Great Lakes Maritime History

History of the Great Lakes

Vol. 1 by J.B. Mansfield
Published Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co. 1899

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Vol. 1 of History of the Great Lakes



Wreck Of The Walk-In-The-Water,  1821 - Steamer Superior Is Built And Launched, 1822 - Other Happenings In 1821-1822 - Commerce Gradually Improves,  1823 - Some Events In That Year - the Construction Of The Erie Canal In 1824 - Other Events - Opening Of The Erie Canal. 1825 - Valuable Fur Cargo - Severe October Gale - Steamer Niagara Built At Toronto - Other Early Steamships - Other Events Of 1825 - First Lake Vessel On The Erie Canal - Steamer Henry Clay, 1826 - New Steamer Canada - Erie’s First Steamboat, Etc. - McKenney’s Trip Up The Lakes - Other Events Of 1826 - Trip To Green Bay,  1827 - Other Events Of 1827 - The Schooner Canadian - Other Events Of 1828 - First Passage Through The Welland Canal, 1829 - Other Events Of 1829 - First Steamboat Explosions, 1830 - First Three-Masted Steamboats - Remarkably Late Season - First Marine Reporting - Other Events Of 1830.


The year 1821 was notable for the wreck of the first steamer on Lake Erie-The Walk-in-the-Water. The principal Buffalo newspaper devoted but a single paragraph to the disastrous event. The article reads as follows:  “It is with extreme regret that we have to announce that the steamboat was beached about 100 rods above the lighthouse on Thursday morning last, and is so badly damaged that she cannot be repaired. The boat was heavily laden, and on her last trip for the season. The crew are now removing her machinery. We understand that the machinery might be used in another boat. The boat owned by a company in Albany and New York, and we have not been able to learn whether she is insured or not.”

The published communication of a passenger on the fated boat gives additions particulars and incidents of the historical wreck. It is as follows:  “On Wednesday, October 31, the Walk-in-the-Water left Black Rock at 4 p.m., on her regular trip to Detroit. The weather, though somewhat rainy, did not appear threatening. After proceeding a short distance up the lake, she was struck by a severe squall, which contin-ued to blow through the night with extreme severity.  The lake became rough to a terrifying degree, and every wave seemed to threaten destruction to the boat and passengers.  To proceed up the lake was impossible.  To attempt to return to Black Rock amid the darkness and howling tempest would be certain destruction.  She was then anchored, and for a time held fast.  The casing in her cabin moved at every roll, and the creaking of her joints and timbers was appalling.  She commenced leaking, and her engine was devoted to the pumps, but the water increased to an alarming extent, and the wind increased to an alarming degree.  The wind blew more violent as the night advanced, and it was discovered that she was dragging her anchors. The passengers were numerous and many of them were ladies, whose fears and cries were truly heartrending.  In this scene of distress and danger all the passengers feel the warmest gratitude to Captain Rogers for the prudence, coolness and intelligence with which he performed his duty.  The boat was now at the mercy of the waves until 5 o'clock in the morning, when she was beached a short distance above the light-house, and we all debarked.  Some idea may be formed of the fury of the storm from the fact that, though heavily laden, the boat was thrown entirely on the beach."

The following account of the disaster, and of a subsequent tedious voyage from Buffalo to Detroit in November, was written by Mrs. Welton, one of the passengers: "The steamboat ‘Walk-in-the-Water' left Black Rock the evening of October 31, 1821, bound for Detroit, with the following list of passengers: The Rev. Alanson W. Welton and family, Jedediah Hunt, William Lattimore, Thomas Palmer, Orlando Cutter, William Bercry, Silas Meriam, Mary A. W. Palmer, Rhoda Lattimore, Catharine Palmer, Marthy Bearey, Chauncey Barker, George Williams, Thomas Gray, E. N. Berge, John Hudson, F. Martin and George Throop. For the first few hours after leaving Black Rock, we had fair weather, but about eight o'clock in the evening, and while we were at supper, a terrific gale commenced, which lasted throughout the night.  The boat, being unable to make headway against the gale.  Captain Rodgers gave orders to cast anchor.  We were then a few miles above the old Buffalo lighthouse.  Here we lay until nearly daylight.  During all this time, the creaking of her timbers throughout her whole length warned us of the probable fate in store for us all.  The joints in her timbers opened in a frightful manner.  At daylight, her anchors dragging, the captain gave orders to cut her cables and let her drift ashore, and the passengers were advised of the possible fatal result.  Tired out with anxious watching, I had taken my berth with my children, keeping my own and their clothes on.  My husband was still on deck.  When the captain's summons came to the cabin passengers to turn out, as the boat was going ashore, the floor of the cabin was ankle deep with water.  The passengers were strangers to each other, only a few hours having elapsed since leaving Black Rock.  I will not attempt to describe the anxious, prayerful, tearful upturned faces that were grouped together in the cabin of the ‘Walk in the Water' on that terrible, cold morning as we looked into each other's faces for probably the last time.

