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Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 69 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Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 69 of 192)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and accept title underthe act of May 11, 1871, just
recited, and on May 25, 1871, a deed was duly exe-
cuted by the Marine Hospital officers and direct-
ors, and accepted by the Secretary of War, and
possession was taken by the United States gov-
ernment, which has ever since had the custody
and control of the same, although the actual title
and ownership still remain vested in the State of

" This condition need not hinder, however, the
use of a portion of the peninsula on the bay front
for manufacturing purposes, as it will no doubt be
easy to secure such concurrent legislation by Con-
gress and the State Legislature as may be neces-
sary, in case public opinion should favor the same,
as it no doubt will, should there be a strong de-
mand for this particular location by those seeking
eligible sites for the manufacture of iron, as now
appears very probable.

" The popular error and confusion of ideas as
to the ownership of the peninsula of Presque Isle
has no doubt arisen from the official letter from the
chief clerk of the Interior Department, where he
speaks of the ' title ' to said peninsula being ten-
dered to the United States; and in another place
he refers to the deed conveying title being accept-
ed, etc.

" In fact, the United States government did not
acquire any title, but only, as you see, by referring
to the language of the acts, the right of posses-
sion and occupancy, and that for a distinctly lim-
ited purpose, namely, ' national defense and for
the protection of the harbor of Erie,' and in all


other respects to be subject to the civil and crimi-
nal jurisdiction of the State of Pennsylvania.
"Truly yours,
"William A. Galbraith."


Immediately after the war of 1812-14 the
Government asked Commodore Perry for his
opinion as to the feasibility of removing the
sand-bar which blocked the entrance to the
harbor, and he reported favorably on the
project. In 1819, a survey was made by the
general government, but nothing further was
done at that time. The State of Pennsyl-
vania, in 1822, appointed Thomas Forster,
Giles Sanford and George Moore, of Erie, a
committee to survey the bay and ascertain the
depth of water on the bar, and the anchorage
outside the bar, and expended $15,000,
toward improving the harbor. The project
was then taken in hand by the general gov
eminent, which has since continued the work.

A general plan of harbor improvement
was adopted in 1823, and amended from time
to time, as the demands of commerce called
for an increased depth of water. It provided
for closing all of the eastern end of the har-
bor by means of a breakwater, in which
should be left an opening 200 feet wide, and
for extending to deep water in the lake two
parallel piers, one on each side of the open-
ing. This project is substantially in force at
the present time, excepting that the piers are
350 feet apart. The total sum expended at
Erie harbor by the general government, up to
June 80, 1894, was .15826,782.88, including the
work done in the protection of the peninsula.


When this undertaking was entered upon
the channel at the entrance was narrow and
tortuous, with a depth of only six feet, and
the depth on the present line of channel was
only two feet. By 1827 vessels of ordinary
draft were able to enter the harbor ; by 1829,
the depth of the entrance was from seven and
a half to fifteen feet ; and in 1833 there was a
good channel with a depth of twelve feet
from the lake into the bay. This depth was
maintained to 1889, when operations were
suspended. [n 1844, the piers were going to
ruin ; there was a depth of eighteen feet be-
tween them, but shoals were forming at each

The original project contemplated the ex-
tension of the piers to the sixteen-foot curve
in the lake, and the maintenance of a channel
of navigable width sixteen feet in depth from
the harbor inside to the lake outside. The
channel, as secured, was, in 1894, 275 feet
wide and not less than 18 feet deep, and is
successfully maintained throughout its entire
length of 7,150 feet. The latter distance is
made up as follows:

From 18-foot contour in lake to the east or
outer end of the north pier, outer chan-
nel 1.000

Between piers 2,750

From west or inner end of piers to 18-foot

contour in harbor, inner channel 3,400

The length of channel lying between the
piers is kept thoroughly scoured by the
strong currents which run in and out, and thus
maintain it in good condition at all times. The
outer and inner channels require repeated
dredging in order to maintain them at the
required depth. Since the bar formation be-
gan to threaten the channel, in 1875, the pier
has been extended three times, viz : in 1880,
242 linear feet; in 1891, 452.15 linear feet,
and in 1893, 301.4 linear feet. The pier work
in all of the extensions is twenty-four feet
wide and twenty-four feet high, the super-
structure being eight feet high above water.

The e.xisting project provides for the fur-
ther extension of the south pier. To complete
it will require an extension of 1,000 feet, at a
cost of $65,000.

