Clevelander fire tug fighting a dock fire

Fire Fighting Ships – Fall 1961

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

By Herbert W. Dosey

The importance of fire protection from the waterside became increasingly apparent in the major lake ports toward the end of the last century. Warehouses and other dockside structures had been hastily erected in an era that knew little about fireproof construction, and wooden wharves were burdened with piles of newly sawn lumber from the Upper Lakes. Some areas were hard to reach with vehicular fire extinguishing equipment and the number of available hydrants had been woefully inadequate to cope with major conflagrations.

Early Use of Tugs

The practical way to improve fire protection in the harbors was to equip small steam propelled vessels with high pressure steam pumps. Maximum maneuverability was essential for most effective action in confined harbor waters and since the tug type of hull with its large rudder area gave optimum flexibility, this hull type was adopted. While a tug is basically a towing vessel, this type of hull had inherent advantages which led to its universal adoption for services other than towing. Thus the misnomers ‘fish tug” and “fire tug” were popular designations of a distinct hull form, rather than a service title.

Harbor tugs have their towing bitts fitted well forward of the rudder stock to enable them to pivot freely while under the tension of a taut towline. This feature results in a long afterdeck which lends itself to the safe and proper handling of towlines. But the fire tug was not confined to towing requirements so the deckhouse was extended aft to accommodate the pumps.

Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee and Chicago have had elaborately equipped fire tugs for many decades and some of the smaller ports now have added fire protection from a high pressure nozzle mounted on the deckhouse of a local harbor tug with a suitable pump.

The Joseph L. Weatherly

The first fire tug in Cleveland was the Joseph L. Weatherly, whose historical record is rather incomplete, but from data supplied by Captain M. J. Masterson of the Cleveland Fire Department we learn that she was built by Thomas Manning, at Cleveland in 1886, from plans and specifications developed by William Cowels, a prominent New York naval architect. She was named after the Volunteer Fire Department Chief who later became the first president of Cleveland’s Board of Trade. Two sets of plans were submitted, for either steel or wood construction. The dimensions for both were identical with one exception. The overall length for the wooden hull was 79 feet exclusive of sheer, which was one foot longer than the designed length for a steel hull, the difference probably being due to the larger stern in a wooden hull.

After several conferences, it was decided to build the tug of wood and the principal dimensions were:
Length Overall       79 feet
Length at waterline 70 feet
Beam         22 feet 2 inches
Draft          8 feet 4 inches
Displacement         136 tons
Pump capacity        3,200 gallons per minute

The Excelsior Iron Works built the engine and Clapp & Jones had won the pump contract on their bid of $6,865.00. This contract was subsequently cancelled when Thomas Manning, Jr., and Company bid $5,940.00.

Lieutenant C. Anthony of Hook and Ladder Company No. 2 was appointed supervising inspector and the vessel was launched at 3:00 P. M. on August 4th, 1886. On trial trip from Cleveland Harbor Light to Rocky River, the Weatherly steamed seven miles in 41 minutes, which was a credit to her builders, and her master, Captain Moffett, her engineer, Thomas Mooney, and mate, C. C. Campbell, who held a Fire Department rating of lieutenant. Some green timber seems to have found its way into her hull because extensive dry rot was discovered after a few years and she was condemned in 1894.

The Clevelander and the John H. Farley

Clevelander fire tug fighting a dock fire


Her successor, the Clevelander, was also built in Cleveland by Thomas Manning, and commissioned on June 1, 1894. She cost $33,000.00 and was a most imposing vessel with a large rounded front pilothouse and a pleasing sheer. The hull was painted black, the deckhouse was red and all hose connections and deck fittings were polished brass.


Due to the frequency and intensity of fires in the lumber yards and oil refineries along the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, it was deemed advisable to have two fire tugs. The second vessel, named the John H. Farley, was slightly smaller than the Clevelander but she was also a very symmetrical and capable little ship. The Farley was built by the Union Engineering Company in Buffalo and commissioned January 11, 1895. Her high pressure non-condensing engine was built by the Thomas Manning Company and her fire pumps were those of the dismantled Weatherly.

In 1916 the Clevelander was retired from service and towed to Manitowoc by the wooden freighter Roumania. In the Manitowoc shipyard the Clevelander’s main engine and pumps were transferred to a new vessel and her hull was burned.

The George A. Wallace

Fire Tug Wallace docked with flat water and reflection


The successor to the Clevelander was named the George A. Wallace in honor of the Cleveland Fire Chief, and commissioned July 18, 1916. She was constructed of steel, had an overall length of 86 feet 6 inches, a beam of 20 feet 6 inches and her draft was 11 feet 6 inches. Gross tonnage was 112; net 72. Her pumping capacity was 4,000 G. P. M.

These two able fire fighting ships protected the Cleveland waterfront from fire losses until September 5, 1936, when they were sold to H. J. Dixon in Toronto. The Farley was converted for towing and steamed east to Montreal where she was engaged as a harbor tug.

The venerable Wallace was rebuilt by the Toronto Dry Dock Company who dealt kindly with her, keeping her name and certain embellishments out of pure sentiment. For instance, the galloping white horse remained on her red pilothouse door, and fire axes and holders were retained wherever possible. She ultimately entered the colorful but rugged career of an icebreaker in Halifax.


During World War II, the United States Coast Guard provided fire protection to Cleveland shipyards and other defense industries with a 64 foot converted steel fishing vessel CG64022 -F. This craft was purchased by the city in 1945 and is still in service as the Marvet.

A new Clevelander was built by the Paasch shipyard in Erie in 1954. This is a diesel powered craft with a pumping capacity of 6,000 G. P. M. Upon completion of a new fire tug now on the stocks in Erie, the Marvet will be retired. Thus two diesel powered fire boats now serve the port of Cleveland but, in conformity with the modern trend, they are strictly and austerely functional and entirely devoid of the character and personality of their predecessors.

Other venerable fire tugs which earned well deserved recognition were the W. S. Grattan (re-named Firefighter and now the Edward M. Cotter) and the George R. Potter in Buffalo, the James R. Elliott and James Battle in Detroit and the Illinois, Joseph Medill and Graeme Stewart in Chicago.

The sight of a fire tug in action during a roaring night fire was truly inspiring as the pilothouse windows and the brass fittings reflected the glow of the flames. Black smoke unfolding from the stack, blended with the white exhaust steam that shrouded the vessel in an eerie sheen of unreality. The pumping position was usually head-on to the fire with a slowly turning propeller to offset the thrust of the high pressure nozzles which had a tendency to push the vessel astern. The hiss and thud of water thrown against burning timbers and the pulsating exhaust of the steam pumps gave very impressive tones to an exciting and unforgettable scene.

When the fire was out, and all danger had been allayed, the fire tug returned to her station where she gently nudged her dock and patiently awaited the next urgent call to duty. Here her decks were swabbed and she was polished and groomed while the slowly escaping steam whispered a sibilant lullaby to a true “Sleeping Giant.”

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Pipes of multiple sizes and colors in a semi-dark passageway

Color and Color Psychology on Shipboard – Summer 1961

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

By Harry Sheid

Attractive color styled ships beam a hearty welcome-on-board to crew and passengers alike. Pleasant quarters, and safe, color- coded working conditions maintain high crew morale and boost alertness and efficiency. Besides, authoritative color styling increases the effectiveness of good lighting and seeing.

In the past, color has been used mainly on-board luxury liners. However, in the last few years a number of cargo ships have dressed up most attractively in the colors of the rainbow.

Today the color consciousness of the traveling public (paying as well as paid ones) has advanced to a stage where management of public carriers (and for our purpose this includes cargo ships) is compelled to give color a more prominent role in the decor of their ships, planes and trains. The result has been striking. People love the well-designed color styling of the vessels and vehicles, and travel in them in unheard of numbers to every corner of the globe.

Obviously, the terrific increase in travelers is due in considerable extent to greater comfort and more attractive accommodations that carriers offer today. This applies not only to the passengers, but to the crew as well.

In this jet age, the crew of a modern steamship, be it a transatlantic or lake ship, no more resembles the old-time deckhand, than a modern gas station attendant resembles the old “grease-monkey.” The modern crew — men and officers alike — expect and get comfortable quarters, friendly and cheerfully color styled, well lighted and spacious — at least visual spaciousness —achieved by scientifically and psychologically chosen colors.

Now, let us start with the ship’s quarters. Hardly need it be said that they should have an atmosphere of home-away-from-home. With due consideration to rank and work the quarters should be homey: soft pastel wall colors with pleasing accents in furniture and upholstery. The deference to rank should and does become apparent in location, type and size of the quarters in addition to special furnishings and decor.

5 people sitting at a table with coffee cups in wood paneled room

Modern (2015) passenger quarters

The color decor of living rooms, mess rooms, recreation rooms should be relaxing in character and conducive to pleasant camaraderie. On the other hand, corridors, passageways, storage spaces and similar areas should be as light as practical in order to prevent mishaps, yet, by no means need they be monotonous.

Engine rooms and machinery are the pride of every engineer — just as the captain is proud of his ship. On coal-fired ships the boiler and engine rooms were subject to much coal dust and smoke which made the use of attractive clean color impractical; and with generally poor lighting prevalent, the extensive use of high gloss white was all but mandatory.

We can readily imagine and practically feel the terrific eye-strain those engineers had to endure in looking all day long at two of the strongest contrasts — glossy white walls and dark deck and machines. And with no safety-color-coding whatsoever, the engineer’s job was a very hazardous one to boot.

Due to the modern streamlined ship installations, a most effective color styling of engine rooms can be accomplished today. There is no excuse any more for an engine room to be dingy, depressing and hazardous; it can be clean and smart looking, to put an up-to-date kitchen to shame, and with “Safety First” color-coding given first consideration.

The clinical white and dark grays have disappeared from the engine rooms as they have from hospital operating rooms. In the place of the stark gloss white, pleasing pastels in soft sheen have appeared on the walls and lively and deeper values of greens, blues, terra cotta and turquoise on machines are seen. Controls and handrails are accented with bright yellow, fire equipment in bright red, whereas first aid stations are marked by “safety green.”

Pipes of multiple sizes and colors in a semi-dark passageway

Engine Room

These “safety” colors dramatically placed, stress attention. With powerful insistence they impress upon the crew the location of safety devices so that his reach for them in cases of emergency will be instantaneous — regardless of where he may find himself or what he may be doing.

Pleasant color styling commands cleanliness, to the worker or crew there is no difference between his beautiful home and his clean and neat workshop. His sense of neatness and cleanliness is stimulated and he knows that he is expected to keep his equipment clean and in order and he takes pride in doing so, enjoying his work and shop all the more. This is a potent psychological influence of color.

