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Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 22 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Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 22 of 192)
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1894. — Sailing vessels, four; steam vessels,
(wood), forty-five; steam vessels (iron), nine;
yacht, one; sailing yacht, one; total tonnage,
'36,055; valuation, $2,800,000.


The entrances at the port of Erie during
1860 were 655, and the clearances 678, with a
total tonnage of about 300,000. The follow-
ing persons and firms were in the lake busi-
ness in that year: Coal and shipping. Walker
& Gilson, John Hearn & Co.. Charles M.
Reed, Josiah Kellogg, Starr & Payne, George
J.Morton, Scott & Rankin; coal and iron,
Curtis & Boyce ; grocery and ship chandlery,
Andrew Hofsies. With the exception of the
lumber and fishing business, the whole trade of
the port is now done by the Anchor Line, the
Carnegie Company, and the firm of which the
late Wm. L. Scott was the controlling spirit.
The former do all the grain and miscellaneous
business, and the two latter control the coal
and iron ore trade.

The following table shows the business of
the port for the years stated :

1880 1890 1894
Vessels entered and

cleared 2,024 3,195 2,683

Tonnage of same 1,565,183 2,492,253 3,069,739

Enrolled tonnag-e 28,248 110,801

The first grain elevator at the port of
Erie, now known as "Elevator A," was built
in 1868, by William S. Brown, Orange Noble,
Joseph McCarter and Henry C. Shannon.
After being operated, by the firm for a short
time, it was sold to the Erie and Western
Transportation Co., (generally known as
the Anchor line), which erected two others,
all three of which are still operated.


The first lighthouse upon the chain of
lakes was erected at Erie in 1818, on the bluff
overlooking the entrance to the harbor, a
tract of land for the purpose having been
ceded to the United States Government bj-
Gen. John Kelso. A new structure was built
of Milwaukee brick in 1858, but proved to be
defective, and it was replaced by a third
building of stone in 1866, at a cost of |20,000.
This was discontinued in 1880 and the build-
ing and land sold in the spring of 1881.
There was a strong protest on the part of the
lake men, which induced the government to

re-purchase the land and restore the light at
the opening of navigation in 1882.

About tiie year 1830, the government added
a beacon light on the north pier at the en-
trance to the harbor of Erie. It consisted of
a tall wooden tower, resting upon a heavy bed
of masonry. This structure was carried awav
by a sailing vessel in the summer or fall of 1857,
and was replaced by the present wrought iron
tower in the summer of 1858. The light-
house was modeled and forged into form in
France, reaching Erie with nothing to be done
except to bolt the pieces into their proper po-
sitions. Five diff'erent lights are maintained
at this station, all fixed, white, sixth order
lenses, and used as ranges. In addition to
these and for the further protection of navi-
gators, there is a 1,200-pound Meneely fog
bell, which is operated by clock work, and
tolls three times each minute in snowy and
foggy weather.

A third station was established
on the north shore of the peninsula, and a
handsome brick tower erected for the pur-
pose, from which the first light was exhibited
on the night of July 12, 1873. It is known
as the Flash Light, and cost the government


Below is a list of the several Light-house
Keepers, with the years of their appointment :

Eric (or Land) Z/V/;/.— 1818-1833,
Capt. John Bone, of Erie ; 1833, Robert Kin-
caide, of Erie; 1841. Griffith Hinton, of
Harbor Creek; 1845, Eli Webster, of Mc-
Kean ; 1849, James W. Miles, of West Mill
Creek, who died in the summer of 1853, the
duties being performed by his wife, Isabel
Miles, till the ensuing spring; April 1, 1854,
John Graham, of Erie; April 1,1858, Gen.
James Fleming, of Erie; October 27, 1858,
A. C. Landon, of Erie; July 15, 1861, John
Goalding, of Erie; April 1, 1864, George
Demond, of Erie; August 1,. 1871, A. J.
Fargo, of Fairview; 1885, George W. Miller,
of Conneaut, Ohio.

Prcsquc Isle Pier Head (or Beaco?i)
Light. — William T. Downs, years unknown;
Benjamin Fleming, Erie, years unknown ;
John Hess, Erie, years unknown ; Leonard
Vaughn, Summit, years unknown; George
\V. Bone, Erie, appointed July 19, 1861;
Richard P. Burke, Erie, March 1, 1863 ; Frank


Henry, Harbor Creek, May 1, 1869; Charles
D. Coyle, Erie, 1884; Robert Hunter, Erie,

Assistants. — James Johnson, Erie, ap-
pointed in June', 1873; C. E. McDannell,
Mill Creek, September, 1871; William H.
Harlow, 1885; Robert Hunter, Erie, 1886:
Thomas L. Wilkins, 1889 ; Edward Plister,
1892; John W. Reddy, 1894.