There is a strong current setting in and
out of the harbor, according to the direction
of the wind, which causes a variation of from
one to three feet in the depth of water in the


The following is a statement of the appro-
priations made by the United States for im-
proving Erie harbor, from 1828 to 1894 in-
clusive :

May 26, 1824 S 20,000 00

March 25, 1826 7,0(iO 00

March 2, 1827 2,000 00

May 19, 1828 6,223 18

March 3, 1829 7,390 25

March 2, 1831 1,700 00

July 3, 1832 4,500 00

March 2, 1833 6,000 00

June 28, 1834 23.045 00

March 3, 1835 5,000 00

July 2, 1836 15,122 80



March 3, 1837 15,000 00

July 7, 1838 30,000 00

June 11, 1844 40,000 00

Aug-ust 30, 1852 30,000 00

June 23, 1866 36.961 00

March 2, 1867 25,000 00

June 11, 1870 20,000 00

March 3, 1871 29,000 00

June 10, 1872 15,000 00

June 23, 1874 20,000 00

March3, 1875 80,000 00

Aug-ust 14, 1876 40,000 00

June 18, 1878 25,000 00

March 3, 1879 25,000 00

June 14, 1880 25,000 00

March 3, 1881 20,000 00

August 2, 1882 20,000 00

July 5, 1884 50,000 00

August 5. 1886 37,500 00

August 11, 1888 23,000 00

September, 19, 1890 40,000 00

July 13, 1892 40,000 00

1823 allotment 150 00

1864 allotnieut 15,000 00

1868 allotment 40,000 00

1869 allotment 22,275 00

1871 allotment 10,000 00

Total $871,867 23

Of this sum, there remained a baUmce un-
expended and avaihible, July 1, 1894, of $45,-
134.85. The sum which the government en-
gineers reported that can be profitably ex-
pended in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1896,
is $25,000, leaving $20,000 still on hand for

Mr. J. C. Qiiintus assumed charge of the
Erie harbor work, under direction of the
United States Engineering Department, Oc-
tober 1, 1886. His headquarters were in a
private oflice until December 3, 1888, when
he changed into the United States building.
He was relieved on November 8, 1894, bj-
Mr. C. M. Emmons, and transferred to Buf-
falo, N. Y.

[For an account of the interesting histori-
cal events that have happened in Erie harbor
and vicinity, and other matters of interest,
see the General History of Erie county.]


The principal docks are those of the Anchor
Line, the Hard Coal docks of the Philadelphia
and Erie R. R., the Erie and Pittsburg docks,
the Carnegie docks. Reed's dock, the Public
dock and the Watson dock.

At the beginning of the town's growth all
articles of commerce were landed on the sand
beach near tlie mouth of Mill creek, where

three storehouses had beexi erected as early as
1815. Rufus S. Reed was one of the pioneers
in the lake trade, and, to facilitate his busi-
ness, constructed a dock near the foot of Sas-
safras street, which has ever since been famil-
iarly known as Reed's dock. The pier reached
out from the shore to a depth of eight feet of
water, which was sufficient to float the lar-
gest vessel on the lakes at that period.

In the early days of steam navigation boats
landed freight and passengers at the light-
house piers to avoid loss of time. As no coal
could then be obtained, wood was the only
fuel used, and an immense quantity was re-
quired for the round trip from Buffalo to De-
troit and Chicago ; this was "poled" out to
the piers on scows. When a steamboat ap-
proached Erie a signal gun was fired on deck.
As soon as the cannon was heard all was
bustle and activity on shore until the transfer
of passengers and freight was effected. When
Mr. Reed engaged in the steamboat business
he required all of his boats to come to his
dock. As he was monopolizing the Erie
trade by so doing, the captains of other boats
trading here were compelled to land at the
dock or relinquish the trade at this port.

The business at Reed's dock was greatly
increased by the opening of the Erie Exten-
sion Canal, early in the forties. Long lines of
canal boats and sailing vessels were almost
constantly moored alongside the dock during
the season of navigation, discharging and
loading cargoes of bituminous coal. The dock
was leased by W. L. Scott & Co. some years
ago, when its facilities for handling coal were
largely increased.


The opening of the canal led to the build-
ing of a series of docks, extending from the
foot of State street, east and west, which, in
connection with the roadway and dock lead-
ing thereto, became known as the Public dock.
Inside of these was the canal basin, now nearly
filled with sediment from the sewers, which
was a very busy place for many j-ears. The
docks on each side of State street were owned
in the main, if not wholly, by private parties,
and, in the days of canal boating, were among
the most valuable property in or about Erie.