The exterior colors must be practical for the purpose for which the vessel is being used — a nice clean white hull would hardly be suitable for an iron ore carrier or oil tanker. Dashing colors for this type of ship will have to be limited to parts of the superstructure. Hull colors should be, more or less, cover-ups, i.e., make spillage less visible, yet provide the best protection possible.

Now to a few facts vs. fancies about color styling. Fancy has it that “any color will do as long as it looks sharp and snappy,” be it kitchen gadget, giant drill press or ship. The fact is that a color to serve its purpose well should be chosen with painstaking care and consideration. And fancy has it also that any color is good to brighten things up and modernize with; the fact is that only a careful selection of colors —- based upon scientific and psychological principles — can work the beauty miracle expected of them in new creations or modernizations of old ones.

Finally, a few remarks about the psychology of color applied on shipboard. Naturally, the color decor of the interiors and color styling of the exterior should be in keeping with good design (proportion of color) and discriminating taste without going to such extremes as a Cartier or Tiffany color styling for bulk carriers.

What is more dreaded than fire on board ship, especially on the high seas? Therefore, RED — the international color and signal for danger and fire — is used only for the fire fighting equipment and fire station markings. It may be important to mention here that fire retardant paints that produce a dried film that will not support combustion are widely used and specified for interiors, not only for naval vessels but in commercial shipping as well.

To return to color, ORANGE, being the most aggressive hue, is used in industrial plants to spot dangerous moving parts of machinery that might cut, bruise or crush. On ship it is now being used on all life saving equipment and on the inside of lifeboats.

YELLOW, a sacred color in the Orient, is without question the gayest color of the spectrum; although no captain would want to see the yellow flag hoisted on his ship — it means quarantine, a contagious disease has broken out on board. However, a strong intense yellow is ideal for the controls of machinery in order to be seen and reached instantly from the corner of the eye; it is excellent to edge the treads of stairs to prevent stumbling; besides, it lends the equipment and interior areas a fresh, smart and spirited sparkle.

GREEN, the easiest color to use — perhaps because of our familiarity with it in grass and foliage — can be used anywhere in its various values of light, medium or dark; but its strongest use is reserved for first aid station and equipment markings — usually with a green cross.

BLUE, like green is cool and soothing in effect and when wisely used, can be exceedingly attractive and pleasing.

VIOLET is reserved in industry for atomic installations, or for identifying pipes with special or very valuable contents. RED-VIOLET, the color of pomp and state, in times past was the exclusive prerogative of kings and cardinals.

WHITE is ideal for certain corners to keep them clean and sanitary. Pure colors are powerful in effect and are very tiring when used on large areas; yet they are to an interior or exterior what costume jewelry is to a woman’s dress; they get attention, therefore, their immense value in “safety first” codes.

Shades or deep colors are “heavy”; they foreshorten a room and make an object appear heavier or more substantial than it is in reality. Being masculine in quality, men prefer them; they absorb heat and make an interior hotter.

Light colors, called also “tints” or “pastels,” have a reverse effect visually and psychologically; they make a room seem larger and more spacious and an object lighter than it is. Their delicate nature, generally speaking, appeals to women in particular; they reflect heat and make an interior cooler. This fact of physics is very much taken advantage of by the petroleum industry to cut down the evaporation in tanks storing volatile materials.

Blue/Green passenger vessel - Aquarama


No longer is it just theory, that colors have a most decided effect and influence in our lives — literally from the cradle to the grave. The experience an infant has had with a certain colored object — whether it was shock or joy — will stay with him all his life, subconsciously, to be sure. Certain color combinations can make an interior happy and easy to live in, others cause tension and ill will. It should be stressed that color styling for interiors where men work, eat and relax, always in close proximity to each other, is not only attractive and satisfying to the esthetic sense and the appreciation of beauty, but also that these same colors are psychologically sound and compatible.

There are safety and decorating colors; there are colors that neutralize and soothe; there are depressing colors and colors that excite; there are boring colors and stimulating colors; but all colors cause definite emotional, mental and spiritual reactions — yes, frequently even severe physical reactions.

Red freighter with white cabins on very blue water - Edmund Fitzgerald


Surely, this diverse influence of color can cause reactions on the passengers and crews of a ship as well as in people in stores, offices, homes or industrial plants.      The colors and color combinations should reflect the nature of a vessel — the Aquarama would be differently color styled than, say, an ore carrier like the Edmund Fitzgerald. Then too, it should and does reflect to a large extent the character of the shipowner. Color can mean light and life, or sickness and death. Color is the garment of nature and a mystery to man.


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About the Author: Mr. Harry Scheid, Color Consultant for the Sherwin-Williams Company, Cleveland, Ohio, read this paper as background for an illustrated lecture given before the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, Great Lakes and Great Rivers Section, in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 19, 1961.

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Pencil sketch of young man with hair over his ears, head and shoulders, Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens on Lake Erie – Spring 1961

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

By David D. Anderson

Pencil sketch of young man with hair over his ears, head and shoulders, Charles Dickens

A sketch of Charles Dickens from 1842

On Saturday, January 28, 1842, a young man not quite thirty years old arrived in Boston on the new steam packet Britannia, 24 days out from Liverpool. Immediately he stepped into a reception that became a nation-wide event, a reception the like of which no author had ever received in the United States up to that time and which has never been repeated. Charles Dickens, the young author- reformer and outspoken champion of the underdog, had arrived in America at an opportune time. Not only was 1842 a year of little domestic excitement, but it was a time in which reform was in the air.

Jacksonian democracy ruled the country; abolition, women’s suffrage, temperance, and prison-reform movements occupied much of the national attention. In the midst of this democratic and reform upheaval the spokesman of reform arrived, and almost every American with some pet project of his own could claim Dickens as a champion. Likewise, there was much Dickens could learn in this unique time and place.

His journey through the East has been described many times. After visiting Boston, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, and other cities, Dickens, taking the nation by storm, turned his attention to the West, while his letters to England and the notes which later became American Notes, recorded what he saw and experienced. His letters and notes show a growing dissatisfaction with American life and manners as the tour progressed.

After receptions in Harrisburg, Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis, traveling by coach, canal boat, and steamboat, encountering conveyances and accommodations ranging from primitive to palatial, Dickens decided to cross Ohio by coach and train from Cincinnati to Sandusky, take a ship for Niagara, visit the Falls, and pass over into Canada. In recording the journey, his notes and letters become increasingly complaining; the accommodations are poor; the people are rude, much given to staring and to spitting and swearing. After taking a coach to Columbus and then to Tiffin, he boarded the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad, which had recently reached Tiffin, and proceeded to Sandusky. This portion of the journey, through Ohio and across the length of Lake Erie, is sketchily treated in the American Notes and scarcely more carefully recorded in the letters, especially in those to his friend, John Forster. In addition, there is some confusion and contradiction between letters and Notes. In the letters, for example, he states that he stayed at Lower Sandusky; in the Notes, this becomes, correctly, Upper Sandusky. Likewise, in the letters he ignored both Tiffin and the railroad journey to Sandusky; in the Notes he commented merely that the construction of the railroad was “indifferent” and that traveling on it was very slow. On Saturday, April 23, Dickens arrived in Sandusky to seek his passage by steamer.

Book cover of American Notes by Charles Dickens


For examining carefully this portion of the journey neither the Notes nor the letters alone is sufficient. Much detail has been omitted from the Notes, thus misleading historians who depended too heavily upon them, and likewise one senses (but of course cannot prove) in the letters that Dickens by this time had begun to realize that his complaints were becoming monotonous to his friends, and he then shifted his attention to a microscopic description of detail which he attempted to make humorous to his sophisticated English friends.

Of Sandusky in 1842, Dickens says little in the American Notes, merely commenting that “The town, which was sluggish and uninteresting enough, was something like the back of an English watering-place, out of the season.” The rest of his comments on the place are devoted to descriptions of his host, who meant well, but whose behavior Dickens implied he would undoubtedly find offensive at home. In addition, he describes a “little old lady” whose sole talent was picking her teeth with a large pin after each meal. He concluded that “whatever we wished done was done with great civility and readiness, and a desire to oblige “

However, the letter to Forster dated “Sandusky, Sunday, Twenty- fourth April 1842” presents a picture that is not only more vivid and more detailed but which also rings with an air of spontaneity impossible to find in the Notes. He commences his description of Sandusky by writing, “We are in a small house here, but a very comfortable one, and the people are exceedingly obliging.” However, after giving lip service to his accommodations, he turns his attention to the residents: “Their demeanor in these country parts is invariably morose, sullen, clownish, and repulsive. I should think there is not on the face of the earth, a people so entirely destitute of humor, vivacity, or the capacity of enjoyment . . . I have not heard a hearty laugh . . . nor have I seen a merry face on any shoulders but a black man’s.” From examination of personality, he turns to social deportment. “Lounging listlessly about; idling in bar-rooms; smoking; spitting; and lolling on the pavement in rocking chairs, outside the shop-doors; are the only recreations.” Then, apropos of national character, he states “I don’t think the national shrewdness extends beyond the Yankees; that is, the Eastern men. The rest are heavy, dull, and ignorant.” The landlord, too, receives a short, pungent description:

He is a handsome, obliging, civil fellow. He comes into the room with his hat on; spits in the fireplace as he talks; sits down on the sofa with his hat on; pulls out his newspaper and reads; but to all this I am accustomed. He is anxious to please — and that is enough.

old brick building on street

The Porter House (Exchange Hotel)

Dickens’ description of Sandusky and its inhabitants ends a short paragraph later; a steamer came in sight and he was obliged to interrupt his letter, eat a hasty dinner, and go aboard. Behind him, however, he left in Sandusky stories and impressions that still remain. One, probably apocryphal, is that he stayed in the Porter House, and that later praises of its cuisine gave rise to the popularity of that American delicacy, porterhouse steak. There is, however, no verification of this available.

Another less pleasant legend is that for a generation after the American Notes appeared, with its much more restrained description of the inhabitants than that contained in the letter to Forster, Dickens’ works were boycotted by the offended residents of Sandusky.

The actual passage on the Lake from Sandusky to Buffalo also appears in two versions, that of the letters and that of the Notes, and, as before, the letters give the more graphic description. In the Notes he describes the ship briefly as “a large vessel of some five hundred tons, and handsomely fitted up, though with high-pressure engines; which always conveyed that kind of feeling to me, which I should be likely to experience, I think, if I had lodgings on the first-floor of a powder mill.” He does not identify the ship in the Notes, and Harlan Hatcher, in Lake Erie, designates it as the Constellation. However, in the letter to John Forster dated Tuesday, April 26, 1842, the day he landed at Buffalo, Dickens states that it was the Constitution. Although both vessels were in the Buffalo- Detroit trade at the time, there is no reason to suspect that Dickens was mistaken in the name.