Prcsqite Is/c {or Flask) Lii;/it.—]u\y 12,
1873, Charles T. Waldo, of Fairview ; spring
of 1880, George E. Irvin, A. J. Harrison;
Fall of 1880, O. J. McAllister, of Wattsburg ;
1880, George E. Town, of North East; 1883,
Clark M. Cole, of Erie; 1886, Lewis Van-
natta, Erie; 1891, Lewis Walrose ; 1892,
Thomas L. Wilkins, Erie.

Up to June, 1894, the appointment of
Light-house Keeper was made by the Col-
lector of the port, but under the civil service
rules it is now vested in the Inspector of light-

The new gas buoy, one of the latest and
most useful inventions of the day, was placed
in the harbor during the summer of 1895,
through the recommendation of Capt. Gridley,
light-house Inspector of the district.


The Erie lights are in the Tenth Light-
house district of the United States, extending
from the mouth of St. Regis river, in New
York, to and including Grassy Island, in the
Detroit river. Each district is in charge of a
United States naval oflicer, who is officially
known as Inspector.

The following have been the recent in-
spectors :

Com. Ellison, from to 1868; 1868-71,

Com. G. H. Scott ; 1871-74, Com. N. Collins ;
1874-77, Com. E. E. Potter; 1877-78, Capt.
George Brown; 1878-80, Com. W. R. Bridg-
man; 1880-83, Com. George W. Hay ward ;
1883-87, Com. N. M. Dwyer; 1887-91, Com.
Charles V. Gridley; 1891-93, Com. E. T.

Woodward; 1893-94, Com. James G. Green ;
1894, Com. Charles V. Gridley.


The U. S. Life-Saving Service on Lake
Erie was organized in 1876 by Capt. Ottinger,
of the revenue service, who was soon suc-
ceeded in regular charge by Capt. D. P. Dob-
bins, a resident of Buffalo, but a native of
Erie, who continued till his death, August 20,
1892. He was followed by Capt. Chapman,
of Oswego, whose headquarters are in Buffalo.
The Ninth district, of which the latter has
supervision, embraces Lakes Erie and Ontario,
and the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville, Ky.
The stations on Lake Erie are located at Buf-
falo, Erie, Ashtabula, Cleveland, Fairport and
Point Marblehead.

The original station at Erie was built on
the north shore of the peninsula, with Clark
Jones in charge. This location being found
inconvenient, the station was removed to the
north pier at the entrance of the harbor.
William Clark took charge of the station in
1877. He was drowned while trying to rescue
the passengers of the Badger State on June
4th, 1891. His successor was Andrew P.
Jansen. A new and improved life-boat of the
English type, which had been on exhibition
at the World's Fair, was placed in the station
during the spring of 1894.


The U. S. Weather and Signal Service
office, intended largely for the benefit of mari-
ners, was established in Erie May 23, 1873.
Peter Wood, who had been in the chief office
at Washington city, assumed charge in Feb-
ruary, 1884, and has been on duty ever since.
The office is on the fourth floor of the govern-
ment building, at State street and Central

[For other information regarding the har-
bor, the lake trade, fishing interests, etc., see
Chapter V., Erie City.]


The War of 1812-14— Perry's Victory-

County's Pai

WAR was declared for the second time
by the United States against Great
Britain on the 18th of June, 1812.
At that time the Canadian territory
bordering the hikes and the St. Law-
rence was far in advance of the United States
on the opposite side in population, commerce
and agriculture. The British were also much
better prepared for war, having a series of
military posts, from Niagara to Sault Ste.
Marie, and being provided with a " Provincial
Navy," which gave them the mastery of the
lakes. They were on the best of terms with
the Indians on both sides of the water, who
were generally hostile to the Americans.

Erie, than a mere handful of buildings,
from its position near the center of the lake
and the excellence of its harbor, was regarded
as one of the most important points on the
south shore.

On the east, there was no village of any
size nearer than Buffalo, and the country be-
tween scarcely contained ten families to the
square mile. Westward the greater portion
of the region remained an unbroken forest,
the only settlements worthy of a name being
those which surrounded the military posts at
Cleveland, Sandusky, Toledo and Detroit.