The water lots covered by the Anchor Line
docks and the Philadelphia and Erie docks




were a gift from the city to the latter corpora-
tion, or rather to its predecessor, the Siinbnry
and Erie Company. The contract for build-
ing the first docks was awarded to George J.
Morton & Co. Cribs were constructed, but
not filled, until several years later.

David Burton & Sons (Andrew and A. P.
Burton), who were the first shippers of anthra-
cite coal from Erie, and also the pioneer ship-
pers of that kind of coal to supply the home
demand, utilized the docks in 18G6. In 1868
David Burton withdrew, and the firm name
became Burton Bros. & Co., S. P. Longstreet
having been admitted as a member of the firm.
The new company continued in business until
1874. Eyer since the latter date W. L. Scott
& Co. have been lessees of the dock,. which
has been greatly enlarged and improved. An-
other extensive and very convenient dock for
handling hard coal has been added, east of the
original one.


The "Erie and Western Transportation
Company," better known as the " Anchor
Line," commenced business in 1868, the nucleus
being one small grain elevator, now known as
elevator A, built by Messrs. Noble, Brown,
McCarter and Shannon, which the corporation
purchased. From this humble beginning the
business has become of great magnitude. The
company, which has a full-paid capital stock
of $8,000,000, and an issue of $750,000 five
per cent, bonds, secured by a mortgage on its
terminal properties, is the Pennsjlvania R. R.
Company's lake and rail line between the
Eastern seaboard and the West. It was in-
corporated June 21, 1865, under the laws of
Pennsylvania. Besides operating chartered
vessels in such number as the demands of busi-
ness make necessary, the company owns, clear
of incumbrance, a fleet of eighteen steamers
on the Great Lakes, having an aggregate ton-
nage of about 35,000 tons. At Erie the com-
pany has forty acres of dock property, on
which are three grain elevators, immense ware-
houses and every facility for the rapid and sat-
isfactory transaction of business. The tracks
on this property connect with the Pennsyl-
vania R. R. system for all points East and
South. At Buffalo twelve acres of dock prop-
erty are owned, on which are erected a grain
elevator and large merchandise warehouses,
connecting with all railroads centering in Buf-

falo. At Chicago the Company's docks and
warehouses constitute the most permanent,
extensive and advantageously located terminal
of any of the organized lake lines at that port.
At Milwaukee and Duluth, also, valuable ter-
minal facilities are possessed through lease or
otherwise. The lamented John J. Wadsworth
was the agent of the line at Erie for many
years before his death. He has been succeeded
by Charles W. Payne. The general manager
of the "Anchor Line" is John E. Payne, a
former citizen of Erie, whose headquarters
are in Philadelphia.


The Pittsburg dock No. 1, extending far
out into the bay from the mouth of Cascade
run, and No. 2, facing the bay, one mile west
of the Public dock, at the foot of State street,
and extending westward, were completed at
the time of the opening of the Erie and Pitts-
burg R. R., in 1865. Although a small cjuan-
tity of iron ore was received the same season,
the shipping of bituminous coal was the prin-
cipal business. The Lake Superior iron ore
trade increased so rapidly that it became
necessary to use the entire dock for that pur-
pose and build a new coal dock a few rods to
the westward, which was completed in 1867.
In 1868 the docks were connected with Reed's
dock by a railroad track built along the foot
of the -bluff', protected on the bay side by a
wall of timbers nearly a mile in length, which
was eventually extended so as to make a con-
nection with the Philadelphia and Erie R. R.
Since that time the docks and trestle work
have been greatly extended, all the latest im-
provements for handling coal and iron ore
added, and dredging done to an extent that
enables the largest vessels on the lakes to lay
alongside. The Carnegie company operates
three wharves, which handle vast quantities
of iron ore brought down the lakes in ore
carriers and whalebacks, to be shipped over
the Erie and Pittsburg R. R. to the furnaces
and manufacturers of Pittsburg and the She-
nango valley. The bituminous coal industry is
represented by the W. L. Scott Coal Company
and the Panhandle Coal Company. During
the great coal famine of 1894 Erie was about
the only station on the lakes where steamers
could get fuel. The W. L. Scott Company
was established by the wonderful ability and
energy of the gentleman whose name it bears,



and is perhaps the largest shipper of coal on
the lakes.

The Watson dock was built by the Erie
Blast Furnace Company, some time in the
sixties, and leased in 1894 by the H. F. Wat-
son Co., to be used in connection with the
shipments to and from their extensive paper
mills. They have been succeeded by the
Erie Dock and Transportation Company', an
outgrowth of the Watson enterprise.


