The Return of an Unfortunate Friend – Fall 1967

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By T.A. Sykora and Richard J. Wright 

“B’gosh, look out the window,” we shouted. “It’s an old lakes passenger boat entering the East wall.”

“Why, she’s returned to Cleveland!” someone exclaimed. Excitedly we agreed, “It’s hard to believe!”


High in a Cleveland office building while projecting, planning and pondering things marine, all eyes suddenly looked out over the waterfront to focus on the silhouette of the white, but battered, Canadiana, under tow of the tugs Texas and Missouri. It was 4:10 P.M. on a calm August 16, 1967. She had been towed to the East outer harbor by Great Lakes Towing’s 1,750 hp., 118-foot tug Laurence C. Turner, from Fairport Harbor, where her present owners, Waterman Steamship Corporation, had been storing her.

The Fairport dock had to be given up and another one found. Captain Paul J. Ranahan had located a berth for her in Cleveland, and he, after the 26-mile and three-hour trip on the bridge, said, “She went along like a beautiful yacht and very silently.” The two harbor tugs then took her from the Turner, and as we watched, they nudged her into the old river bed at Whiskey Island where she was secured to the Plain Dealer dock. She is now stored there to await her ultimate fate — in deplorable condition.

During the last few years the Canadiana has been an ill-fated vessel, and seen amongst an overgrowth of weeds and trees at an unused dock near Cleveland’s West Shoreway her appearance appropriately reflects the hard life the old lady has had since 1957. She was built by Buffalo Drydock Company in 1910 for Lake Erie Excursion Company. Her official number was 207479, her dimensions: 209’7” x 45’ x 15’ 8“, hull #215. She ran many successful seasons on alternate trips with the Americana to Crystal Beach, Ontario. The company later changed to Buffalo and Crystal Beach Corporation and in 1934, to Crystal Beach Transit Company. She operated on a two-hour round trip schedule, and, depending on which day of the week and on business, she made from four to six trips a day. Then, as the result of business problems in 1956 and 1957 and a race riot aboard ship, she left Buffalo and was chartered in the Spring of 1958 to Seaway Excursion Lines, Ltd., Toledo, Ohio, where her schedule was Toledo to Bob-Lo Island.

It was encouraging to see her in operation in 1958 as she made fast to the Bob-Lo dock one bright summer afternoon as we were upbound in the Amherstburg Channel aboard the Aquarama. But, on July 31, 1958, she struck the Terminal Railroad Bridge injuring three persons, and crushing her forward deck. She was sold to satisfy claims of the crew’s back wages on October 15, 1958, by the U.S. District Court. Mr. Gordon Vizneau and the Toledo Excursion Lines bought her for $28,500.00.

It was again thought that perhaps this was the beginning of a renewed life, but a severe winter was coming. During lay-up on the Maumee River, crushing ice flows tore an 18-inch hole in her bow on February 13, 1959, and she almost sank. Sold again, this time to Lucas County Bank, Toledo, at a U.S. Marshal sale on June 13, 1960, and again on November 23, 1960, to Pleasurama Excursion Line, Cleveland, her name was changed for the first time unofficially to Pleasurama.

Captain Harold S. “Red” Harding brought her to Cleveland and docked her for about two years at the same area where she presently is located. Then, with his harbor excursion boat Carol Diane, towed her to Buffalo where she lay at the foot of Main Street and later Rich Marina on the riverside of the Black Rock Lock on the Niagara River. There she was viciously vandalized.

In July 1966, Clevelander Sam Parella bought her and on August 26, 1966, the tug Burro towed her to Fairport Harbor where she lay for two years. She was disgraced by not being restored or cleaned up, and was also subjected to the uncertainty of rumor. Was she going to be a restaurant, a night club, or were her oil burners, her boilers or even her engine and equipment going into the Erie Queen?

CANADIANA laid up in Cleveland

In January of 1967, she had a tonnage change from 974 gross and 427 net, to 1,684 gross and 909 net tons. Sold in March 1967, to Mowbrays Floating Equipment Exchange, Inc., she was resold the same month to Waterman Steamship Corporation, both of New York, presumably for trade-in tonnage on a vessel of the reserve fleet of the Maritime Administration. The large quantity of marine plywood enclosing her port and starboard bow effectively prohibits the curious. Did this possibly increase her gross tonnage?

So the renamed Canadiana is resting, rusting and waiting. And, as far as is known, she has never left Lake Erie!

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A History of Cedar Point – Summer 1967

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By W.H. Evans

Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio, today covers 450 acres of which about 250 acres are occupied by various facilities including Hotel Breakers. The resort is a part of the huge land grant made to the Colony of Connecticut in 1662 by King Charles II of England.

Cedar Point, one of the oldest resorts in the United States, traces its origin as a vacation spot back to 1882, but its recorded history began some 60 years earlier – and it is part of a region known to explorers, priests, hunters and trappers for a century-and-a-half before its actual settlement. La Salle, for example, passed through the area in 1679 en route to Lake Superior on a fur trading mission. In 1760 Major Robert Rogers and his Rangers, in search of the Northwest Passage, camped overnight at what is now the foot of Columbus Avenue in Sandusky, on the site from which today’s pleasure seekers embark on ferries bound for Cedar Point. It was important Indian Country, held by the fierce Eries until their extermination by the Iroquois.

The history of the Sandusky region is a colorful tapestry, woven of the threads of Indian, French, and American pioneer adventure. The War of 1812 interlaced a few British strands into the picture, for it was at Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island – within view of the mouth of Sandusky Harbor – that Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry headquartered his fleet for attack on Britain’s Commodore Barclay in the decisive Battle of Lake Erie. This American naval victory turned the tide of war and was the first in a chain of events leading to a satisfactory peace settlement.

Actually, it was another front of the War of 1812 that caused the founding of Sandusky. Certain residents of Connecticut, whose homes were burned by British invaders, received land grants – which came to be called the “Firelands” – in the Sandusky area, and formed a settlement in 1816. Eight years later the little community was incorporated. Cedar Point today is within the, Sandusky corporate limits.

Long a famous landmark, the Cedar Point peninsula remained a fishing and hunting ground for the white man, as it had been for the Indians, for many years. In the words of one 19th century local historian, Aldrich, in his History of Erie County, Ohio: “Cedar Point then (1820s) was a bit of wild land seven miles long sheltering, in its long arms, Sandusky Bay. It was covered with timber, and a sandy beach edged the shore. There was at that time no large amount of navigation on the lake, and no lighthouse reared its head on the Point”

A more vivid description of the peninsula of that era appeared in a quaint advertisement in the Sandusky Clarion, January 30, 1830:

For Sale: — All that valuable tract of land commonly called and known by the name of Cedar Point — this point of land in all 1200 acres, (one of the peninsulas that form Sandusky Bay), embraces many advantages to the Speculator or farmer, it being principally covered with cedar, pine, oak, elm, white wood, basswood, and other timber, not necessary to mention; together with two prairies, where can be cut with ease one hundred tons of hay, The pine grove is young and thrifty. And a good part of the cedar is fit for staves and shingles — the land fit for cultivation after having been cleared is about 80 acres. The fishing ground is probably the best within the boundary of the spacious harbor of Sandusky Bay.

Call and see. — F. Devoe.

Mr. Devoe, a leading citizen in the upcoming village of some three hundred souls, sold the property in about a month, and any subsequent Cedar Point activity is obscure until 1839 when Colonel A. M. Porter purchased for $292.80, at sheriff’s sale, 440 acres appraised at $439.22. That would be approximately 66 cents per acre!

Steamboat Hotel

Although Porter did nothing to develop it, simply allowing people to fish there in return for one-eighth of their catch, his name lends color to Cedar Point’s history. As proprietor of the Steamboat Hotel in Sandusky, he was host to Charles Dickens during the latter’s first tour of America in 1842. Dickens wrote to his friend, Forster, in England, “We are in a small house here, but a very comfortable one, and the people are exceedingly obliging.” Local legend has it that the author was highly pleased with the food at what he called the “Porter House” and that this was the origin of the porterhouse steak.

The wisdom of the Supreme Court and fishing rights notwithstanding, Sanduskians were rowing and sailing across the bay in growing numbers to picnic at Cedar Point and enjoy the beach. No doubt sensing the potential value of this kind of activity, one B. F. Dwelle leased the Point from its owners in 1882 and set about making improvements to attract pleasure seekers.

Perhaps the first commercial enterprise at Cedar Point was started by Louis Zistel, a German immigrant who settled in Sandusky as a cabinet maker. During the Civil War, Louis Zistel built two boats and obtained a contract from the government to transport Confederate officer prisoners to the Union Prison on Johnson’s Island in Sandusky Bay, After the war, he needed business for his two boats and used them starting in 1870 to haul persons to Cedar Point where they could dance and have picnics.

First he built a dock, and promptly a steamboat went into operation between Sandusky and the Point. “Then,” says historian Aldrich, “after partially clearing a part of the land, a walk was built across the bay to the lake; a house was erected on the side near the bay, and later bathing houses were put up on the lake shore, and Sanduskians began to enjoy their resort by forming parties and excursions to Cedar Point.” According to present owners, Dwelle’s facilities included a covered dance platform, picnic tables and benches, refreshment stands and simple amusements such as swings, see-saws and sliding boards. Historian Peele says that by 1884 there were 16 bathing houses on the lake shore and that on the bay side was a dining hall with dance room above.

Dwelle had a five-year lease, expended $5,000 on improvements, paid no rental the first season, a moderate amount the second, and each succeeding year paid an increase equivalent to the second year’s rent.


“All this time,” says Aldrich, “the resort grew in favor. The steamboat [R.B.] Hayes, made frequent trips, and the bay was a-flutter with white-winged sailing vessels through the summer months. So popular did Cedar Point become that boats could scarcely be supplied to meet the demand, and newer and better sailing craft were added to the stock on hand.

Dwelle’s original lease presumably expired in 1887, and what was then negotiated, or why, is not clear. Aldrich, in 1889, says only, “Under a new agreement the Point is now leased to a company of five gentlemen, including its former proprietor, Mr. Dwelle.”

He goes on to say: “These men are alive to the possibilities of the place and enter heartily into its development until the Cedar Point of the future will rival any of the resorts of our sea-boards in attractive features.

“A building is to be erected on the farther shore to combine all the features of amusement and entertainment to be found at the fashionable watering places. The old walk across the Point will then be taken up and re-laid by a plank walk twelve feet wide; grounds will be cleared and beautified and the delightful stroll to the lighthouse made more agreeable. This company expects to make an outlay of $20,000 the coming season. The new building will be one hundred and fifty feet long by eighty wide.”

In 1897 the Cedar Point Pleasure Resort Company was incorporated in Indiana, with five original holders and a capital stock of $250,000. Dwelle was one of the five; among the others were A. J. Stoll and Louis Adolph, who appear to have been owners of the peninsula.

G.A. Boeckling

While for natural reasons it was perhaps inevitable that Cedar Point should become a resort of some prominence, its rapid development into a flourishing, fashionable, large-scale showplace was due to the creative and promotional genius of G. A. Boeckling.

In 1897 Boeckling was sent from Indianapolis by the Michigan Central Railroad, for which he worked, to search Sandusky for a suitable spot for pleasure train excursions. Discovering Cedar Point, he promptly secured an option for himself, reported to his superiors, “I have found just the spot and you can come to it. It’s mine,” and resigned his position with the railroad. The rest of his life he energetically devoted to Cedar Point. Until his death in 1931, Boeckling was the driving force behind the entire operation.

The BreakersDisplaying an extraordinary talent for showmanship, Boeckling did everything in the grand manner. Over the scoffs of financiers, he built a 1,000 -room hotel, the Breakers, and kept it filled with guests. When his fellow directors refused to endorse the installation of a midway, Boeckling went ahead on his own and, it is reported, “made so much money that the directors begged to be ‘let in.’” Reflecting the grandiose tastes of the late Victorian period, the hotel and other major buildings were elaborate in rococco ornamentation.

