Maritime History of the Great Lakes
A Veteran Steamboat Man
Door County Advocate (Sturgeon Bay, WI), 31 Aug 1889, p. 5, column 3
Full Text
A Veteran Steamboat Man

Capt. Barney Sweeney, for the past twenty years or more in the employ of the Goodrich Transportation Co., spent a couple of days in this city this week, combining business with pleasure. Owing to his long and faithful services Capt. Sweeney has been retired from active duty, and he will spend the remainder of his days in looking after the various steamers and other property of the company. In other words the captain will henceforth occupy the exalted position of commodore of the Goodrich fleet.

Capt. Sweeney, who has turned sixty, has been sailing on the great lakes during the past forty-five years, more than one half of which time he has been employed by the Goodrich Co., gave us the following information in regard to steamboating on the lakes during earlier days.

"I began sailing to Green Bay along in 1851," said the veteran navigator. "The only places along the shore that I can remember were Washington Harbor and Fish Creek. We also called at Baileys Harbor, these being the only three places at which any stoppage was made. Here we obtained our fuel. We also called at Menominee to load freight and passengers; but as there was no dock at that point in those days, we had to make the transfer in small boats. this was slow and often times disagreeable work. There were a couple of mills up river and the lumber was brought out to the vessels in rafts. A good many days were frequently consumed b a vessel in taking on a cargo of a couple of hundred thousand feet.

"There was nothing at Sturgeon Bay in those days that I can recall. At any rate we did not go into the place, from which I inferred that nobody lived there. we ran the steamer Ward on this line for a couple of summers, but the business was so light that the boat little more than cleared expenses. In 1855 Capt. Goodrich bought the side-wheel steamer Huron, and the year following she was put on the Green Bay and Chicago line and this was continued for some time. Then followed the old steamers Michigan and Ogontz, these boats keeping up communication for some time previous to the breaking out of the war. During the war the most of the business was done by the Buffalo boats; but soon after its close Capt. Goodrich put the old propeller Backus on that line. She was followed by the Ottawa, which was burned a short time afterward. Then came the Truesdell, St. Joseph, Oconto, Memominee, Depere, until now we have the Muskegon, Corona and DePere."

"Was the business as rushing during the early days as it is now?" was asked.

"Yes, sir. In 1848 emigration set in toward the west, and the passenger steamers running between Buffalo and Milwaukee and Chicago had all they could do. That year the Lake Shore road was completed as far as New Buffalo and the following season Capt. Butlin established a line between that point and Milwaukee and Chicago. Two boats were run to Milwaukee and one to Chicago, and these were crowded with passengers going west. New Buffalo, which is situated a short distance from Michigan City, Ind., was the western terminus of the railroad, and this town was a thriving place for the time being, although there was nothing there in the way ofa harbor or landing excepting a bridge pier."

Capt. Sweeney was accompanied by his daughter and Miss Windiate, and the party remained at the Vendome during their sojourn in the city. From here the captain went to Menominee and thence to Manistique, taking the DePere at the latter place on his way south. Capt. Sweeney was highly pleased with our city.

Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
31 Aug 1889
Personal Name(s)
Sweeney, Barney
Corporate Name(s)
Goodrich Transportation Company
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Wisconsin, United States
    Latitude: 45.02971 Longitude: -87.46094
  • Wisconsin, United States
    Latitude: 44.83416 Longitude: -87.37704
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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A Veteran Steamboat Man