The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 15 Oct 1906


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Full Text
FAMOUS FLEET HAS PASSED AWAY
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LOSS OF CITY OF CONCORD RECALLS DAY
OF OLD NORTHERN TRANSIT LINE
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One of the few remaining steamers of a once-powerful lake fleet was lost when the City of Concord sank beneath the waters of Lake Erie a few days ago.

The City of Concord was formerly operated by the Northern Transit Co., whose fleet comprised more than a score of vessels. They were owned by Philo Chamberlain, of Detroit, and there was double daily service out of Ogdensburg, the eastern terminus of the line. One steamer left for Chicago, and one for Toledo, every day.

"Most any time you looked up or down the river, you could see one of the N.-T. boats coming or going," said an old-time vessel man, yesterday.

The steamers of the line were most of them built in the late 60's or early 70's,* though some were constructed several years earlier. They were all about 134 feet long, so they could be accomodated in the Welland Canal. The locks there have since been enlarged, in keeping with the growth in size of lake vessels.

BOATS IN THE FLEET

At one time or another the following boats were in the Northern Transit Co. fleet: Granite State, City of Toledo, Ogdensburg, Lady of the Lake, Bay State, Jefferson, Vermont, Ontario, Akron, Michigan, Prairie State, Young America, Cleveland, Empire, Buckeye, Wisconsin, City of Boston, City of New York, Oswegatchie, City of Concord, Lowell, Garden City, St. Albans, Lawrence, Champlain, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Nashua and Maine.**

Old-time marine men have been heard to say that a spirit of disaster hovered around the N.-T. boats, and sooner or later it "got" them; but the mishaps and fatalities which came them are doubtless no more nor less than would befall a numerous fleet through a long term of years.

Some of the things that happened to several of the steamers are here set forth:

Ogdensburg sank the old steamer Atlantic, on Lake Erie, in the 50's, and upwards of 300 lives are said to have been lost. The Atlantic was owned by Eber Ward, of Detroit, and he retained John S. Newberry as attorney in one of the hardest fought marine cases on record.

Bay State went down in a storm on Lake Ontario about 1862, and all hands were drowned.

CAPT. MILLEN LOST

Oswegatchie was lost in Lake Huron in a heavy gale, some five or six years ago. All of the crew were drowned, including Capt. Richard ("Dick") Millen, brother of Capt. James Millen, who died last spring. Capt. Muir, of Port Huron, had gone along for the trip as a pilot, and he, too, was numbered among the lost.

Brooklyn blew up near Grassy Island, in the lower Detroit river, and a number of persons were killed. The steamer was sailed by Capt. Harvey Brown, now in the steamer Rutland, of the Rutland Transit Line.

Young America went ashore in Lake Ontario in 1867 or 1868 and was abandoned. There were no fatalities.

St. Albans was running between Milwaukee and Ludington, for the Flint & Pere Marquette railroad, in 1880, and in coming out of Milwaukee she struck a cake of ice. No harm seemed to result, and the boat continued on its way.

The ice, it seems, knocked the planking in and remained in the opening. It dropped out when the steamer was in mid lake, and she soon went down. All on board escaped, as the lake was calm and sufficietn (sic) warning was afforded.

The City of Toledo went ashore near Ludington in a dense snowstorm about '79 or '80 and was abandoned. No lives were lost.

RAVAGED BY FIRE

Fire, of course, ravaged several of the vessels. The Akron burned in the St. Lawrence River, about '65 or '66 and many lives were sacrificed.

Champlain burned on Lake Michigan with the loss of several persons. The boat was rebuilt and renamed the City of Charlevoix. Later it was lengthened, and is now the steamer Kansas, of the Norther Michigan Transportation Co.

The Maine was burned at Port Huron while loading jute. It was rebuilt, and is now in service.

The Lowell was destroyed by fire, and her hull now lies on the bottom of the St. Clair river, between St. Clair and Marine City. The Lowell was at one time owned by Capt.C. H. Westcott and Capt. J. W. Westcott, but later passed out of their hands, and later met her fiery fate.

