Benjamin Whitman.

Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r online

. (page 21 of 192)
Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 21 of 192)
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furnished shelter for a whole family, besides
carrying their goods Each party brought
their provisions along, stopping at meal times
by the springs or streams, and doing their
cooking over open fires. From the direction
of Pittsburg the French creek route continued
to be the one used till some time after the
second war with Great Britain. The supplies
for Perry's fleet, including the cannon, were
largely transported in flat boats to Waterford,
and from there by the turnpike to Erie.

The first step ahead was the introduction
of stage coaches. After that came the steam-
boats, which carried hundreds of passengers
on each trip. For a number of years succeed-
ing the opening of the canal, thousands of
emigrants, bound for the southwest, reached
Erie by steamboat, and from there went by
way of the new water route, down to the


A route was opened in 1801 between Erie
and Pittsburg, via Waterford and Meadville,
to carry mail once a week. The mode of tran-
sportation was on horseback, and later by
horse and common wagon. A regular stage
line commenced running about the date of the
completion of the turnpike. In 1826 stages
began running each way three times a week,
carrying a mail everj' trip. This was increased
to a daily mail, each direction, which con-
tinued until the era of railroads.

In 1806 a route was established between
Erie and Buffalo, to carry the mail once a
week. The first line of stages between Erie
and Buffalo, making weekly trips, was estab-
lished in December, 1820. At the beginning a
stage left Buffalo every Saturday at noon and
reached Erie the next Monday at 6 p. m ; re-
turning, it started from Erie at 6 a. m. every
Tuesday and arrived at Buffalo on Thursday
at noon. By January 8, 1824, a stage with
mail was making semi-weekly trips between
Erie and Cleveland. On the 10th of Feb-
ruary', 1825, a mail coach commenced running
daily between Erie and Buffalo, and soon after

a daily stage and mail line was commenced
between Erie and Cleveland.

In 1827 a line of four-horse coaches was
placed on the road between Buffalo and
Cleveland by a company of which Rufus S.
Reed was one of the chief men. This event
was as much talked about as the opening of a
new railroad would be to-day. The new line
carried a daily mail each direction, and was a
source of large profit to its owners. Eighteen
hours were allowed as the time between Buf-
falo and Erie.

A mail route to Jamestown, N. Y., via
Wattsburg, was established in 1828. At the
start a man or boy on foot carried a pouch
once a week. The route to Edinboro was
established in the winter of 1835-36, and the
pouch was carried weekly on a horse's back.

The arrival of the stage was as important
an event fifty years ago as that of a railroad
train to-day in a village with but a single


The salt trade, which commenced about
1800, and continued until about 1819, was one
of the leading industries of the early days.
The salt was purchased at Salina, N. Y.,
hauled from there to Buffalo in wagons,
brought in vessels to Erie, unloaded in ware-
houses at the mouth of Mill creek, and from
there carried by ox teams to Waterford, where
it was placed in flat boats and floated down
French creek and the Allegheny to Pittsburg.
It is estimated that when the trade was at its
best, one hundred teams and as many persons
were constantly on the road between Erie and
Waterford. The time for making each trip
was calculated at two days, and the average
load for a four-ox-team was fourteen barrels.
A number of warehouses were erected on the
bank of LeBtpuf creek at Waterford for stor-
ing the salt until the water was at a suitable
stage for floating it down French creek.
There was a period when salt was almost the
only circulating medium in the county. Oxen,
horses, negro slaves and land were sold to be
paid for in so much salt. The discovery of
salt wells on the Kiskiminitas and Kanawha,
about 1813, cheapened the price of the article
at Pittsburg, so that Salina salt could not com-
pete, and the trade by way of Erie steadily


Navigation of the Lakes — Merchant and Government Vessels — The Light-House
AND Life-Saving Service, Etc.