When hostilities commenced, they were so
little expected on the frontier that Capt.
Daniel Dobbins, Rufus Seth Reed and W.W.
Reed sailed in a trading vessel for Mackinaw
soon after the opening of navigation. While
at that place a body of British and Indians
took possession of the island and captured the
party with their vessel. As prisoners of war
they were carried in their own vessel to De-
troit, where they were allowed to depart, and
finally reached home in safety.

On the outbreak of the war a military
companv was in existence at Erie, under com-
mand of Capt. Thomas Forster. The mem-

bers immediately tendered their services to the
President, and were accepted for the time
being. In anticipation of the conflict. Gov.
Snyder had organized the militia of the State
into two grand divisions — one for the east and
one for the west. The western division was
under the command of Maj.-Gen. Adamson
Tannehill, of Pittsburg ; the brigade of which
the Erie county militia formed a part was
commanded by Brig. -Gen. John Kelso, and
the Erie county regiment was under the com-
mand of Dr. John C. Wallace. Among the
oflicers of the regiment were Capts. Andrew
Cochran, Zelotus Lee, James Barr, William
Dickson, Robert Davison, Warren Foote,
John Morris, — Smith and — Donaldson.
Capt. Barr and his men were sent to San-
dusk}', and spent the winter of 1812-13 there.
Capt. Cochran's Springfield company kept
guard along the lake for some months, and
was frequently called out at later stages of
the war. The company commanded by Capt.
Foote was assigned, in the beginning, to
'■ keep sentry at the head of the peninsula."

Before the close of June, Gen. Kelso
ordered out his brigade for the defence of
Erie. This was quickly followed by a general
call for the Sixteenth Division, the State hav-
ing by this time been apportioned into more
numerous military districts. The brigade
rendezvous was on the farm of John Lytle,
upon the flats at Waterford station. Upward
of two thousand men were collected from
Erie, Crawford, Mercer and the adjoining
counties. August 13, a detachment of 2,500
of the Northwestern militia — increased in
September by 2,000 more — were ordered to
march to Buffalo, which was menaced by the
enemy. They continued at Buffalo the winter
through, under command of Gen. Tannehill,
and it is related to the credit of Erie county,
that while many others deserted, not one man
of Col. Wallace's command shirked his duty.
In the meantime measures had been taken for


tlie defence of Erie, which was reported in
danger of an attack by the enemy's fleet seve-
ral times during the year.

The summer campaign of 1812 along the
lake was a series of disasters to the Americans.
The surrender of Detroit by Hull, the defeat
of Van Rensselaer at Niagara in October, and
the capture of the Adams, the only armed ves-
sel that had been left to us, gave the British
full control upon the lake.


Upon the return of Capt. Dobbins to Erie,
he was called into immediate consultation
with Gen. Mead, commander of the post, who
sent him to Washington for the purpose of
informing the President of the situation on
the lakes. On reaching the capital, he met
the cabinet, in official session, and earnestly
advocated the establishment of a naval station
and the building of a fleet powerful enough
to cope with the British upon the lake. These
suggestions were adopted. A Sailing Master's
commission in the navy was tendered to him
and accepted, and he was ordered to proceed
to Erie and begin the construction of gun-
boats. An effort was made to secure ship
carpenters, but only one being secured, Capt.
Dobbins decided to go on with such house
builders and laborers as he could gather to-

About January 1, 1818, Commodore
Chauncej' came to Erie, accompanied by a
United States naval constructor, and, after
approving what Dobbins had done, ordered
him to prepare for the building of two sloops
of war in addition to the gunboats. The keels
of these vessels were ready to lay and much of
the timber on hand about the lOth of March,
when a gang of twenty-five carpenters, in
charge of Noah Brown, a master ship builder
from New York, reached Erie. A temporary
guard was improvised, consisting of Capt.
Forster's volunteer military company, who
had got back from Buffalo, and the workmen
at the station.


Lieut. Oliver Hazard Perry, to whom the
command on Lake Erie had been assigned,
arrived at Erie March 27, 1813, and estab-
lished his headquarters in " Duncan's Hotel "
(later the " McConkey House"), at the
northeast corner of Third and French streets.

He was only twenty-seven years of age,
and his sole war service was as a Mid-
shipman in the war with Tripoli ; but he was
active, brave and patriotic. By the joint ex-
ertions of Perry and Mead, a thousand State
militia were ordered to rendezvous at Erie on
or before the 20th of April. The old Ameri-
can block-house of 1795, which had nearly
gone to ruins, was hurriedly restored, as was
also the one on the point of the peninsula.
Redoubts were subsequently thrown up at
several points on the bank of the bay and lake.