In the Notes he mentions its cargo, flour in barrels, some of which was carried on deck. This was convenient for the Captain, Dickens notes, for he

. . . seated himself astride of one of these barrels, like a Bacchus of private life; and pulling a great clasp-knife out of his pocket, began to “whittle” it as he talked, by paring thin slices off the edges. And he whittled with such industry and hearty good will, that but for his being called away very soon, it must have disappeared bodily, and left nothing in its place but grist and shavings.

The ship called at “one or two flat places, with low dams stretching out into the lake, whereon were stumpy lighthouses, like windmills without sails. . . .“ Evidently he is here referring to Black River, later Lorain, as described by Henry Howe in Historical Collections of Ohio, based on Howe’s journeys in 1846-47.

Dickens’ description of the trip from Sandusky to Cleveland in the letter to Forster of April 26, is much briefer and much more personal than that in the Notes. The steamship, he notes, is the Constitution, of “four hundred tons burden,” rather than five hundred tons as stated in the Notes; it had few passengers aboard, but “bountiful and handsome accommodations.” His comments on the Lake are to the point: “It’s all very fine talking about Lake Erie, but it won’t do for persons who are liable to sea-sickness. We were all sick. It’s almost as bad in that respect as the Atlantic. The waves are very short, and horribly constant.”

Young woman, side profile from 1940s

Catherine Dickens

At midnight of April 24, the ship docked at Cleveland, and the brief overnight stay provided several humorous incidents. The first of these he describes indignantly to Forster: “We lay all Sunday night at a town (and a beautiful town too) called Cleveland; on Lake Erie. The people poured on board, in crowds, by six on Monday morning, to see me; and a party of ‘gentlemen’ actually planted themselves before our little cabin, and stared in at the door and windows while I was washing, and Kate lay in bed.” The last portion was savagely underscored by Dickens. This, of course, is not mentioned in the Notes.

The second of the humorous incidents receives double treatment. The more restrained version, omitting a significant feature, appears in the Notes; the more forthright and vivid was written to Forster. He recounts in the letter that he was “so incensed” at the above incident and at an article appearing in a Cleveland newspaper which he had seen the day before in Sandusky

. . . (advocating war with England to the death, saying that Britain must be ‘whipped again,’ and promising all true Americans that within two years they should sing “Yankee Doodle” in Hyde Park and “Hail Columbia” in the courts of Westminster), that when the mayor came on board to present himself to me, according to custom, I refused to see him. His honor took it very coolly, and retired to the top of the wharf, with a big stick and a whittling knife, with which he worked so lustily (staring at the closed door of our cabin all the time) that long before the boat left, the big stick was no bigger than a cribbage-peg!

The treatment of this incident in American Notes is much more subdued. Dickens admits to “quite a curiosity” about the town because of the newspaper account, which he correctly attributes to Lord Ashburton’s arrival in Washington to confer with Daniel Webster over points of dispute between the two countries. Dickens does not mention the incident with the mayor in the Notes; he concludes his comments on the newspaper article by saying, “I did not enjoy the delight of seeing the wit who indited the paragraphs in question, but I have no doubt he is a prodigious man in his way, and held in high repute by a select circle.” In the Notes, then, he has substituted irony for the indignation he expressed to Forster.

One other incident which occurred while the steamer was tied up at Cleveland is recounted in the Notes, although it is not mentioned in the letters. This concerned a gentleman who, with his wife, occupied the cabin next to Dickens. The walls were quite thin, and Dickens overheard a series of complaints made by the man about Dickens’ presence on the ship. However, there is no indignation in the passage; Dickens merely expresses amused superiority.

pencil sketch of niagara falls view from river below falls

Niagara Falls in 1840

The steamer left Cleveland at nine o’clock on Monday morning; it stopped at Erie for an hour, at eight that evening, and finally arrived at Buffalo between five and six the next morning. Dickens is silent in both sources about the events of this portion of the journey. Perhaps the combination of sea-sickness and the anticipation of seeing Niagara Falls was enough to deaden misperception during that part of the trip. Immediately after breakfast on the morning of April 26, he departed for Niagara by train, and two hours later he crossed the gorge by ferry, leaving American soil behind. It is interesting to note that in his letter to Forster of Apri1 26, he wrote at the head “Niagara Falls!!! (Upon the English Side.)” Forster points out that the word English was underscored ten times. Further in the letter he mentions meeting two English officers and comments “Ah! What gentlemen, what noblemen of nature they seemed.” With that, he passed on to a description of the Falls which has many times been reproduced.

Dickens’ journey through Ohio and down Lake Erie in 1842 was made at a time when one of the most profound revolutions of history was going on. The transformation from frontier to civilization was in full sway, as he might have perceived from the extreme contrasts in accommodations and in transportation on the trip. Likewise, he might have perceived that the very people who offended him so frequently were the people who were carrying on that revolution and bringing an empire into being. But Dickens would have none of this. As a result, his vision was distorted; he was concerned with appearance rather than reality, and his descriptions, while interesting, are much less than they could have been. The West was brawling, dynamic, growing. It could not be interpreted in terms of an orderly English countryside.

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About the Author: Dr. Anderson, a graduate of Bowling Green State University, has taught English at General Motors Institute and at Michigan State University where he is presently on the teaching staff in the Department of Communication Skills. He received his Ph.D. in 1960 and has been given a research grant by Michigan State University to work on a projected history of Great Lakes travel literature which he hopes to complete in 1962.

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A sketch of two Great Lakes steamboats from the 1860s

The Steamboat KINGSTON: Was She Rebuilt into the Steamboat BAVARIAN – Winter 1960

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

By Erik Heyl

The iron-hull steamboat Kingston was constructed in 1855, by Bartley and Dunbar of Montreal1, for the Honorable John Hamilton of Kingston, Ontario. Registered at Kingston, the vessel measured 174 feet long, 26 2/10 feet beam and 9 feet depth. Her gross tonnage was 345 863/3500, engine room 143 tons, giving a register tonnage of 201 863/3500 tons. The hull was clencher built, sloop rigged, fiddle head, no galleries, one deck and one mast. The vertical beam engine was driven by two boilers, set athwartships on either side of the engine.

Prince of Wales and his contengient at Niagara Falls in 1860

The Prince of Wales at Niagara Falls with his party in 1860

Kingston was placed on the Kingston-Toronto service. On August 28, 1860, the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, the Governor- General of Canada and a large party proceeded by railroad from Montreal to Dickinson’s Landing. Here the Kingston was boarded and took her distinguished guests back to Montreal via the rapids of the St. Lawrence River. On September 7, 1860, the Royal Party again boarded the Kingston at Cobourg and were taken to Toronto. A week later Kingston was honored for the third time when she took the Prince and his entourage back from Toronto to Montreal.

The career of Kingston was unusually free of the more or less minor accidents and mishaps to which most of the vessels on the Great Lakes were exposed. This happy state of affairs abruptly came to an end on June 11, 1872.

On this day Kingston cleared Brockville, Ontario, at 1:30 P.M. with about 100 passengers for Toronto, where she was to embark the Queen’s Own and the Governor-General’s Bodyguard for Niagara. When off Grenadier Island, about eighteen miles above Brockville, fire was discovered in one of the rooms located near the smokestacks. Despite the efforts of the passengers and crew the fire spread rapidly and the stricken steamboat was headed for Grenadier Island, where she was beached. The flames prevented the launching of more than one lifeboat, and this capsized on reaching the shore, a woman passenger drowning; her life belt was improperly adjusted.

The propeller Dominion, bound downriver shortly after the accident, picked up the survivors and brought them all to Brockville. The Kingston burned to the water’s edge and was a complete wreck2.

A sketch of two Great Lakes steamboats from the 1860s


We now come to the crux of this story: was Kingston abandoned where she lay, with only her engine being removed later, or was the burned-out hull salvaged together with the engine and rebuilt into the Bavarian?

The Official Canadian Government Report (1) states: “She was destroyed by fire off Grenadier Island on June 11, 1872. There were two casualties and the ship was completely destroyed, loss estimated at $75,000.” Note the words, “completely destroyed,” as well as the amount of the loss!

To lend credence to the above statement there is another official report concerning the loss of the steamboat Bavarian on November 5, 1873, to the Canadian Minister of Marine and Fisheries3, from which the following pertinent parts are quoted: “The Bavarian was an iron paddle-wheel steamer of 230 tons register, and 427 tons gross. She was built in Montreal, and came out in the spring of 1873. The engine was about 18 years old. It was taken out of the steamer Kingston after the burning of that vessel, was repaired, and put into the new hull.

The engine, which is known as a beam engine, was placed about the centre of the vessel, with the steam cylinder towards the stern and the cranks forward. The engine room was open to the main deck saloon fronting the ladies’ cabin. The boilers were under the deck on each side of the engine, the front of the boiler towards the bow, and just past the crank room. The steam chimneys, with their smoke-pipes, stood just forward of the crank room.” Note that while it was stated that the engine was 18 years old and had been taken out of the Kingston, it is specifically stated that it was put into a new hull!

Additional evidence, of a negative type, is the fact that a careful and painstaking search of the files of newspapers at Douglas Memorial Library, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, failed to locate any mention of the removal of the burned-out hull from Grenadier Island.

On the other hand, it is stoutly claimed by such well-known authorities on Great Lakes vessels as Mr. Robert W. Shepherd of Como, Quebec, Captain Frank E. Hamilton of Kelleys Island, that the entire hull of Kingston was salvaged and rebuilt into the Bavarian. Both of these gentlemen insist that an iron hull would be damaged by fire to such an extent as to ensure complete destruction. They argue, and in the writer’s opinion it’s a valid and logical point, that if the fire had been of such intensity as to destroy the hull, it would have most certainly also destroyed the machinery, which would probably have been subjected to greater heat than the hull itself, which was cooled off by the outside air.

A Guide to the J. Ross Robertson Historical Collection4, states in an explanatory note to print No. 2604 as follows: “Kingston, 1855-72 — Bavarian 1873, then Algerian — The steamer was of 456 tons, and built at Montreal for Royal Mail Line and Canadian Navigation Co.; . . . wrecked in the St. Lawrence, 1872, she was rebuilt and renamed Bavarian, but in 1873 was burned near Bowmansville with great loss of life. She was rebuilt as the Algerian, and in 1875 was bought by the R. and O. Co.” Other books on marine history, such as Croyl’s History of Steam Navigation, also assert that Kingston became Bavarian. However, Canadian Illustrated News, under date of November 15, 1873, states: ‘On Wednesday week the Bavarian, a new steamer of the Canadian Navigation Company’s line was burnt on Lake Ontario fifteen miles off Oshawa.” Mr. Shepherd also suggests that if Kingston was rebuilt, this job was done at Montreal for the reason that at that time work was in progress enlarging the St. Lawrence canals and it would have been quite a job towing the wreck to Montreal when Kingston was so near and handy. Mr. Shepherd further mentions that in all the Canadian shipping lists he has, Cornwall (Algerian, Bavarian, Kingston.) shows built at Kingston in 1874 but registered at Montreal.