THE first sailing vessel that tloated on
the waters of Lake Erie was built by
Robert Cavalier de la Salle, an ad-
venturous Frenchman, on the Niagara
river, six miles above the Falls, in the
year 1677. She was named the "Griffin,"
and was of six tons burthen. La Salle navi-
gated Lakes Erie, Huron and Michigan, to
Green bay, where, with a picked body of men,
he left the vessel and marched overland to the
Mississippi. With the exception of one more
attempt by the French to sail the lakes, many
years afterward, which proved a failure, no
record is to be found of any other sailing ves-
sel on the lake until 1766, when the British,
who had secured possession of both shores,
built and launched four. They were of light
burthen, and were chiefly used for carrjing
troops and army supplies. All transportation
of a commercial character, and all of the very
limited passenger business was carried on by
batteaux until after the close of the Revolu-
tionary war.

The earliest American sailing vessel on the
lake was a small boat, owned and run by
Capt. William Lee, in which he carried pas-
sengers and light articles of freight between
Buffalo and Erie. She was constructed to use
oars in going against the wind, and had no
crew, the passengers being obliged to "work
their passage."

The first sailing vessel built on the south
shore of Lake Erie was the sloop " Washing-
ton," of thirty tons, at the mouth of Four-
Mile creek, for the Pennsylvania Population
Company, owners of the bulk of the land in
the Triangle. She was launched in Septem-
ber, 1798, and was employed for some twelve
years in the service of the company.

The first vessel launched at Erie was built
at the mouth of Mill creek in 1799, Capt. Lee
and Rufus S. Reed being her principal own-
ers. She was named the " Good Intent," and

sunk at Point Abino in 1806, with all on
board. The " Harlequin," built at Erie in

1800 by Eliphalet Beebe, was also lost the
first season, with her entire crew. About

1801 the " Wilkinson," of sixty-five tons, was
owned at Erie. Another early Erie vessel
was the schooner " Mary," of 100 tons, built
in 1805.

vessels of war.

The British kept a fleet of armed vessels
on the lakes from 1792 until Perry's victory in
1813, and in 1810 had as many as seven in
commission. They were called the " pro-
vincial marine service," and were manned,
mostly by Canadians. To counteract their
movements, the United States Government,
at various times up to 1809, had placed four
vessels of war upon the lakes, the most formid-
able of which was the "Detroit," the one
that brought Gen. Wayne to Erie on return-
ing from his Western expedition. She was
wrecked off Presque Isle the next fall. Of
this class of vessels the only one that was in
service on Lake Erie at the outbreak of the
last war with Great Britain was the "Adams,"
of 150 tons, which was captured by the Brit-
ish in 1812.

merchant vessels.

Before the war of 1812-14, a dozen or
more vessels comprised the whole merchant
fleet of the lake, averaging about sixty tons.
The chief article of freight was salt from Sa-
lina, N. Y. Some business was also done in
carrying furs from the Far West to Buffalo.

Among the pioneer lake captains were
Daniel Dobbins, William Lee, Thomas Wil-
kins, Seth Barney, C. Blake, James Rough,
John F. Wight, William Davenport, Levi Al-
len, John Richards, George Miles and Charles
Hayt. Capt. Richards quit sailing and went
into ship-building with considerable success.
Capt. VVilkins commenced with the Reeds in


1822, and was long one of their most popular
commanders. Rufus S. Reed owned several
vessels at an early daj', and continued in the
lake business during the balance of his life.


The first steamboat to navigate Lake Erie
was the " Walk-in-the-Water," of 842 tons,
built on the Niagara river, between Black
Rock and Tonawanda, and launched on the
28th of May, 1818. On her first trip it took
from 7 •■30 P. M., on Monday, to 11 a. m. on
Tuesday, to reach Cleveland from Erie, and
the entire voyage from Buffalo to Detroit re-
quired forty-one hours and ten minutes, the
wind being ahead all the way. She carried
quite a number of passengers, who enjoyed
the trip mightily. As the boat neared the
head of the lake, the Indians ran down to the
water's edge, and gave utterance to their
amazement by repeated signs and shouts.
The " Walk-in-the-Water" made regular trips
each season between Buffalo and Detroit, on
each of which she stopped at Erie.