"The boat struck the beach in a fortunate spot for the safety of the passengers and crew – near the lighthouse – and all were saved.  The warm fireside we gathered around at the lighthouse was comfortable to our chilled limbs, and our hearts warmed with gratitude to God for deliverance from our peril.  Monday, November 5, we embarked on the schooner Michigan, from Black Rock, determined to reach Detroit, our destined home and field of missionary labors.  The weather was favorable until Tuesday, when opposite Cleveland another gale broke over us, before which we were driven like a feather, and came to anchor under Long Point, Canada, only 16 miles from Buffalo.  On the morning of the 8th of November, we again got under way, with a fair wind, reaching a point opposite Cleveland, when another storm met us, from which we sought shelter in Erie Harbor, Pennsylvania.  Here we were obliged to remain eleven days, the storm was so severe and continued, having, during this time, made three efforts to get on our way to Detroit and as often being driven back to Erie.  Our fourth trial was successful, and although the weather was still what the sailors called rough, we reached the harbor of Put-in-Bay island.  We spent the Sabbath on shore, and on Monday again set sail for Detroit. At evening we dropped anchor at the mouth of Detroit river.  Here we lay, unfavorable winds detaining us for a whole week, but we finally arrived at Detroit on Saturday evening, December 1, 1821.  Of all the passengers who were on board the ‘Walk-in-the-Water' on the last day of October, 1821, our little family were the only ones that ventured upon the waters of Lake Erie again that season, and I was the only female passenger throughout this tiresome voyage.  The other passengers took the wagon route through Canada and arrived at Detroit before we did.  We were 32 days on steamer and sailing vessel between Buffalo and Detroit."

When the Walk-in-the-water stranded on the beach at Buffalo, she had aboard eighteen passengers and a full and valuable cargo, resulting in a loss to her owners of $10,000 or $12,000.  Her engine was afterward placed in the Superior, which was built by a chartered company, and had an exclusive privilege in the navigable waters of New York.  This privilege was abandoned after a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.

A citizen of Detroit, writing to Schoolcraft, November 17, 1821, thus deplores the wreck of the Walk-in-the-water: "This accident may be considered as one of the greatest misfortunes which have even befallen Michigan, for in addition to its having deprived us of all certain and speedy communication with the civilized world, I am fearful it will greatly check the progress of emigration and improvement.  They speak of three new boats on Lake Erie next season; I hope they may be erected, but such reports are always exaggerated."

Steamer Superior is Built and Launched. – The hull of the Walk-in-the-Water was damaged beyond repair, and, having been a financial success, her owners determined to replace her, and during the following winter the Superior was built on the bank of Buffalo creek, by Noah Brown, "master carpenter."  She was not quite as long nor as wide as her predecessor, but was two feet deeper.  She was owned by the Lake Erie Steamboat Company, and was launched April 13, 1822. She was the first vessel of any size built at Buffalo.  Some slight work had to be done in the mouth of Buffalo creek in the way of cutting through the sand bars, so as to deepen the waters, in order that the Superior might get out into the lake.  The shallowness of the water there had caused the owners of this boat to hesitate about building her on Buffalo creek, but, as they were assured that the spring freshets would clear the mouth of the creek, and a guarantee of $100 per day was given by responsible citizens for each day that she was delayed in the creek, after she was ready to go out, they decided to built her there.

When she was nearly ready to go out there was great anxiety lest this guarantee would have to be made good, and the citizens assembled every day in large numbers, merchants, lawyers and laborers alike, with teams, scrapers and shovels, and other necessary tools, and labored most assiduously to remove as much of the bar as was necessary to permit the Superior to pass out and to return to the harbor, and those who could not work sent down provisions of all kinds to those at work, in order to help the good work along.  All felt that success in getting this vessel out of the harbor into the lake was vital to the future of that harbor.