It is next to impossible at the present day
to comprehend the difficulties that attended
Perry and Dobbins in their efforts. Of prac-
tical ship builders there were few in the lake
country. The timber for the vessels had to be
cut in the forests and used while yet green.
Iron was scarce, and had to be picked up
wherever it could be found. The guns, arms
and ammunition had to be brought by small
boats from Buffalo and Pittsburg.

Carpenters, blacksmiths, sail makers, rig-
gers, and other workmen came on from New
York and Philadelphia, infusing new energy
into the operations. The " Lawrence '' and
" Niagara," sloops of war, and the pilot boat
" Ariel," schooner-rigged, were built on the
beach at the mouth of Cascade run, now occu-
pied by the Erie & Pittsburgh docks, and the
" Porcupine " and " Tigress," gunboats, on a
beach that jutted out from the mouth of Lee's
run, afterward the terminus of the canal. The
brig " Caledonia" and sloop '■ Trippe," and
the schooners Ohio, Amelia and Somers were
brought up the lake from Black Rock, great
vigilance being required to elude the enemy.
They reached Erie on the 17th of June.

perry's fleet.
The entire fleet with which Perry was ex-
pected to humble British pride on the lake
was now concentrated in the harbor of Erie.
It consisted of the "Lawrence" and "Ni-
agara," built after the same model, being 100
feet straight rabbit, 100 feet between per-
pendiculars, 30 feet beam, 9 feet hold, flush
deck, and pierced for twenty guns, with two
stern ports; the "Ariel" and "Scorpion,'' each
of 63 tons ; the " Porcupine" and "Tigress," of
about 50 tons ; the "Caledonia," of 85 tons ;
the " Trippe," of 63 tons, and the "Amelia,"
" Somers" and " Ohio," of 72, 65 and 62 tons
respective!)'. The " Lawrence " was named


after the heroic Capt. James Lawrence, who
was killed in the encounter between the
Chesapeake and Shannon, and whose last
words, "Don't give up the ship," were in-
scribed by Perry on his fighting flag. One of
the schooners brought up from Black Rock,
the "Amelia," was condemned as worthless
and sunk in the harbor.

Up to the 25th of June something like 150
men and officers had arrived for service in the
fleet, of whom many were sick in the hos-
pitals, of which there were three — in the
court house, on the point of Misery bay and in
the block house, respectively. More men
reached Erie on or about the 25th of July, and
by August 1st Perry's force numbered about
300, of whom quite one-third were landsmen,
who volunteered for the service.

While Perry was preparing the fleet, ves-
sels of the enemy anchored in the roadstead
several times, and would have entered the bay
but for the shallow water on the bar. Some-
times the "Queen Charlotte," the British flag-
ship, would appear alone, and at others the
whole squadron. July 19th, six of the enemy's
vessels were in sight outside the harbor, where
they lay becalmed for two daj-s. Perry went
with three gunboats to attack them, and a few
shots were exchanged at a mile's distance. A
breeze springing up, the enemy sailed away,
evidently desiring to avoid a fight. All this
time the meager land force at Erie was kept
busy parading the bank of the lake, to give
the impression to the enemy of a larger army
than was really the case. On the 27th of Au-
gust a force of 1,600 State militia was report-
ed as being in camp at Erie.


On Sunday, the 1st of August, the vessels
were moved to the mouth of the bay, then free
from piers, and preparations were made for
getting them over the bar and for defending
them in case of an attack while the operation
was in progress. The guns, ballast and other
heavy material were removed from the " Law-
rence '' to the sand beach, being so adjusted as
to be readily replaced, and the ship was lifted
over the bar by the aid of "camels." This
proceeding was considerably delayed by an
unfavorable wind, and it was not until the
morning of the 4th, after two nights and days
of wearisome labor, that the 'Lawrence"
was floated to her anchorage in the roadstead.

The " Niagara " was lifted over by the same
process a few days after, the smaller vessels
crossing without serious trouble.

Before the work of moving the " Niagara "
over the bar was completed, the enemy ap-
peared early one morning, and hove to about
eight miles out for the purpose of reconnoiter-
ing. After looking over the situation for an
hour or two, the British crossed the lake to
Port Dover, where it had been intended to
concentrate a sea and land force for a com-
bined attack upon Erie. This failed because
the troops could not be got up in season.