He built a theater and booked the nation’s top musical, dramatic and vaudeville talent. Playing to big crowds every night in the enormous ballroom, another mammoth-scale Boeckling installation was a succession of the country’s most popular dance bands. In the ground-floor arena under the ballroom, waiters glided about on roller skates, serving drinks to the customers. It is typical of Boeckling that when he grew impatient with soft drink bottlers he built his own beverage plant!

Boeckling promoted more and more excursion business through the railroads, and at times as many as 14 trains would pull into the Sandusky dock, delivering passengers from all over Ohio and neighboring states. Beckling put a 3,000-passenger ferry boat into operation. Landing at the ferry dock on Cedar Point, passengers were taken to the Breakers on a small, narrow-gauge train, which also served to deliver fuel and supplies to the hotel.

On the tip of the peninsula Boeckling built large docks for luxury steamers arriving from ports all over the Great Lakes. As many as three liners at a time would be tied up there. Between the Breakers and the docks lay a network of lagoons, and steamer passengers for a time were taken to the hotel by barges. Later, Boeckling built a concrete road to the tip of the peninsula and brought passengers from the docks in “Toonerville Trolleys.” These quaint vehicles may still be seen at Cedar Point.

Boeckling also went after convention business in a big way and succeeded in making Cedar Point highly popular for such meetings. When he booked Judge Rutherford and his International Bible Society it brought more than 50,000 students from all over the world.

Aviator Glenn Curtiss

Master promoter Boeckling took advantage of every possible timely event. When he learned in 1910 that Glenn Curtiss was going to try for the longest over-water flight in a pusher-type plane from Cleveland, Boeckling gave Curtiss $2,500 to fly over Lake Erie to Cedar Point. The pioneer aviator did make a record and more than 20,000 people were on hand when he landed on the beach. Even more spectators came to cheer when Curtiss repeated the stunt, this time sponsored by The Cleveland Press, though he didn’t succeed in breaking his earlier record.

Among the many prominent figures belonging to Cedar Point lore is Knute Rockne, who, with other Notre Dame students, worked there during summer vacations. He was a lifeguard, and during off hours he and Gus Dorais practiced endlessly with a football on the Cedar Point beach, perfecting the forward pass play that revolutionized American football and shot Notre Dame into national prominence in 1913. Years later, in 1949, the Notre Dame Club of Cleveland, in a ceremony attended by Rockne’s Four Horsemen, erected a bronze memorial plaque on the beach.

So it was with Cedar Point until Boeckling’s death in 1931.

In 1950, Cedar Point was leased for ten years to Terrence Melrose, Cleveland Hotel chain and real estate operator, and the following year he conveyed his interests to his own general manager, D. M. Schneider. The latter operated the resort until 1959, when new ownership negotiated termination of the lease. Under Mr. Schneider, Cedar Point was promoted as a wholesome, family attraction, and reportedly it began to show a good profit again.

In 1956, trustees of the Boeckling estate optioned the controlling interest to a syndicate headed by George A. Roose of Toledo and Emile A. Legros of Cleveland, who announced plans to convert Cedar Point into an exclusive residential area. The announcement loosed a storm of public protest all over Ohio. The Governor, legislators, other public officials, the press and the letter-writing public were not about to lose the resort to homesites.

The State appeared determined to acquire the Point and operate it as a state park — through condemnation if all else failed, according to one announcement of the Governor. But the people of Sandusky disliked the prospect of a state park at Cedar Point almost as much as the proposed residential development. For one thing, as a state operation, Cedar Point would have become essentially a beach and picnic ground, ceasing to be a real resort. For another, the city of Sandusky would have lost about $40,000 annually in tax revenue.

At the same time, the option itself was contested by three heirs. Ultimately, the common pleas court of Erie County approved the option, and in February, 1957, the completed sale was announced. With the purchase announcement the new owners assured an anxious public that, far from closing down the resort, they would undertake a vast redevelopment program to restore Cedar Point to its previous status as a showplace of America.

The same day this announcement appeared in the papers, the press reported that a special legislative committee recommended to the Ohio General Assembly that the State should take over Cedar Point only if there were “imminent danger” that it would be “forever lost” to the public. The Assembly reserved action at that time. The clamor died down.

While the Point continued to be operated by Mr. Schneider, the new ownership began laying redevelopment plans, and immediately saw to the completion of the delayed causeway project by mid-1957. This gave direct road access from Sandusky to the peninsula, and a year-and-a-half later the causeway entrance was linked to Ohio State Route 2 by a new access road.

The Blue Streak was built in 1964.

By agreement with Mr. Schneider, the new owners assumed direct management of Cedar Point in early 1959, and proceeded promptly to make certain improvements in time for opening of the season. Since 1959, management has spent millions of dollars to modernize every facet of the resort. A 1,000-boat Marina, a giant new Funway, new and spectacular amusement rides, a new Space Spiral which serves as a guide for Lake Erie yachtsmen, and modernization of Hotel Breakers represent only part of total capital outlay.

A tremendous promotional and advertising campaign is bringing people to the Point not only from Ohio and adjoining states, but from all parts of the country. During 1966, visitors numbered 2,340,500 in a 101-day season, and one out of every five cars entering the resort came from outside Ohio. Beginning its 98th season on May 27th this year, Cedar Point is now considered our Nation’s No. 2 Amusement Park.


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About the Author: Mr. W. H. Evans is a member of the Great Lakes Historical Society and for the past seventeen years has been Public Relations Director of Cedar Point.

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Turret Boats – Spring 1967

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By Fred Landon

To the ordinary observer, they looked like typical British tramp steamers when they appeared on the St. Lawrence River and Gulf just around 1900, and their like might have been seen then and later in the Suez Canal, in oriental waters or wherever the commerce of the old British Empire had need of them, They might indeed have been seen flying the flags of other trading nations because of one radical change in their construction which reduced shipping costs.

They had come from the shipbuilding yards of William Doxford & Sons in Sunderland, England, a firm which had invented, and in 1891 patented, the type known in the trade as “turret boats.” The new principle in design was to cut away and reduce to a minimum those parts of the vessel most likely to be taxed (by harbor dues, etc., based on tonnage), while increasing space for handling and carrying cargo. Technically, and from a commercial point of view, the vessels had an exceedingly large dead-weight capacity, based on a small registered tonnage, in comparison with cargo vessels of the more general type.

SCOTTISH HERO. Notice the dramatic curve inward just above the water line.

But how was this very desirable end made possible? A few feet above the waterline the sides of the vessel curved inward instead of going straight up, thus forming a ledge or narrow deck along the side of the ship, usually known as the “harbor deck.” From this the sides of the vessel continued straight up in the customary manner, terminating in an upper deck of usual type for hatchways, bridge and ordinary deck fit- tings. The upper deck was, of course, very narrow — six-tenths of the beam of the vessel.

Turret-type vessels proved quite seaworthy. An ordinary vessel’s deck holds a lot of water but with the turret boat it must be heeling over at an extreme angle before water reaches the upper deck. The harbor deck being rounded and without any bulwark did not hold the water, which merely washed off. Harbor decks were also found useful for stowage of timbers in baulks which were easily packed on and when secured by chains suffered no harm in the passage. The harbor deck ordinarily formed a sort of breakwater for the ship.1

The first vessel of this novel type was given the simple name Turret, but some of those that came later had a second word, usually a noun, emphasizing their type. Thus, among the boats which came to Canada we find such names as Turret Bay, Turret Bell, Turret Cape, etc. The hundredth turret boat built in the Doxford yards bore the name Whateley Hall.

An average of ten boats a year seems to have been the output of the Doxford yards between 1894 and 1911. More modern types have since supplanted the “turrets” and of the seven which came to Canadian waters to carry coal between Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Montreal, not one now survives — the last one, the Turret Cape, being broken up at Port Dalhousie in 1959. War and weather and old age caught up with each of them and today they are only a memory.

The seven turret boats brought to Canada just around the turn of the century were the Turret Bay, Turret Bell, Turret Chief, Turret Crown, Turret Court, Turret Cape and one with a variation in name, the Scottish Hero. The Turret Bay was totally wrecked on St. Paul Island in the St. Lawrence River on May 20, 1904. The Turret Bell, which was either the 2nd or 3rd built by the Doxford yards, came to Canada in 1894 for the Turret Steam Shipping Co. (Peterson, Tate & Co.), who kept her until 1903. She was owned by T. Pratt until 1906 when she was reported wrecked and did not appear in Lloyd’s Register between 1907 and 1912. In the latter year she first appeared in Canadian registry but with a changed name Kaswind. She was then owned by the Arctic Steamship Company of Quebec. Her career ended on March 11, 1917, when she was sunk by enemy action off the east coast of England.

Available data indicates that the seven turret boats which came to the St. Lawrence had all been built in the 1890s. Two had been wrecked in Canada, but when the charter period ended the others passed into Canadian ownership, several to the Canadian Ocean and Inland Navigation Company (Sir Wm. Peterson & Co.). The Turret Chief, built in 1896, was one of those which passed to Peterson control in 1904 and during the “Great Storm” of November, 1913, she was numbered among the casualties, though happily without loss of life, when she stranded on the beach at the extreme point of Keweenaw, six miles east of Copper Harbor. A graphic account of the experiences of the crew was written by a wheelsman, M. J. LaChapelle, and appeared in the Midland County Free Press Herald in 1951.2 According to Mr. LaChapelle’s narrative the afternoon of Friday, November 8th, had displayed no indication of an impending storm, though after supper the wind steadily increased in volume and by midnight had reached a strength of 80 miles an hour. Tarpaulins were torn from the hatches and lashings from the booms while waves poured over the deck threatening to engulf the ship. Running lights had already disappeared when at 3:45 on Saturday morning the vessel struck a reef, bumped her way across it and settled in shallow water close to a steep rocky shore. The Turret Chief had been headed for Fort William and Captain H. J. Aitken (then on his first command) believed that they had been so driven off course that they were stranded on Isle Royale.

The first task was to get the crew ashore and this was accomplished by joining two ladders together and using this as a boom, raising and lowering it in motion with the waves as man by man was taken from the deck. Finally, all 16 were landed safely. Some wet food had been salvaged from the galley and when a fire was made and a crude shelter raised, a measure of hope came to the shipwrecked crew. They had no idea where they were and not until the third day did they discover that they were on Keweenaw Point and only six miles from Copper Harbor.

TURRET CHIEF aground after the 1913 storm

The Turret Chief had been badly damaged during the storm but in the following year she was hauled out of her precarious position and repaired at Port Arthur. In 1916 she was owned by the Entente Steamship Company (Leopold Walford, London, Ltd.). These owners changed her name to Vickerstown and sold her in 1923 to International Waterways Navigation, Ltd. of Montreal who renamed her Jolly Inez. On November 16, 1927, she stranded on a reef off Saddle Bag Island in Lake Huron. She was reduced to barge rig under the name of Salvor and was lost off Muskegon on September 26, 1930.

The Turret Court, also built in 1896, was in the hands of the Peterson interests from 1904 to 1915, but in 1916 was sold to the Turret Steamship Company of Halifax (Dominion Iron and Steel Company). Some time between 1924 and 1927 she went to the International Waterways Navigation, Ltd. of Montreal and in 1930 was reduced to barge rig, being used in salvage work by the Sincennes-McNaughton Line. In 1940 she was broken up at Hamilton by the Steel Company of Canada.

The Turret Crown, built in 1895, was owned in 1904 by G. M. Stamp and in 1915 by Turret Crown, Ltd. (H. W. Harding). She was sold in 1916 to Coastwise Steamship and Barge Co. of Vancouver, B. C., who sold her in 1918 to Commonwealth Steamship Co. of Toronto. In 1921 she was sold to W. J. and S. P. Herivel of London, England, and in 1924 to W. J. McCormick. On November 2, 1924, she stranded on Meldrum Point, Manitoulin Island.