The fateful day arrived, and after some little difficulty in touching the bar, the Superior got out into the lake, being aided by her engine, around the shaft of which a cable was wound and attached to an anchor carried ahead.  After making a few miles run on the lake to try her machinery, she returned to the harbor, and everybody concerned breather more freely, for it then seemed certain that had the Superior failed to get out over the bar at the mouth at Buffalo creek, the harbor for commerce at the lower end of the lake would have been established at Black Rock.

The Superior went into commission in May, 1822, under command of Capt. Jedediah Rogers, and until 1826 was the one steamboat of Lake Erie.  This boat also made voyages to Mackinac, which was then the Ultima Thule of western navigation.

"The Superior, being the second steamer built on the lakes, had proved herself a staunch boat," says Schoolcraft, who in 1822 was a passenger on her trip to Sault Ste. Marie.  He narrates that the steamer came to anchor from an apprehension that the bar of Lake George could not be crossed.  Its depth of water was then stated to be but 6 feet 2 inches.  The journey was completed in the ship's yawl, Captain Rogers of the steamer taking the helm.

Other Happenings in 1821 - 22. – April 19: Schooner Prudence, owned by Philo Taylor, launched at Cleveland.  May 13: Navigation open at Buffalo and other Lake Erie ports.  May 29: Schooner Ariadne launched at Sacket's Harbor.  November 1: Steamboat Walk-in-the-Water wrecked on Lake Erie near the lighthouse at Buffalo.  October 31: Capt. Henry I. Guest washed overboard from his schooner, the Wolf, during a severe storm.  December 21: Lake Erie frozen over.  March 26, 1822: Navigation opened at Cleveland by the schooner Lake Serpent, which cleared for Detroit, in command of Captain J. Burtis.  March 16: Navigation opened at Detroit.  April 13: Steamboat Superior launched at Buffalo Creek, owned by the Lake Erie Steamboat Co., and the successor of the Walk-in-the-Water.  April 15: Schooner Ariadne, owned by Dennison & Kimball, of Sacket's Harbor, wrecked during a severe gale on Lake Ontario.  May 14: Steamer Superior leaves Black Rock on her first trip to Detroit.  August 14: Steamer Superior disabled near Cleveland; passengers transferred to a schooner, and steamer brought to Buffalo for repairs.  December 10: Schooner General Huntington sustains injuries during a storm near Buffalo; 15, schooner Hannah sustained injuries on Lake Erie; 31, two hundred arrivals and departures at Buffalo during the season. 1823.

Commerce Gradually Improves. – The year 1823 was without any lake incidents of exceptional importance.  The Superior continued to ply on Lake Erie, and commerce gradually improved.

Some Events in 1823. – The Richmond, packet, in command of Captain Oats, opened navigation at Buffalo, March 6, bound for New York. April 27: Navigation opened at Buffalo by the departure of the schooner Huntington, in command of Captain Naper, for Detroit. June 26: Schooner Eclipse, 58 tons, launched at Vermillion. September 20: Severe gale on Lake Erie.  The pier at Bird island badly damaged. September 27: Steamboat Superior damaged during a storm on Lake Erie. September 29: Snow storm at Buffalo delays navigation. October 2: Schooner Erie, packet, 33 tons burden, launched at Erie. November 20: Schooner Micator ashore at the mouth of Rocky river. November 22: Schooner Erie, packet, ashore near Grand river.


The Construction of the Erie Canal, which was in progress this year and was rapidly approaching completion, aroused considerable interest in lake circles, especially at the lower end of Lake Erie.

Other Events. – About 1824 a sailing vessel named the Heartless undertook to enter the Chicago river, but ran ashore and was beached on the sand.  Navigation opened at Buffalo, April 29, by the steamboat Superior, which cleared for Detroit.  May 12: Severe storm on Lake Erie.  Schooner Sylph in command of Captain Haskin, and bound for Detroit from Sandusky, wrecked at North Bass island; several lives lost including Captain Haskin.  July 22: Ship Columbus launched near Quebec, 300 feet long.  October 29: Pier at Black Rock badly damaged during a storm.  There were 286 arrivals and departures at the port of Buffalo during the season.