Great Lakes steamboat Algerian with large plume of black smoke


One more factor is to be considered, and that is the stunt of advertising some broken down or wrecked old “crock,” which has been fixed up and revamped as a spick and span, brand new boat. In connection with Kingston/ Algerian, the following advertisement in the Toronto Globe April 22, 1874, is quoted:


A new steamer, named Algerian will be launched shortly from the ship-yard at Kingston. She belongs to the Canadian Navigation Company, and is to take the place of the Bavarian.

A rather different tune is played by the Toronto Globe in an item under date of July 9, 1874:


. . . The old Bavarian, alias the old Kingston will soon be on the route under a new name, with the old engines that have twice passed through fire.

Then this item appeared somebody must have gotten busy, for exactly 12 days later, on July 17, 1874, the Globe printed this:


The new Algerian is on. She is quite handsome and good, and is commanded by” Capt. Trewell, a gentleman well qualified for the position, as indeed are all the other captains of the line.

Truly, there’s nothing new under the sun!

In conclusion, the writer wishes to express his deep and appreciative thanks to Miss Melva Eagleson of the Douglas Library, Queen’s University, Kingston, and to Dr. W. Kaye Lamb, Dominion Archivist, Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, for their most generous assistance and cooperation which have been of inestimable advantage. Sincere thanks are also tendered to Mr. Robert W. Shepherd and to Captain Frank E. Hamilton.

  1. Dept. of Marine and Fisheries. Annual Report for the Year ending the 30th June, 1872, p. 298-299. Sessional paper No. 8, 1873.
  2. The Toronto Globe, June 12, p. 1, CO l. 6.
  3. Dept. of Marine and Fisheries. Annual Report for the Year ending 30th June, 1873. Appendix No. 44. “Report of Investigation into the Causeof the Wreck of the Steamer Bavarian.”
  4. Ross Robertson, Landmarks of Canada: A Guide to the J. Ross Robertson Historical Collection in the Public Reference Library, Toronto, Canada. Toronto, 1917.

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By Road, Rail, Canal and Lake – Fall 1960

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

By Road, Rail, Canal and Lake – From Massachusetts to Michigan in 1836

By Lucia Sparhawk

The history of the Sparhawk family in America begins with Nathaniel Sparhawk(e) who settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1836. The following letter in the possession of Mr. Ernest N. Jennison, of Lakewood, Ohio was written by Lucia Sparhawk, a cousin of Mr. Jennison’s grandmother, Naomi Sparhawk Jennison. The aunts “Lee” and “Richardson” to whom the letter was addressed were his grandmother’s aunts. Lucia’s brother, Arthur, living in Pontiac, Michigan, in all probability had influenced his sister in her decision to make the long journey to Pontiac, Michigan, to teach school near there. The original letter being long and quite personal, many passages have been omitted. The text retained has been selected and arranged to show travel conditions, primarily in the Great Lakes region, during the 1830’s. We are indebted to Mr. Jennison , a long time member of the Great Lakes Historical Society, for sending us this material from his family files for publication here.  Inland Seas Editor – 1960

Pontiac, Michigan April 13, 1836

My dear Uncles and Aunts:

Now I am some in doubt where to begin my narrative of events since I left you, but I suppose you will have some curiosity to know how I progressed in my journey from the first; I will go back to the day I left my dear home in Templeton, [Mass.] and commenced for the first time, what I consider my exit from my own land. The journey from Templeton to Brattleboro was fatiguing in the extreme, and we left B at 2 the succeeding morning. There had been a day or two previous a violent rain; the roads were of course bad, and coaches crowded to excess. I never realized so much difficulty in traveling before. I was obliged to watch my baggage with an eagle eye, and almost to stand upon it; my courage nearly failed once or twice before we reached Albany. I thought, if there is so much confusion and trouble in the country, what would it be in the city? But a Kind Providence took care of me. The roads were so bad we did not reach Albany till 1 in the morning. The hotel to which I had been directed was full, and I was carried to the nearest at hand. Do you think it very pleasant, at that time of night or morning, to enter a public house in a strange city, with no other female up, and only the barkeeper or porter to show me my place of rest? I was not troubled with sleeping too sound, I assure you.

The cars for Schenectady left at 8 in the morning. My trunks were loaded on a cart and set off long before we did. Arrived at the railroad I encountered a scene I do not wish to again see of confusion, and noise. After nearly one hour of waiting and anxiety we were ready to set off. At Schenectady we were all unloaded and such a scrambling ensued as I never witnessed. Canal boats were waiting for passengers and all anxious to get as many as possible; porters and draymen, boys and drivers fighting for baggage for their respective masters. The day was very fine and we were under way on the great [Erie] canal at 11. And then, when quietly seated in the cabin of the neat well-furnished packet boat, I had leisure to think, which I had hardly done for 2 days. I cannot tell you, my dear friends, the strange sensations which crowded my heart.

But everything looked bright and beautiful and in the novelty of the scenes around me, I found a refuge from torturing thought. Passing through locks was to me a great curiosity. At our side flowed the beautiful Mohawk, its bright clear waters contrasted with the muddy stream on which we were quietly moving. After dinner, we sat down to our knitting work and could hardly think we were on board a boat at all. During this time my name happened to be mentioned and a gentleman who sat apart in a window turned to me and asked me if I was any way connected with Mr. Sparhawk of Pontiac, as he was well acquainted with him. Here was another provision of Providence. This gentleman was going directly to Detroit and would take charge of me and mine. The country through which we passed was not very pleasant. Of course, the canal goes through the most level and uninteresting parts.

Erie Canal, 1930s

The evening was delightful but very damp, too much so to be on deck and the cabin was close and hot. At 9 the curtain that divided the cabin was lowered and the beds hung round the sides of the boat. The beds are sacking with a very thin mattress, so narrow you must lie very still or roll off onto the floor. Everything is huddled together and you can hardly stir. The first night we were going through locks all night. At the first one I thought the boat was about to be crushed to pieces and called to know what the matter could be. I was answered by a laugh from someone and told not to be afraid, but I knew no more of sleep. Some of the best scenery on the canal we passed the first night. The next day, Thursday, was dullness itself. Not even a lock; flat, flat, flat. No hills of any height, we had looked our last on the blue hills of New England and New York. A dead level lay before us. The only variety was the winding of the canal and some pretty villages; but the latter were almost universally deformed with some tokens of intemperance.

I should have told you that Thursday morn found us at Utica, a beautiful city, but we had no time to see it. Thursday evening we arrived at Syracuse too late to see anything, changed boats and went directly on for Rochester. At Syracuse our company separated, part preferring stages to the monotony of the canal. I should much rather have left the boat except on account of baggage.

Friday was pleasant but the bridges so low it is dangerous being on deck, the front of the boat the only place for staying out doors. This afternoon we passed the high embankment. It is curious and almost terrific. Far, far below the canal is a river. On one side a mill and several houses. The road passes under the canal. A carriage is seen coming down the hill on one side. It disappears and in a few minutes emerges on the opposite side. As the canal winds, you have a full view of the embankment in front. I am not positive how high it is but, I believe, more than a hundred feet.

Friday evening at 8 we arrived at Rochester with every appearance of a storm. Found Mr. Tucker and Cousin Mary. Mary and I, you may well suppose, had much to say and many enquiries and stories of past times.

Saturday the equinoctial commenced with violence. Sabbath rained in the morning, was clear in the afternoon. Went to meeting and was much pleased with the sermon. I found our Cousin Tucker a very agreeable and excellent man. On Monday morn I left these dear friends and embarked on the canal again. We arrived at Brockport at noon. I went to Mr. Roby’s and found that Charlotte, the friend I wished to see, had left in ill health. The boat for Buffalo did not arrive at Brockport till midnight. We went to the hotel and waited till one o’clock.

The boat came up. We went on board but such a scene! She was full, the cabin floor was strewed with men and all the berths were full. With much difficulty I made my way among sleeping, snoring beings to the ladies’ cabin and there my only chance seemed to be to stand up for the rest of the night. At last I made out to stow myself upon one of the top mattresses; very much, Aunt Richardson, like lying on the top shelf in your cheese room. In the morning the puzzle was how to find room to dress or do anything else, the room was so crowded, among the rest three or four babies all crying, all uncomfortable. I left for fresh air as soon as my clothes were on but the wind was so piercing cold I could not endure it so returned to the hole in the boat and went in to breathe an air enough to stifle one who had not strong lungs. You will not form any very favorable idea of canal traveling from me. I do dislike it, especially the nights. The boats are small and no opportunity for ventilation.

All day it rained hard. Everybody looked sad and felt dirty. At two o’clock we came in sight of Lake Erie, black and speckled with foam. How I dreaded our voyage. At three it ceased to rain and a short time after, we reached Buffalo, the Empress of the West. I never saw so much mud before as I then saw. We were safely deposited at a hotel and beginning to think of getting a passage across the lake when the storm commenced harder than ever. No boat had left Buffalo for nearly a week with any success, all being driven back by the violence of the storm. Six boats lay waiting to go as soon as the weather permitted. All night it rained and in the morning the view of the lake from the windows of the hotel was dreadful. One or two small boats tried to get across the river. They were tossed about like eggshells and were glad to get back. Toward night the storm abated and at 9 we went on board the boat expecting to go out that night but morning found us at the wharf. After breakfast we got under way. I retired to my berth to lie still and eat parched corn to prevent sickness, which I did most effectually. At evening it was calm. I rose, dressed, and took tea. Spent part of the evening on deck and retired to sleep soundly.

Cleveland, 1834

The next morning was clear and beautiful. At sunrise we were at Cleveland, a beautiful city on a high tableland overlooking the mouth of the creek on which it stands. We stopped nearly an hour but did not go on shore.

There was but one unpleasant circumstance on board our boat. Our Captain was intemperate and profane, a real braggadocio, fond of racing and would have done it had there been any boat in sight to race with. It providentially happened there were none so we were spared the danger of such folly.

The day was fine and I, free from sickness, enjoyed it much. The islands in the Lake are many of them very beautiful. It was just sunset when we entered the mouth of Detroit River. A most delightful scene was before us, the Canada side scattered over with little French houses but showing plainly the want of enterprise and industry in the inhabitants. Walden is a fine bold situation and if in the hands of the Americans would soon be a large city. But a few officer’s houses and an old barrack are almost all there is.

The sun left a few minutes after we entered the river amid clouds of purple and gold, a most glorious scene. I felt that the same sunbeams were shedding their parting radiance on my Dear Friends in Templeton. My heart went over the waste of waters and I was once more, in imagination with you.