The Scottish Hero, built in 1895 for the Scottish Hero Steamship Company, Ltd., Newcastle-on-Tyne, was later sold to the Peterson interests at Montreal, who, in 1916, sold her to the Hero Steamship Company of Halifax. On June 10, 1917, she was sunk by enemy gunfire 440 miles W. by S. of Cape Carbonara, Sardinia.

The Turret Cape was the last of the seven to disappear. Built in the Doxford yards in 1895, she arrived in Canadian waters in 1904. From that date until 1915 she was controlled by the Peterson interests at Montreal. In 1916 she was listed as owned by the Cape Steamship Company (Dominion Iron and Steel Co., managers), but during the 1930s she was reduced to barge rig. Purchased by the Robin Hood Flour Mills Company, her engines had been removed and she had become a tow barge. It might have been anticipated that her days were over. Her fate, however, was determined by World War II.

In the Spring of 1941, with the great struggle underway in Europe, the old barge lay at a dock at Port Colborne, Ontario, and was there seen by the agents of Saguenay Terminals, a Montreal shipping firm, who purchased the barge and towed her to Montreal, where she was reconditioned and received new Sulzer Diesel engines.

TURRET CROWN fully loaded

When this work was completed the vessel left Canada to engage in trade southbound to American ports but later was moved into Caribbean waters to carry bulk cargoes with occasional trips north to U. S. Atlantic ports. Wartime operations in the movement of bauxite used in the making of aluminum were considerable. The old Turret Cape (renamed in 1948 Sun Chief) on several occasions rendered assistance to other vessels which had been under enemy attack, and aided shipwrecked sailors. For this her master, Captain L. H. Dicks, was later awarded the O.B.E.

When the war ended, the Sun Chief continued to haul cargoes of bauxite between British Guiana and Trinidad but by this time she was about worn out and was finally laid up at Mobile, Alabama. There she was seen by Scott Misener, of Sarnia Steamships, Ltd. and was purchased for trade on the Great Lakes where she had operated long before. The Misener Company gave her a new name. She became the Walter Inkster, named after a well-known Collingwood lake captain who had been a compass adjustor for three decades. The new name appeared on the bow and the vessel was engaged in the grain trade out of Fort William for several years.

In the early Summer of 1949, when in Fort William, the writer had an opportunity to look up the old vessel and was taken over her by her French-Canadian captain. She was plainly showing the marks of the years and even some marks of her wartime experiences. Up in the pilothouse there were still manuals and charts for the navigation of Caribbean waters and through the low-set windows one could imagine her officers warily watching the horizon for enemy craft ready to pounce on their prey. The engines were said to be in second-rate condition and likely to need replacement. The Misener Company was even at that time giving serious thought to retiring the boat but it was ten years before she finally disappeared.

The last time that I saw her she was tied up at Port Dalhousie, awaiting the final decision to reduce her to scrap. This was in the Summer of 1959, when she became but a memory. A boy climbed the ladder leading to her deck and brought me down a couple of sailing manuals of West Indian waters.

It is of interest to observe that the Doxford’s invention and development of their turret boats almost coincided in point of time with Captain Alexander McDougall’s building in America of his whaleback barges and steamers, more than forty in number, in the decade between 1888 and 1898. McDougall, of Scottish birth, but reared in Collingwood on the Georgian Bay, was a lake mariner of long experience. While captain of the Hiawatha and towing two barges up and down the Lakes, he conceived the idea of a boat that, when without cargo, would float on the water like a cigar with living quarters and engine-room perched on the stern. When the boat settled into the water, fully loaded, the deck was but seven or eight feet above the water’s surface and the waves would often wash over the main deck. There was minimum resistance to both wind and sea.

I am greatly indebted to Mr. Ivan S. Brookes of Hamilton, Ontario, for many details of the seven English-built ships which served first as coal carriers between Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Montreal, but five of which were later engaged in trade on the Great Lakes. Four of these, the Turret Cape, Turret Chief, Turret Court and Turret Crown, were each 253 feet in length, with gross tonnage of over 1,800, net of over 1,100, and powered with triple-expansion engines built by the Doxford Company.

The Turret Bell, the Scottish Hero, and probably the Turret Bay were 297 feet in length and of over 2,200 gross tonnage, with net tonnage just under 1,400. The Scottish Hero had quadruple engines and being somewhat larger than the others had to be cut in two in 1907 to bring her to the lake trade. Ten years later, with World War II in progress she was again cut in two at Ashtabula and returned to Montreal. When again commissioned, the old boat was loaded with supplies for Britain but fell victim to a German submarine on her first voyage. Mr. Brookes lacks definite data on the Turret Bay but says that the triple-expansion engines of the Turret Bell were built by George Clark, Ltd. of Sunderland, England, possibly a subsidiary of the Doxford firm.

It is worthy of note that two of the original seven turret boats were lost at sea by enemy action during World War II and that a third, the Turret Cape (Sun Chief), successfully evaded enemy threats while operating on Caribbean waters and bore the scars until she was finally scrapped in 1959. Her register was closed on September 15th of that year.

  1. See Frank H. Mason, The Book of British Ships. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1911, pp. 265-67.
  2. Issues of November 10, 17 and 24. This newspaper was published at Midland, Ontario, the well-known Georgian Bay port.


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Marblehead Lifesaving Station – Winter 1966

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By Merlin D. Wolcott

For 90 years seamen, boatmen, and fishermen have been ably assisted in times of trouble by the Marblehead lifesaving crew. The reefs and shoals in the western end of Lake Erie have been the scene of heroic rescues. That area of northern Ohio on the treacherous freshwater sea requires the skillful protection of lifesaving service.

B. Mansfield states:

The most dangerous place in Lake Erie is in the neighborhood of Point Pelee, near the western extremity of the lake. Off the point lies, like a satellite, Point Pelee island; between the two is a shoal. Point, shoal and island cause many wrecks each year.1

Even the scarce and incomplete records about local shipping casualties for a ten-year period, between 1867 and 1876, recorded 19 strandings in the area, with five at Cedar Point, six at Kelleys Island, two at Marblehead, three at Middle Bass Island, two at North Bass, and one at Put-in- Bay.2 In addition to these statistics, some serious disasters must have supported the claim for lifesaving service at Marblehead. On November 5, 1862, five lives were lost when the Monarch capsized there,3 and on May 1, 1875, five persons perished when the Consuelo capsized.4 The Marblehead Life Boat Station had its initial start on June 20, 1874, when the U. S. Congress authorized the establishment of a lifeboat station at Marblehead Point, on the coast of Lake Erie.5

Marblehead Lifesaving Station

The site selected for the first Marblehead lifeboat station was located in the village of Marblehead, a short distance from Lakeside. By authorization of an Act of Congress on March 3, 1875, the Secretary of the Treasury acquired a deed to the property in Danbury Township, Ottawa County, from John H. James, Jr., on June 24, 1876.6 Construction of the station started early in the spring, but an objection to the site by John H. James, Jr., caused a brief delay. Mr. James thought the station should be located farther east beyond the Marblehead Lighthouse.7 After further study, the Secretary of the Treasury authorized Klam Schwartz and Company to complete the construction on the site purchased by the Government.

The first station at Marblehead followed the standard plans and specifications for stations which called for the building to be adapted to the site. The exterior architecture of these standard government plans was a so-called “chalet style.”8 The station was a typical two-story building

built of tongued and grooved pine, with gable roofs, covered with cypress or cedar shingles, and strong shutters to the windows, and are securely bolted to a foundation of cedar or locust posts, sunk in trenches four feet deep.9

The dimensions of the building were about 42 feet long by 22 feet wide and 24 feet high from base to peak. The first floor had three rooms. The largest room, approximately 12 by 40 feet, provided space to house the lifeboat equipment. The boat room faced the coast with double-leaf doors opening onto a ramp. The smaller first floor rooms provided separate space for the keeper at the southwest corner of the building and a room for the eight-man crew at the southeast corner. The second floor provided space for sleeping quarters and smaller equipment. The total cost for the station was about $4,500.00.10 The equipment included anchors, grapnels, axes, shovels, boathooks, wrecking tools, cots, preservers, pikes, and lines.

The lifeboat was the most important piece of lifesaving equipment. The first boat used at Marblehead was an American adaptation of the British boat developed a century earlier. This boat was a 25-foot, 3-inch surf boat, named Retrieve, which was built by D. Blackburn of New York City. A 24-foot, surf-like “Dobbins boat,” named Diadem, was placed at the station on June 27, 1884, which was built by Kingston & Son of Buffalo. Kingston also built a 24-foot, 1½-inch Dobbins lifeboat which was placed at the station on February 16, 1894. On September 2, 1894, a standard service lifeboat built by Wolverine Dry Dock Company was issued to Marblehead station.11 In October 1966, the station received a 44-foot rescue boat which replaced a 36-foot boat.

The new boat has twin diesel engines, 525 horsepower, and has mechanisms for self-righting and self-bailing, radar sonar, depth sounding, depth recording, radio direction finding, and the latest marine navigation equipment.12

The éprouvette mortar was first introduced into the service at Marblehead.13 This was used to shoot a line to a vessel when the lifeboat was unable to reach a ship in distress. The mortar weighed 288 pounds, and it had a range of 421 feet. Today the crew uses the Lyle gun which is fired by igniting black powder from 32-caliber blanks or fuse wicks.

Lucien Clemons wearing his gold lifesaving medal (which is now on display at NMGL)

The station was officially opened in September, 1876. Lucien M. Clemons was appointed keeper on September 9, 1876, and he took the oath of office on September 30, 1876.14 From the start of the service, all appointments were made on the sole basis of merit and fitness without reference to political party affiliation.15

The operation of the station was governed by a carefully devised code of regulations designed for efficient lifesaving service throughout the country. These regulations required the station keeper to maintain a daily journal or logbook, in which he entered the weather and carefully prepared reports of disasters occurring in the precincts of the station.

The regulations contained minute directions on the course to pursue in regard to shipwrecks. There was also a prescribed procedure on how to care for and shelter rescued victims, and how to protect property in case of a disaster.

Life at the station was also controlled by the regulations of the service. Each day there were prescribed duties to perform, such as cleaning and “airing” the station, drills and exercises, and recording surf conditions and weather. The storage of ropes, lines, anchors, and other items followed strict methods to facilitate emergency use, and to utilize space to the best advantage, During the navigation season patrol duty was scheduled constantly. The night patrol, from sunset to dawn, was divided into three watches. Two men kept each watch.16 The crew was required to have weekly drill in using the breeches buoy. This was held every Thursday afternoon. The simulated mast of a vessel was set up at the end of the pier near the station with ropes connected to a crotch erected on the shore. At Captain Clemens’ command, “Action!” the crewmen brought one of the crew ashore by using a double pulley-block at the end of the hawser behind the crotch. The entire exercise had to be completed within five minutes.17 Some Marblehead residents and Lakeside tourists may still recall the Thursday drill at the station. The impressive practice drew large crowds, and it was a popular scene on postal cards.

The station was well equipped and well manned, When the alarm was sounded the crew met the demands of the emergency; the alarms were reported by several means. A code of signal communications was adopted about 1878. The stations along the Lake were linked by telephone and telegraph communications about the same time.18

Examples of early rescue operations were described in the station records. Late in the navigation season, a northwestern gale struck Lake Erie on November 19, 1879. The 40-ton scow, C. Rich, of Detroit, which was bound from Sandusky, Ohio, for Port Huron, Michigan, broke her chains near the station about midnight. The small vessel beached before the lifesaving crew could reach her. The crew of the disabled vessel was rescued and brought to the safety of the station by a line.

As soon as this operation had been completed, the New Hampshire, a Detroit schooner of 94-tons, bound from Sandusky, Ohio, for home port, was seen coming ashore. Captain Bronty attempted to land a small boat, but the gale forced him into a “Dangerous situation of imminent drowning.” Three of the Marblehead crewmen waded into the breakers, and dragged the small boat to land. Three sailors on the disabled schooner were rescued by a line thrown to the vessel.

