The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Buffalo Whig & Journal (Buffalo, NY), 11 June 1835, page 2

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Our neighbourhood.--We love to see new things, new improvements, enterprises and invention.--We are in a new country, full of resource, but as yet only in the beginning of its developement [sic]; and every new project of our citizens or our neighbours, gives most ample evidence of the intrinsick value of the region around us.

Our attention has been led to these reflections, by a visit we made a few days since, to Whitehaven, now becoming widely known as the largest, and indeed the only extensive manufactory of Ship plank, and sawed ship stuffs, in America. Ever since the navigation of the Erie Canal commenced, great quantities of white oak timber, from the extensive timber regions of Tonawanta, the quality of which is probably equal to any in America, have been floated down the Canal to New-York, where it is shipped to different ports of the eastern cities, and there cut up by hand into planks and other stuff, for shipbuilding. Heavy amounts are also rafted down the St. Lawrence to Quebec, and thence shipped to England, for the same purposes. The demand for this important article has, within a few years, become so great, and the supply has been so limited, that an association of commercial gentlemen in Boston determined to erect a mill on our western waters for cutting the oaks of our country into proper dimensions, and supplying the wants of their own city and its neighbouring ports. Accordingly they purchased Grand Island, on which is an immense growth of the finest oak, and in immediate contiguity to the fine timber lands of Tonawanta.

They have built up a little village, sufficient for the accommodation of their business, and erected, doubtless, the most extensive and perfect saw-mill in the world. It is driven by a powerful steam engine, which consumes but about ten cords of wood per day, and employs four gangs of eight to twelve saws each, capable of cutting up at one entire operation trees of 70 feet in length, and four feet in diameter. Two lighter gangs are in progress for smaller timber, and two single saws for cutting common lumber, are in readiness for operation, all propelled by the same engine. Sundry turning lathes are also attached, and a shingle machine is shortly to operate with the other machinery; and all this, we are told, is driven at an expense little greater than the ordinary expenditures attendant upon water power. The facility with which, from its location, the Company can communicate with the Erie Canal, and obtain their supplies of timber from abroad, make up indeed for all such deficiency.

These plank, both pine and oak, (for they obtain large supplies of the finest pines from Upper Canada,) are cut out with a smoothness and beauty which we never saw equalled. Many were shewn to us 50 to 70 feet in length, from 2 1/2 to 6 inches thick, and 3 feet wide, of the most clear and perfect quality. There, however, were exceptions as to size, the average being about 45 feet long and 2 feet wide. Large quantities of these planks have been shipped through the Canal to the sea-board, where they are unrivalled in quality and goodness. The Company have now lying on their wharf ready for shipment, about a million of feet, and are cutting an average of twenty thousand feet per day. They employ about forty Canal Boats in transporting their sawed stuff alone to Albany, and probably fifteen or twenty vessels in sending it from thence to different Atlantick ports. At least one hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth will be shipped by the company this year, as the produce of that mill alone, giving employ at Whitehaven to seventy or eighty men, and one hundred and fifty boatsmen on the Canal, and paying to the canal fund for tolls, more than ten thousand dollars. We understand that the Company are now under contract for large quantities of plank from our eastern cities, and the consumption of the articles from this new source of supply will doubtless be vast'y increased.

A fine Schooner of 150 tuns is now on the stocks at Whitehaven, and will be launched in a few days. She is to be employed by the Company in carrying plank through the Welland Canal to the foot of Lake Ontario, where they are to be rafted to Quebec for the English market.--The hull of two more Schooners are to be laid in a few days, for the trade of Lake Erie, and it is in contemplation, from the abundance of their timber, to establish a yard for the building of Canal Boats on an extensive scale, for which it possesses advantages superiour to any other spot in the country; and we see not why in a short time, this thriving little village may not become the most important depot for the manufacture of ship stuff, vessels and canal boats on our western waters.

In addition to the other improvements contemplated at this spot, some of the proprietors have in view the erection of cottages on the banks of the Niagara, for the accommodation of their families during the summer, and one of the principal owners, Stephen White Esq. of Boston, is about erecting a charming villa at the head of Tonawanta Island, opposite Whitehaven.

We know indeed of no good reason why, within a few years, the beautiful banks of the Niagara should not be embellished with the country houses of our wealthy citizens. For a fertile soil and pleasant scenery, the banks of few of our large rivers surpass it; and for the clear, shining beauty of its waters, it is in the whole world unrivalled.


Queen Charlotte.--Those familiar with the incidents of the last war with Great Britain, will recollect that the Brig Queen Charlotte was among the trophies of the memorable victory of our gallant little fleet on Lake Erie, commanded by the chivalrous Perry. At the close of the war, this vessel, together with the American Ships Lawrence and Niagara, were sunk in the harbour at Erie, for their better preservation. Capt. Miles, one of the enterprising navigators of our western Lakes, purchased the Queen Charlotte, raised her in good condition from the bed where she had reposed near twenty years, and finding her timbers in perfect preservation, has refitted the vessel in good style, and she has already taken her place in the new line of packets established by our enterprising fellow citizens, Messrs. Pratt, Taylor & Co., to run regularly between this port and Chicago. The Queen Charlotte, made her first appearance in Buffalo Creek on Monday evening last, and her present employment and past history are well calculated to excite associations and reflections alike gratifying to our national and local pride.


Chicago Packets.--We have too long neglected to point publick attention to this Line of Packets designed to ply regularly (once in ten days,) between this Port and Chicago. The energetick proprietors, Messrs. Pratt, Taylor & Co., have recently added to the line the new and well found Schooner St. Louis, and the Brig Queen Charlotte, referred to in another article in this paper. The employment of such a fleet in the ordinary transportation on a route, which but a few years since had only been explored by the bark canoe of the savage, or the but little more civilized fur-trader, speaks volumes for the present growth and future prospects of the "great west." The flood tide of emigration and the rush of business this season, tasks to the utmost the activity and resources of our freighters, to keep pace with the exigencies of the publick.

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11 June 1835
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Buffalo Whig & Journal (Buffalo, NY), 11 June 1835, page 2