The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Black Rock Advocate (Buffalo, NY), 6 Jan. 1837, page 2

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BLACK ROCK AND ITS PROSPECTS.--It gives us much pleasure, in entering upon the new year, to retreat from the incessant cares of business, and the constant complaints of "hard times" which have of late continually assailed us, to contemplate for a moment the valuable improvements making and about to be made around us.

Our rising village, during the past year has rapidly improved in appearance and business, and the prospect of greater advancement within the coming season, is highly flattering. Since the opening of last spring an extensive Rope Walk has been erected and placed in successful operation; the large flouring mill at the lower village has been thoroughly repaired, enlarged, and put in motion, and all our mechanical interests have rapidly advanced. The two companies or associations who now own and control the principal portion of our extensive village plot have surveyed and laid out their lands, and offered them to the public on most liberal terms; and from the well known enlarged views of their agents and managers, we augur a successful issue of their enterprise, and the promotion of the general prosperity of the place.

A large pier, 150 feet long by 80 feet wide, has been erected in our harbor by Messrs. Pratt & Taylor and Smith & Macy, on a plan more advantageous for commercial purposes in connecting lake and canal navigation than any we have before seen. On this pier are about to be erected two large warehouses for forwarding and storing goods, to be ready for spring navigation. These, when completed, will exhibit most fully, the great advantages our harbor possess for this valuable branch of business; and when it is considered that such piers can be erected for a distance of more than a mile in a perfectly secure and spacious harbor, easy of access for any shipping on the lakes, the importance of our situation as a commercial depot is fully sustained. Many years, we predict, will not elapse before the increasing business of the lakes will occupy, to a great extent, our ample docks.

Capacious as are our waters, and eligibly located as is our position for mechanical and commercial pursuits, we look with emotions of still greater satisfaction upon the almost inexhaustible water power of Black Rock. When we contemplate that the principal part of the whole wheat growing country of North America lies west of this place, and is comprised in the beautiful and fertile "valley of the St. Lawrence," the only sure and permanent outlet for the products of which is through the harbor of Black Rock; that at this point are the only mill privileges on the waters of the Upper Lakes, which can be approached with equal facility by lake vessels and canal boats; and that circumstances must render this point the great flouring mart of the vast empire, of which it is the grand vestibule, the importance and value of these extensive mill privileges almost exceed calculation.


Another most important branch of business that should be extensively prosecuted at Black Rock, is the manufacture and repair of Steam engines for the numerous steamboats on our lakes. Nowhere that we can ascertain, is there an establishment of that kind on the lake waters, and nearly three hundred thousand dollars are annually expended on the lakes, for these purposes, at Pitsburgh [sic] and New York. A most convenient and extensive establishment has, for many years, been erected here for that purpose; but the ill health of its principal proprietor obliged him to relinquish the business, and he has sold out his interest in the concern. Mill castings of almost unlimited amount are demanded, and if the establishment were in full operation, and extensive and profitable business might be done. The present proprietors, we learn, are anxious to lease or dispose of their interest upon liberal terms. We consider it a most favorable location for these purposes, and trust that so valuable an interest will soon be improved.

Many more branches of mechanical employment would here find ample field for expansion, some of which are about to be commenced. A notice of these we must defer until a future paper.


LAKE ERIE STEAM BOATS.--In no one year before, have so many steamboats, and of such ample dimensions and improved construction, been in the process of erection upon our waters, as at the present time. Fourteen of these elegant vessels are now in building between Tonawanda and Detroit on the waters of Lake Erie, varying in capacity from 300 to 700 tuns. Great improvements have been introduced in the construction of many of them, which will enable them to nearly equal in speed and safety, the long celebrated boats of Long Island Sound.

Our attention has been more attracted to this subject from viewing the frame and model of a beautiful boat now building at White Haven, in the Grand Island Company's Ship Yard, by Mr. P. Hotaling, for an association belonging in the city of N. York, and Millwaukie, on Lake Michigan. This splendid boat is to run from Buffalo to Chicago, touching at Millwaukie, Green Bay, and the intermediate ports. She is in length 170 feet on her keel, with 24 feet beam, and 10 feet hold. Her Engine is making at the West Point foundry, and is of 10 feet stroke and 48 inch cylinder; and from her finely turned model, which is much in the style of the Rochester, a boat lately built on the Hudson River, it is judged her speed will be eighteen or twenty miles an hour. She is to be built and finished in the strongest and most approved manner, and will truly be an acquisition to our waters. She is sharp at both ends--her lines are perfectly straight, and to all appearance, she will "walk the water like a thing of life." She is to be launched early in the spring, and finished in June.

On the completion of this, another boat of the same class, but of largest dimensions, is in contemplation, at the yard of this enterprising company, and we should not be at all surprised, before the next season is closed to see the gallant VANDERBILT spread his proud and victorious pennon to be breeze on our lakes. With great pleasure would we welcome him to our waters, where he would be assured of a fair field, a clear wake, and a gratification of his "go ahead" propensity to his heart's content.


EASTERN SHIP BUILDING.--Among the sources of wealth to this productive region, are the great supplies of ship timber sent from Grand Island and Tonawanda to the eastern ports of our country, and for which the demand is rapidly increasing. Two years since the Grand Island Company cut and sent to Boston, upon contract, three large ship frames, which were set up and finished, and being the first ships ever constructed of western timber, an article at that time not in very good repute on the eastern coast--they were, practically considered, mere experiments. These experiments, however, proved highly satisfactory to those who engaged in them, and now no ship timber is so eagerly sought after, in the Atlantic markets, as the Tonawanda and Grand Island oak.

A large gang of ship carpenters, we learn, is now daily expected at Grand Island, from Boston, to select and cut out the frames of three large merchant ships for that port, which are to be sent down by canal in the spring. This, will doubtless soon be an important branch of our western commerce, and to the strange anomalies already seen in our inland navigation, will be added that novel and interesting feature, the transporting of ships from the Lakes to the Ocean in canal boats! This opinion is warranted by the fact that the frames of vessels, and planks to cover them, can be sent from Niagara River to the Ocean, cheaper, and of better materials, than can be obtained on the sea coast or elsewhere.

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6 Jan. 1837
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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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Black Rock Advocate (Buffalo, NY), 6 Jan. 1837, page 2