The first steamboat launched at Erie was
the William Penn, of 200 tons, on May 18,
1826. She was the sixth on the lake, and was
built by the Erie & Chautauqua Steamboat
Company, the managers of which included, be-
sides some New York parties, R. S. Reed, P.
S. V. Hamot, Josiah Kellogg, John F. Wight,
Daniel Dobbins and Peter Christie, of Erie.
The William Penn was first commanded by
Capt. Thomas Wilkins, and afterward by
Capt. John Spires.

Gen. C. M. Reed's first steamboat was the
"Pennsylvania," Capt. John Fleeharty, mas-
ter. She was built near the foot of Sassafras
street, in July, 1832, and towed to Black
Rock, where her engines were put in. Gen.
Reed built the " Thomas Jefferson" in 1884
and the "James Madison" in 1886, both at
Erie, in about the same locality as the " Penn-
sylvania." His boats did a heav}' business,
sometimes carrying a thousand passengers,
besides large amounts of freight. The "Alad-
ison" is said to have cleared $80,000 on her
first trip.

In 1887, the ill-fated "Erie" was built at
the foot of French street, by the Erie Steam-
boat Co. — Thomas G. Colt and Smith I. Jack-
son being the chief men — and the " Missouri "
followed, built by Gen. Reed in 1840. The
" Erie" was subsequently purchased by Gen.

Reed, who owned the vessel until her destruc-
tion b)' fire. All of these were large, elegant,
rapid and popular boats. In fact, the boats
built at Erie had the reputation of being the
best on the lakes, and Gen. Reed was long the
most extensive and famous vessel owner on
the entire chain.

In 1826, three steamboats entered and
cleared from Erie harbor every week, and
from two to ten schooners. The opening of
the canal between Erie and the Ohio river, in
the spring of 1845, gave an immense impetus
to the lake trade at this port. In 1846 a daily
steamboat line had been established between
Erie and Buff'alo. Tens of thousands of emi-
grants were brought from Buffalo each year,
taking the canal route to the Ohio valley, and
the harbor of Erie was one of the liveliest on
the lake. The tide of travel by way of the
lake continued until the completion of the
Lake Shore R. R. to Toledo in 1853, when
the emigrant business dropped off and the
steamboats were compelled to depend mainly
upon freight to and from the upper lakes. Be-
fore the opening of the canal, all the lake
steamboats used wood for fuel, giving employ-
ment to a large number of men and teams.


The first propeller on Lake Erie was the
" Vandalia," of 150 tons, built at Oswego,
and brought through the Welland canal in
1842. Two others appeared the same season.
The propellers have entirely taken the place
of the old style steamboats.

The first full-rigged ship on the lake was
the " lulia Palmer," of 300 tons, launched at
Buffalo in 1886. The ship "Milwaukee"
was built in the same year at Grand Island, in
the Niagara river.

The following statistics of the vessels on
Lake Erie at various periods show the progress
that has been made :

In 1810, eight or nine sailing vessels, aver-
aging sixty tons.

In 1820, one small steamboat and thirty
sailing vessels, the latter averaging fifty tons.

In 1831, eleven steamboats aggregating
2,260 tons, and 100 sailing vessels, averaging
seventy tons.

In 1845, forty-five steamboats, aggregating


80,000 tons, and 217 other vessels, aggrega-
ting 20,000 tons.

In 1860 (including Lake Ontario), 138
steamers, 197 propellers, 58 barks, 90 brigs and
974 sloops and schooners. Total tonnage,
586,000; valuation, $80,000,000.

