Early Great Lakes Steam Vessels
The following piece appeared in the as reprinted from an April 1847 issue of the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser. The information is apparently part of a larger list which also included sailing vessels. The list, along with the information that follows, constitutes an important gathering of information on the early steam vessels of the Great Lakes. The original microfilm was of fair quality, but some minor inaccuracies in transcription may have occurred in sections where the print quality degraded. Moreover, the original typesetters made several errors which I chose to include in the transcription for the purpose of preserving the original document. Subsequently, some conflicts with known vessel data will be found.
Statistics of Steamers, Propellers, Etc.
The increase of our inland marine has been considered a just criterion of the rapid growth of trade, and one which unerringly points to its farther extension when a free scope is given to it by the fostering hand of Government in the improvement of our harbors, the perfection of our lake beacons, and the completion of the important canal around the Sault Ste. Marie, - a channel through which must flow the vast wealth of the Lake Superior country and thus give additional value to the already great and increasing northwestern trade.
The astonishing increase, during the past 20 years, of business on the Lakes, caused by the opening of new avenues of communication with the fertile West, has exceeded the estimate of the most visionary theorist, and although much difficulty has been experienced and immense loss of life and property been the result of the attention of the Government not being properly directed to the procurement of the facilities and convenience for the transaction of the immense trade that so rapidly sprung into existence, the indomitable energy and perseverance of the people of the West have enabled them to keep pace with its progress from its beginning to the present day.
It was our intention at first to have given in addition to a list of all the steamers and propellers that have ever floated on the Western Lakes, as well as those now in process of construction for 1847, a list of all the sail craft that have been in commission from the year 1796 to the present day, but our limits will not admit of this and we must reserve the matter for a future number. It may not be irrelevant, however, to preface our list of steamers and propellers with the remark that the first vessel bearing the American flag which floated upon Lake Erie was the sloop Detroit of 70 tons, purchased of the Northwest Company by the General Government in 1796, but soon after condemned as unseaworthy. In the same year a small schooner called the Erie Packet was built in Canada, to run between Fort Erie and Presque Isle. She was lost near the latter place the same season. In 1797 the schooner Wilkeson of 80 tons was built at Detroit and navigated the lake for some years. In 1810 she was thoroughly overhauled and her name changed to Amelia. In 1812 she was purchased by the Government, and formed part of Com. Perry's squadron in the battle of Lake Erie. The schooner Good Intent, of 35 tons was built in 1800, and lost on Point Appineau in 1806, together with all her crew. In 1799, the brig Adams and schooner Tracy were built by the Government. The Adams was taken by the British in 1812, but was afterwards retaken and burnt. The Tracy was sold after the war to Porter, Barton & Co. , and afterwards lost on the reef near Fort Erie. In 1805, the schooner Nancy, of 50 tons, was built by Government at Black Rock. In 1806, the schooner Contractor was built by Porter, Barton & Co. and was sold to the Government in 1812. In 1810 the schooner Catharine was built by Sheldon Thompson and others at Black Rock and was also purchased by Government, and was in the battle of Lake Erie under the name of the "Sommers. " Up to the declaration of war, the total number of vessels of all descriptions afloat on Lake Erie did not exceed twelve. The first year after the war, 1816, the aggregate tonnage of sail craft upon the lakes, was 2,180 tons, embracing about 40 small sail - two schooners only being over 100 tons burthen. The number of arrivals and departures at this port that season amounted to 80 only. In 1818, when the first steamer was built they reached 100. Last season the number of arrivals and departures at this port were 7,744, forming an aggregate tonnage of 1,825,914 tons.
The following is a list of all the Steamers that have been in commission on the Western Lakes from the year 1818 to the close of navigation of 1846, together with those in process of construction for the season of 1847.