Before the lifesaving crew could leave the beach, the 679 -ton scow, J.A. Saunders of Port Huron, Michigan, bound for Huron, Ohio, dragged her anchor and stranded near the other vessels. The lifesaving crew recovered the anchor, and placed it firmly — to hold until the vessel could be heaved off.

The brief description of the rescue facts do not give the details of the difficulties the lifesaving crew encountered in working in the darkness, buffeted by howling wind, a freezing spray, and a snowstorm. The C. Rich and New Hampshire were total losses, but the J. A. Saunders’ loss was $200.00, and about $600.00 was saved in the value of the vessel. Most important, 11 lives were saved. These rescued victims were given shelter for three or four days at the station.19

Marblehead Lifesaving Station and Crew

Heroic rescue and search operations have been performed year after year. The techniques for saving life and property have changed with the passing years, yet the lifesaving service at Marblehead today is similar to that of 90 years ago. The crewmen still have drills, patrols, and careful maintenance of equipment.  With the improved navigation methods, the lifesaving crew is seldom called upon to go to the aid of the large lake carriers. The seven lifesaving stations between Cleveland and Detroit (Cleveland, Lorain, Cedar Point, Marblehead, Put-in-Bay, Toledo, and Detroit) answer many distress calls from the amateur boatmen, The Marblehead station is the third largest operation of these stations. Detroit is the first, Cleveland the second. About one-third of all calls occur in the Lake Erie Island area near Marblehead. The majority of the three hundred calls received come from the operators of small boats, and, in particular, from outboard motor boats. The common trouble ranges from dirt in the gas tank to carburetor failure.

The lifesaving service today is under the U. S. Coast Guard which, incidentally, celebrated its 176th birthday on August 4, 1966. An Act of January 28, 1915, transferred the U.S. Life-Saving Service, which had been under the Revenue Marine Division of the Treasury Department, to the Coast Guard.20 The Coast Guard has more duties than those assigned the Life-Saving Service. Today it enforces customs and navigation laws, supervises the anchorage and movement of vessels, reports marine casualties, saves and protects life and property, and since 1942, installs, maintains and operates lighthouses, lightships, buoys, and other aids to navigation. The jurisdiction of the Coast Guard, as prescribed in the various titles of the U. S. Code, is highly complicated, the regulations having been enacted piecemeal over the years.

The future improvements at the Marblehead Coast Guard station will be in keeping with long-range budgetary plans for all shore units. The number of men at Marblehead will be “substantially increased.”21 The present station built in 1921 will be enlarged to accommodate the additional crew. Last year the Coast Guard considered making Marblehead a headquarters unit, but the plan was changed.

The crewmen at the Marblehead station carry on the gallant tradition of the crewmen of the former Life-Saving Service. The local conditions and navigational dangers may have changed over the passing 90 years, but the courageous, vigilant, and efficient protection of life and property in this area is still a very vital service.

  1. B. Mansfield 1899 (Ed ), History of the Great Lakes (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co.,), I, 504.
  2. Annual Report of the Operations of the U. S. Life-Saving Service for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1876 (Washington, D. C.: Govt. Pt. Off., 1876), 150-153.
  3. Sandusky Register, November 6, 1862.
  4. D. Wolcott, “Heroism at Marblehead,” INLAND SEAS , XVI, 269-274.
  5. The Statutes at Large of the U. S. From Dec. 1873 to March 1875 (Washington, D.C. Govt. Pt. Off., 1875), XVIII, 126.
  6. S. Coast Guard, Record Group No. 26 (Washington, D. C.: National Archives.)
  7. Ibid.
  8. D. O’Connor, “The United States Life-Saving Service,” The Popular Science Monthly, XV, 182.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Letters from William D. Wilkinson dated October 17, 1966, and November 17, 1966, with data sheet on Marblehead lifeboats compiled from the Official U. S. Life- Saving Register.
  12. Peninsula News, October 14, 1966.
  13. Sandusky Register, November 14, 1876.
  14. Register of Employees of the Life-Saving Service (Washington, D.C.: National Archives)
  15. “The Life Saving Service,” The Nation, LXIX, No. 1784 (Sept. 7, 1899), 182.
  16. “The United States Life Saving Service,” Scientific American, LXIV (February, 1891), 117.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Johnson’s Universal Cyclopaedia (New York: A. J. Johnson & CO., 1889), IV, 815.
  19. Annual Report, cit., for fiscal year ending June 30, 1880, 57-87,
  20. S. Government Organization Manual 1966-67 (Washington, D. C.: General Services Administration), 128.
  21. Letter from Ens. R. A. Coonin, Public Information Officer, Ninth Coast Guard District, dated September 8, 1966.

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About the Author: Mr. Merlin D. Wolcott is Librarian of the Canton Public Library at Canton, Ohio. Among his special interests are the local history and the genealogy of the Marblehead Peninsula, particularly as his own family, in 1809, were the first Americans to settle in Ottawa County. Mr. Wolcott has written earlier articles for Inland Seas and for genealogical journals.

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The Last Trip of the J.F. CARD – Fall 1966

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By McLeod Orford

It was a cold November day at Inverhuron, a small village on the Canadian shore of Lake Huron. Snow was falling and the frost in the air was increasing rapidly. For many hours the seas of a violent northwestern had been lashing the beach. It was November 15, 1900.

The previous night Kenneth MacNaughton, then 42 years of age, returned to the village after completing 28 seasons on the Lakes as a schooner man. In 1872, at the early age of fourteen, he shipped as a cabin boy at Detroit.

MacNaughton, a jovial, ruddy-faced man of medium height, was looking forward to the restful days during the winter months. He would soon be making his rounds to again greet the many friends he had not seen since the previous spring.

Although the residents of Inverhuron were not aware of it, a few miles away the schooner J. F. Card was fighting a losing battle with the howling northwestern. She was being blown closer and closer to a rock-strewn shoreline.


The J. F. Card was built at Vermilion, Ohio, in 1864. She was 137 feet long and had a beam of 25.8 feet. Her home port was Port Huron, Michigan, and her master was Captain Brown of Detroit. For many years she had been a member of the well-known Bradley fleet. At this critical hour she was owned by Henry Weineman, Jr., of Detroit. The Card was carrying 260,000 feet of lumber loaded at Midland, Ontario. The cargo was consigned to W. B. Mershon & Co., Saginaw, Michigan.

About noonday the struggling vessel crashed upon the rocks of Point Douglas. A man on shore spotted the wreck, then hurried to the village to spread the alarm.

Point Douglas is two-and-a-half miles north of Inverhuron and lies about midway between Southampton and Kincardine, Ontario. In 1900 the Point was a densely wooded area, where a person on foot would be almost certain to get lost if he wandered off his trail.

Kenneth MacNaughton was chosen to head the rescue party, which was organized as quickly as possible. A heavy rowboat was loaded on a wagon. The horses were driven at utmost speed over three miles of winding bush roads.

At the scene of the disaster it was apparent that the ill-fated ship was hard aground on the Point and had begun to break up. The yawl boat had been swept away and lay battered on the beach. The broken main-mast was hanging over the side; the foremast was leaning badly.

The crew of six men and the woman cook were still aboard. They stood by the rail and stared at the shore which was so near and yet so far away. They knew no man could make his way through the hungry seas without a lifeboat; his body would be gashed and broken on the under-lying rocks.

In desperation the crew lashed several planks together to form a raft, then lowered it from the deck. The woman and one man boarded the heaving planks. The raft immediately capsized as a heavy sea broke over the schooner. The man grabbed a line that dangled from the groaning vessel and climbed back aboard. The woman’s head was slammed against a rock as she was pitched into the surging water. In a moment she disappeared beneath the raft.

Fortunately, a line had been placed around her waist before she left the ship. The free end of this line was wedged between two planks. With a pike pole a sailor succeeded in retrieving it. The unconscious woman was hauled back on deck. Her limp form was placed on the stern above the flooded cabins.

The storm had not abated. Many members of the rescue party gave up all hope of ever reaching the stricken ship. They were convinced that an attempt to launch the rowboat would be a futile task, which could readily result in a further loss of life.

In the process of studying the distance between the seas MacNaughton detected an unusually strong southerly current. Presently he asked for volunteers. Two men immediately stepped forward.

By moving into the rampaging seas at the most opportune moment, the little craft was finally launched. The men bent over the oars with all the strength they could muster. Even then it appeared for a time they would never make it. When they had all but given up, they suddenly found themselves in the southbound current. In a few minutes they were swept to the lee side of the doomed schooner.

Every man clinging to the deck wanted to scramble into the rowboat, which soon began to fill with water from the seas crashing over the wreck. The two volunteers bailed furiously, MacNaughton decided to take the woman and one man. The hazardous return trip then began. After a tremendous struggle they reached the welcome shore, but not before the two men on the oars declared they would not risk their lives a second time.

MacNaughton again called for volunteers. Two other men were willing to take the chance. Hour after hour the precarious operation continued. By late afternoon all the crew had been landed safely on the rocky beach.

The woman was taken to MacNaughton’s home and was wrapped in heavy woolen blankets. During the night she regained consciousness.

On November 22, 1900, the Detroit Free Press carried the following report of the wreck:

The small fore-and-aft schooner J. F. Card, which went ashore near Southampton, Ont., six days ago, has entirely broken up. Not enough is left of her to make a souvenir cane. The point where she was carried on by a heavy nor’wester is lined with jagged rocks, and every boat that fetches up there goes to pieces, unless released in a hurry, if the winds continue a few hours. No lives were lost, but the crew didn’t have time to save anything but the clothing on their backs.

The Card measured 276 gross tons, rate A 2½, was 36 years old, valued at $3500, and without a cent of insurance. She was commanded by Captain Brown of this city.

The following morning the crew saw the wreckage scattered along the bleak shore and shuddered when they thought of what would have been their fate if they had been left on board.

Preparations were soon made to drive the shipwrecked sailors to Kincardine, Ontario, the nearest railway station.            The woman complained bitterly about having to wear a sou’wester instead of a hat she had recently purchased. Captain Brown glared at her for a moment. “Listen, my good woman,” he said. “You’re lucky you’re not going home in a box!”

In his humble home, within earshot of the pounding surf of Lake Huron, Kenneth MacNaughton spent many retirement years. When a raging November gale swept over the water, he often thought of that far-away day when the J. F. Card met her doom.


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About the Author: Mr. McLeod Orford, a resident of Hamilton, Ontario, was born along the eastern shore of Lake Huron. As a boy his interest in ships was aroused by several lake captains who had homes in or near Tiverton, Ontario, his native village. Among these men was Captain Angus MacKenzie of the Juniata. At an early age Mr. Orford sailed all five of the Great Lakes. He has published articles on marine history in the London Free Press and other periodicals. He is a member of the Great Lakes Historical Society and the Ontario Historical Society.

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Early Traverse City News Via Lakes Vessels – Summer 1966

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By Edward S. Warner

Traverse City, Michigan, had its origin with the purchase of land at that place by William Boardman in 1847, whereupon his son began a rudimentary logging business. In 1851 the Chicago firm of Hannah, Lay and Company purchased the Boardman lands and began more extensive lumbering operations.1 Boardman Lake, the Boardman River, Boardman Avenue, Hannah Park, and Hannah Avenue in present-day Traverse City are testimonials to those early developers. Moreover, Hannah, Lay and Company is still doing business on the shore of the West Bay, after over a century at the same location.