The books of the United States Treasury
Department gave the following as the tonnage
on all the lakes June 80, 1894:


Steam vessels 1 ,781 828,702 . 29

Sailing vessels 1,139 817,789.37

Canal boats 386 76.843 . 57

Barges 85 37,731.99

Totals 8,341 1,261,067.22

" The number of steam vessels registering
1,000 tons and upward is 859, with a gross
tonnage of (384,467.84 tons. The number of
vessels of this class owned in all other parts
of the United States is 316, with a tonnage
of 642,642.50 tons, so that half of the best
steamship tonnage in the United States is
owned on the lakes.

" The freight borne upon the lake waters
during 234 days of 1894 exceeded 80,000,000
tons, being equal to one-quarter of the freight
carried by all the railroads in the United
States during 365 days."

Years ago the trade of the lakes was done
in schooners of from 200 to 500 tons. A
schooner of the latter size was considered a
monster. Then came the steamers, carrying
from 40,000 to 50,000 bushels of corn. Lar-
ger steamers began to crowd out the schoon-
ers from the grain, coal and iron trade, and in
a few years they had grown until they carried
70,000 and 80,000 bushels. In the changes of
the times the old lake schooners are rapidly
passing from the field. Many marine men
think the coming boat will be nearer 6,000
tons in carrying capacity than 4,000.


The United States Steamer " Michigan,"
the only vessel of war now on the lakes, was
launched at Erie on the 9th of November,
1848, and accepted and commissioned by the
Government on the 15th of August, 1844. The
" Michigan " is a side-wheeler, with a length
over all of 167 feet, an extreme beam of 47
feet, a depth of hold of 14 feet, a registered

tonnage of 450 tons and a displacement of 685
tons. She was built at Pittsburg, transported
in pieces to Cleveland, brought from that
city to Erie in a steamer, and put together at
Erie harbor, being the first iron hull ever set
afloat on the lakes. Her tonnage, armament
and crew are regulated by a treat)- with Great
Britain, which is also authorized to place a
ves.sel of the same character on the lakes.
Erie has always been the headquarters of the
" Michigan."

Erie was the station for the LTnited States
revenue cutters from the time that branch of
the Government service was established on
Lake Erie up to a few years ago. The first
cutter was the Benjamin Rush, of thirty tons,
built at Erie by Capt. John Richards, about
1827, and first commanded by Capt. Gilbert
Knapp, who was succeeded by Capt. Daniel
Dobbins. The second was the " Erie," of
sixty-two tons, launched at Reed's dock, in
March, l833, and placed in charge of Capt.
Dobbins, with Douglas Ottinger as his second
lieutenant. The "Erie" was succeeded in 1846
by the iron steamer "Dallas," of which Michael
Connor was captain and Douglas Ottinger
first lieutenant. This vessel was removed to
the Atlantic coast, by way of the Canadian
canals and the St. Lawrence river, in 1848.
The "Jeremiah S. Black" was one of six
steam cutters built by the government, being
one for each lake, in 1857, and was placed
under the command of Capt. Ottinger, who had
been promoted. At the outbreak of the Civil
war, these vessels were moved to the Atlantic
coast under the direction of Capt. Ottinger.
In 1864, Capt. Ottinger superintended the
construction of the steam cutter " Perry," of
which he was commander, with the exception
of two years, until 1881, when he was placed
on the retired list. This vessel was built on
the Niagara river, and her capacity was fixed
at 404 tons. She was peculiarly constructed,
having propeller wheels at the sides. Some
ten years ago she was condemned and sold to
Buffalo parties, who u.sed her as an excursion
steamer. Immediately after the sale, the
Government built a new cutter, also known as
the "Perry," which continued in the lake service
until the fall of 1890, when she was ordered
to the ocean. After being refitted at New
York, she took a trip around the Horn, and is
now stationed in Pacific waters, as one of
the fleet to protect the American seal interests.