Lumber is brought to the port in large
quantities by schooners and tramp steamers,
for shipment south and for local consumption.
This line of trade is represented by Carroll
Brothers, Bauschard Brothers, Lyman Fel-
heim, David Schlosser and others.

The Erie Dock and Transportation Com-
pany have gone into the carrying trade be-
tween Erie and New York to a considerable
extent. They own a steamer and a number of
barges. The barges convey coal to New
York, via the Erie canal and the Hudson
river, and return with paper stock, etc.,
mainly for use at the Watson mill.

In addition to the above industries, the
trade in lime rock with Kelley's Island, by
Messrs. Spooner & Rea, and the extensive
importations of vegetables, fish and farm pro-
ducts from Canada, should not be omitted.


The following extracts from the report
submitted by Douglas Benson , Secretary of
the Erie Board of Trade, at its meeting on the
28th of March, 1895, are of value for refer-
ence :

Imports l>v Lake.

1884. 1894.

Barley, bushels 48,650 401,562

Corn, bushels 1 ,263,827 2,651 ,484

Oats, bushels 19,995 5,000

Wheat, bushels 2,222,108 2,254,752

Rye, bushels 265.020 94,863

Flax Seed, bushels 137,618 73,416

Total 3,957,218 5,481,077

Flour, barrels 557,022 2,065,357

Flourto wheat, bushels.... 2,785,110 10,326,785

Total Grain, bushels 6,742,328 17,807,862

Lumber, feet 14,301,332 9,642,127

Pig iron, tons 10,408 747

Iron ore, tons 116,027 643,628

Copper, pounds 11,956,575 28,467,305

Merchandise, pounds 39,393,702 169,584,535

Limestone, cords 850 200

Stone, cords 800

Plaster, tons 14,728

Pig- leads, pounds 22,476,920

Lath, pieces 3,863,100 309,600

Shingles, bundles 16,000

R. R. Ties 12,118

Telegraph Poles 370

Exports by Lake.

1884. 1894.

Coal, tons 193,969 689,043

Pig iron, tons 3,012

Merchandise, pounds 120,191,120 76,630,127

Vessels entered and cleared 1,283 2,683

Tonnage on same 1,083,507 3,069,737

Of the coal exported in 1894, 424,006 tons
were anthracite and 265,037 bituminous.

Coat Shipments.

The shipments of coal by lake were as fol-
lows in the years named :


1874 217,500

1875 174.672

1876 233,012

1877 232,326

1878 224,653

1879 271,035

1880 200,298

1881 207.702

1882 279.155

1883 204,755

1884 193,969

1885 188,860

1886 235,255

1887 230,845

1888 405.248

1889 410,403

1890 515.609

1891 586,990

1892 567,347

1893 620,859

1894 689,043

Grain Receipts— Where From.

The grain received in 1894 was from the
following ports :


Chicago 4,135,087

Milwaukee 364,778

Duluth 155,968

Washburn 169,326

Canada Ports 280,026

Detroit 109.875

Toledo 266,017

Total Bushels 5,481,077



Fishing, ;is a commercial pursuit, has al-
ways been large at this point, and at the
present time probably excels any other port
on Lake Erie. It is almost entirely controlled
by the following firms: Erie Fish Associa-
tion (Limited), Sandusky Fish Companj',
Toledo Fish Company, and W. G. Rainey &
Co., all well equipped with outfits for the busi-
ness. The Erie Fish Association is the most
complete and perfect establishment of any like
concern on the lakes, and the quantity of fish
handled each day by this concern is accom-
plished with so much ease and celerity that to !
a looker-on it would appear that but little was
being done, when, on the contrary, an enor-
mous amount of work is being perfon^ed in
all of its different departments.

In a paper prepared by Capt. John Flee-
harty in March, 1898, for the Pe'nnsylvania
Fish Commissioners, for circulation during the
World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago,
the catch of the different varieties of fish !
taken at Erie was computed for the season of
1892 at 12,786,579 pounds, this having been •
the first time that accurate statistics had been I
made up. " The increase for 1894 was about
1,000,000 pounds. At that date the amount
of capital invested was $250,000, which has
been increased. The number of men em-
ployed was 500, with twenty-eight steam fish :
boats, fourteen sail fish boats, forty pound '
nets, boats, gear, etc. It is not unusual that j
fifty tons of fish represent a day's catch, and
it frequently goes beyond that amount. In
fact, to those who are unacquainted with the |
immensity of the industry, the details are |

