The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 8 Apr 1868

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EARLY LAKE HISTORY - According to early marine record, which of late has fallen into our possession, we are enabled to present to the readers of our marine column, much matter pertaining to the early navigation of the lakes, which will be of great importance for future reference. A few years since we gave a brief account of the first vessel that ever crossed Lake Erie, the career of which was a short-lived one. This vessel was called the "Griffin," and was built in 1679 at Erie, then called Fort Frontenac, by Robert de La Salle, her commander. This vessel sailed on the 18th of September in that year for Green bay, having on board among other passengers Father Louis Hennepin, a missionary. On her arrival at Green Bay she took on a cargo of furs, and while on the return passage was lost in Lake Huron with all on board. She was sixty tons burden, and was fore and aft rigged. Previous to the era of this vessel, the lakes were navigated only by birch bark canoes. Again, in 1766, four vessels plied upon Lake Erie. These were the Gladwin, Lady Charlotte, Victory and Boston. The two latter laid up in the fall near Navy Island above Niagara Falls, and one of them was burned accidentally November 30th of the same year. A vessel called the Brunswick, owned and commanded by Capt. Alexander grant made her appearance on the lakes during the year 1767 and was lost sometime during the season following. Capt. Grant was Commodore of the lakes for two or more years. In 1769 Stirling and Porteous built a vessel at Detroit called the Enterprise, a man by the name of Richard Cornwall, of New York was the carpenter. The boatmen that went from Schenectady with the rigging and stores for this vessel to Detroit were to have each £20 and ten gallons of rum. They were seventy days on Lake Erie, and two of the number perished from hunger and their bodies kept for days to decoy eagles and ravens. They returned to New York in February, 1770 by way of Pittsburgh, then called Fort Pitt. In May, 1770, a vessel of 70 tons burthen was launched at Niagara called the Charity, by whom owned or commanded it is not stated. The same year the Duke of Gloucester, Secretary Townsend, Samuel Futchet, Henry Baxter and four others formed a company for mining copper on Lake Superior. In December they built at Point au Pins some nine miles from Sault Ste. Marie, a barge and laid the keel for a sloop of 40 tons burden. Of the success of this enterprise, we are in possession of no further history touching the matter whatever. Following the above period but very little was accomplished in the construction of craft for lake navigation, and the few that came into commission were used solely as traders, as were also all those previously named. Not long following the latter date bateaus from Montreal and Quebec, employed by the Hudson Bay Fur Company, made their annual tours westward, gathering large quantities and returning home in the fall season. It has been given out that the first vessel built on Lake Ontario was in 1789, but this statement we find satisfactorily corrected, and of which we shall report upon in our next issue.

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8 Apr 1868
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Dave Swayze
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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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Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 8 Apr 1868