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 told 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, 18-Mile Creek, Lewiston and Youngstown for French Creek. It was tedius 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.
November 30, 1878