"Prior to 1880 all fish were taken with \
hook and line. David Fowzier was the first |
to resort to seine fishing. About this time [
Thomas Horton, William Buckingham and
Abraham Huntsbarger began drawing the

" The first white fish taken in Lake Erie
was in 1852 at Dunkirk, N. Y., by Capt.
Nash, who came from Mackinac with two
fish boats and a complete outfit as an experi-
ment. The taking of these fish created con-
siderable excitement and gave great impetus
to the fishingindustry. Sturgeon, prior to 1854,
were considered useless, and when caught were
taken to the Peninsula and buried. Thousands

of them have been wasted there. Now,
smoked sturgeon is thought to be fully equal
to smoked halibut. The roe is very fine,
making an excellent ' caviare.' Lake trout
weighing sixty-five pounds are not uncom-
mon, but the largest ever caught in this vicin-
ity weighed seventy-five pounds. The larg-
est white fish ever taken at Erie, as far as
known, was twenty-one and one-half pounds."

.1 Fisherman' s Paradise.

" Presque Isle Bay and vicinity abound in
all varieties of small fish. Perch are found in
abundance, are fine to the taste, and afford
rare sport to those who seek them. Grass
pike are found in the ponds of the Peninsula,
as well as in the bay in large numbers. Her-
ring are here in abundance, and during the
winter season furnish food for a large number
of families. Perch and herring are caught
in great numbers through the ice, when the
bay and lake are frozen over, and almost any
da)' during the winter season hundreds of
persons may be seen fishing for them. It has
been estimated that during the winter of
1894-5, for over sixty days, there were caught
through the ice on the bay over 1,200 pounds
of perch, each day, without mentioning the
amount of herring taken, which would prob-
ably be half as much as the perch."

" Black bass, rock bass, muscalonge and
sunfish are not as plentiful as they once were,
owing to the-number of seines drawn in the
bay of recent years by fish pirates, but, with
the efforts that are making to enforce the fish
laws, it is believed they will, in a few years,
be as numerous as ever. Muscalonge have
been caught here weighing sixty-two pounds,
and six-pound bass have unquestionably been
caught in the bay, but a four-pound bass will
give a sportsman all the sport he desires, if he
knows how to handle his fish, and fish of that
size are common here."

The following additional information is
gleaned from a very readable article in the
Herald " Souvenir of Erie," published in

Gill-Net Fishing.

" In 1854 the gill-net fishing business was
in its infancy. A fisherman named Hitch-
cock came from the ' Islands ' at the west end
of Lake Erie and set a few nets, making good
hauls. The news of his success was heralded



far and wide. Soon afterward Richard P.
Burke and Mr. Terry embarked in the busi-
ness, followed by Daniel Weeks, John Dash,
sr., and his two sons, Adam and John Dash,
jr., Larimer & Newton, Clark Jones and oth-
ers. Heavy hauls of white fish and salmon-
trout were often made. Frequently the
boats brought in from ten to forty of the lat-
ter at a 'catch,' averaging fifteen pounds

" Owing to meager shipping facilities
there was not much demand for fresh white
fish, which could be purchased from the boats
at one cent per pound. The surplus was
salted for shipment. After railroads to the
interior were built, a larger market was
opened, but the supply was generallj- greater
than the demand until the freezing process
was adopted.

"The firm of Stancliff & Larimer, dealers
in salt fish, who had a provision store on
French street, between Fifth and Sixth, were
also engaged in the gill-net fishing business
in 1854.

Pound -Net Fishiiio;

"In 18'i2 Post & Durfee, of Fairport, Ohio.,
set the first pound-nets off the port of Erie for
the purpose of catching sturgeon. Immense
hauls were made, several tons being brought
in daily. The roe was removed, salted, and
sent to Germany, where it was prepared as an
article of food called ' caviar,' regarded by
epicures as a great delicacy. After the roe
was removed the dead sturgeon, weighing
from sixty to 100 pounds each, were taken out
on the lake and thrown overboard. Of late
years no more sturgeon are wasted, the de-
mand being greater than the supply. They
are salted and smoked, finding a ready market,
often being sold for halibut.

"Post & Durfee were followed in the pound-
net fishing business successively by Heidt &
Wendall, Slocum & Stuntz, and Slocum &
Meyers. As immense quantities of game and
other fish were caught in the pound-nets, over-
stocking the markets, the business met with
persistent and determined opposition by hook-
and-line as well as gill-net fishermen. The
Game and Fish Association secured the pass-

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 69 of 192)