Opening of the Erie Canal. – The year 1825 was notable for the formal opening of the Erie canal, an event described elsewhere in this volume.  In the celebration of that event a simultaneous discharge of cannon took place throughout the entire distance between Albany and Buffalo at intervening points, during which a line of canal boats were en route on the passage westward.

Valuable Fur Cargo. – The schooner Mariner, Captain Blake, August, 1825, landed at Buffalo a cargo of furs worth $267,000, belonging to the American Fur Company.  Usually the finer furs were conveyed to Montreal by an inland route.  From Mackinaw they were taken to the mouth of Canadian river, which communicated by portage with Grand river, and thence down to the St. Lawrence in bark canoes.  The skins and coarser portions were taken in vessels to Fort Erie, and by boats to Chippewa; across the portage to Queenston, and by vessels to Kingston; thence down the St. Lawrence in boats.

Severe October Gale. – The schooners Minerva and General Huntington were caught in a severe gale near Cleveland in October 1825.  The former let go her anchors off the port, while the latter was driven down the lake and went ashore ten miles above Erie.  She was freighted with ashes.  In the same storm the steamboat Pioneer and the schooner Phoebe went ashore at Grand River, but were got off.  The schooners Mercatur, William, Neptune and Prudence went ashore in the same gale at Cleveland, and the William became a total loss.  The schooner John Q. Adams went ashore at Buffalo.

The Steamer Niagara was built at Toronto about 1825 as a sailing vessel, owned and commanded by Captain Mosier, and at first called the Union, of Wellington Grove.  She capsized in the St. Lawrence river near Prescott, and, being righted, she was cut in two, about 30 feet added to her length, and she was then converted into a steamer, and named the Niagara.  After this transformation had taken place she was described as a handsome and well-built boat, with a powerful engine and excellent accommodations for passengers.  She once made the trip from York to Prescott and back again in less than four days.

In 1825 there was built at Queenston the steamer Queenston, of 350 tons, owned by Hon. R. Hamilton, which ran between Queenston and Prescott, by way of York.  The steamer Caroline, 75 tons, was built at Kingston in 1825, and ran from the head of the bay of Quinte to Prescott. The steamer Toronto was built in 1825 at the foot of Church street, Toronto, and ran a few years; proving, however, at last a failure, she disappeared.

Other Events of 1825. – January 1: About 60 sail craft registered for the season's service on the lakes.  March 20: Navigation opened at some ports on Lake Erie.  May 11: Schooner Superior in command of Captain Sherwood, ashore at Cedar Point, while attempting to enter Sandusky during a gale.  June 9 – Steamer Henry Clay, 300 tons burden, launched at Black Rock.  August 6: Schooner Bolivar, in command of Captain Miles, and schooner Commerce, in command of Captain Gillett, arrive at Buffalo on their maiden trips.  August 17: Steamboat Pioneer in command of Captain Pease, makes her maiden trip.  September 20: Schooner Commodore Perry ashore near the mouth of Fox river after springing a leak. September 28: Schooner Mariner in command of Captain Blake, arrives in Buffalo from Green Bay with 30 tons of maple sugar, made by the natives of that place.  The canal-boat Troy, of the Merchants line, in command of Captain Stillwell, arrives at Buffalo via the Erie canal November 12, being the first boat from the Atlantic ocean.  December 9: Schooner Good Intent, bound for Sandusky, and in command of Captain Talbott, wrecked on Lake Erie off Dunkirk. Schooner Milan damaged during a gale off Point Albino; 20, navigation closed at several ports.

First Lake Vessel on the Erie Canal. – Capt. Sam Ward, of Newport, Mich., built at that place, in 1824, a schooner of 30 tons burden, called the St. Clair.  He loaded her with skins, furs, potash and black walnut lumber for gun-stocks in June, 1826, and started for New York city. He arrived at Buffalo, took out her spars, and towed her through the canal to Albany with his own horses. She was then towed by steam down the Hudson river to New York, and returned the same way to his home, making the voyage in eight weeks. This was the first vessel that passed from the lakes to the ocean via the Erie canal.