| Superior, (1st)||Low||358||Buffalo||1825|
|Ogdensburg (reblt. )||1823|
| Henry Clay||Low||301||Black Rock||1825|
|Niagara (1st)||Low||156||Black Rock||1826|
|Wm Penn||Low||250||Presque Isle, Erie||1826|
|Adelaide (later Champlain)||Low||230||Chippewa||1830 |
|Champlain (formerly Adelaide)||Low||230||Chippewa||1830|
|Gen. Gratiot||High||62||Black River||1831|
|Daniel Webster||Low||358||Black Rock||1833|
|New York||High||325||Black Rock||1833|
|Uncle Sam||Low||174||Grosse Isle||1833|
|Gov. Marcy||Low||161||Black Rock||1833|
|O. Newberry||High||170||St. Clair||1833|
|Lady-of-the-Lake ||High||30||Mt. Clemens||1833|
|Andrew Jackson||High||65||Mt. Clemens||1833|
|Gen. Porter||Low||352||Black Rock||1834|
|Minnessetunk||Low||250||Goodrich C. W.||1834|
|Jack Downing||Low||45||Mt. Clemens||1834|
|Thos. Jefferson ||Low||428||Erie||1834|
|W. F. B. Taylor||High||125||Silver Creek||1835|
|Bunker Hill||High||457||Black River||1837|
|New England||Low||416||Black Rock||1837|
|Gov. Mason||High||53||Grand Rapids||1837|
|Red Jacket||Low||148||Grand Haven||1838|
|G. W. Dole||High||162||Chicago||1838|
|C. C. Trowbridge||High||30||Detroit||1838|
|Gen. Harrison (1st)||High||63||Erie||1839|
|Gen. Harrison (2nd)||High||325||Maumee City||1840|
|D. W. Waterman||High||8||Buffalo||1841|
|Ben Franklin||High||234||St. Clair||1842|
|Geo W. Clinton||High||19||Black Rock||1842|
|Michigan (2nd) (iron US)||Low||583||Erie||1844|
|Alert (iron US)||Low||433||Buffalo||1844|
|Indiana (2nd)||High||100||St. Joseph River||1845|
|Hendrick Hudson||High||750||Black River||1846|
|Enterprise||High||100||Green Bay W. T.||1846|
|A. D. Patchin||High||873||Truago||1846|
|Empire (2nd)||High||200||Grand Rapids Mn||1846|
|Pilot||High||80||Union City Mn||1846|
|Algomah||High||71||St. Joseph river||1846|
|Mishawaka||High||34||St. Joseph river||1846|
|Dallas (US iron)||Low||370||Buffalo||1846|
To which we have appended a list of all the Propellers navigating our Lakes and in process of construction for 1847, including those on Lake Ontario as far as heard from.
| Name||Tons||Where built||Years|
|St. Josephs||460||Buffalo ||1846|
|Earl Cathcart||330||Malden C. W. ||1846|
|Queen of the West||Malden C. W. ||1846|
|Lady of the Lake||326||Cleveland ||1846|
|Goliah||376||Palmer, Mich. ||1846|
|Globe||243||Maumee City ||1846|
|Odd Fellow||250||Grand River, Mich. ||1846 |
| Powhasset||320||Cleveland ||1847|
|Vandalia, enlarged and changed to Milwaukee in 1846||150||Oswego||1841|
|New York||150||Oswego ||1843|
|Milwaukee, late Vandalia, enlarged||Oswego||1846|
The disasters, important collisions, wrecks, etc. , of the steamers on the Western Lakes, from the year 1818, to the close of navigation of the year 1846, being a period of twenty-nine years, have been as follows:
The Walk-in-the-Water, which was the first boat that floated on the Western Lakes, made her first trip to Mackinaw in 1819, and was lost in a gale near Buffalo on the first of November, 1821. The Superior was converted into a ship, and lost at Michigan City, in the fall of 1843. - The Henry Clay, Niagara 1st, Enterprise, Ohio, Sheldon Thompson, Wm. Penn, Perseverance, and Michigan 1st, have, together with several other old craft, all been broken up. The Peacock, also broken up, burst her boiler in the month of September 1830, off Point Abino, and fifteen lives were lost. The Pioneer was wrecked on Lake Michigan on the 9th July, 1834, and her crew and passengers were saved by the schooner Marengo, Capt. Dingle. The Adelaide, afterwards called the Eclipse, ran during the season of 1837. In the fall of that year she was seized at Detroit for a violation of the revenue laws, and her name was changed to Champlain. She was afterwards wrecked at New Buffalo, in 1840.
The Caroline was burned by a party of British under the command of Capt. Drew, R. N. on the night of the 20th Dec. 1837, while lying at Schlossar, one life lost certain. The Detroit 1st, was wrecked at Southport, in 1836. The Little Western was burned at Detroit in 1842. The Perry's boilers exploded twice in 1835, causing the death of six persons, and she came in collision twice with other vessels, in one of which a man was killed. The Monroe, New York, and Daniel Webster are now lying in Black Rock Harbor, out of commission. The latter was burned to the water's edge in Buffalo Harbor on the evening of the 11th January, 1835, and was rebuilt the same winter. The Uncle Sam, in 1844, was altered into a brig, and is now in commission. The Gov. Marcy was rebuilt at Detroit in 1844 and is now in commission. In 1833 the Washington 1st was lost on Long Point on her third trip, and one man drowned. The Sandusky went ashore at Sandusky in the month of Dec. 1836, was burned at Buffalo on the 22nd of February, 1843; was afterwards rebuilt and converted into a barque, and lost in 1845 at Cattaraugus.
