly frozen, and they were afterward amputated. The Neptune had on board a general cargo, including iron, liquor, leather, wagons, etc. In the latter part of November, the same season, the schooner Victor, laden with 4,000 bushels of wheat, shipped from Michigan City, was lost with all hands on Lake Erie. These were the two most serious disasters of that season.
Some Fast Runs. – The steamer St. Lawrence was the fastest boat plying on Lake Ontario during the season of 1839. In a heavy gale, with the sea continually breaking over her, the St. Lawrence made the run from Oswego to Lewiston in 12 hours and 7 minutes, and passengers by her, who took tea in the evening at Oswego breakfasted the follow-ing morning in Buffalo. She was long, sharp and narrow, and was propelled by two powerful, low pressure engines.
During the season there was considerable rivalry in regard to speed, and not unfrequently in company a high pressure of steam was carried. The steamer Cleveland claimed to be the fastest boat, without the necessity of racing, a statement which was inserted in her bills. She claimed to make the run between Cleveland and Buffalo in 14 hours, and from Detroit to Buffalo on one occasion, with a fair freight and 100 passengers, in 21 hours and 38 minutes, the distance being 300 miles. Not long after this, however, the steamer Buffalo, Capt. Levi Allen, made the distance between Detroit and Buffalo in 19 hours, and carried the broom for the remainder of the season.
Other Events of 1839. – The schooner Globe, Captain Rosseter, was capsized in a squall six miles off Cleveland. She was from Buffalo, with a small quantity of pig iron on board. The crew was picked up by the schooner Agnes Barton. She was subsequently righted and towed into port with no serious damage. The steamer Great Western, which came out in 1839, was burned in Detroit in September. She had been in Chicago, and on returning took fire while crossing Lake St. Clair. The flames were apparently extinguished until reaching Detroit, when they burst forth anew, and consumed the boat almost to the water's edge. She was subsequently rebuilt at almost her original cost, which was $80,000. The steamer Minnitunk, a Canadian craft, was sunk by the steamboat Erie on Detroit river, above Malden. She was afterward, raised, enlarged, and had her name changed to Goderich. The old barkentine Detroit, captured by Commodore Perry, in the memorable engagement of 1813, but later on converted into a merchant craft for service on the lakes, was condemned at Buffalo as unfit for further wear. Business on the Erie canal was unusually active, emigrants and merchandise arriving hourly at Buffalo, and creating quite a stir among lake craft. The steamer Michigan, which up to this time had been propelled by two low-pressure engines, had one taken out, and was run by only one, making slower time. On the evening of October 11, while the steamboat DeWitt Clinton was lying to off Milwaukee, on her passage down, a tremendous gale swept over the lake and capsized her. Four lives were lost. The steamer Lord Syndenham ran down the St. Lawrence rapids that season, the first to attempt such a feat. The first vessel to leave Chicago for Buffalo was the schooner James G. King, April 19, with 57 passengers.
January: Steamer Cincinnati leaves Cleveland for Detroit: 16, first departure of the season: returns 17th, being unable to enter Detroit river on account of ice.
March: Navigation opened 16th between Detroit and Cleveland by steamer Erie.
April: Welland canal opened 1st for the season. Steamer Cincinnati ashore near the mouth of Sandusky bay. The Chautauqua launched at Buffalo. Steamer Oliver Newberry sunk by collision with a rock in the Maumee river. Schooner S. Juneau ashore near Milwaukee. The Western trader ashore near Chicago. Steamer Columbus first boat to arrive at Chicago this season from lower ports.
May: Schooner Atlas, of Dexter, in command of Captain Westcott, sunk in a gale near Oswego: seven lives lost. Schooner Globe capsized near Cleveland: crew rescued by schooner Agnes Barton.
July: Schooner Queen Victoria launched at Garden island.
September: Steamer Great Western, of Huron, burned at the dock in Detroit: 800 tons: cost over $80,000. Steamer Erie damaged by collision with the Daniel Webster in Detroit river. Severe storms on Lakes Ontario and Erie Sept. 12. Schooner New York wrecked on Lake Ontario: wreck went ashore near Port Hope: six lives lost. Schooner Matilda, in command of Captain Cameron, ashore on Canada side of Lake Ontario: the captain and three men perished.
October: Steamer Illinois disabled on Lake Erie and towed to Fairport by the steamer Rochester. Schooner Kingston ashore on the Isle of Tonti. Schooner Welland, ashore at Point Misery, released by steamer Cobourg. Severe storm on Lake Michigan. Schooner Milwaukee ashore near Little Fort. Steamer New England sustains injuries during a storm on Saginaw bay. The Virginia, John Kinzie and White Pigeon ashore near Michigan City.
November: Schooner Buffalo sunk by running on a reef in the Niagara river. Steamer Brothers, in command of Captain Eberts, of Chatham, burned. Schooners Caroline and Essex collide off Sodus, by which the former was severely injured. Schooner Norton damaged during a storm on Lake Erie. Schooner Bolivar wrecked near Presque Isle: 25, Brig Neptune wrecked at Little Point au Sable: many lives lost, among whom were eight members of the crew.
December: Toll-fees at Welland canal during the season, $27,241.67.
The population in 1839, at certain lake ports was given as follows: Buffalo, 20,000; Erie, 3,500; Cleveland, 8,400, Sandusky 3,500, Lower Sandusky, 1,500; Perrysburg, 1,600; Maumee, 2,000; Toledo, 2,000; Detroit City, 6,500, Monroe, 3,500; Chicago, 5,000; Milwaukee, 3,500; Michigan City, 1,000; Huron, 1,500, Dunkirk, 1,300. It had quadrupled in eight years time.
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.