Traverse City of the late 1850s and the early 1860s was, in every sense, an isolated community. One historian of Michigan, in noting the small number of persons attracted to the settlement in the early years,2 describes the area as then a “vast unbroken forest that stretched back from the little opening made at Traverse City to a seemingly unlimited distance.”3

Grand Traverse Herald Masthead

There were only limited modes of communication with Traverse City in the formative years — by foot, horseback, or sled; by Lake Michigan’s waters; or by some combination of these. There was optimism, of course, such as that expressed in July of 1859 by the editor-publisher of the Grand Traverse Herald.4 He wrote that “a route for a state road through the wilderness from Grand Traverse Bay to civilization has been surveyed this season, and the time is not far distant when we shall have a good thoroughfare to Grand Rapids.”5  It wasn’t until late in 1863, however, that a road to Manistee and Grand Rapids was a reality.6

When navigation was closed, an Indian trail between Manistee and Traverse City was the only means of access to, and egress from, Traverse City. Over this trail a weekly mail was carried by various Indians and whites employed by mail contractors who, at that time, provided the service for the United States Government.7 Most of those in Traverse City and the surrounding area relied heavily on the Grand Traverse Herald for outside news; the Herald, in turn, relied on the receipt of outside papers so as to be able to reprint the news items from them.

When the weekly mail from Manistee failed, as it often did, up-to-date8 news was a precious commodity. In January of 1862 the Herald lamented that “it is bad enough, in times like these,9 to have only a weekly mail; but when, by the gross negligence and indolence of the contractor, the time is extended to a fortnight, the evil becomes unbearable. This same contractor played many such tricks last winter — indeed every winter for the last three years.”10

Lakes vessels, during the season of navigation, provided a supplementary — and often superior — means of acquiring outside news. In the early years most of the vessels touching at Traverse City were under sail. Many of the arrivals and departures were chronicled in the Herald, often with a note as to which newspapers were delivered by the masters.

“The barque Waverly, Captain Green, arrived here on Tuesday from Chicago. She brings New York and Washington dates of the 5th, and Chicago papers of the 6th.”11  “We are under obligation to Capt. J. W. Brown, of the schooner Eclipse, for papers of a later date than those received by mail.”12 “The barque Pacific arrived here on Tuesday evening, bringing Chicago papers to the 28th.”13

In addition to newspapers, word-of-mouth information was brought to Traverse City via the lakes vessels. The Herald, a strong Republican paper, excitedly reported that “the schooner Perry Hannah, Capt. Canfield, arrived from Chicago on Wednesday night. She brought no papers, but we learn verbally . . . that New York, Wisconsin, and the City of Detroit have all gone Republican by large majorities.”14

Sail, like overland travel, had its drawbacks. The schooner Eclipse, according to the Herald, “was becalmed most of the time” on what had become a nine-day trip from Chicago.15 On the other hand, the schooner Perry Hannah was reported as the first arrival from Chicago in 18 days, “the vessels having all been detained by the late severe gales.” To this was appended that “she brought no late papers.”16


Although steam-driven vessels had put in at Traverse City during the 1850s, a significant event in the development of communications was the purchase of the propeller Alleghany by Hannah, Lay and Company in the Spring of 1860. The Alleghany was to ply between the Company’s docks at Traverse City and Chicago, and was to “leave Traverse City every Tuesday evening, and Chicago every Saturday morning. . . . “17 A representative of the Herald made the round trip and wrote that the trip to Chicago, “instead of being a terror, a dread, and often a ten day’s voyage, as it was in sail vessels, is now a pleasant pasttime (sic).“18 The paper advised that the trip (one-way) normally takes “about thirty hours.”19

During the first few years after the coming of the Alleghany other steam vessels put in at Traverse City, but on a more-or-less irregular basis. In March of 1861 the Northern Transportation Lines placed an advertisement in the Herald stating that their propellers running between Ogdensburg and Chicago would call at Traverse City during the ensuing season. On this line were such well-known vessels as the Michigan, Empire, and Prairie State, among others.20 It is interesting to note that there was practically no further mention of this prominent line in the issues of the Herald for the next succeeding two years.

Perry Hannah and Albert Lay

The Alleghany was, in fact, the Herald’s most favored and most oft-mentioned vessel. In notifying readers of the Alleghany’s route change to the Sarnia-Chicago run (touching in both directions at Traverse City), the paper volunteered that “this old favorite performs her trips as regularly as clock-work. . . . It is enough to say that Boynton, that prince of Captains and sailors, commands her.”21 Perhaps a good sense of business and a realistic appraisal of the community’s future prompted the editor of the Herald to shower praise upon the Alleghany. Hannah, Lay and Company, owner of the vessel, was by far the biggest single advertiser in the Herald.22 Too, the company was the biggest single influence in the development of the area from 1851 to the late 1880s, as the owners maintained pineries, a lumber mill, a flour mill, a mercantile store, and a bank during this period.23 In essence, Hannah, Lay and Company was the base of the Traverse City economy.

In further commendation we read: “Through the politeness of Capt. Boynton, of the Propeller Alleghany, which arrived hereon Wednesday morning from Sarnia, we are favored with a copy of the Detroit Free Press of the 25th. We glean from it all the important war and other news items.”24

Lake travel under steam, as under sail, had its drawbacks. Although the Alleghany reputedly “performed her trips like clock-work,” the schedule was interrupted on a number of occasions. On September 15, 1861, and again on November 1, 1861, her engine was badly damaged, the first incident causing a few weeks’ layup.25 In early October of 1862, the Alleghany was hit by a brig on Lake Huron, and was taken to Chicago for repairs, preventing her regular trips for five weeks.26

In commenting on the September 1861 incident the editor of the Herald deplored the fact that “during the season of navigation we rely upon the regular trips of the Propeller Alleghany for news . . . but the accident which has happened to that boat deprives us of those facilities, and we are thrown back upon the old resources.”27 Again, late in 1862, the editor complained that “we have delayed the publication of our paper beyond the usual hour, in expectation of news by the Alleghany, which is now two days past due from Sarnia. We can wait no longer, and go to press without any news. A rumor, however, has reached us from Northport, that McClellan has fought another battle, gained a great victory, and taken 40,000 rebel prisoners.”28

The “beginning of the end” of isolation for Traverse City, with respect to the news events of the state, nation, and world, came in May of 1862. “Our Postmaster informs us that on and after the first day of July next, we are to have a semiweekly mail from Grand Haven via Muskegon, Manistee, and Traverse City. . . . We begin to see our way out of the woods.”29

Although the overland semiweekly mail efforts failed for the first two months,30 the Grand Traverse Herald   was finally able to print that “the arrangements have been perfected and we have now a semiweekly mail to Muskegon and the Outside World.”31


  1. Clever Bald, Michigan in Four Centuries. New York, Harper and Row, 1961 (rev. and enl. ed.), p. 229; and Perry F. Powers, A History of Northern Michi- gun and Its People. Chicago, Lewis, 1912, pp. 252-3.
  2. According to a State census conducted in 1854, there were only 160 persons in Traverse Township. By 1860, this number had increased to 495. Michigan. Census and Statistics: May, 1854. Lansing, 1854, p. 103; and Michigan. Statis- tics Compiled from the Census of 1860. Lansing, 1861, p. 85.
  3. Powers, cit., p. 254.
  4. Most of the information herein was taken from the weekly issues of the Grand Traverse Herald from its inception in November of 1858 through December of 1862. The Herald was believed to have been the first Michigan newspaper north of Grand Rapids, but later research indicated that the James Islander, published from 1850-56 on Beaver Island, preceded the Herald. It could be said, perhaps, that the Grand Traverse Herald was the first newspaper on the mainland and in general circulation north of Grand Rapids. See: Ibid., p. 140; Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society Collections, VI (1907), 76; and Elizabeth R. Brown, A Union List of Newspapers Published in Michigan. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan, 1954, pp. 220, 235.
  5. Grand Traverse Herald, July 15, 1859, p. 2.
  6. Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society Collections, XXXII (1902), 148; and XVIII (1911), 64.
  7. Ibid., XXX (1906), 41; Grand Traverse Herald, February 11, 1859, p. 3; and July 15, 1859, p. 2.
  8. At this time, week-old news was considered to be “up-to-date,” as many papers of the period were weeklies and any form of transportation was relatively slow.
  9. The Civil War was receiving a great deal of local attention.
  10. Grand Traverse Herald, January 3, 1862, p. 3.
  11. Ibid., May 13, 1859, p. 2.
  12. Ibid., June 3, 1859, p. 3.
  13. Ibid., July 1, 1859, p. 3.
  14. Ibid., November 18, 1859, p. 3.
  15. Ibid,, August 26, 1859, p. 2.
  16. Ibid., November 4, 1859, p. 3.
  17. Ibid., May 4, 1860, p. 3.
  18. Ibid., May 25, 1860, p. 3.
  19. Ibid., July 13, 1860, p. 2.
  20. Ibid., March 8, 1861, p. 3.
  21. Ibid., June 14, 1861, p. 3.
  22. See also: Elvin L. Sprague, History of Grand Traverse and Leelanau Counties, Michigan. p. j Bowen, 1903, p. 283.
  23. Bald, cit., p. 285; and Powers, op. cit., p. 254.
  24. Grand Traverse Herald, August 30, 1861, p. 2.
  25. Ibid., September 20, 1861, p. 3; and November 8, 1861, p. 3.
  26. Ibid., October 10, 1862, p. 3; and October 31, 1862, p. 3.
  27. Ibid., September 27, 1861, p.3.
  28. Ibid., October 3, 1862, p. 3.
  29. Ibid., May 16, 1862, p. 3.
  30. Ibid., July 18, 1862, p. 3.
  31. Ibid., September 19, 1862, p. 3.


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About the Author: Mr. Edward S. Warner is a resident of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and an Instructor there in the School of Graduate Studies, Department of Librarianship, Western Michigan University. Combining a longtime fondness for the Great Lakes area with firsthand knowledge of the Grand Traverse region, Mr. Warner has compiled the results of his research in the early volumes of the Grand Traverse Herald into this article which he felt would be of interest to the readers of Inland Seas.

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The Wreck of the INDEPENDENCE – Spring 1966

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By Ernest H. Rankin

Over the years, shipwrecks on Lake Superior have been a favorite topic for many writers. During the early days of navigation on this Lake, starting in the 1840s, the vessels were comparatively small — many of them lacking the staunchness required to withstand the storms of the Lake — and wrecks were frequent. It is unfortunate that photography, as a universal art, hadn’t yet been developed.

While the artists and draftsmen have left sketches, paintings and drawings of some of the ships of this period, they are all too few and lack the details that would be provided by photographs. Of immediate regret is the lack of a picture of the Independence, the first propeller to churn its way over the waters of Lake Superior.

The INDEPENDENCE, probably painted in the 20th century

From what is known about the Independence, it was 119 feet long, her beam 26 feet, draft 9 feet 7 inches, and it was of 262 tons burden, This would indicate that it might have been somewhat “tubby,” lacking the graceful lines of many of the steamers built in the second half of the nineteenth century. One authority on early Great Lakes shipping advises that the Independence, during its short career, was frequently in trouble, going ashore on several occasions. It was built at Chicago during the Winter of 1844/45 and taken over the portage at Sault Ste. Marie during the Summer of 1845. It has the distinction of being the first propeller to be built on Lake Michigan as well as the first American steamer to sail upon the waters of Lake Superior. Undoubtedly, during the few years that it was engaged in trade, it carried its full share of cargo between the Sault and the few Lake Superior ports which were then in existence.

In those days most merchandise was shipped westward in barrels — salt pork, beef, beans, flour, clothing, boots — the simple staples and requirements of life for the miners. In addition there would be a deck load of hay, and food for the mules and oxen at the mines, as mining took preference over farming and few crops were grown. The overflow of passengers — those who were unable to obtain berths — had to make themselves as comfortable as they were able, on the crowded deck along with the hay, pigs and cattle en route to the mining locations. Life aboard ship was much easier on the return trip to the Sault, for the cargo consisted almost entirely of heavy barrels of copper, some fish and bundles of furs, and there was plenty of room for the few passengers who chose to return to their eastern homes.   It was a tremendous task to transfer a vessel from Lake Huron over the mile-long portage to Lake Superior, with a difference in level of approximately 20 feet between the two Lakes. It was necessary to build a large cradle to hold the ship upright and it required six weeks or more, working from dawn to dusk, to move the bulky mass, inch by inch, on rollers over the planked roadway, from Lake to Lake. Over the years, and before the first ship canal at the Sault was opened for traffic during June, 1855, quite a few vessels — both sail and steam — were transferred across the Portage. The steamer, Sam Ward, was the last to make the “land-sailing,” this being accomplished in the Summer of 1853, the first season of canal digging, the human moles excavating immediately in its wake as it was slowly moved towards Lake Superior.