The Steamer Henry Clay, of 1,300 tons burden, commenced plying between Buffalo and Detroit, in connection with the Superior, in 1826, their order of sailing being every fourth day from either port, leaving Buffalo at 9 o’clock A.M. and Detroit at 4 P. M., calling at Dunkirk, Portland, Erie, Grand River, Cleveland and Sandusky. If bad weather intervened the two first ports were omitted. The Clay was the first arrival at Detroit from Buffalo on the opening of navigation in 1826, which was May 8, and is thus announced by the press at the time:

“The first arrival from Buffalo the present season is the new and elegant steamboat Henry Clay, Capt. Walter Norton. This vessel is worthy of the name of the great Western orator and statesman, and we have no doubt the enterprise and liberality of her owners will be amply remunerated. The Henry Clay is of 301 tons, and has an engine of 60-horse power. Her model is highly approved, and her cabins are elegantly and expensively fitted up. The well known politeness of Captain Norton, his experience and skill as a seaman, together with a circumstance that considerable of her stock is owned in Detroit, will insure to the Henry Clay a profitable business”.

New Steamer Canada, - In 1826 Joseph Dennis was engaged in ship-building at Toronto. The Loyalist of June 3, that year, speaking of a new steamer just built by Mr. Dennis, said: “The new steamer Canada was towed into port this week from the mouth of the Rouge, where she was built during the past winter. She will shortly be fitted up for her end route, which we understand will be from York to Niagara, around the head of the lake, and will add another to the increasing facilities of conveyance in Upper Canada. Six steamboats now navigate the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. In this Province, besides the Canada, they have one nearly ready for launching at Brockville”.

The Loyalist of August 12, 1826, thus announces the first trip of the Canada across from York to Niagara: “The new steamboat Canada, Captain Richardson, made her first trip to Niagara on Monday last (August 7), and went into the harbor in fine style. Her appearance reflects much credit on her builder, Mr. Joseph Dennis, and the machinery, manufactured by Messrs. Ward Brothers, of Montreal, is of superior workmanship. The combined excellence in model and machinery of this boat is such as will render her what is usually termed a ‘fast boat.’” The trip to Niagara was made in a few minutes over four hours.

Erie’s First Steamboat,- The first steamboat launched at Erie was the William Penn, of 200 tons, May 18, 1826. She was 95 feet keel, 25 feet beam, and 8 feet hold, being the sixth American steamboat on the lake, and was built by the Erie & Chatauqua Steamboat Company. The company was incorporated April 10, 1826.

The new steamboat William Penn, of 200 tons burden, and sailed by Capt. John F. Wright, arrived at Detroit August 22. She was described as a powerfully built boat, and well calculated for lake navigation. She had a low-pressure engine, with walking beam of cast iron. On her arrival salutes were exchanged with the steam brig Superior. Simultaneously the good schooner Marion, Captain Blake, arrived from Bay City.

McKenney’s Trip up the Lakes,- An interesting series of letters describing a trip up the lakes during the summer of 1826, was written by Thomas L. McKenney, of the Indian Department, while on his way to Fond du Lac to negotiate a treaty with the Chippewa Indians. Writing from Detroit, June 16, 1826, he says: “I arrived at this place this morning, after an agreeable passage from Buffalo of 37 hours, exclusive of the time lost in stopping at Grand river, Cleveland, Sandusky, etc., to put out and take in passengers - distance, about 330 miles. It is due to the Henry Clay, in which I made my first lake voyage, that I should speak of her as being one of the first class. She is schooner rigged, and has depth and beams suited to the use of sails, when these are needed, and her timbers are stout and well put together, that she may endure the shocks of this inland sea, and the stormy route, for which she was built.

“In this fine boat I left Buffalo in company with some 30 cabin and perhaps 40 deck passengers, the latter chiefly emigrants from New York and the New England States, to this Territory, and three Indians. A word about Lake Erie. I knew its length, its breadth and depth, and yet I confess I had no more correct conceptions of the lake as it appeared to me than if I had never had the slightest acquaintance with its dimensions. All my previous conception of a lake fell so far short of its actual vastness and ocean-like appearance, as to be wholly absorbed in the view of it. I could but wonder what my opinion of lakes will be, after I shall have seen and navigated Huron and Superior. Lake Erie, though considerably smaller than either, is a vast sea, and often more stormy, and even dangerous, than the ocean itself.

“It is hardly possible for anything to exceed in beauty the river Detroit, and its shores and islands. The British schooner, the Wellington, was lying at Malden, full of British soldiers destined, we were informed, to Drummond’s island.

