The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.
By Capt. Oscar B. Smith
Sandusky, Ohio August 30th, 1889
Friday 10 A.M.
Arrived Monday after quick and pleasant trip — Cleveland and return in 15 days. We find all well at home. I came up this morning. We are loading for Gladstone, ore back from Escanaba. Will tow up with tug A. Wright.
September 1st, 1889
Sunday 10 A.M.
Towed out of Sandusky this morning. Am now near Put-In-Bay Island, going south passage — warm and pleasant, but quite smoky. The past week has been hot and sultry — no rain for four weeks. Potatoes and corn are suffering.
September 19th, 1889
Thursday 9 A.M.
This has been a long trip! We struck the bottom on the Lime Kiln crossing going up. Had to lighter, detaining us 24 hours. Were detained several days before getting to the docks to unload. The tug Wilcox has me in tow with four others. We left Escanaba Sunday 15th at noon for Sandusky with 1,123 tons of ore. Owing to heavy tow, the tug has made slow work of it. Crossed Saginaw Bay in a heavy blow from the westward. We got considerable of a shaking up. Got across and passed Point Aux Barques Light half past 10 Tuesday night and made smooth water. Yesterday at 3 P.M. had got down St. Clair River as far as Lampton, some 10 miles from Lake St. Clair, when 1 learned from steamer bound up that a steam barge was aground in the channel below. We rounded to and tied up to the docks. Tug taking three of the smaller vessels on down, leaving them at anchor, and at 3 A.M. was back taking us in tow. We got through all OK, picking up the other vessels. Am now nearly to Grosse Pointe and unless we have trouble there, will soon be in Detroit River. I fear the owners will find fault with me; there have been so many delays all summer, although I am not at all to blame. They may decide to give another man the command another season. 1,161 tons of ore is the largest cargo I have brought down this season. I learn that is the most she has ever carried.
September 20th, 1889
Friday 4:30 P.M.
Well here I am at anchor some 3 miles below Marblehead. At this time yesterday we reached Lake Erie. The wind fresh from W.S.W. The schooners Barns, Mineral State and Owasco, being bound for Cleveland were dropped off, also the Rodgers, bound for Sandusky. The tug insisted on letting go my line, but I had not paid my tow bill of $185.00 and told him he would forfeit all claims for pay unless he towed me through as far as Marblehead as he had agreed to do. He finally come on, but hardly held slack of tow line. We could out run the tug with the wind we had. Let go of anchor here at 9 P.M. this morning tug came out and reported water so low in Sandusky Bay that we could not get in (we are drawing 15 feet). At same time I sighted the Rodgers ashore on Starve Island Reef some 8 miles west N.W. of us. The tug run up there, found the schooner full of water and took the crew off and into Sandusky. Wind has canted N.W. blowing fresh, making a big sea.
September 29th, 1889
Sunday 10 A.M.
In tow of tug Wilcox, the Butts and a canaller astern of us. We are light, bound for Escanaba for ore for Cleveland. Butts has coal for above port. I spent last Sunday at home; found all well. It was my birthday on the 22nd. We had oyster dinner. We have just passed Mackinac Island. Two years ago in August, I was traveling in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa for the Chicago Times, Cousin Austin Patterson, Manager. He wired me to meet him at Russell House, Detroit. He met Cousin Ira with me there. After a stay of 18 hours there, we took passage on steamer City of Alpena for Mackinac Island. We spent Sunday and Monday there, then to the Soo on small steamer where we stayed a week, dividing the time between Canada and American towns. Then took steamer City of Duluth for Chicago. We have just passed Old Mackinaw on west side of the Straits. A marine reporter came out in row boat with Chicago and Detroit papers of yesterday. I bought some and sent 3 letters to mail by him. How different from old times!
October 7th, 1889
Monday 6 P.M.
After passing Mackinaw on way, our trip was a stormy one. We had doubled the Shank and gotten abreast of Skilligalee Light; wind S.W. blowing hard. Tug was obliged to let go the vessels astern of us. We all ran back, some to Mackinaw, others to St. Helena, we to the former place. Next morning, tried it again, but all ran back to St. Helena. Wednesday A.M. got under weigh again. While my men were heaving short, the schr. City of Sheboygan ran into us, carrying yawl boat, davits and part of monkey rail away. Hoisted boat on deck and made a start, tug picking us up off the Shank, letting go of the others.