Of particular interest to this writer is the wreck of the Independence.

It went to its watery grave early in the morning of November 22, 1853, about a mile or so above the rapids in St, Marys River at the Sault, this town being at the east end of Lake Superior. This interest is not because of a bent for writing on shipwrecks, but, had things been otherwise, the writer might not have been around to relate the story as contained in newspaper and family records. Without any question the best narrator of almost any disaster is either a survivor or an eyewitness. The survivor is right there on the spot and possibly went swirling away on a piece of wreckage to be tossed on a rocky shore.

Among the several survivors of the Independence was the ship’s clerk, or supercargo, Jonas W. Watson, who lived to tell the tale, and in due course became the maternal grandfather of the writer. Had the calamity occurred several weeks earlier, the full story of this event would have been carried in the Lake Superior Journal which was then being published at the Sault. However, as was the custom of the era, the Journal had locked up its office and Editor J. Venen Brown had gone “below” for the Winter. Therefore we must be content with Grandfather Watson’s account handed down through his son, Edward, and written by him some years after the wreck occurred. At the time of the wreck Edward M. Watson was 13 years old, having been born at Cleveland on September 28, 1840.

Jonas W. Watson Grave Marker

Jonas W. Watson was born in Queens County, Ireland, on June 8, 1815. He became a sailor when a lad and sailed to Canada in 1832, landing in Cleveland, Ohio, about 1840, bringing along with him a Canadian born wife. The Annals of Cleveland disclose, under date of October 25, 1848, the following:

Watson is a living witness of what industry, economy and integrity will do. A few years ago he had a basket on his arm, selling apples in this city. He rented a 3 by 5 room, got a few traps and commenced business — put up an elegant building, and we hope his customers may be legion — his pockets full — Watson deserves success. He has earned it. ‘What cannot a man accomplish, if he will but try! ‘

Another brief paragraph appears under date of April 30, 1850:

W. Watson is a man of enterprise. He once bought candy by the pound and sold it by the stick. But by industry and economy, he is now enabled to manufacture it on a scale sufficiently large to supply the whole western country.

It is not a matter of immediate record as to why or when Watson assumed residence at the Sault; however, it was shortly after 1850. At this time the fame of the great mineral wealth of the Lake Superior country was spreading like wildfire to the lower lake ports and the eastern cities. New avenues to fortune were being opened for the aggressive, and like many others, Watson undoubtedly visioned a bright future for himself and his growing family in this new land of promise.

The story of the wreck of the Independence comes to us from two sources: first, that of Jonas Watson, a victim, which was related to the editor of the Journal some five years after the occurrence, and the second, written by the son, Edward Watson, some years later. In general their stories coincide to a considerable extent; however, over the years, their narratives were unquestionably enhanced through many tellings — which is ever an attribute of family folklore.

Editor Warren Isham wrote Watson’s story as follows:

. . . the Independence had just left the Sault, bound up, and had proceeded two miles on her course, when she was instantly blown to pieces, and went down, with a portion of those on board, while of the remainder, some clung to a portion of the wreck, and others were blown high in the air, and fell into the water. Of the latter, Mr. Watson . . . was one. He does not know how high he was blown, but Capt. [John] McKay, who was standing on a portion of the deck which was not blown away, and who was saved, told him that he saw him go up, amid the light and glare which flashed upon the darkness, to the height of two or three hundred feet. That he must have gone very high would seem to be manifest from the fact that he fell into the water some eight or ten rods from the wreck.

If Captain McKay’s statement can be accepted as to the height to which Mr. Watson was blown when the boiler exploded, he can well qualify as being Lake Superior’s first astronaut! Mr. Watson’s cabin was directly over the boiler and he was asleep in his bunk at the time of the explosion. Unlike the present-day astronauts, who ride aloft in comparative safety, encased in a capsule, Watson’s vehicle was a mattress.

The newspaper account goes to say,

It is wonderful that his breath was not beaten out of his body in the fall, if he was not otherwise injured. And it is equally wonderful that he should have survived in the water for a full half hour before assistance came to his relief, as he lay perfectly passive, and simply floated, having a sort of confused impression that all his limbs were broken. Upon waking to consciousness,  he found himself in contact with a bundle of compressed hay, and with it was floating fast towards the rapids (in passing which he would have met inevitable death) when he was picked up and saved. He was badly chilled, but was readily restored, and, strange to say, was able to walk about the next morning. He remembered being rolled upon the bottom, after his fearful descent, the water being about eighteen feet deep. . . .

Seven persons were lost, all of them going down the rapids, the remains of some of them being afterwards picked up forty or fifty miles below. . . .

The remains of the INDEPENDENCE were dredged up in 1933.

Records disclose that there were only six passengers aboard on the night the Independence’s boiler exploded. During the summer months, and especially in the spring, the few vessels which were then engaged in trade on Lake Superior were invariably overcrowded with passengers anxious to get to the mines, sleeping in every available nook both below and on the decks. Had this event occurred several months earlier in the season the loss of life might have been considerable. While the records do not disclose the exact cause of the boiler failure, a satisfactory explanation can be assumed. The Independence had backed away from her dock at midnight on November 21, getting well out into the Lake before turning. In reversing the single cylinder engine it had stuck on dead center, using no steam from the boiler. Meanwhile, down in the boiler room, the firemen were heaping vast quantities of wood into the firebox under the boiler to provide a full head of steam so that the ship might proceed rapidly up the Lake. These two factors —    too much steam and no outlet for the pressure —probably caused the boiler to explode.

The story, as told by the late Edward M. Watson of Marquette, adds some interesting side lights:

Father finding the store business too small to support his family, went sailing on a Lake Superior steamboat as supercargo or clerk, his first boat being the Napoleon. He was afterwards on the Independence and the Peninsular. He was on the Independence when she exploded. The explosion blew the whole stern of the boat into splinters and the boat sank immediately, but the mattress under Father protected him and when he recovered consciousness, he was lying on the bottom of the river, twenty-five feet from the surface. He could feel the gravel with his hands and began to struggle and swim and soon found himself on the surface, which was covered by splinters. He was quite a time finding anything large enough to support him, He finally ran across a bale of hay and was trying to get a position on it that wouldn’t roll him off when he was seen by Mr. Houston, the 2nd engineer, who was floating on a piece of upper deck. He called out to him and persuaded him to abandon the hay and swim to his raft.

They were picked up by the boats of the steamer Baltimore just above the rapids and had a second narrow escape from death. It was late in November, the weather being extremely cold, the ground covered with snow and with only his nightshirt on, Father must have had a cold time of it. They gave him a hot drink and put him to bed on the Baltimore and he came home to us next day. Houston had a most remarkable experience, he was down in the hold trying to pry the engine off the center when the explosion took place and declared that he swam out through the side of the boat or where the side of the boat ought to have been.

He was steamed to such an extent that his entire skin came off and I put in many an hour that following winter greasing his body and covering it with cotton batting and oil to take the place of his old hide until he could grow a new one.

Father kept him that winter, in gratitude for his assistance in rescuing him. . . .

This was the epoch of homemade remedies, relied upon to cure most anything. The doctors of this era didn’t have recourse to the wonder drugs or the antibiotics of today and nothing was sterile. one can well wonder as to the grease and oil used, which 13-year-old Edward applied to the body of the scalded engineer. Was it bear fat or goose grease, or the sperm whale oil which was used in the lamps? Or it could very well have been engine grease and oil such as was used for the steamboat engines! And one could also wonder as to the cotton batting — possibly from the stuffing of a quilt or pillow. Houston really must have had a tough “old hide” to recover from the treatment!

In 1855 Jonas Watson, with his family, removed from the Sault to Marquette. Here he engaged in the mercantile business, the son, Edward, taking over the business upon his father’s death in 1875.

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About the Author: Mr. Ernest H. Rankin, Executive Secretary of the Marquette County Historical Society, is a former Clevelander and was a Charter Member of the Great Lakes Historical Society when it was founded in 1944. Now residing in Marquette, Michigan, he has written many articles for INLAND SEAS and for his local papers on subjects relating to Great Lakes history.

Mr. Rankin is also the Editor of Harlow’s Wooden Man, quarterly publication of the Marquette County Historical Society, now in its second year.

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Memories of the Cleveland Ice Yacht Club – Winter 1965

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By Charles W. Borgwald and Milton N. Gallup 

Ice Boat Racing

The Cleveland Ice Yacht Club was a group of more or less hardy individuals who took great interest in the rather rugged sport of ice-boating in the Cleveland harbor before contamination and city spoil ruined the ice for such recreation. In the early 1900s, soot, fly ash and refuse made the ice so rough that an edge could not be kept on the runners of the boats, and the deposit of animal and vegetable matter on the floor of the harbor created methane gas which in turn created gas holes in the ice. These gas holes became the greatest hazard because they would appear overnight at various places in otherwise sound ice. When the location of a hole became known, it would be marked by steel drums placed around it at safe distances, so it could subsequently be avoided. These holes caused many broken runners, tillers and, in a few instances, the breakup of entire iceboats, with injuries and dunkings for those involved.

The writers recall one such instance which occurred on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1925. We were aboard Milt Gallup’s Zero with Bob Morrow and several others, going at a very fair speed in a northwesterly direction, off about where the Stadium now is, when a new gas hole of no mean proportion was encountered, with the sudden result that Bob Morrow went into the gas hole, clothes, glasses and all, and Charley Borgwald went sliding past the hole over the wet ice with the rest of the passengers!

Morrow was pulled out and sent back to the club house, wet, but not hurt, on another iceboat, and the Zero was pulled back onto solid ice with but little damage. The rest of the party dried out in due time.

Snowy Owl

The Cleveland Ice Yacht Club was an offshoot from the Cleveland Yacht Club which moved its club house from the foot of East 9th Street to an island in Rocky River on November 29th, 1914, and temporary quarters for the C. I. Y. C. were established in a small house on East 9th Street Pier. Later, in the Fall of 1917, it moved again, to the home of The Cleveland Boat Club, which was the original building moved from East 9th Street Pier (with additions of a kitchen and porch), to a spot on a new fill forming a lagoon east of East 9th Street. On this fill was built Cleveland’s first radio station, then called a “wireless station,” which served the passenger ships operating between Cleveland, Buffalo and Detroit by Marconi dot and dash. Voice, for commercial use, had not yet come into being. (As a side interest, one cold winter day, in perhaps 1920, Milt Gallup saw, perched high up in the steel tower of this wireless station, a great white bird, perhaps two-and-a-half, or three feet tall. The Cleveland Public Library and one of the newspapers were notified, and the bird was duly identified as a Great White Alaskan Snow Owl. It is thought that this was the first and only time that such a bird has ever been seen so far south.)

It is interesting to note that the club dues were but $1.50 per year and this included a dinner at the end of the iceboat season, usually on St. Patrick’s Day. George Smith, who in business life was the manufacturer of the Gordon Propeller, a successful variable pitch propeller used by many power boaters, was the club cook and turned out some great meals. After 1918 prohibition was in force with the result that keg beer was not as good as prior to 1918. The strong liquor had to be served in the basement and nothing was said about it! But in spite of this some great times were had, including an occasional dance on a floor sanded to perfection by some of the more energetic members. (The floor at long last wore out!)