“The steamboats Superior and Henry Clay are surpassed by few, if any, either in size, or beauty of model, or in the style in which they are built and furnished. But there is business for more; and three or four, it is believed are now in a state of forwardness, to run also between Buffalo and Detroit. I should infer from what I have seen that they all may do a profitable business. * * * I have just returned from the Governor’s, where I have spent the evening, and most agreeably, notwithstanding a most furious gust of wind and rain, accompanied by vivid and frequent flashes of lightning, and the most appalling thunder. Great fears are entertained for the steamboat, the Superior, which was expected up about and hour before the gust arose, and has not yet arrived. I have this moment heard the signal gun, announcing the arrival of the Superior. She is several hours out of her usual time, no doubt in consequence of the gust.”

When Mr. McKenney next writes, he is aboard the schooner Ghent, Captain Hinkley, bound up from Detroit. While becalmed on St. Clair river he says: “At 2 o’clock the John Quincy Adams came down from Michilimackinac, and, on nearing us, anchored. We heard of the Young Tiger, with our provisions and stores. The J.Q.A. passed her about 100 miles ahead. At sundown the wind shifted to the southwest, but did not blow strong enough to force us through this current. How invaluable are steamboats felt to be by persons thus circumstanced.”

At Drummond’s island the party left the schooner Ghent, and with a total of 43 persons embarked for the Sault in four large barges, each capable of carrying 40 barrels, and propelled some of them by 12 oars, and from Sault Ste. Marie the journey was continued up Lake superior to Fond du Lac in barges and canoes.

While on his return trip from Fond du Lac, Mr. McKenney says: “Heard that the Ghent, in which we came to Drummond’s Island, had returned to Detroit, was condemned and sunk. Her bottom was entirely decayed, so much so as to yield to the slightest pressure. She went from the Detour, after we parted from her, to Michilimackinac, took in part of a cargo, returned to Detroit and, while in the act of receiving her return cargo, sunk. Our escape was indeed narrow.”

Mr. McKenney made the trip down Lake Huron in the little revenue cutter, Captain Knapp. He says: “The deck of this little cutter is made of the masts of the Lawrence, Perry’s ship. In one of the planks immediately under the tiller is the bruise of a shot. Whatever can be made into convenience and fitness for the duties of a cutter for the lake service, Captain Knapp has most ingeniously effected in this, now ten-years-old boat.  But, after all, the thing is too small.  These lakes and their commerce, and the thousand offices of accommodation to officers charged with the government business, besides the duties, for the execution of which this boat was provided, demand a vessel of other dimensions; and when a suitable one can be provided for $2,000, as I am told it can, it is not unreasonable to expect that, if requested, authority will be instantly granted to build one."

Embarking at Detroit on the steamer Superior, Mr. McKenney pays this tribute to her worth: "The Superior is a fine boat, 140 feet long and 30 feet broad in the widest part, with ladies' apartments on the deck. She is schooner rigged, and in all respects a boat of the first class. Her commander is active and intelligent, and adds to his vigilance, in the conduct of his charge, the polish of the gentleman." Other Events of 1826. – In 1826 a sailing vessel, the Young Tiger, when visiting Chicago, undertook to enter the river, but, failing, anchored out in the lake.  She slipped her cable and went ashore.  In 1826 the American steamer Martha Ogden was placed on the line between York and Niagara.  The Canadian sloop Richmond was wrecked near Brighton, on Presque Isle bay.  The schooner General Brock, of Toronto, is mentioned for the first time in 1826. May 15: Congress appropriated $15,000 for improving Buffalo harbor, being the first appropriation ever made for that purpose.  July 17: Lighthouse at Dunkirk began by Garnsey & Dox.  August 1: Steamer Henry Clay damaged on Lake Erie by the breaking of her shaft; 16, steamboat Wm. Penn, 217 tons burden, in command of Capt. J. F. Wright, arrives at Buffalo on her maiden trip.  November 7: Sloop Ohio ashore near Buffalo during a severe storm; 26, piers at Black Rock severely damaged by a storm. Black Rock severely damaged by a storm.  In November, 1826, the Canadian steamer Niagara struck on a reef of rocks off Poplar Point, about 50 miles from Kingston, but all her passengers were saved and most of her cargo.


Trip to Green Bay. – The steamer Henry Clay made a trip to Green Bay in June, 1827, and was the third steamer to visit Lake Michigan waters. On her return voyage she had as passengers Generals Scott and Brady, with other U. S. officials.  In that year the line of boats plying between Detroit and Buffalo was increased by the Niagara, of 180 tons, built at Black Rock and sailed by Capt. W. Pease, and in the arrangements thus completed there was one to leave either port on alternate days.