The early disasters have already been re-
cited, and it is unnecessary to I'epeat them.
The following are some of the most terrible
incidents that have happened in later years on
the bay and lake :

The schooner " Franklin," owned by P. S.
V. Hamot, loaded at Buffalo for an upper
port, left Erie on the 16th of October, 1820,
and was never seen afterward. Capt. Hayt
and three men, all residents of Erie or vicin-
ity, were lost.

In April, 1823, four men — Hutchinson,
Zuck, Fox and Granger — started to cross the
bay in a boat. The water was rough, the
boat capsized, and all but Granger were

The steamboat " Washington" burned off
Silver Creek in 1838, and sixty persons lost
their lives.

Eleven men left the wharf at Erie in a
small boat on the 14th of May, 1884, to go to
the steamboat New York, lying at the outer
pier. A blinding snow storm prevailed, and
the boat was upset. Nine of the party were

One of the most dreadful calamities in the
history of lake navigation occurred on the 9th
of August, 1841. The steamboat " Erie," of
Erie, owned by Gen. Reed, and bearing a
large party of emigrants, was coming up the
lake from Buff"alo, and when off Silver Creek
was discovered to be ablaze. In an incon-
ceivably brief period of time the boat was
burned to the water's edge. Two hundred
and forty-nine persons were lost, of whom
twenty-six were residents of Erie. Between
120 and 130 bodies rose to the surface and
were recovered. The "Erie" was valued at
$75,000. Her cargo was worth about $20,000,
and the emigrants, it is calculated, had with
them $180,000 in gold and silver.

In 1850 the steamboat " G. P. GrifHn "
burned near Chagrin, Ohio, and 250 souls
were lost.

The propeller " Henry Clay " foundered
in 1851, and nothing was ever heard of any
one on board.

Nineteen lives were lost by the foundering
of the propeller " Oneida" in 1852.

In the summer of 1852 the steamboat "At-
lantic " collided with another vessel, and sunk

off Long Point, opposite Erie. One hundred
and fifty lives were lost.

The sloop " Washington Irving," of Erie,
Capt. Vanatta, left that port for Buffalo on
the 7th of July, 1860, and was never heard
from again. She is supposed to have found-
ered. All on board — seven persons — were

The loss of life and property on the chain
of lakes each year is very large. In 1860, 578
persons were drowned and a million dollars'
worth of property destroyed. In one gale, on
the 10th of September, 1882, 157 persons lost
their lives, of whom upwards of 1(X) came
to their deaths by the foundering of the
Canadian steamer " Asia, " in Georgian
bay. One of the severest gales ever known
occurred in November, 1883, lasting from the
11th for several days, and extending over the
whole chain of lakes. Nothing like it had
been seen for many years. From fifty to sixty
vessels were lost, and the damage was scarce-
ly less than a million dollars. The largest
loss of life during a single season, in recent
years, happened in 1887, when 204 persons
were drowned. The storm of October 14-15,
1893, strewed the lakes with wrecks and
caused the loss of over seventy seamen. In
that year the dead numbered 123, and in 1892
they numbered ninety-nine. During the sea-
son of 1894 sixty sailors were lost, and thirty-
eight vessels, with an aggregate tonnage of
15,881 tons, passed out of existence.


The following are the distances by water
in miles from the harbor of Erie :

Alpena 513

Bay City 397

Buffalo..'. 85

Cheboygan 517

Chicago 818

Cleveland 90

Detroit 185

Duluth 921

Grand Haven 735

Green Bay 692

Mackinaw 535

Mackinac I.sland 533

Marquette 682

Milwaukee 753

Ogdensburg- 328

Oscoda 365

Oswego 238

Port Huron 247

Saginaw 412

Sarnia 247


Sault 3te. Marie 523

St. Ig-nace 538

Toledo 180

Toronto 129


Navigation usually opens at the port of
Erie late in March or early in April, and
closes about the 1st of December. As a rule,
the harbor of Erie is open two or three weeks
before that of Buffalo. The following are
some of the earliest and latest periods of
opening :

Ear/ies/.— 1828, March 5th ; 1829, January
29th; 1842, March 12th ; 185(t, March 11th";
1863, February 27th ; 1878 and 1880, March
16th; 1883, April 13th; 1894, March 13th.