It would not be amiss to mention here a few of the active ones whom memory recalls. There was Rolland Francis, who forever strove to win races and built a new iceboat every two or three years; and Bob and Dolly Morrow, who raced both a class A boat and a class B boat. We might explain that a class A boat was some thirty feet long, had a mainsail and a jib, weighed perhaps 1,500 pounds, and carried over 375 square feet of sail. A boat of this kind, in a good wind, was a job for two men to sail. She would travel better than 80 miles an hour, and could carry as many as seven people. A class B boat was somewhat smaller, somewhat lighter in construction, and carried less than 200 square feet of canvas, Both boats were steered by the rear, or steering tiller, and runner. The Skeeter, or front-steering iceboat, had not come out at this time.

One expedition is recalled when, on one of those very rare occasions, there was good smooth ice found to the east outside the breakwater. Chuck Herbst on the Blue Ribbon, with Bobby Babcock and Charley Solders, led a parade of about six boats (one of which was Milt Gallup’s Zero), to see how far they could go. Three hours later they made Ashtabula, A hot lunch was consumed in an Ashtabula harbor “Gin Mill,” and the trip was started back to Cleveland. By this time the wind had come northwest, and had increased considerably in force. The trip back, following the marks made on the ice by the boats on the way down, took a scant 55 minutes from the harbor at Ashtabula to the Club lagoon at Cleveland! (It is 65 miles from Cleveland to Ashtabula.)

A few more of the old-timers who come to mind at the moment were Bud Bidwell, who sailed the Spade; Harry Kiefer, Frank Gerdon, John Donnelly, Charley Motley, Herman Lammers, and John Cox. Charley Solders, a lawyer, was commodore and Bob Latimer was secretary of the Club.

One particularly memorable occasion was on a day when the old pot-bellied stove refused longer to draw and consume the “cheap steam coal” that was provided. The weather was cold and the heat was waning. Somebody came up with an idea to get the soot out of the chimney. “Let’s get her good and hot and souse her with a bucket of water.” Great idea! Subsequently it was tried, with disastrous and quick results! Somebody forgot to remember that the stove pipe was probably full of soot, too. In any event, the pipe not only disjointed at every point but blew off the stove as well, and what little soot didn’t get up the chimney, wound up inside the club house. It is doubtful that it was ever all cleaned up in spite of much work on the part of the house committee. Anyhow it did clean out the chimney!

The Cockpit of an Iceboat

It may seem strange, but it is actually warmer directly on the ice than it is a little higher up, or back inland a bit from the shore, because directly under the ice is water, and the temperature of the water is never less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit, which has a tendency to temper the air directly above the ice. But take all this for what it is worth and remember that iceboating is a very cold, cold sport and one for which heavy clothing as well as tightly-laced boots, gloves and helmets should be provided. It used to be great sport to get a city slicker, all dressed up for Sunday afternoon, who had come down to watch the races, aboard your boat for a bit of a spin —particularly if there happened to be a fairly fresh breeze. The boat would start off silently, and rapidly gain momentum, while all the poor chap with his city clothes could do was to hang on and silently pray as the blowing snow and ice particles packed down his neck, and up his pants legs, and up his sleeves! One treatment like this was usually sufficient to keep him away from the race course forever!

A sidelight on the winter storage of power boats and sail boats about the grounds and lagoon of the old Cleveland Boat Club might be of interest. Each fall, or early winter, the Club members who intended to have their boats lifted out and placed on high ground for the winter would show up on a designated Saturday, get out from summer storage the wooden blocks and timber for shoring, placing them in small piles adjacent to the spot where the boat was to be wintered. Then the Great Lakes Dock and Dredge Company would be contacted and arrangements made to have a steam derrick on a scow come into the lagoon on a Sunday and hoist and place on shore all of the boats in one day. As we recall, there was a flat fee of something like $ 5.00 for this service, which usually took place about the first of December, after the summer work by the scow or dredge had been completed. Of course, the same thing happened again in the spring when the boats were placed in the water.

On these two days there was much activity about the Club. Every boat owner with his sundry friends and active crew was requested to show up at seven o’clock in the morning, and haul-out, or launching, started right then with everybody pitching in. Five or six would place keel blocks and lay out shoring, the boat would be swung over by the derrick, and twenty or twenty-five men standing in lines would hold the boat in an upright position on the placed keel blocks, while the derrick crew removed the slings and others set shoring and blocking. Then another boat was hoisted and after a short time a system was worked out so that before one boat was set for the winter another one was being hoisted and lowered onto the next set of blocks. Thereby, it was possible to hoist and store the more than one hundred boats that comprised the fleet.

It would be amiss not to mention that at noontime work stopped, and the busy boys repaired to the club house where a meal of corn beef and cabbage, or a great mulligan stew, prepared as usual by Chef George Smith, with all the fixings of vegetables, hot biscuits, and apple pie, was served. If the outside work with the boats and the rig was too heavy for some of the older chaps, they were invited to assist in the galley, or to wait table, and it sometimes did your heart good to see a prominent judge, doctor or lawyer with a white apron on, serving hot food to what looked like a bunch of day laborers! Anyway, it was great sport, and one of the enjoyable things to remember.

There were a few members who preferred to leave their boats to freeze in for the winter. This entailed a constant watch over them as a hard freeze would sometimes start a seam or break a poorly packed hull fitting (sea cocks and outside hull fittings below the waterline were filled with grease to keep from breaking because of ice pressure), and cause a leak that in a short time would sink the boat. It was common practice to cut the ice around each boat from time to time to keep it from squeezing the hull and from pulling the cotton out of the seams. This was done by sawing a channel around the boat, breaking the ice into chunks, and lifting the chunks out onto the ice away from the boat with ice tongs. So, along with iceboating and winter work on the boats stored ashore there was activity around the Club even in bad weather.

Cleveland Boat Club and Cleveland Yacht Ice Club

One fellow, however, seemed to have the jump on all the rest of the members who left their boats in the water all winter, Arthur Roberts always tied his boat in the same spot every year and it took the boys a long time to figure out just why. It seems that just under the spot where he moored his boat there was a sizable pocket of methane gas that emitted a constant flow of very small bubbles. These bubbles rising to the surface brought with them the somewhat warmer water from the bottom of the lagoon, which resulted in little or no ice formation around his boat! Other boats that were not tended and cared for would sometimes find themselves in the peculiar predicament of being either full of water or, because of the squeezing effect of the ice, forced nearly out of water and lying on top of the ice — and many times damaged.


Each December and each March the Inter-Lake Yachting Association held a fall and spring meeting. These meetings were usually held at the home club of the then commodore, and when Detroit, Toledo, Sandusky or Vermilion happened to be the place, the old Lake Shore Electric Company was contacted for the charter of a special car to pick up the C. B. C. and the C. I. Y. C. boys in downtown Cleveland, gather up those who lived along the route, and make the round-trip junket in one day. The iceboat boys from Lake St. Clair and Toledo were always very much in evidence, and with those from Sandusky and the Islands there was always sure to be much race talk.

In the Spring of 1925, the few remaining iceboats were taken to Sandusky and Chippewa Lake because it was thought that with the increase in contamination and city dirt the ice was no longer in suitable condition. Thus ended a period of winter recreation in Cleveland that still brings back lingering memories to the remaining few who took part in it.

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About the Author: Mr. Charles W. Borgwald, retired since 1957, built his first boat, a canoe, in 1912, and added an engine in 1913! One of the original members of the Cleveland Boat Club, and its official photographer, he kept the canoe at the club’s dock, at the foot of East 9th Street, in Cleveland. Later he owned a 35-foot cabin cruiser, the Harmony. In 1925 he won the cup at a CBC race and in 1928 another for Inter-Lake Yachting Association’s ten-mile race at Put-in-Bay. He is still a member of I-LYA and has recently joined the Great Lakes Historical Society.

Mr. Milton N. Gallup, President of Noyes P. Gallup & Sons, Inc., Cleveland, has been a commodore of the Cleveland Yachting Club since 1934. In 1938 be helped organize the Cleveland Chapter of the U. S. Power Squadron, becoming commander of the unit in 1938. His family’s summer home was at Put-in-Bay, where, at an early age, he was initiated into the mysteries of the steam launch by his grandfather, his father and an uncle. In World War I he served in the U. S. Emergency Fleet and in the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in World War II. Mr. Gallup is a Charter Member of the Great Lakes Historical Society and helped found the Museum. He has been a trustee of the Society since its beginning and has contributed other articles to INLAND SEAS.

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Crossing Lake Michigan – Fall 1965

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By Herbert A. Rehfeld

Back in the “Roaring Twenties” a steamship company known as the Pere Marquette Line Steamers, ran two ships across Lake Michigan between Milwaukee, Ludington and Manistee. One was the wooden steamer Virginia; her sistership was advertised as the “all-steel” steamer         Nevada.

During the summer travel season, one of these ships would leave each side of the Lake every evening and arrive at the opposite shore early the next morning. When winter came, only the Nevada sailed on a limited schedule.

As far back as I can remember, ships of all kinds always fascinated me. I would walk a couple of miles down to the lakefront just for a chance look at a ship either leaving or entering Milwaukee harbor. So you can imagine my disappointment, way back in July 1927, when my father, who had no stomach for anything that floats, decided I would not accompany my mother on a trip across the Lake for a two-weeks stay in Manistee.


Mother sailed on the Virginia one beautiful Saturday evening — an evening not so beautiful for me. For the next few days, I must have been a very difficult person to live with, because father arranged for my passage on the Nevada the Saturday following.

Waiting out the hours until sailing time was an eternity, I could not believe I was going alone! Time for me to leave finally arrived. As we left home, some rather ominous-looking clouds were darkening the northern sky as a sequel to a very hot day. My only fear was that the approaching storm would cause my father to decide against my leaving, for, after all, he had some qualms over me — a lad going on fifteen sailing alone — without the addition of a storm.

I believe I was rather rude in the way I bid father good-bye, but then I was overwhelmed with excitement.

The part where you boarded the ship was a foyer-like affair at the stern quarter of the freight deck. It was done up in shiny mahogany paneling, with a tile floor, purser’s window and several doors leading to offices and things. In the center was a wide, carpeted stairway with huge balusters leading to the main lounge above.


As I stood gazing about the foyer, a strange combination of odors puzzled me. I recognized the smell of ladies’ perfume, tobacco smoke and cooking food, but mixed with these was something I had never smelled before.

I passed a door partly ajar on my way to the stairs, and, of course, I had to peek in. There were steel steps leading down to a giant engine with its massive connecting rods lazily dancing up and down around an enormous crankshaft. It was here that I found the source of the strange odor. Just about the time my eyes were ready to pop, a man smiled up at me with his sweat-lined face and beckoned for me to come down, but being a little frightened, I made for the stairs instead.

The lounge was quite crowded with people and several white-coated waiters were hurrying about with trays of soda and ice. (I learned later that all this soda and ice was used to temper the prohibition whiskey drunk in the staterooms surrounding the main lounge.) The very ornate chandelier attracted my attention, possibly because of the slight flicker to the lights.

Everyone was talking, laughing and some even weeping as they bid their people good-bye. All this activity did not impress me too much, so I roamed about until I finally ended up on the stern top deck.

The storm was much closer now, with violent flashes of lightning and an almost constant rumble from thunder. The wind had increased considerably and, according to the surface ripples on the river, blew in gusts from different directions.

Two ship’s officers dressed in navy blue jackets, embellished in gold, with white slacks and shoes, hurried past me. I heard one remark to the other, “I hope we get out before it hits!”

I roamed the deck for a time, examining the lifeboats and other equipment, when a few large drops of rain made me decide to go below to the lounge. It was here I learned that our departure was being delayed by a passenger who decided not to sail when he found there were no more staterooms available. His car, which had been put on earlier in the day, was well up forward, consequently many others had to be moved to get it out.

