An Old Tar's Twister - The Yarn of the Oldest Oswego Sailor Quitting Salt Water
When I arrived at Adams, Jefferson County, I met a cousin who informed me that my parents had left Antwerp and were now living in the town of Henderson. The next day we went there and I met my folks after five years absence, during which time I had not heard a word from them or they from me. As I was in a Navy tar's rig my mother did not know me, nor did my father, who, during my absence had suffered from a shock of palsy; and on being told who I was, had another one which nearly proved fatal. He recovered, however, and there was a merry time over the return of the prodigal son.
I told them that I belonged to the TENEDOS and was to return in a short time to join her for another voyage, but this they would not listen to, and finally I wrote to Capt. Loren, asking to be discharged, which request was granted, although I lost my chest of clothes by the means that my boarding mistress having got married and gone to New Orleans soon after I left. This settled the thing and made me a fresh water sailor.
There was no use of trying to be a farmer. What little time I was at home it seemed to me that everyone who came along was inclined to look under my collar for hayseed and "cod" me for a landlubber; so in September I went to Smithville and saw old Jesse Smith who owned the brig ADJUTANT CLITZ and asked him for a birth: he asked if I had ever sailed and I told him I had some, but I did not say I had come from salt water, as I meant to keep that to myself, as salties before the mast in those days had a rather uncomfortable time of it on fresh water, on account of the jealousy of fresh water sailors. Smith finally told me to see Captain Bob Hugenin and probably I could get something to do, so I went to Sackets harbor and found the CLITZ there. She was a brig, having been the United States Brig ONEIDA during the war and had been lying sunk in Sackets until three years previous, when she was pumped out and refitted by Jesse Smith and sailed by Capt. Bob Hugenin up to this time.
When I saw the captain he also wanted to know if I had sailed any, and I gave him the same answer I did Smith. he finally said I could go to work as an ordinary seaman, and set me to work passing the bale for for old Sumner Adams, who was fitting a fore top mast backstay, and was serving it against the sun. It was so awkward for me to pass the bale this way that by dinner time I had got thoroughly disgusted with fresh water sailing if this was a sample, and made up my mind to go back to salt water. Just as we knocked off for dinner the captain came where we were and I gold him that I had quit.
He wanted to know what the trouble was and I told him that what little sailing I had done I had not learned to pass the bale backhanded, and was going back where they sewed the rigging with the sum. This is the first he knew of my having come from the seaboard. He would not listen to my leaving them, but set me to work by myself fitting a pair of pendants for the schooner LUCINDA that was on the stocks building at that time. I worked that afternoon about as lively as I ever did and turned out a first class job in a short time, and was known before night as "Salty" by all the men in the yard. The next thing was to cut and fit a gang of rigging, which I succeeded in doing all right. By this time all the riggers that belonged there got down on me so that I found I was going to have a little work to do of another kind before long.
One day while we were stepping the main mast a shower came up and all hands went in the loft and got to skylarking and wrestling. I did not take any part in it until one of them got me by the collar and gave me a good shaking up. This was more than I could stand, and he got one between the eyes that settled him. After a little more of the same kind of work with one or two of them, they made up their minds to leave me alone and I never had any more trouble of that kind afterwards.
Captain Hugenin made me mate with him in the ADJUTANT CLITZ and as I had now got aboard I will endeavor to give a description of her as I remember it. As I stated before, she had been the U. S. Brig Oneida and sunk until raised by Smith. She was about 450 tons burden, square rigged fore and aft, and would be called a very good model in those days as far as looks are concerned; but her draft of water was so great there was no profit in running her, she drawing twelve feet of water loaded and could only get in at Niagara River, Sackets harbor and the St. Lawrence, and would only come inside the piers here light. She sailed well for a square rigged vessel.
When we fitted out the next spring which was in 1830, I was mate, but Captain Hugenin was ashore most of the time, leaving me in command, he being engaged in raising the brig Sylph that had been lying sunk at Sackets since the war, she having been a man of war and sunk with the Oneida. When raised she was fitted out as a morphodite brig and went by the same name she had when in service. Her first commander when she came out was Capt. John Fore, who sailed her all that season. She was the fastest vessel afloat on the lake at that time having a standing keel and being sharp as a wedge fore and aft, and so crank light that it was ticklish business going outside without ballast.
We were in the timber trade all this season, loading at Oak Orchard, !8-Mile Creek, Lewiston and Youngstown for French Creek. It was tedious work those days, every stick having to be hove in by the old fashioned windlass, horse not having been thought of and patent windlasses or capstan unknown. All the timber we handled was for Smith and Merrick, Smith being at Smithville and Merrick at French Creek. Luther Wright was in the employ of Smith at Smithville as bookkeeper or clerk at this time. L. P.
PIONEER SCREW VESSELS OF THE LAKES.