While on her way to Bay City to lay up for the winter, the Garden City burned on Saginaw bay, in 1902, and was a total loss.

Not all of the steamers came to an untimely fate and among those which escaped was the Lawrence. This boat last year ran out of Lorain, and made Saturday night trips to Detroit. Her name has been changed to the Frontenac and she has also been lengthened to 169 feet. The Frontenac has been operated this season by the Chicago-Northern Line out of Chicago.

WHEN "N.-T." WAS "IT."

In its palmy days, the Northern Transit fleet had things pretty much its own way in the package freight line, and its active agents in the principal lake ports saw that nothing in the way of business got away from them.

The agent in Detroit for many years was W.W. Ellsworth, now located at elevator B. at the foot of Twelfth street. He was agent in different ports as occasion required, being in the full confidence of Mr. Chamberlain.

Robert H. Day, now with Carson, Craig & Co., was at one time chief clerk in the company's offices here.

Mr. Chamberlain eventually sold his vessels to the Vermont Central railroad. After operating them for some time, the road defaulted in its payments, and the boats came back to their former owner. In the meantime the era of larger boats on the lakes had set in and the N.-T. vessels speedily became too small to be operated at a profit, and Mr. Chamberlain found himself ruined.

It was then that the famous fleet was scattered in every direction, among numerous owners. As noted above, but two or three are now known to be in existence.


Media Type:
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Item Type:
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Notes:
*Heyday of the fleet was actually about 10 years earlier than this. Most of its boat were built in the 50's **Build and loss information for these boats: Granite State (1852-1881) stranded Lake Michigan City of Toledo (1862-1879) stranded Lake Michigan Ogdensburg (1852-1864) collision, Lake Erie (250 or less lost in the Atlantic disaster of 1852) Lady of the Lake (1846-1859) exploded, Lake Erie Bay State (1849-1862) foundered Lake Ontario Jefferson (1853-1863) condemned Vermont (1851-1863) collision, Lake Erie Ontario (1853 -1865 ) rerigged as a barge Akron (1859-1873) burned, St. Lawrence R. - 2nd time Michigan (1852-1888) burned Lake Erie Prairie State (1852 - 1879) conv. to schr, 1878, stranded, Lake Huron Young America (1853-1873) stranded, Lake Ontario Cleveland (1860-1903) collision in 1865, burned in 1880, boiler expl., 1885 conv. to barge, 1900, aband., 1903 Empire (1844-1870) stranded Lake Erie Buckeye (1856 - 1885) stranded, burned Georgian Bay Wisconsin ( 1852-1867) burned Lake Ontario City of Boston (1863-1873) stranded on Lake Michigan City of New York (1863 - 1921) foundered Lake Ontario Oswegatchie (1867-1891) foundered Lake Huron (no lives lost -author is probably referring to Nashua, owned by Millen) City of Concord (1868-1906) foundered Lake Erie Lowell (1865 - 1893) burned, St. Clair R. Garden City (1873 - 1902) burned, Saginaw R. St. Albans (1869 -1881) foundered, Lake Michigan Lawrence (1868 - 1921) later FRONTENAC, H.N. JEX, foundered Lake Ontario Champlain (1870 - 1924) later CITY OF CHARLEVOIX, KANSAS. burned, Lake Michigan Milwaukee (1852 - 1859) collision, Lake Michigan Brooklyn (1866-1874) exploded Detroit R Nashua (1868 - 1892) foundered w/ all hands, Lake Huron Maine (1862 - 1911) burned, St. Clair R. - had at least 6 major accidents in her career. The author of the article didn't wait long enough. The four old N-T boats extant at the time of the article were all lost in accidents.
Date of Original:
15 Oct 1906
Local identifier:
GLN.1927
Language of Item:
English
Donor:
Dave Swayze
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
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Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 15 Oct 1906