At 5 P.M. off the Beavers, wind a gale again from the south. It proved a very rough night! The run to Poverty Island, entrance to Green Bay, is 53 miles from Beaver Island. I reefed fore and main, furled mizzen, and was more than thankful to get across without any mishap. Anchored off Escanaba some twenty-seven miles from Poverty Island, where we enter Green Bay.
Well, we loaded1,111 tons ore and was held thereby the southerly gale until Saturday morning, the 5 started out and on reaching Lake Michigan, the wind was blowing a gale from N.E. compelling us to run in between Summer Isle and mainland and anchor. Left there 5 P.M. yesterday. Had had fair weather since. Am now within 15 miles of Presque Isle Light. Wind N.W. nearly dead aft. Full moon! Tug has Clint ahead, then the Onasco, Three Brothers and Trowbridge. I hope for a favorable and prosperous run the balance of the way. I wrote Autie a long letter on way up, mailing at Escanaba.
October 22nd, 1889
Wednesday, 7:30 P.M.
Loaded at Cleveland for Milwaukee. The Hurlbut is towing us. Have had good weather and am now nearly abreast North Point, or some 7 miles from the piers. September 20th, 1880,9 years this fall, I arrived at Milwaukee with schr. Carlingford, coal loaded. Edna, then 9 years old, was with me. I left the schr. there, we going home by rail and within two weeks, I started for California, and after 8 seasons, here I am, sailing again.
November 10th, 1889
Sunday 4 P.M.
I took the last load ore to Ashtabula. Towed from thereto Erie Friday night. Loaded 1,139 tons hard coal yesterday for W. S. Scott, Chicago. Left there in tow of steamer Hurlbut at 8 O’C last night, picking up the Butts off Ashtabula at 5 O’C this morning. She is loaded for Escanaba; Hurlbut for Chicago. ‘Tis late in the fall for us to start for Chicago with instructions to go from there to Escanaba and load ore for Lake Erie ports. I was out to Rock Island, Davenport and along the line at this time last year. How little I expected then to be at this time where I now am! Had letter from dear wife while at Erie. All well at home, thank God!
November 14th, 1889
Thursday 11 A.M.
Have had splendid run so far without any head wind. Let go the Butts line off the Beaver at 4 O’C this morning. We came on (steering west by south) to the northard of the N. Fox. Am now steering S. W. by south, a course that will take us close in to Sheboygan. Wind W.N.W. Good breeze! Have mizzen furled; all the other canvas set, and making fully 8 miles an hour. ‘This snowing quite brisk at times. I hope to spend Sunday at Chicago and visit with Cousin Austin and Ira .
November 19th, 1889 Chicago, Illinois Tuesday 6 P.M.
Arrived Friday evening. Have had most provoking time here! Stopped Friday night down town at Ill. slip. Next day took tug tow up 23 St. south branch to Peoples Gas Co. docks, but stuck hard and fast on Washington St. Tunnel. Had to work an hour with 3 tugs to get off and towed back nearly to Wells St. to Richardson’s dock, taking off 100 tons, and Sunday towed up. This morning the hoisting machinery broke down. Then two more tugs, and another tow fully a mile further south, where am now unloading. Called at tug office this afternoon to pay tug bill, in and out. Was astonished to learn I would have to pay $233.20, a mammoth swindle!
Well, I have had good visit with Cousins Austin and Ira Patterson. They were both of them aboard to 3 O’C dinner with me Sunday. I also called on niece Clara Torrey yesterday at 279 N. LaSalle St. Have stopped with Austin every night since arrival, but shall stay aboard ship tonight.
November 24th, 1889
Sunday 10 A.M.
We left Chicago Friday 3 A.M. Had a gale that day from W.&W.N.W. Got as far as Milwaukee and came to anchor in the Bay at 5:30 P.M. Got under weigh yesterday morning 9 O’C with fair wind. At 5 O’C this morning when near the Door (entrance to Green Bay) got the wind strong from N.W. dead ahead. Have finally got through and onto Green Bay, but am scarcely making three miles an hour. We are now some 20 miles from Escanaba. Weather clear and cold—freezing!