On the 9th, to the joy of all, the little band
were joined by Lieut. Elliott, with some offi-
cers and ninety men, most of whom were ex-
perienced sailors. The squadron, though still
lacking a proper equipment, was now thought
to be ready for active service, and, on the
morning of the 12th of August, sailed up the
lake in search of the enemy. A dinner was
given to Perry, just before his departure, by
the citizens of Erie, at which he expressed a
desire to return a victor or in his shroud. The
fleet consisted of ten vessels. Before sailing
Perry had been created a commander, and El-
liott had been promoted to the same rank.
Most of the officers were young men — the av-
erage ages of the commissioned ones being less
than twenty-three years. With few excep-
tions, they had no acquaintance with the navi-
gation of the lakes. While at Sandusky,
Sailing-Master Dobbins, in command of the
" Ohio," was ordered to Erie with his vessel,
for the purpose of procuring " provisions and
other articles," and very unwillingly remained
at anchorage in the harbor while the battle
Was iu progress.


On the 10th of September, at the rising of
the sun, while the fleet lay in Put-in Ba^s the
lookout shouted "Sail, ho !" and the men of
the squadron, who were almost instantly astir,
saw the British vessels, six in number, rise
above the horizon. Feeble from sickness as he
was, Perry gave the signal immediately to get
under way, adding that he was " determined
to fight the enemy that day." At a quarter
before 12 o'clock, when the "Detroit" and
"Lawrence" were still more than a mile
apart, the sound of a bugle was heard on the



British flagship, followed by cheers along their
line, the band struck up "Rule Brittannia,"
and in a moment after the music ceased, a shot
was thrown at the "Lawrence" which fell

The purpose of this sketch being to deal
with the subject mainly in its local bearings,
no attempt will be made to give a minute
account of the action, which has been graphi-
cally described by several of the most emi-
nent writers of the country. It is enough to
say, that, through some cause, the real na-
ture of which has been hotly discussed, the
"Niagara" did not engage the enemy at
close quarters, and the battle, for a time, was
maintained " by the ' Lawi-ence,' ' Caledonia,'
'Scorpion' and 'Ariel,' against- the whole
British squadron, assisted only by the long
twelves of the ' Niagara,' and the distant,
rambling shots from the headmost gunboats."
The " Lawrence" for two hours sustained
the fire of the two heaviest British vessels,
as well as some stray shots from the others,
" until ever}- gun was dismounted, two-thii'ds
of her crew killed or wounded, and the ship
so badly cut up aloft as to be unmanageable."
In this critical situation. Perry took his fight-
ing flag under his arm and passed in a row
boat, accompanied by his brother and four
men, to the " Niagara," which was making
an effort to gain the head of the enemj-'s line.
The British felt sure that the day was their's
and sent up a cheer.

On boarding the " Niagara," Perry, who
had stood erect in the boat the whole way,
was met cordially by Elliott, in command of
the vessel, who off'ered and was ordered to
bring the gunboats into close action, while
the former assumed command of the vessel.
The gunboats being well up, and the " Cale-
donia " in good position, the signal to break
through the British line was shown from the
"Niagara" at '1 -Ab in the afternoon. The
fire of the "Niagara" was reserved until she
got abreast of the " Detroit," when she poured
her starboard at pistol shot into that vessel and
the " Qiieen Charlotte," while with the
port broadside she sent a storm of ball into
the '■ Lady Provost " and " Chippewa." The
"Caledonia" and the gunboats followed
close behind, dealing death on both sides, and
the " Detroit " having fouled with the " Qiieen
Charlotte," neither vessel was able to reply.
After passing through the British line, the

"Niagara" rounded to under their lee, and
sent one broadside after another into the en-
tangled vessels, causing such fearful damage
that in fifteen minutes from the time she bore
up a white handkerchief was waved from the
" Qiieen Charlotte" as a symbol of submis-
sion, shortly succeeded by one from the " De-
troit." The firing ceased almost instantly,
after a struggle of almost three hours' dura-
tion. Two of the smaller British vessels un-
dertook to escape, but were brought back by
the " Scorpion" and " Trippe."

perry's famous dispatch.
When the smoke of battle cleared away,
the two squadrons were found to be inter-
mingled, with the exception of the shattered
" Lawrence," which was drifting with the
wind some distance to the eastward. As the
shout of victory went up, her flag, which had
been struck after Perry left, was again hoisted
to the masthead by the remaining few of her
crew who were able to witness the triumph of
their comrades. Perry sat down as soon as
the firing had ceased and wrote on the back of
an old letter this modest and memorable epis-
tle to Gen. Harrison :

United States Steamship Niagara,

September 10, 4 p. M. .
Dear Genekai, : We have met the enemy and
the}' are ours ; two ships, two brig^s, one schooner,
and one sloop.

Yours with great respect and esteem,
O. H. Perry.

To the Secretary of the Navy he messaged :
" It has pleased the Almighty to give to the

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 22 of 192)