Over the Falls. – In 1827 the schooner Michigan, having been condemned as unseaworthy, was sent over Niagara Falls.  The event was announced in sensational handbills, which proclaimed that "the pirate ship, Michigan, with a cargo of furious animals, will pass over the Falls of Niagara on the 8th of September, 1827."  Entertainment was promised for all who might visit the Falls on that occasion, which would "for its novelty and the remarkable spectacle which it will present, be unequaled in the annals of infernal navigation."  The Michigan was 136 tons burden.  The event was witnessed by several thousand people.

Other Events of 1827. – February 23: Lake Erie free from ice at Cleveland.  April 19: Navigation opened at Buffalo by the schooner Marie Antoinette, in command of Captain Whittaker.  May 2: Congress appropriates $4,000 for a foundation to a lighthouse at Buffalo; 18, Congress appropriates $33,348 for the construction of two piers at the north of Oswego harbor;  8, schooner Young Lion, 50 tons burden, launched at Black Rock.  Owned by Norton & Bliss and Captain Burnett, and built for the Canada lumber trade.  June 22: British schooner Surprise wrecked on Lake Erie.  Schooner Nucleus ashore at Sandusky. Steamboat Ontario ashore at Oswego.  August 10: Steamer William Penn, bound for Buffalo, damaged on Lake Erie, by breaking of her machinery. September 8: Schooner Michigan, 136 tons, sent over Niagara Falls, and witnessed by several thousand people.  October 3: Steamboat Pioneer disabled near Buffalo.  November 6: Schooner America, loaded with salt, ashore at Long Point.  Steamboat Superior aground at Sandusky bay: released November 3; 5, schooner Ann wrecked at Long Point; several lives lost.  Schooner Young Farmer ashore at Long Point; greater part of cargo lost; 17, schooner Columbus, in command of Captain Naper, bound for Ashtabula, ashore, while attempting to enter Dunkirk harbor. December 31: Nine hundred and seventy-two arrivals and departures at Buffalo during the season.


The Schooner Canadian, built at York, was launched about the middle of April, and a day or two afterward the schooner George IV was launched.  The steamer Alciope, built at Niagara, by Hon. Robert Hamilton and Andrew Heron, arrived on her first trip at York, June 26, 1828.

The Benjamin Rush, a revenue cutter of 35 tons, was launched September 13, 1828, at Erie.  She was intended for the upper lakes.

Other Events of 1828. – January 10: Schooner Dewitt Clinton arrives at Buffalo from Grand River.  May 19: Congress appropriates $34,206 for Buffalo harbor.  July 3: Steamer William Penn arrives at Buffalo from Green Bay, having made the trip in four and one-half days, the quickest time ever made between the two places.  October 13: Schooner Louisa Jenkins ashore at Grand River: cargo damaged to the extent of $1,000.  Schooner Columbus ashore at Grand River: principal part of cargo lost.  Schooner Young Lion ashore at Otter Creek, U. C. British schooner Susan ashore at Otter Creek: 19, schooner Lady Washington, with cargo valued at $10,000, wrecked at Sturgeon Point; crew saved. December 4: Capt. James Rough, a native of Scotland, aged 67 years, dies at Black Rock; probably the oldest navigator then on the upper lakes, having commanded a vessel since 1790.


First Passage Through the Welland Canal. – A notable event took place late in the year 1829, that of communication between the upper and lower lakes, by the passage of an American and British vessel from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie.  These were the Jane and Ann, British, and the R. H. Boughton, American.  The Welland canal at this period was completed as far as Port Robinson on the Chippewa river, through which they passed to the Niagara river, and were thence towed by horses to Lake Erie.  A party of gentlemen were on either vessel with music and artillery to celebrate the event.  They arrived at Black Rock December 2.