Mr. Samuel R. Kirby Describes and Illustrates Vessels on Which He Sailed - Sketch of the Ramsey Crooks -Interesting Events of Early Days. During the past two weeks the Review has received from Mr. Samuel R. Kirby of New York, father of the Kirbys who are so well known in ship building circles, some invaluable data regarding the early vessels on the great lakes. It wishes that many of the old vessel men would emulate the example of Mr. Kirby and send to it their recollections of early times. There is no more interesting subject to vessel men than this. It has the importance of history and has undoubted value in that it shows vividly the evolution through which the lake region is passing. Mr. Kirby's first letter is devoted to the pioneer screw boats of the lakes and is as follows:
"Thinking that perhaps you would like to see and hear something about the pioneer screw boats on the lakes, I enclose you some pen sketches of the very first boats which were fitted out with screws. I resided in Oswego when these hookers, as the boys called them, were built, and afterwards during the seasons of 1845 and 1846 was chief mate of the CHICAGO. We traded between Cleveland and the Sault. This was during the excitement caused by the discovery of' copper on Lake Superior. By the way, it was in the fall of 1846 that we chartered the CHICAGO to the Indian payment commission who were paying the Indians at the Sault to take them to Mackinaw and thence to Green Bay. While on this voyage or when we were on our way back, we were signaled when off the mouth of the Menominee river, which is the boundary between Wisconsin and Michigan. We ran on shore and found that a party of government surveyors wanted passage to Mackinaw or to Milwaukee. We concluded to take them to Milwaukee, where we thought a good freight could be obtained for Buffalo. The party consisted of William A. Burt and eighteen men. They had been all the season surveying the boundary line and also. running preliminary lines necessary to survey the upper peninsula of Michigan. They reported that iron ore was abundant all along the south shore of Lake Superior, causing great disturbance to the compass needles (hence the discovery). * After reaching Milwaukee we fixed up our ship and took on board 4,000 bushels of wheat at 24 cents a bushel, plus twenty tons of pig lead and a dozen casks of potash, at equally good prices. We had a good run to Buffalo and back to Cleveland for winter quarters. This ended my having anything more to do with the pioneer screw ships. These ships burned wood for fuel, twenty-five to thirty cords being taken on board every thirty-six to forty hours. It was piled on the upper deck from end to end of the ship, the watch on deck passing it down to the fireman from time to time during the watch. This occupied them nearly all the time on deck - one man steering and all the rest amusing themselves handling wood. No coal was used in those days. In fact coal was not used until about 1852 and not generally until about 1857 or 1858. "
The second of Mr. Kirby's letters is devoted to a description of the brig Ramsey Crooks of the American Fur Co. , which was built in 1836, and also to other vessels contemporary with it. There will be found on the opposite page an illustration of the Ramsey Crooks, which is a faithful copy of an old sketch made by Mr. Kirby fifty years ago. As Mr. Kirby is now seventy-eight years old, this copy bears remarkable evidence of steadiness of eye and hand. Describing the vessel, Mr. Kirby says:
"I was two years on this ship, 1843 and 1844, with Capt. John and Capt. Orlando Woods This ship was built in 1836, specially for the fur company's own business, and traded between Detroit and the Sault until 1850 when she was sold. The fur company dissolved after Astor's death in 1848. This ship was first commanded by Capt. Ben Stannard. . The Chief mate was Chris Goulder, who, I think, was the father of Harvey D. Goulder of Cleveland. and John Wood was third mate. In the fall of 1837 or 1838 the RAMSEY CROOKS was caught in the ice 10 or 12 miles off Bar point at the mouth of Detroit river and laid outside all winter, She usually made a Buffalo trip in the fall before going into winter quartets at Detroit. She was an extra fine and very fast sailer. She was fitted for passengers in splendid style, having a ladies' cabin specially designed. The cabin was entirely on deck, as shown, with caboose separate. She was about 100 ft. by 28 ft. by 9 ft. , and of 247 tons measurement. The CROOKS, after being sold, was lengthened 25 ft. and was in commission up to about 1860 I do not recollect how she ended her days. The top sail schooner JOHN JACOB ASTOR on Lake Superior was built about the same time as the CROOKS. They formed the line, Detroit to La Pointe and other places on Lake Superior. The ASTOR was fitted with quarter boats. She had to do all her work from her anchors no wharves or piers to land stuff directly from ships existing in those days. The ASTOR was also fitted for passengers, the same as the CROOKS. She was lost at Copper Harbor in the fall of 1845. We had previously carried up timber for a new vessel on Lake Superior to help the ASTOR, and men to build her, in 1844. This vessel was about the size of the ASTOR with fore-and-aft rig. She was launched in the spring of 1845 and named the NAPOLEON. She was commanded by Capt. John Stewart. Two years afterward she was converted into a propeller. She ended her days on St. Clair flats doing lighterage work to help vessels over the shoals in the north channel of St. Clair river. No government work had then been done to help the navigator. "
VANDALIA, 1839-40. Dimensions, 95 ft. over all, 80 ft. keel 19 + ft. beam 10 ft. molded depth. She was the first screw boat built on the Great Lakes. She was first intended for a sail vessel, but altered to a screw boat before she went into commission in feet before she was launched.
Twin-screw boats CHICAGO and OSWEGO. Built in Oswego N. Y. , 1840-41 Dimensions, 95 ft. over all; 19 + ft. beam; 10 ft. molded depth, capacity 150 tons on 8 ft. draught; speed 7 knots in calm weather. At the time these ships were built the Welland canal locks were 100 ft. long, 20 ft. wide and 8 ft. deep on sills.
Cast iron former for shaping the buckets when bent out of shape. "About every port or woodyard we visited," writes Mr. Kirby, "one or more of the screw buckets had to be refitted, put in true shape, shipped in place as best we could with water 2 to 3 ft. over the hub of wheel. This former carried on hoard as part of the vessel's outfit. "
Have also run across a couple more Lake Ontario wrecks.
The stm. AMES, which was ashore at Salmon Pt. , was released by the Donnelly Wrecking Co. on Wednesday and proceeded to the Montreal Transportation Co. 's elevator at Kingston. She carried grain from Fort William to Montreal, but will unload there instead. It is not known what damages the AMES suffered to her hull. Some of her tanks are leaking. Owing to the fact that the Kingston drydock is engaged, the AMES will have to go to an American drydock. It is not thought that any of the grain cargo is damaged.
The stranded steamer would have been released on Sunday, but the storm prevented the Donnelly outfit from working. The lighter GRANTHAM broke away from the stranded vessel and went ashore. her hull is a total wreck, but it is hoped to save some of the machinery she carries.