As I walked about, I heard some of the more experienced lake travelers speculating as to whether the approaching storm would cause the captain to order a tug, because at times the Milwaukee River is tricky to navigate even with the best conditions. Walking forward from the lounge I entered the dining area where a few couples were attempting to dance to the music of a small orchestra, which had just started to play.

It was now a half hour past our sailing time and my impatience was beginning to weigh on me, so I decided to try the top deck again. Just as I reached the top of the stairs, the wind sent my cap sailing down the deck to a cleat near a lifeboat where I was able to retrieve it. The rain had stopped, it was hardly enough to wet the deck.

While standing at the stern rail watching the whirlpools made by the propeller as the engine was marking time, a blast from the whistle nearly raised me out of my shoes!

The stern line went slack and then dropped into the water. As it was being snaked into the side of the ship, a bell jangled and at the same time I heard the water making a noise like a rapids at the stern of the ship. A glance at the dock buildings told me that we were backing ever so slowly.

Just then it occurred to me that I had not been up in the bow of the ship. I started up the deck and as I was passing the stack, three blasts from the whistle not only shook me up again, but gave me a misty shower from the steam!

In good weather, a passenger ship going down-river usually has its decks filled with people, but on this trip I was just about the only one out. I found a sheltered place just ahead of the wheelhouse where I could hear the men inside talking, as the windows were down.

Some more jangling of bells started us moving forward towards mid-stream and a bridge which seemed would never open in time for us to pass. We went south down the river, through a few more bridges to a point where the Milwaukee and Menominee rivers meet. Here we had to go east in order to reach the Lake.

Menomonee River Railroad Swing Bridge

As we started to make this turn, I sensed something was wrong when the quietness of the wheelhouse was broken by voices and sudden activity. Bells jangled, and at the same time a blast came from the whistle. The anchor plunged into the river with the chain rattling out after it. The deck began to throb quite severely. The high wind had caused the ship to swing too far as we were making our turn. The measures taken were successful and so we continued eastward, dragging our anchor through some more bridges up to our last obstacle, a railroad swing bridge which refused to open on our signal. Holding the ship in midstream as the wind did its best to blow us against the dock, was a real test of the captain’s skill. The bridge opened after a passenger train went through and we were finally on our way to the Lake. A crew member came up in the bow and started pulling a fire hose from the rack. I wondered “What now!” He used it to play a stream of water on the chain and anchor as it was being taken in.

The wind struck us with all its fury as we left the shelter of the river and started across the harbor to the breakwater opening. I was forced to wrap my arm around the rail to keep from being blown down the deck. For the first time I saw Lake Michigan at its meanest. The waves constantly flung themselves over the breakwater so that it had the appearance of a waterfall. Out beyond, the water looked black in spite of the illumination from almost constant flashes of lightning. Three miles ahead of us the feeble glow from the lightship was not very reassuring as it beckoned us.

My spirit was finally daunted by the wind, forcing me to struggle back to where the deck was sheltered by the cabins. It was then that I was treated to an awesome sight. The city behind us looked eerie with its yellow lights and ghostlike buildings under the low black rolling clouds with just a thin blood-orange sky peeking through on the horizon.

I can still remember the tingling feeling I had in my stomach when we left the protection of the breakwater and the ship made its first roll — it seemed she would never come back again! This rolling continued until we reached the lightship, at which point our heading was changed to northeast. The rolling lessened considerably, but now we were plunging into seas that sent spray down the deck and I was obliged to go below to stay dry.

NEVADA under full steam

It was while down in the lounge that I became acquainted with a boy about my own age who was traveling to Canada with his parents. On a promise to stay out of trouble, his mother gave him permission to roam the ship with me. For a while the two of us found some excitement at the stern rail, where we could feel ourselves go up and then plunge down again as the ship drove through each wave.

Having told my friend of my experience in peeking down into the engine room when first boarding the ship, we decided to try our nerve on going down there.    The same man was still on watch and proved to be a very interesting guide as he showed us the mechanics of the ship. We were shown a steam steering engine, a dynamo and a condenser which was not in use. Last, but not least, was a very detailed discourse on the operation of a triple-expansion engine whose connecting rods were swinging up and down in earnest now, as compared to the first time I had seen them. We thanked the engineer and found our way to the freight deck where the autos were stored. It rather amused us to watch the cars jerk back and forth as they danced on their springs in response to the motion of the deck. When leaving the freight deck, I looked back to see a sign over the doorway. It read, “Passengers Not Allowed!” We explored the ship until one o’clock in the morning, when my friend’s mother finally caught up with us and insisted that he retire.

I went back to the top deck where I found the storm had blown itself out, and realized for the first time that the motion of the ship was a good deal easier. I took a steamer chair from the racks and sat in the shelter of the cabins where I fell asleep.

The eastern sky had a pink glow when I was awakened by the whistle. We were coming upon another ship. After standing at the rail for a time to watch the lights on the other vessel, I decided to see what was happening in the lounge.

Everything was quiet now, with some people unable to get berths sleeping in easy chairs. Because of the odor from the people who had been sick, I went to the dining area where the air was better.

A crewman, quietly moving chairs about as he mopped the floor, asked me if it was not a little early for me to be up. I told him of my adventures aboard ship, whereupon he remarked that a good sailor deserves some reward, and offered to get some bakery and a glass of milk for me.

We had a quiet little conversation in which he told me of his years on the Lakes. After about half an hour of talk and his job being finished, I thanked him and went back up on the top deck.

Ludington with a Pere Marquette passenger steamer and car ferry

The sun was just above the horizon, holding a promise for a beautiful new day. Although it was daylight, the Ludington light could be seen winking at us from some miles up ahead.

It was not long before we docked at Ludington, only a half hour late in spite of everything. After the autos were driven off the freight deck, a group of men with wheelbarrows marched back and forth like an army of ants, carrying coal up the large gangplank to the bunkers.

Two hours after leaving Ludington, we arrived at Manistee. As we approached the dock in the Manistee River, I spotted my mother and her friends, who had come down to the dock that fine Sunday morning just to watch the ship come in. It was quite a shock for her to see me standing at the ship’s rail, since she had no idea I would be on that boat. It was also a stroke of luck for me because, in my excitement when leaving home, I had forgotten the slip of paper on which was written the address of the place where I would find my mother. In view of the shortage of sleeping space, it was rather ironic that I should reach in my pocket just before leaving ship to find the key to a stateroom which I had never used!

After my experiences on the  Nevada, the trip home on the Virginia was quite uneventful, since the weather was perfect and mother was there to keep me in check.

Assuming that some readers are not familiar with the history of these two ships, I will attempt to relate briefly what happened to them.

NEVADA with stern cabins cut off for semi-trucks

One of the fine books on Great Lakes ships by Dana T. Bowen, reports that the Virginia left the Lakes to ply the Catalina Island waters. The Nevada suffered an ignominious end by having her cabins cut off from the stack aft, so she could carry semi-trailers across the Lake to Muskegon. At the start of World War II, she went into service along the Atlantic coast and, I believe, foundered in a gale or hurricane.

Today, the C&O carferries provide excellent passenger service from Milwaukee to Ludington. The Milwaukee Clipper, sailing during the summer months to Muskegon, is the last passenger ship, as such, providing fine accommodations for tourists as well as one-day excursionists.

Some people may think my memory is phenomenal to remember this trip in detail after so many years! I must confess I found some old notes used to write a story on this adventure while in high school.

In all fairness to my father, I should mention that he made a crossing on C&O’s SS Spartan a few years ago and thought it was wonderful!


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About the Author: Mr. Herbert A. Rehfeld was born on the shores of Lake Michigan, in Milwaukee, where be once again resides, after living in Mequon, Wisconsin, for several years. He started sailing at an early age, and, becoming interested in shallow water diving in his teens, developed a helmet for the amateur diver. Mr. Rehfeld worked one season as an oiler on a coal boat during the Depression, has frequently participated in sail boat races, and has sailed across Lake Michigan at least two dozen times. Many trips were also taken on Pere Marquette car ferries. For thirty years he has been associated with the Johnson Service Company, manufacturers of temperature controls used on most ocean-going vessels.  Mr. Rehfeld is a Sustaining Member of the Great Lakes Historical Society. 

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Imperial’s Ice Flight – Summer 1965

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By Gordon R. McKean

Each spring since 1948, Imperial Oil has made an aerial survey of the Great Lakes to discover what ice conditions exist, and then to make some estimate of how soon their ships can move. Often, several such flights are made to see how ice conditions have changed with differing wind and weather.


This year the company’s CF-IOC, a modified DC-3, took off from Toronto International Airport on April 2, lifting into the bright sun of the morning. Aboard were Captain J. W. Davidson and D. L. Harper, of the Marine Division staff, and at the controls were pilots Clark Ready and Lloyd Stewart, with Charles Foster as flight engineer.

The aircraft landed at Sarnia, where port superintendent Captain F. C. Smith and Captain James Burns, who will command Imperial London this season, boarded. Both are veteran lake masters.

Imperial has been carrying benzene to Bay City from Sarnia —could a ship get through? Finding the answer was one purpose of the flight. The lower end of Lake Huron was choked with ice, but ships had been moving through it. The air observers soon spotted the U.S. Coast Guard’s Acacia leading the S. T. Crapo toward the St. Clair River.

As the aircraft turned into Saginaw Bay, open water could be seen to the north. The bay, however, was ice covered. The answer to the Bay City trip was “No.” The plane headed for the St. Clair River.


In the river lay Imperial Cornwall, at anchor and awaiting the passage of larger ships before Tackling Lake St. Clair. She had made one trip to Windsor on March 16, but was buffeted by ice up to 18 inches thick and 55 mph gales on her return. The Coast Guard’s Bramble and Acacia struggled for most of the day to free her from the moving ice on Lake St. Clair, succeeded, and she returned to her home port of Sarnia.

There was still ice in Lake St. Clair, but the St. Clair and Detroit rivers were largely open. And on Lake Erie, northerly winds had cleared the north shore, but ice was visible to the south, becoming heavier to the east. Off Port Colborne, entrance to the Welland Ship Canal, a four-mile plug of ice sealed the Lake to shipping. Inside the canal, up-bound ships were waiting impatiently to move.

(The next day the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Simcoe found ice 20 inches to three feet thick and failed to open a passage.)

That answered the question: Could a ship get through the Welland Canal? Perhaps not until warmer weather, rain, or a northeast gale have done their work.

Lake Ontario was ice-free as the DC-3, airspeed 200 mph, winged over it. Charlie Foster served sandwiches and coffee as the ice observers relaxed in the comfortable seats and settees, and a pack of cards appeared. The flight was smooth — in contrast to the buffeting experienced on most “ice flights” — and the visibility excellent.

At the end of Lake Ontario a seemingly solid mass of ice below the Duck Islands barred passage. “Nothing has been through that,” said Jim Burns.

Ice covered Great Lakes

Could a chartered ship make a delivery to Kingston? Again, the answer was “No.” Ice in the harbor had started to melt, but the harbor approaches looked solid, and a vehicle was seen crossing the Bay of Quinte ice.

To a layman, all ice seen from the air appears to be much the same kind, but not to the experienced observers. Having battled it in ships, they have an uncanny ability to tell whether it is hard, rotted, rafted, and can form a good idea of its probable thickness.

No attempt was made to view ice conditions in Georgian Bay or the approaches to Lake Superior, for reports from the bay indicated that no shipping activity could be expected before April 15, and Lake Superior was heavily covered with ice.

Flying back along Lake Ontario’s north shore, the snow-covered ground bespoke a long, hard winter. The Trent River was open, but the lakes to the north wore a solid coat of snow and ice. Six hours after take off, Clark Ready set CF-IOC gently down on the runway of her home base and the ice reconnaissance ended.


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About the Author: Mr. Gordon R. McKean is editor of Imperial Oil Fleet News, quarterly journal published by and for the marine personnel of Imperial Oil Limited to better acquaint them with their company and with each other.

We are pleased that this timely article was written by Mr. McKean after he had seen but one issue of INLAND SEAS.

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