Lateif. —185B, May 9th ; 1855, May 10th ;
1856, May 5th.

In 1834 navigation opened the 24th of
March, but was much retarded by ice and
storms. On the 14th of May, snow fell along
the south shore of the lake to the depth of six

The Revenue Cutter " Erie" sailed from
the port of Erie to Buffalo about the last of
December, 1837, without interruption. In
February, 1838, the steamer " Dewitt Clin-
ton " came into Erie from Buffalo and went
from Erie to Detroit.

In the winter of 1844—45, the steamer
" United States " made a trip every month
between Buffalo and Detroit.

On the 13th of December, 1852, a steam-
boat passed up the lake and another on the
10th of January, 1853.

The 'winter of 1893-4 was remarkably
mild. The bay was only frozen over eight or
ten days. Vessels could have entered the
harbor anj' time during the month of Jan-
uary, and two did actually leave the port on
the 13th of the month.

The straits of Mackinaw, upon the open-
ing of which depends the lake traffic to
Chicago, are generally clear of ice about the
last of April Qr the 1st of May. Vessel insu-
rance begins as a rule on the latter date, and
alway closes on the 1st of December.


The f^ ,S. Collection district of Presque

le embraces the whole coast line of Penn-

: Ivani; on Lake Erie. The Collectors'

c in the old custom house (formerly

t e Bank building), on State street,

below Fourth, until the completion of the
new government structure, at State and
Central Park, when it was removed to the
latter, with the other Federal offices. Below
is a list of the Collectors and Deputy Collect-
ors, with the dates of the commissions of the


Thomas Forster, March 26, 1799 ; Edwin
J. Kelso, July 1, 1836; Charles W. Kelso,
July 10, 1841 ; Murray Whallon, June 19,
1845; William M. Gallagher, April 29, 1849;
James Lytle, April 22, 1853; John Brawley,
October 15, 1857; Murray Whallon, March 11,
1859; Charles M. Tibbals, November 1, 1859;
Thomas Wilkins, June 22, 1861; Richard F.
Gaggin, May 7, 1869; James R. Willard,
February 19, 1874; Hiram L. Brown, March
22, 1878: Matthew R. Barr, December 1, 1880
(resigned) ; H. C. Stafford, July 17, 1883;
R. H. Arbuckle, November 21^ 1885 ; John M.
Glazier, November 21, 1889; Nelson Baldwin,
November 29, 1893.


Under Col. Forster — Thomas McConkey,
James Maurice; under E. J. Kelso — Murray
Whallon ; under C. W. Kelso— A. C. Hilton ;
under Murray ^^'haIlon (first term) — A. P.
Durlin ; under W. M. Gallagher — William
S. Brown ; under Messrs. Lytle, Brawley,
Whallon (second term) and Tibbals— W. W.
Loomis; under Thomas Wilkins — R. F.
Gaggin; under R. F. Gaggin — Thomas
Wilkins; under J. R. WiHard— William F.
Luetje ; under Messrs. Brown and Barr — R.
F. Gaggin; under Mr. Barr, from March,
1883— Andrew H. Caughey ; under Mr. Staf-
ford — E. H. Wilcox and Alfred King; under
Mr. Arbuckle — Henry Mayer ; under Mr.
Glazier — Giles D. Price; under Mr. Baldwin
— R. S. P. Lowry.

The Collectors are appointed by the Presi-
dent, and the Deputies by the Collector, with
the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury.


The following list of vessels owned in
Erie in 1860 and 1894 is given for the pur-
pose of comparison ; the figures for 1894 being
taken from the report of the Board of Trade :

1860. — Brig, one; barque, one; schooners,
twenty-four; total, 5,294 tons; valuation,



Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 21 of 192)