The Gen. Porter was sold to the British during the patriot excitement on our frontier, was afterwards purchased by Capt. Gager, and rebuilt by him in 1844 as a propeller. The Robert Fulton was lost in a gale near Sturgeon Point in 1844, and the W. F. P. Taylor having been partially burned in the autumn of 1836, at the mouth of Cattaraugus Creek, with the loss of one man who jumped overboard and was drowned, was wrecked at Michigan City in 1838. The Thomas Jefferson is now lying in Buffalo Creek out of commission. The Cynthia, a Canadian ferry boat, was burned at Malden in October, 1838. The Thames was burnt in 1838 by the patriots at Windsor, C. W. The Julia Palmer was originally a ship, but was afterwards converted into a steamboat, and is now on Lake Superior. The Barcelona, formerly the Princess Victoria, was altered into a schooner in 1842, and is now in commission. The Cincinnati was altered into the schooner John F. Porter in 1842, and is also now in commission. The Little Erie was sunk in Lake St. Clair by ice in 1843. The Delaware was wrecked near Chicago, on the 19th June, 1836. The Crockett was wrecked near St. Joseph in 1834. The Don Quixote was wrecked in Lake Huron in 1836. The steamer N. England went ashore near Fairport in 1838, and is now lying in Buffalo Creek, out of commission.
The Erie, in the month of August, 1840, burst her boiler, occasioning the death of six persons, and on the night of the 9th of August, 1841, she was burnt off Silver Creek, by which disaster over two hundred and fifty lives were lost. The Milwaukee has been out of commission several years and is now being rebuilt, preparatory to coming out the ensuing season. The Rhode Island, formerly the Saginaw, was rebuilt and enlarged in 1843, and is now called the St. Clair - on the 13th of November, 1846, she came in collision with the Red Jacket in Detroit river, and was sunk - she has since been raised, and is now lying in Detroit. The Macomb, in the fall of 1842, went ashore at the mouth of Detroit river, and has been lying at Monroe for several years, out of commission. She is now being rebuilt at Monroe, and will be out this ensuing season. The Minessetunk, afterwards the Goderich, came in collision with the Erie on Detroit river, in the month of August, 1840, and was sunk. The steamer now known as the Goderich, was formerly the Gore, L. L. The Star was burnt at Buffalo in the winter of 1845 while laid up. The Gen. Vance burst her boiler while lying at Windsor, C. W. , June 25, 1844, by which accident six lives were lost, including the captain, and the vessel became a total wreck. The Great Western was burned to the water's edge at Detroit, on the 1st September, 1839, was afterwards rebuilt, and is now in commission. The Vermillion was burned to the waters edge while lying at Huron, in the month of November, 1842 - five lives lost - She was afterwards raised, towed to Detroit, rebuilt and enlarged, and is now known as the New Orleans. The Fairport was burned to the water's edge at Algonac, in 1844, was afterwards rebuilt and called the Tecumseh, and is used as a towboat on the St. Clair flats. The Washington 2d was burned off Silver Creek on the 2d June, 1838 -number of lives lost from fifty to sixty.
The G. W. Dole was sunk in Buffalo Creek in the spring of 1846, was raised and taken to Detroit, and is being converted into a schooner. The Chatauque was driven ashore at Sandytown, near Buffalo, during the great gale of October 19, 1844, and was afterwards seriously injured in upper works during the freshet of the spring of 1846, while lying in Buffalo Creek. The Kent came in collision with the steamer London on the 12th of August, 1845 near Point au Pelee, and was sunk, with the loss of ten or fifteen lives. The Bunker Hill and brig Fashion came in collision off Madison Dock, in June, 1846, in which both were seriously injured. The Wolcott and brig Lucy A. Blossom came in collision in Detroit river, on the 16th November, 1846, and the former was sunk. The upper works of the Detroit 2d were burned in the spring of 1846, while lying at Newport. The Helen Strong, on the night of the 19th November, 1846, in a tremendous gale from the northwest, broke her wheel chains and burst her steam pipe, by which she became unmanageable and was compelled to come to anchor - the gale increasing, she parted her chains and was driven ashore four miles above Barcelona, and became a total wreck - two passengers, a man and a woman, were drowned.
The Indian Queen went ashore the same night at Dunkirk, and became a total loss. The Madison, in the same gale, had one of her smoke pipes blown down, but she succeeded in reaching Erie. The Boston, while discharging at the pier in Milwaukee, on the 24th November, 1846, was compelled through the violence of a northwest gale, to put out into the lake, but after proceeding a short distance, her smoke pipes were blown down, and becoming unmanageable, she backed on to the beach about a mile south of the piers, and became a total wreck.
The propeller Emigrant came out in 1843 as a brig rigged propeller; but was altered into a brig in 1845, and lost on Avon Point same year. The Independence was haulded around the Falls of Ste. Marie in 1845, and is now in commission on Lake Superior. The Porter, originally the Steamboat Porter, was built at Black Rock in 1834, was sold to the British during the Patriot War, was repurchased and altered into a propeller in 1844. The Phoenix came in collision with the steamer Troy in 1845. The California went ashore on Pt. Pelee in September of 1846. The Goliath sprang a leak on Lake Erie in 1846, during a gale of wind, and was driven ashore on Avon Pt. after having thrown overboard her deckload of flour. The Ontario came in collision with the steamer Chesapeake at Cleveland, by which both were somewhat damaged.