At 9 we landed in Detroit. It was impossible to know anything of the city and the stage left at 8 in the morning for Pontiac. And now my Dear Friends see me entered on the last stage of my long, long journey; an immense wagon with seats and drawn by 4 horses as the road part of the way is too bad for a coach. I cannot describe the road; you must see it to know anything about it. I reached Pontiac at 4 in the afternoon, Saturday, September 26. Here my journeying has ended for the present.

This village is situated on the Clinton, a small stream affording excellent water privileges and other facilities for business. The place is neatly built and has an air of business and bustle uncommon in a place no larger. It reminds me of a beehive on a warm day in spring when the bees are preparing for summer work.

This country, as far as I can learn, has every advantage that can be concentrated in any one – for wealth and prosperity. Many have come in the last year from Connecticut and New York, excellent people to judge by some specimens settled in this village. The soil here is said to be superior to Indiana and Illinois, not in fertility but durability. Emigration from the Atlantic States is immense and continued. Families have been coming in more or less all winter and now before the Lake is open they come through the country to Canada and cross the river at Detroit. The most discouraging feature is the immense land speculation now going on, to the injury of the country and permanent settlers.

This month, so far, has been very cold and wet. The roads in this level country are at such times impassable. I am now waiting for

Detroit, 1837

the traveling to permit me to go to my school. How long I must wait depends on the weather. Two weeks since, I went to Detroit and spent a week with some of the best people in the world. A young lady, who is teaching here, took me with her and introduced me. I enjoyed my visit much.

Detroit is not as large or as handsome as I expected, looks like a new place and the streets are all unpaved and dreadfully muddy. Some singular fashions prevail one of which is the riding in little one-horse carts, almost the only safe vehicle in such mud. We mounted one of them, sat flat on the floor of the cart, and were carried to meeting very comfortably. You would feel inclined to laugh at them but they answer the purpose very well and are quite in style.

Now, my Dear Friends, to whom I owe so much, I must say farewell. May God be with you and bless you in everything is the fervent prayer of your niece, Lucia.

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Whaleback Passenger boat with damage to forward cabins

Harbor Disaster – Summer 1960

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

By James R. Ward

Not all maritime disasters occur at night after days of fighting gales, with seas breaking over the rail until the proud ship is finally destroyed on some uncharted reef. Many times disasters occur during the day, within harbor limits and even feet away from a city’s main streets, with comparatively little damage to the ship.

Whaleback passenger vessel with two tug boats

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS under two with tugs at either end.

In Milwaukee, on June 30th, 1917, the Christopher Columbus was less than five blocks from her docks when she met with disaster. This vessel, a whaleback, was one of the largest excursion ships in the world at that time. She was built for the World’s Exposition held in Chicago in 1893, was 362 feet long and shaped a bit like a cigar. She was designed to make 20 miles an hour and could handle up to 4,000 passengers.

It was Saturday afternoon, June 30th, 1917. The First World War was making headlines throughout the nation. People were talking about the War, politics and the daring new one piece bathing suits without stockings that were sure to be the fashion. The Christopher Columbus was docked in Milwaukee near the East Michigan street bridge waiting the return of her passengers. It was a pleasant day with temperatures in the sixties. Warmer weather was predicted, with a chance of thunder showers. Most of the passengers were students from Illinois colleges who were having a last fling before returning home for the summer recess.

The Christopher Columbus was scheduled to leave for Chicago at 4:30 P. M. She would be towed stern first down the Milwaukee River to the junction with the Menomonee River and there, would be turned about to proceed out of the inner harbor to Lake Michigan. Captain Charles Moody was her skipper and had been in charge of the “pig” for the last 13 years. He had skippered other large steamers for 16 years prior to that. Also, much earlier Moody had been captain of a tug in Milwaukee and he knew the area like the palm of his hand.

Four men on the deck of a steamship. Man on right is Capt. Moody in 1921

Captain Charles Moody, on right, on the deck of the CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS

Captain Moody thought the water level looked unusually high and he wondered if there would be any trouble clearing the bridges that lined the river. He sent his second officer to ask the captains of the tugs Welcome and Knight Templar to proceed slowly down the river. The captains nodded their assent and the second officer returned. It was now 4:30 and the ship was ready to get under way. She was carrying 413 passengers, 139 men and 11 officers.

The tugs maneuvered to their positions. Captain F. C. Maxon of the Knight Templar took charge of the Christopher Columbus’ bow while Captain John McSweeney of the Welcome took the stern line. Alternately the tugs would pull and push until the Columbus was positioned midchannel.

The tugs were now ready to tow the ship downstream to the junction. In this maneuver, the tug with the after line would pull the ship’s stern west, almost to the railroad bridge. The tug with the forward line would then let go of the ship, allowing the river current to swing her around. Then the tug would take the starboard forward line and continue the tow to the Lake.

While the passengers were waiting for the tugs to pull the ship to the junction, they swarmed about the upper decks to find the best place to wave goodbye to Milwaukee. They were laughing and shouting, waving to the people watching from the windows of nearby office buildings. Some of the passengers had gone below to the red carpeted restaurant, but by far the majority were out on the upper decks.

Captain Moody was on the bridge with his helmsman James Brodie. They signaled for the bridges to open. The passengers held their ears each time the booming whistle of the Christopher Columbus rang out and a few, looking into the dirty river water, thought how unpleasant it would be to go for a swim in the muck.

The vessel was now near the junction and would soon be swinging toward the railroad bridge. On the east side of the river the passengers could see the large water tower used for the Yahr-Lange Drug Company fire sprinkler system. As scheduled, the Knight Templar cast off the port bow line and proceeded past the bow of the Columbus in preparation for getting hold of the ship’s starboard line.

Whaleback passernger boat at dock with severe damage and cars and people watching


The current of the rain swollen river was quite swift. So swift that the bow of the Columbus began to move too quickly in the direction of the Yahr-Lange water tower! Moody sensed that the ship might collide with the dock because the tugs didn’t seem able to check the swing of the ship. As the vessel continued to swing further and faster, Moody grabbed his megaphone.

“Get back!” he shouted to the large crowd standing on the forward decks. His orders went unheard by the happy crowd. He called again but still no one paid any attention to him.

Moody ordered Brodie to put the wheel to starboard. The boat still continued to swing toward the iron structure that held the water tower over 100 feet in the air. Moody rang for the engines to be reversed “full speed” to help check the movement of the ship. This action threatened to drive the stern of the ship into the railroad bridge but Moody would rather risk that than have any of his passengers injured.

As yet, the passengers were not aware of the perilous situation. They were still gaily laughing and waving to the spectators on shore. In a few seconds Captain Moody would be involved in the worst accident of his sailing career!

Charles Oglka, the Christopher Columbus’ second mate, rang the alarm thinking the ship was sure to strike the railroad bridge. But such was not the case. The port bow of the ship struck one of the supports holding the water tank. The supports snapped like pretzels, breaking the entire structure about twenty feet from the ground! One of the supports bolted to the drug building tore loose, leaving gaping holes in the walls.

The huge tank cascaded down and struck the forward port side of the ship, crushing bodies, throwing water, timber and metal all around the area! The metal structure crashed down on the wheelhouse just missing Captain Moody! It made a large hole right where helmsman Brodie was standing. The ship rocked as if about to capsize. All in the area were drenched to the skin from the water of the tank. Passengers were thrown into the river by the sudden jolt. Some panicked and jumped into the river.

Women screamed. On the deck where the tank hit there was a mass of mangled bodies. One spectator described the sight of a woman who “had her head mashed into jelly.” Parts of bodies were lying about the decks amid strewn glass and broken timber. Chairs, benches and tables were splintered and scattered every which way. The wheelhouse was demolished and a 12 foot hole was smashed into the deck just above the restaurant.

Captain Moody had jumped to the starboard entrance of the wheelhouse and suffered only slight leg injuries. Helmsman Brodie escaped through the port doorway and was found by Moody holding his head in his hands.

Just then someone yelled, “Man overboard!” Moody ordered his men to launch the lifeboats. The nearby Milwaukee fire tug spotted the accident and sent her crew over to lend a hand. Other small craft rushed to the scene to assist. One of these was the Paul D, a boat that supplied meat to the ships in the area.

Whaleback Passenger boat with damage to forward cabins


Many persons were being pulled out of the dirty water. One of these was a man who had lost his leg in the accident. There were many acts of heroism with some of the swimming survivors pleading to the rescuers to go to the aid of those more in need of help. Life preservers were thrown to these swimmers to help keep them afloat until they could be picked up by the rescue craft.

On the ship, the crew was prying victims from the wreckage. Some of the passengers were merely scared, scratched or otherwise unhurt. Others had broken bones, torn limbs or were dead.

The Coast Guard and police were summoned. Dragging operations were started when they arrived on the scene and seamen from other ships came to volunteer their help. The Emergency Hospital was told of the accident and they immediately called out for volunteers to help with the dead and injured. At least a dozen doctors appeared at the hospital while six others were on hand to help at the scene of the accident.

Ambulances and taxicabs were pressed into service and helped to transport the dead and injured to the hospital or morgue. To get the bodies to the vehicles, the Paul D had to ferry them across the river. By the time this was finished she was covered with blood.

More than a hundred policemen were detailed to keep the huge crowds from hampering rescue activities, for as the word spread, curiosity seekers rushed to the scene by the thousands. Police had to be stationed at the morgue and hospital to keep control of the morbid spectators.

The Red Cross arrived quickly on the scene. Workers busied themselves sending telegrams to next of kin and helped survivors send notes to relatives so they would not worry.

All night long the Coast Guard dragging operations continued. They had been dragging since 5 P.M. and they would not be able to rest until the next evening. The purser could not account for about 45 persons and there was fear that they might still be pinned under the wreckage that fell into the water. Many of the persons had been saved but merely failed to report in.

Of the 413 persons aboard the Christopher Columbus, 16 had been killed and 20 seriously injured. Many of the passengers were so thankful to get away from the scene that they immediately bought train tickets for Chicago. About 300 persons were aboard the Milwaukee Road’s special run at 6:50 P.M., little more than two hours after the tragic incident. Others left on later trains, while some chose to remain in Milwaukee to be with injured friends.

Federal and local authorities immediately began investigations into the accident. After cross examination of the passengers, crew and spectators, it was determined that the accident could have been prevented if the captains of the Christopher Columbus and Knight Templar had used more caution. It was determined that there was no criminal negligence and that the real cause of the accident was the rapid current of the swollen river.

The damage to the Christopher Columbus amounted to about $5,000.00. She was sent to the dry dock at Manitowoc and was laid up for the rest of the season. She was put back into service the next year with Captain Moody in charge and continued to be a popular excursion vessel until 1930. Moody remained as skipper of the “pig” until he was in his eighties.

In 1936 the Christopher Columbus was scrapped and the metal from her was sold to Japan. Oddly enough the booming whistle was retained and later put into service as the Manitowoc air raid signal. However, it has not been possible to find out what happened to the signal after it was finally retired from use.