Escanaba, Michigan Thanksgiving November 28th, 1889
Arrived here about 1:30 noon after writing the above. Loaded Monday and waited for the Hurlbut. She finished last eve. It was then blowing a gale from N.E. cold with heavy snow. Vessel at anchor in the Bay some half mile from the docks; schr. Butts also there. Her Captain (Charles Goodsite) had spent the day ashore with me. At 5 P.M. the Mates sent the yawl, manned by 5 men, ashore for us, and they had a pull for it in the strong headwind and heavy sea. I think it was all in all as bad a night as I have ever seen, blowing a gale, freezing hard and a blinding snow storm all night. ‘Tis still blowing hard. The vessel is covered with ice. Have had the snow cleared off since 4 P.M. when it stopped snowing, but decks and rigging are encased in ice. We had a roast goose and duck for dinner. Suppose Anna is in Champaign with the Hardys and Dr. Cole. Hope all at home are well. I would like much to be with them. Last year I was traveling for Chicago Globe. The day before Thanksgiving, I met my little wife at Elkhart on her way to Chicago. We went to the opera that night, stopping at hotel corner Van Buren and Clark, McCoys. Next morning over Ill. Central road to Champaign to Hettie’s sister Mary Hardy, where we met daughter Anna, who was teaching there. I went home with Hettie a few days before Christmas and spent the winter.
November 29th, 1889
Friday 3 P.M.
The sun came out this morning. Set men to work cleaning off snow and ice while the Hurlbut took on some fuel. Started at 12:30 noon and am passing through some floes of new ice on the Bay. A few more such nights as have had, would have frozen the bay over. December 1st, 1889 Sunday morning 10 o‘c. Had good run until after passing Thunder Bay Island at 8 O’C last eve. Have had the wind from S.S.W. since then. Pulled along north shore and at daylight were abreast of Au Sable. The steamer then started to cross the bay. I had single reef mainsail, whole foresail and two jibs set and made good weather of it. When some ten miles off shore, the main gaff of the Butts carried away and finally the steamer put about and stood under the land and let go anchor off Au Sable. The wind rakes along the shore, but there is not much sea on. The terrible storm of Wednesday night and Thursday played havoc with some of those so unfortunate as to be outside. At 3 O’C yesterday morning we saw three ashore on Gray’s Reef. At 9 A.M. just below Sheboygan, passed a steam barge ashore and burned to water’s edge, still smoking, and some four miles further south the schr. Sage, a large vessel, is ashore, covered with ice. Still another on south shore of Hammond’s Bay and now we see another ashore ahead of us on Point Au Sable. The Sage towed from Milwaukee with us this time when we left anchorage there. She left Escanaba Monday night in tow of steamer Vulcan. Thank God we did not get away then, although I was loaded and impatient to make a start. It was all for the best that the Hurlbut could not get her load until Wednesday night, and then we were only too glad to be where we were. I would like very much to get ashore to telegraph wife that so far we were all right. I fear they will worry about me.
December 2nd, 1889
Monday 9 A.M.
The wind blew a gale until about 3 O’C this morning when it moderated, canting from S. to S.W. We just got under weigh again.
December 3rd, 1889
Tuesday 10 A.M.
Had good weather until 4 P.M. yesterday when rain set in, wind light, south (ahead). When near the Rivers at 1 O’C this morning, cant to northard and is blowing a gale. We rounded to at Banbee Landing, waiting until daylight. Am now on Lake St. Clair, wind a gale from north.
December 4th, 1889 Wednesday eve 11 o‘c
We had a gale from northard yesterday. Reached Detroit at noon. Steamer needed fuel. We stopped down near the Fort; did not make a start until 5 O’C this morning. Have had fine weather, light breeze from southard. Let go of the Butts half hour ago off Cleveland. A tug was outside waiting for her.
Ashtabula Harbor December 5th, 8 P.M.
The Hurlbut dropped us at 6 O’C this A.M. off this harbor. At 7 a tug came out, taking our line.
December 8th, 1889 Sunday
Left Ashtabula this morning 9 O’C to try to get to Sandusky. The Hurlbut has our line; wind close from S. by W. We have lower canvas on, hugging along the shore.
Tuesday December 10th, 1889 12 noon
We got wind ahead off Black River, but no sea. At 12 midnight were going into Sandusky Bay. When in abreast of Cedar Point, where the red can should have been, the Hurlbut ran aground. We threw wheel hard about and just sheered clear of her. We ran aground, but her wheel working finally pushed us off. I let go anchor. Capt. Farrell finally worked off and came into the docks. At daylight the tug Fisk came out for us. We towed to the upper elevator docks and stripped; have got everything between decks. ‘Tis now raining hard. I went home last night; found all well. Thank God!