Other Events of 1829. – There was built at Bath, on the Bay of Quinte, the steamer Sir James Kempt, which attained a speed of about 12 miles per hour.  March 28: Ice thickest at Buffalo since 1806. April 23: Ice leaves the lake at Erie.  May 14: Navigation opened at Buffalo by the steamboat Pioneer, cleared for Dunkirk: 20, steamboat Wm. Peacock, in command of Captain Hanson, arrives at Buffalo on her maiden trip: 24, steamboat Pioneer disabled on Lake Erie.  June 1: Steamboat Winnebago Chief launched at Green Bay.  October 4: Steamboat Pioneer in command of Capt. J. Naper, sunk at Black Rock, by collision with an icebreaker.  November 23: Schooner Dunkirk, in command of Capt. G. Patterson, wrecked above Cattaraugus creek; vessel and cargo a total loss; packet Conneaught, Captain Appleby, ashore above Erie; Schooner Fair Play, Captain Fitch, totally wrecked near Cattaraugus creek; schooner Young Lion, Captain Burnet, ashore at Portland: schooner Morning Star, Captain Tubbs, wrecked on Lake Erie: 23, schooner Gueriere, Captain Wadsworth, sustained injuries near Port Albino: schooner Detroit, damaged during a storm on Lake Huron: schooner Liberty, Captain Macaby, ashore at point on Plait island, finally drifted and sank: schooner Maria Antoinette, aground near Sandusky, losing greater part of cargo: steamboat Wm. Penn, disabled, and taken to Fairport: schooner Macedonian, Captain Foster, wrecked at East Sister island: crew rescued by the schooner Minerva, and brought to Cleveland.  November 12: Lighthouse pier at Buffalo destroyed by a severe storm;  31, eighteen hundred arrivals and departures at Buffalo during the season.


Fire Steamboat Explosions. - In September, 1830, the boilers of the Peacock exploded soon after her departure from Buffalo, which resulted in the loss of 15 lives, mostly emigrants.  Capt. John Fleeharty was in command. This is recorded as the first explosion on the American side of the lakes.  The steamer Adelaide, Capt. Christie, which was also running this year between Chippewa and Amherstburg, exploded in June, killing three persons.  She was 230 tons burden, and low pressure.

The Newberryport, of 75 tons burden, built at Erie in 1829, was designed to ply on the St. Joseph river, between there and White Pigeon, and there served her time.

First Three-Masted Steamboat. - The steamer Sheldon Thompson, Capt. Augustus Walker, came out in 1830, but was not associated with the regular line, and made her first trip to Mackinac and Green Bay, August 1, of that year.  She was built at Huron, was of 242 tons burden, low pressure, and carried three masts, the first of that rig on the lakes.

Remarkably Late Season. - The last steamer to leave Detroit, at the close of navigation in 1830, was the Ohio, which cleared November 30, for Buffalo.  Sail vessels, however, continued to navigate the western part of the lake until the early part of January, as it was an uncommon season for navigation.  The schooner Napoleon arrived at Detroit from Buffalo, December 15, and the schooner Antelope, from Miami, on the 4th of January.

First Marine Reporting. - Marine reporting at Detroit took its rise in 1830.  J. B. Vallee was a pioneer marine reporter and the records show that he was faithful in the discharge of his duty.

Other Events of 1830. - March 8: Navigation opened at Cleveland by the sloop Express, cleared for Maumee. Navigation was opened April 6 at Buffalo.  The first boat, the William Penn, did not, however, arrive at Detroit until the 15.  April 10: Navigation opened at Buffalo by the schooner Napoleon, from Detroit.  May 3: Steamboat Superior, at one time the only boat on the upper lakes, rebuilt and again put in commission;  23, steamboats William Penn and Pioneer collide near Dunkirk, and sustain injuries; two men drowned;  22, steamboat Sheldon Thompson, 220 tons burden, launched at Milan, Ohio. August 14: La Fayette packet, owned by Benjamin A. Naper, of Ashtabula, wrecked at Put-in-Bay island; crew rescued by a sloop from Sandusky; 19, steamboats Sheldon Thompson and William Peacock damaged by collision near Erie.  September 16: Steamboat William Peacock, Captain Fleeharty, explodes, about four miles from Buffalo, Fifteen lives lost. First serious accident in the history of steam navigation on the lakes; 18, steamer Sheldon Thompson damaged by collision with the steamer Enterprise, on Lake Erie.  October 25: British schooner Free Trader, of Otter Creek, U.C., seized at Black Rock for violation of revenue laws.  November 15: Schooner Emily wrecked on Lake St. Clair; seven persons, including the master, drowned.  December 31: Two thousand and fifty-two arrivals and departures at Buffalo during the season.