2021 Editor’s note.  The Christopher Columbus whistle was donated to the Great Lakes Historical Society in 1973 and is now on display at the National Museum of the Great Lakes.


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About the Author: Mr. James R. Ward is an insurance representative in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a journalist with the United States Coast Guard Reserves. He is a member of the Great Lakes Historical Society and of the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society, of Milwaukee.

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Two Rhinos at the Basel Zoo bath in 2015

Rhinos on the Seaway – Spring 1960

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

By Helen Burrowes

History would be duller without its footnotes, and the history of the Great Lakes during the opening Summer of the St. Lawrence Seaway will perhaps be brightened for future researchers by the Seaway voyage of two Indian rhinoceroses. Rudra, (the boy), and Mohinja, (the girl), sailed from Antwerp to Milwaukee aboard the motor vessel, Beechmore, of the Furness-Great Lakes Line. As far as can be ascertained, they are the first rhinos ever to sail the Great Lakes. This should give them a unique place in the cargo division of the many “firsts” scored during the Seaway’s first season.


Providing shipboard quarters for Rudra and Mohinja was a headache, not for the ship but for the zoos they left behind them when they left Europe to start life in the New World. This was in spite of the fact that both rhinos are still just kids, and at the time of sailing neither one had reached even half of its ultimate weight. Rudra, 2 ½ years old, weighed 2,600 pounds. Mohinja, 1½, weighed 1,800 pounds. Eventually, he’ll weigh about 6,000 pounds and she’ll weigh about 5,000.

Even at less than half weight, Rudra and Mohinja were nothing you’d want charging around a ship loose and in an ugly mood. To ensure their staying where they belonged, the Basle, Switzerland, zoo sent Rudra off in a steel-enforced, slatted crate that weighed a ton, while the Whipsnade Zoo near London packed Mohinja into one that was equally strong but somewhat smaller. These were bolted down, side by side, on the after deck of the Beechmore, giving the rhinos a ringside seat for the loading and unloading activities at the hatch directly in front of them. Fortunately, when the ship was working, they indicated enjoyment — or at least indifference — to the bustle by remaining quiet and peaceful.

It was important to quite a few people that Rudra and Mohinja should be happy. They cost $15,000 apiece, and the $30,000 total is the biggest price ever paid for one exhibit by the Milwaukee zoo. Their voyage therefore had a few touches reminiscent of a royal tour.

For one thing, they had their own personal attendant throughout the 20-day trip — Milwaukee Zoo Director George Speidel, who had sole charge of their care, and served their king-sized meals of hay, grain, grain pellets, gallons of water and a few apples and carrots on the “demand” system. That meant, as the rhinos quickly found out, that whenever they wanted something to eat, Mohinja had only to moo and Rudra to bump against the walls of his crate.

Rudra and his veterinarian in Milwaukee in 1975

Then there was the advance welcoming committee, sent out from Milwaukee to meet the rhinos part way, just as a contingent of noblemen used to meet a foreign royal bride en route and escort her to her new realm. The Milwaukee group, smaller and less glamorous than these court cavalcades, included Mr. Larry Smith, president of the Milwaukee County Zoological Society, two newspaper reporters and a newsreel cameraman. They were aboard the Beechmore as she traveled through Lake Huron and Lake Michigan in perfect summer weather that made rhino-greeting seem a very pleasant assignment indeed!

The only flaw for the reporters was the task of dictating their stories about Rudra and Mohinja to rewrite desks back in Milwaukee over the crackling, fading radio-telephone up in the pilothouse. There were moments when it seemed as if no news story below the importance of a Summit Conference was worth such difficult lobbing through space. On the other hand, the arrival of $30,000 worth of rare rhinoceros is no minor item either. Capt. Glynn Roberts of the Beechmore showed his awareness of this fact by taking his ship into Milwaukee in full dress, the fluttering flags adding a festive detail to a scene already made gala by a crowd of more than 200 welcomers at the dock and a green and white marquee stretching behind them in readiness for the party which followed the unloading of Rudra and Mohinja.

The guests of honor did not attend. They celebrated their safe arrival later, out at the zoo, by munching contentedly on a “welcome home” snack of about 30 apples apiece.

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The Foundering of MANASOO and HIBOU – Winter 1959

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

By W.R. Williams

Thirty-four vessels foundered with two hundred and seventy crew members during the great gale of November 9, 1913, on Lake Huron and Lake Superior. There was no mishap on Georgian Bay.

All those who lost their lives realized their increasing danger, and some put on life preservers. This remark applies also to the crews of the bulk freighters William B. Davock and Anna C. Minch which foundered during a sudden furious and unexpected gale on Lake Michigan during the autumn of 1940.

In marked contrast the vessels Mamasoo and Hibou foundered suddenly in the southwestern area of Georgian Bay in 1928 and 1936, respectively, while crew members were performing their duties with no thought of imminent danger. They were drowned, not through any conscious negligence of their own, but because their vessels had been improperly laden.


Originally christened Macassa the Manasoo was launched at Glasgow in 1889, her length being 178 feet, beam 24 and moulded depth 16 feet, registering 756 tons. She had two Scotch boilers, and expansion engines of 600 H. P., which drove twin propellers and gave her a cruising speed of twelve and one-half miles per hour.


Built to the order of the Hamilton Steamship Company, she was delivered to her owners in July, 1889, and was at once placed on the forty­ mile daily offshore return trip from Hamilton to Toronto, leaving at 9:00 A.M. and returning during the afternoon.

She was licensed to carry two hundred passengers and also package freight. Business increased, and her operation proved so profitable that an additional steamer, the Modjeska, was soon purchased. The latter was of greater tonnage, and her pilothouse bridge extended full width.

Furthermore, the competitive Turbine Steamship Company, Ltd., also of Hamilton, was formed, and operated the triple-screw steel steamer Turbinia.

The latter had 250-foot length, and was of 1064 gross tons. She was built in 1904 by R. and W. Hawthorn Leslie and Company at Hepburn­on-Tyne, and was delivered to her owners in Hamilton in June, 1904. She was powered with Parsons turbines, which gave her a cruising speed of nineteen knots.

From 1904 to 1910 the Macassa, Modjeska and Turbinia did capacity business between Hamilton and Toronto, but during the latter year autos made themselves felt as a counter attraction to travelers.

In 1911 the Turbinia was purchased by the Niagara Navigation Company, Ltd. and placed on the cross-lake route from Toronto to the ports of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Lewiston. The Macassa was lengthened 36 feet at Collingwood, January 19, 1905.

By 1927 the autos, buses and trucks, in addition to frequent railway service, almost monopolized the transportation of passengers and package freight between Toronto and Hamilton. In the autumn of that year the Hamilton Steamship Company sold the Macassa to the Owen Sound Transportation Company. The Modjeska was purchased first in the year 1921, and the Macassa in 1927.

During the winter of 1927-28 the Macassa was renamed Manasoo with the intention of having her make a weekly return trip with passengers and freight from Owen Sound to Sault Ste. Marie and Mackinac Island, calling en route at Killarney, Manitowaning, Little Current, Gore Bay, Thessalon and other Manitoulin and North Shore ports.

Her operation on this route during the 1928 navigation season proved a financial success. In September she completed her schedule, and would have been laid up for the winter at Owen Sound, but was assigned to make a special freight trip, to bring a herd of cattle from the port of Manitowaning on Manitoulin Island.

She cleared from Manitowaning during the evening of Friday, September 14, carrying 47 cattle stowed aft in the “tween-deck,” and 69 cattle forward. All the cattle were confined in pens, but were left untied, which was the usual procedure. This stowage was faulty, because all the cattle could congregate on the port or starboard side of their pens, and thus produce a list in the vessel. Also aboard were some empty oil drums, but the hold was devoid of either cargo or ballast.

Cattle aboard a ship

The cattle were owned by Donald Wallace, a drover of Oil Springs, Ontario, and Thomas Lambert, a cattle man from Oil Springs, was a passenger. The vessel had passed inspection, and carried the required number of lifeboats, as well as a life raft.

Captain McKay was on watch. After the vessel had rounded Cape Smith, he picked up the light on Lonely Island, and kept it on his starboard bow. The west wind was kicking up a choppy sea, and when the Manasoo came abreast of Griffith’s Island at 3:00 A.M. on September 15th, she was in the trough of the waves and rolling. Nevertheless none of the men aboard who were awake had any thought of danger, and crew members off watch were asleep in their quarters.

Captain McKay had remained on watch. Suddenly he realized that his vessel was not only settling in the water, but was also listing to port. He therefore left the bridge and started to investigate, but soon found himself struggling in the water and his vessel sinking from sight. Many of her crew were drowned in their bunks. She foundered off the east shore of Griffith’s Island in over thirty fathoms, about twenty miles north of Owen Sound. No attempt at salvage has since been made.

Donald Wallace, the drover, along with five crew members, including Captain McKay, First Mate Osborne Long, Purser Arthur Middleboro, Oiler Roy Fox and Chief Engineer Thomas McUtchen managed to find and cling to the life-raft.

They were doomed to drift eastward in the cold, rough water for 60 hours, and their raft covered fifteen or twenty miles before they were sighted by the crew of S.S. Manitoba late in the afternoon of Monday, September 17th. only five men then remained on the raft, and they were taken to Owen Sound.

Chief Engineer McUtchen was not among them because he had succumbed to exposure. His clothing was made use of by the purser, who had left the foundering vessel clad in nothing more than his underwear. It had from the first been apparent that the raft was overloaded, and the corpse of the chief engineer was expediently committed to the deep, without benefit of clergy.

The crew members of the Manasoo lived in Owen Sound and surrounding district, and on Manitoulin Island.

Rescue tugs from Midland, Collingwood and Owen Sound cruised the scene on Tuesday, and later, while planes flew overhead, but no trace of additional survivors was found.

This foundering was made the subject of an official inquiry at Owen Sound. After its conclusion Captain L. A. Demers, Dominion Wreck Commissioner, stated there had been ample time to call all hands and prepare the lifeboats. He criticized the captain and first mate for “bad stowage, indifference and neglect of duty.”


The 121-foot motor vessel Hibou was built as a steamer in 1907 at Toronto by the Canadian Shipbuilding Company, Ltd., for the Federal Department of Agriculture, being registered at Quebec City under the name Alice. With a beam of 26 feet and moulded depth of 11.8 feet she was of 308 gross tons.


She was sold later to Mr. John Tackaberry, of Lion’s Head, who changed her into a motor vessel, and altered her name to Hibou.

After a time he sold her to Booth Fisheries Canadian Company, Ltd., and this firm sold her to Toronto Transportation Company, Ltd. By 1936 her ownership had passed to the Dominion Transportation Company, but at the time of her foundering she was being operated under the joint management of this company and the Owen Sound Transportation Company.

Due to improper lading she foundered suddenly in calm weather on November 21, 1936, off Squaw Point, three miles outbound from Owen Sound dock. She carried a crew of seventeen, and seven of them were drowned, including the stewardess.

Her cargo did not exceed 194 tons, and was not excessive for a 308 ton vessel. It included 94 tons of flour, 30 tons of pressed hay, and $10,000 worth of groceries consigned to Manitoulin Island and North Shore points.

The Hibou remained on the bottom of the Sound for almost six years. It was not until the summer of 1942, after World War II had been waged for three years, that salvage operations were begun, due to the increasing shortage of vessels, as well as steel for their construction.

The Hibou was successfully raised to the surface by Captain Torn Reid, of the United Towing and Salvage Company, Ltd., of Sarnia. The salvage operations consumed over two months, and she was then towed to Owen Sound harbor. She was, however, in such a dilapidated condition that her owners decided not to rebuild her.

They sold her to the Sincennes-McNaughton Line, Ltd., who towed her to Montreal, P. Q. She remained there as an unregistered wreck until November, 1943, when, after being rebuilt, she sailed down the St. Lawrence under the flag of Honduras.

The latest information is that this vessel was registered at Puerto Cortes, Honduras, in the name of the Pan-American Steamship Corporation of Panama, who maintain offices at 8-10 Bridge Street, New York City.

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The Arks of Absalom Shade – Fall 1959

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

By J. David Wood

The flurry of canalization and the gala events associated with the opening of the imaginative St. Lawrence Seaway, recall the vibrant canal period in pre-railway North America. And behind the bright trappings are also recollections of the individual visionaries who were willing to jeopardize their small fortunes on adventures in canal building and developments in water transport. One unheralded hero of water-borne commerce in western Upper Canada was Absalom Shade of Gait, who, in three successive years, risked his life, reputation, and money, in an attempt to prove the middle Grand River navigable. This adventure was conceived 130 years ago, the year that the first Welland Canal was completed.

Shade had had no previous experience in either navigation or boatbuilding, as far as we know. But, being an excellent carpenter, he was able to construct craft of simple design, probably similar to the open, flat-bottomed ones he had seen operating on the Erie Canal. This astute Pennsylvanian had brought with him the spirited initiative which characterized many men in the “unfolding West” of that time, and he had proven himself the leading citizen of the township.

The complete First Welland Canal including the Feeder Canal and the extension to Port Colborne. The present-day canal is marked in pale grey

One obvious drawback to the settlement around Gait was a large, treacherous swamp which blocked the main road to the head of Lake Ontario and the favorable markets there. As an alternative, Shade envisioned a fleet of barges which would cruise down the Grand River on the swell of Spring floods, carrying with it products from the increasingly successful settlement. The new Welland Canal, with its feeder reaching to the Grand at Dunnville, would provide easy access to Lake Ontario. On this stimulus he made a bold decision in 1830, which was carried to fruition in 1831, when, as described by James Young in his Reminiscences of the Early History of Galt:

he … built several flat-bottomed boats which were called “Arks.” These were each of sufficient capacity, being 80 feet long and 16 wide, to carry about 400 barrels of flour. They could only be used during the spring floods, and it was an exciting time at the little wharf at the end of the bridge when they were being loaded.1

Adam Fergusson, a traveling Scotsman, also had a taste of this excitement, as he recorded in his notes:

A son of Mr. D …. was at this time just returned from an experimental voyage, in company with Mr. S,, by which the important fact was ascertained that the Ouse [Grand] affords a safe communication with the Welland Canal, a distance by water of 100 miles. [Recorded May 14, 1831.]2

It is true that there had been a precedent of sorts in May 1827, when an attempt had been made to run a pleasure barge from Gait to Brandtford, carrying some British visitors who came to the village with John Gait. As might have been expected, a grounding terminated four or five miles of smooth sailing, and the passengers were fortunate not to have lost more than their composure. Gait remembered this incident when he was writing his autobiography:

. . . as the Grand River never had been properly explored, we caused a scow to be built to descend the stream, and embarking at the bridge of Gait, set out with the current to name the most remarkable islands and headlands in its course. . . .

. . . a violent rapid was hailed … “Horton’s Hurries.” But in sailing over it, a rock in the most spiteful manner so damaged the scow that she was more than half full before we could get the ladies landed.3

The Arks were mammoth, impressive craft, even in those lusty and unpredictable times. Certainly they would fit comfortably into the new Welland Canal locks, which were 100 feet by 22 feet; but they were twice as big as the well-known Durham boats, or more precisely, the batteaux, described by Picken as “forty feet long, six feet broad, flat­ bottomed, and draw about 20 inches water. … The batteaux will carry about six tons….”4 And they were also larger than the Erie Canal scows, which had to fit into locks only 90 feet by 12 feet.

A rough painting of Shade’s arks

Shade built his barges chiefly of pine beams, and he designed them of shallow draft specifically to baffle the fickle stream from Gait to Brandtford. The surveyor of the township, in his traverse of the river valley, had recorded for this stretch many parts where “rocky flats and rapids” threatened a boat passage, and where islands, such as the “Mississauga islands,” complicated navigation. The great elbow in the stream, however, provided an exception: there the Grand was “narrow and very deep” and it contained a “Sturgeon hole.”5 South of Paris lower banks became a more common margin for the broadening River, and from Brandtford downstream the barges had relatively little trouble, although major improvements for navigation were not inaugurated until 1831.6 The journey from Gait to the mouth of the Grand was about fifty-eight miles, and the total distance to Port Dalhousie, on Lake Ontario, was 100 miles. In his report on the canal, Bouchette subdivides the canal portion of the journey: 16 miles from the Grand River to the Welland River (by the Feeder Canal), ten miles in the Welland River itself, and 16 miles from this River down the escarpment to Lake Ontario.7 There was no means of locomotion or steering built into the barges. The roaring River swept them downstream from Gait. Navigation of the frenzied course was a strenuous game, which depended on the five or six pole­men who rode each craft. When the canal was reached, horses were secured for towing. The complete descent to Lake Ontario took about four days, half of the time being spent in the canal.

“The cargo,” Young has told us, “consisted chiefly of wheat, coarse grains, highwines, pork and furs, and was of considerable value, embracing a large portion of the results of the year’s business.”8 The choice of products nicely reflects Shade’s function in the community. He was, as has been said, the leading citizen of Dumfries Township; Fergusson found him to be “an intelligent, enterprising American.”9 In 1816, as a young carpenter who had only shortly before left the States to work around Niagara, Shade had been chosen by William Dickson, the owner of the lands of the Township, to set up the chief village (at Gait), and to oversee the progress of the settlement. Shade took full advantage of his seignorage, purchased some of the most promising waterpower sites in the township, eventually set up one of the largest grist mills in western Upper Canada, and gained a monopoly of both the credit and the cash stores in Gait. These commercial facets, then, explain the flour, wheat, and coarse grains; and, also, the highwines, pork, and furs, which were probably taken in at his credit store. But Shade’s plan did not finish at that: he arranged for the sale of the barges themselves at their destination, and they called in a good price either because of their usefulness as barges, or because of the timber in them.

The settlers who constituted the Dumfries settlement – and particularly those around Gait – were mainly Scotsmen. They were caught up by Shade’s initiative, and gladly assisted in the construction of the six or seven barges. But, there were also times when they were slightly amused by this opportunist of the wilderness, and it is likely that the whimsical christening of the barges “Shade’s Arks” was celebrated with generous amounts of wit in the inns of the village. The name seems likely to have come from the “Kentucky Arks” which were familiar to immigrants who had passed through the St. Lawrence canals, but it certainly had a strong Biblical connotation as well for the Gait people. Of the 2,500 settlers in Dumfries Township in 1830, probably 1,700 of them were within Gait’s economic net.

Absalom Shade

The successful arrival in Lake Ontario of the strange armada from the middle Grand, under the captaincy of Shade, seconded by William Dickson, Jr., sparked the jubilation which demanded a repetition of the feat. So, in 1832, a second group of barges plunged down the Grand to Lake Erie, and then through the Welland Canal to the Lake Ontario ports.

But the success was far from unqualified. In the navigation of the Grand there had been many perilous moments; and although Shade claimed a two-thirds reduction in transport costs, there were the involvements of trying to dispose of the goods and the barges at the undeveloped Port Dalhousie market, or arranging transport for thereto Dundas.

At the third attempt, in 1833, the combined opposition of climate and geomorphology harried the Gait “voyageurs,” and finally brought them down to defeat. The Spring floods were lower than usual, and, as a result, many more islands and rapids severed the surface of the River. The first of the Arks discovered a “Mt. Ararat” in the riverbed near Middleton (Glenmorris), and, much more rudely than its Biblical counterpart, foundered and broke there. Although little cargo was lost, Shade’s dream abruptly darkened. It was obvious that the Spring floods could not be relied upon.   The failure of the flow, which brought to distress the pleasure cruise of 1827, was likely to recur periodically. The barges eventually reached their destination in Lake Ontario, but Shade sold with them his ideas of navigating the middle Grand River. The Arks were not perpetuated in legend, and have been only casually remembered by history. Soon after their demise dreamers took to the thrill of the steam locomotive, and boats were put away for a while.

  1. Young, , Reminiscences of the Early History of Gait and Settlement of Dum­ fries, Hunter, Rose & Co., Toronto, 1880, p. 58.
  2. Fergusson, A., ‘Notes Made during a Visit to the United States and Canada in 1831,’ Quarterly Journal o/ Agriculture (Edinburgh), 111 # 5 & 6 (1832), p. 830. Also in book form.
  3. Gait , J., The Autobiography, Cochrane & McCrone, London, 1833, Vol. II, p. 91.
  4. Picken, A., The Canadas , etc., Comprehending a Variety of Topographic Reports, etc., from Documents Furnished by John Gait . . . , Effingham Wilson, London, 1832, p. 220.
  5. Marlett, A., Notes on the Survey of Dumfries Townshi p, U C., 1816; in Maps and Surveys Office of Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, Toronto.
  6. A newspaper advertisement, included in Emigration; Letters from Sussex Emi­ grants . . . to Upper Canada, Phillips , Pet wort h, 1833 , p. 87, (Ad is July 23, 1831)
  7. Bouchett e, ]., The British Dominions in North America, Longman, Rees , & others , London, 1832, vol. I, p. 148.
  8. Young, ibi d., p. 58.
  9. Fergusson, ibid., p. 830.

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About the Author: Mr. J. David Wood is a resident of Toronto, and teaches in the Department of Geography at Edinburgh University. He is presently pursuing studies in Scottish migration to western Ontario, which be began at the University of Toronto.

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Coast Guard Cutter MACKINAW – Summer 1959

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

By Gordon Macaulay

To be aboard the United States Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw on one of her spring battles is a stirring and wonderful privilege. One who loves ships can’t help but feel part of the key turning in the lock of a massive door which will open to him in the months to come, untold hours of pleasure, as he joins the ranks of the “shipwatchers” who gather at points along these Great Lakes to watch the great ships glide gracefully by. In more lucid and practical moments he can reflect on mercenary reasons for unlocking the door, such as the economies and commerce of two nations. To be aboard this ship a second time is still a wonderful experience but it also brings into perspective the effort, planning and co-operation involved, from the Ninth Coast Guard Headquarters in Cleveland, to the Mackinaw’s skipper, Captain John P. German, Commander E. J. Bodenlos, Officer Commanding Sault Base, and the captains of the ore and grain carriers waiting for the way to be cleared.

Three years ago I was accorded permission to board the icebreaker as she made her preliminary run from the Sault to open water. This trip followed a comparatively mild winter and the ship made her task look almost ridiculously easy. Ice extended only from Gros Cap at the source of the St. Marys River, less than ten miles to Ile Parisienne in Whitefish Bay; and though the ice ranged in thickness from 18 to 30 inches, the powerful ship stopped only once and that time in a windrow estimated at 15 feet deep. The vessel did proceed past Whitefish Point to investigate a field of floating ice in the open lake but after nibbling at it for a few moments, disdainfully turned her back on it as not worthy of her attention.

Tackling the Whitefish Bay ice, the ship made seven parallel cuts about a mile apart, then cut diagonally across these, finally cavorting gaily here, there and everywhere like a playful puppy. Weather, particularly wind directions, is the all important factor on the icebreaking forays and on one day in particular Mother Nature was in a most generous mood, serving up rain, light, southeasterly winds, a heavy fog precipitated by the warm winds across the cold ice and climaxing with a spectacular evening show which included a violent electrical storm and a mixture of rain, snow and sleet driven briefly by a wind velocity of 70 miles per hour. The fog persisted through all this and so did the Mackinaw, working for eight hours in confined areas strictly on radar. It was a badly battered ice field that moved slowly toward the open lake. Capricious Mother Nature withdrew her favors quickly however, served up strong westerly gales for days on end and gave the Mackinaw and the freighters a hectic two weeks.

This spring I was again granted permission to board the ship. Conditions were different, vastly different. Aerial surveys were unable to accurately position the end of the ice field in Lake Superior. One of the severest winters since records were officially established had frozen Whitefish Bay solid, right to Whitefish Point. Beyond was a tumbled, up­heaved icy “Sahara” seemingly limitless. Weather conditions up to this point had been most unfavorable with no rain and well below freezing temperatures every night and indeed most days, including almost constant westerly winds. But the Great Lakes fleet was anxious to move, for it was imperative. American companies were desperate because of a threatened steel strike by early summer, also recession had curtailed operations in 1958. Recovery was sooner and much stronger than anticipated. Canadian companies were uncertain as to just what they faced with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway but were anxious to get what business there was before foreign shipping could compete.

On the clear, bright and cold morning of April 15th, the powerful Mackinaw eased her bulk into the Sault Locks and shortly thereafter was outward bound to take up the challenge. Strategy dictated keeping the solid ice of Whitefish Bay as intact as possible, thus holding the heavy ice in the open lake where it was hoped that favorable easterly winds would get it moving and disperse it. With the sureness and confidence of a surgeon the ship knifed into 20 to 30 inch ice at Gros Cap and cut a thin incision through the main body of Whitefish, then tackled the jumbled mass beyond as the ship plowed head on into windrows and pressure ridges from six to over twenty feet in depth. She made no attempt to pick her way. Whatever lay in her course she hit and though nearly stopped on several occasions, clawed and pushed her way through. Ninety miles from where she entered the ice the vessel broke into the clear to chase the sun below the rim of the great Lake, shimmering in a magnificent mantle of golds, blues, purples, reds and greens.

The Mackinaw was now in a hurry. She was a lady with a date. Shortly after she had cleared the Sault Locks that Wednesday morning, three Pittsburgh Steamship Company vessels cleared Two Harbors, Minnesota, with the first iron ore cargoes of 1959 destined for the hungry blast furnaces of the Lower Lakes, whose pantries were becoming a bit bare. Shortly before dawn on April 16th, the Mackinaw met the Philip R. Clarke, the Arthur M Anderson and the Cason J. Callaway just to the east of the Keweenaw Peninsula and turned to meet the rising sun over the now cold, gun-metal grey lake, the temperature again being way below freezing. Well to the southwest of Caribou Island the ships entered the ice field which became steadily heavier as they progressed east. Now Captain John German and his crew had to exercise every care.

Daintily they guided the Mackinaw around the heavier windrows, the three ore carriers obediently following astern. Their presence created the need for even greater care. If the icebreaker got too far ahead, the ice closed behind, making progress for the ore carriers difficult, if not impossible. Regularly the Mackinaw was almost halted by heavy ridges and if the lead ship, the Clarke, were allowed too close and with nowhere to go but straight ahead, she could easily come climbing over the ice­ breaker’s stern as another vessel did several years ago. Constant radio phone contact was maintained, with the Anderson and Callaway taking their cues from the other vessels.

Reports from smaller cutters working in the lower St. Marys River, Straits of Mackinac and in Green Bay had to be gathered and compiled with the Mackinaw’s progress, then relayed to Cleveland from whence would flash the green light for other anxious carriers to set out when conditions were deemed suitable. The helicopter was on a standby basis with her pilot, Lieutenant Commander James Sigman, of Michigan, uncomfortably ready for emergency in his rubber survival suit, while from all parts of the ship came one of the most common sounds on shipboard, the clatter of chipping hammers, while other crew members scurried and climbed about with paint brushes and cans of paint, moving one newsman to remark that if one stood too long in one place he would find himself painted to the ship!

Slow, but steady time was made by the ships in clear beautiful weather as the icebreaker finally entered the solid ice of Whitefish Bay by the precise channel she had broken from it the day before. Not if it could possibly be helped should this ice be disturbed. By early afternoon the ships had reached Gros Cap and like a proud general the icebreaker pulled to one side as her three charges slipped gracefully by, according her the full marine salute of three long and two short.

Grateful that the initial operation had gone so smoothly, Coast Guard officials knew the job was only begun and they were proved to be so right. On Friday a heavy rain, accompanied by strong east winds, swept the area. This would have been ideal if it had kept up but by Saturday the wind was back in the prevailing westerlies and there it stayed for days. The ice broke up in Whitefish Bay allowing the heavy lake ice to pile into the bottleneck formed by Whitefish Bay narrowing at the St. Marys River. It was up to the Mackinaw to “pop the cork.” Vessels were converging on the area from both directions. Commander Bodenlos at Sault Base put his finger on them as they entered the St. Marys River at DeTour, sent a dozen or so at a time into the Upper River, making sure the higher powered ships were leading the way and that the Mackinaw convoyed them to the open lake. Hard, – sometimes dangerous, – always tedious work, the ship would meet a downbound convoy and escort it back. Vessels valued at many millions of dollars, cargoes adding more millions, and the lives of crewmen, as well as the necessity of getting the cargoes through with utmost dispatch, rested on this one ship and the care and skill of her crew. Two weeks after she started into Lake Superior the ship had completed this phase of her work for another year, – no damage, no injury, hundreds of ships and thousands of tons of cargo speeded on their way.

Before tackling the Whitefish area, the ship had opened Thunder Bay, in Lake Huron, into Bay City; released the limestone carriers in the Rogers City area; and opened up Traverse Bay, the Straits of Mackinac and Green Bay into Escanaba. Indeed the vessel had had little rest since last autumn. She operated almost all winter in the St. Clair and Detroit River area and into Toledo. Other times she was down in Lake Michigan clearing harbors and generally assisting the railroad ferries in Lake Michigan having troubles occasioned by the unusually severe winter conditions. On her springtime icebreaking duties, after opening an area she then turned it over to smaller consorts such as the Kaw from Cleveland, Acacia from Port Huron, Mesquite from the Sault and the Sundew, Woodbine and tug Arundel. This task force was directed by radio phone from the Mackinaw.

The icebreaker operated this spring with a crew of 15 officers and 115 enlisted men in addition to 17 Coast Guard Reserve personnel and the helicopter pilot. Home port for the ship is Cheboygan, Michigan, on the northwest shoulder of Lake Huron, where she is only hours running time from any trouble spot on Lakes Huron, Michigan or Superior. In 1958 she spent 213 days out of home port and travelled nearly 16,000 miles. She participated in saving two lives, assisted 37 other persons in danger from capsizings and similar mishaps. In addition to standing by several ships in danger, she aided 288 other vessels valued at many millions of dollars. She has saved untold thousands of dollars of shore property by breaking ice jams, particularly in the St. Clair and Detroit areas, through eliminating flooding danger from ice jams.

Much of her work is done at the time of year that most navigation aids are ashore, adding to the difficulties of her navigating officers. When other things fail they are usually capable of improvisation. This March, leading a Columbia Transportation vessel into Bay City, the ships were stopped by fog. There was too much interference from shore installations such as buildings, tall stacks, etc., to make radar dependable. One of the ship’s officers and several of her crew went out on the ice with all the cardboard boxes they could find. Nearly three miles from the ship they sighted the range lights leading into Bay City. Lining these up they backtracked, laying the boxes on the ice. The icebreaker followed these “navigation aids” safely in, with the Columbia vessel behind, then safely followed them out again.

It would be unfair to close a story of the Mackinaw without specific mention of her crew.  In several dealings with the Coast Guard I could not be convinced other than that “Public Relations” must be an integral part of their training. It is exemplified aboard the Mackinaw to the fullest degree. Their courtesy, co-operations and friendliness is overwhelming. Each expression of appreciation is met with a cheery, “It’s a pleasure to have you aboard, sir.” By word and deed they are able to make you feel they really mean it even though one is aware at mealtime and at bedtime they must put themselves out to accommodate you.  Between times you are underfoot asking questions or peering over their shoulders as they attempt to plot the ship’s position. Tour of this amazing vessel are arranged below decks but guests are pretty well given the run of the ship otherwise. Every care is taken to assure the safety of guests. Let one wander into a dangerous position or place, as “landlubbers” display a peculiar knack of doing, and instantly a crewman courteously, but firmly, sets him straight, fully explaining the danger. If risk must be taken, as sometimes in the case of newsmen, they are fully briefed and decked out in survival equipment, safety belts, life preservers – and no nonsense! It would be impossible to make all those who contribute so much, but through the pages of Inland Seas, I should like to say publicly to Captain John German, Connecticut; Commander James Bills, Michigan; Commander Robert Burkheimer, Wisconsin; Lieutenant Charles Leckron, Illinois; Lieutenant James McLeaish, Texas; and to all the other officers and the crew of the Mackinaw, “Gentlemen, you made it a pleasure to be aboard.”

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